Song of the Summer 2017: The nominees

Who’s it gonna be?!

Before we start: A playlist of all these songs, plus some added summer goodies, is up on Spotify. I’ll be adding more to it as the summer progresses.

In Minneapolis, the last few weeks have been peppered with cloudy skies, wet streets and some of the loudest thunder to ever strike my ears. My apartment, having turned off the heat for the season, was actually colder than it was during peak winter. I’m chilly, from Chile, wearing a sweater and a raincoat. It is not summer as I know it.

Still, Father Time being the undisputed champion, we need to move along and discuss what is on everybody’s minds: the full list of nominees for Song of the Summer 2K17. Plus, I’m sure it’s just radiant and glistening and perfect wherever it is you’re living.

Before we get to the list, I want to address a couple of questions from ardent followers of this blog series. This will be quick:

Q: When are you going to announce the SOTS2K17?

A: Today, I am not announcing a winner. Out of these candidates, it is highly likely that one will emerge victorious. I’ll likely announce that winner sometime in late July or early August. In the meantime, know that this is a journey, one we need to carefully monitor as the days get hotter. It is not a one-game series. It is a process, and you need to trust it.

Q: Why are we doing this when we know the song of the summer is “Despacito”?

Who told you this? Was it Tim? Did Tim tell you this? Don’t listen to Tim. Who you think you rhyming with? You don’t got a mixtape with Lil B! 

And that’s it. As always, #SupportLocal.

Competition this year is good. These picks gather around the extremes: either likely winners or underdogs. And I know: There are not many female artists on this list. Rihanna and Beyoncé seem to be on the odd year of their release cycle, and I don’t listen to Haim. If you haven’t already, check out my Song of April picks and some of the early contenders.

Below are the nominees for SOTS2K17. I delve into each one and the chances it has of winning the title. As always, let me know what you think: Which will win? Should another song should be added to this list? Shout me out on Twitter @motarola123


Drake — “Passionfruit” (LISTEN HERE)

Why? As much as we criticize him for hopping on the vernacular of dancehall and grime artists (and rightly so), it’s hard to complain about sing-songy Drake. A relaxed bounce and off-tune synth line illustrate a sunset leading to a great night. The Moodymann sample is a proper fit for the “playlist” mood he was going for with the More Life project, which was based more on building good vibes than anything cohesive anyway. It doesn’t sound like it’s trying very hard, which works in its favor.

Why not? Drake is probably the least interesting thing on this. He hits the right notes. 

Will it win? I give this one the lead right now. Thank you, Aubrey.

DJ Khaled — “I’m the One (feat. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper & Lil Wayne)”

Why? Look past the obvious attempt by DJ Khaled to craft a Song of the Summer winner. The goody-two-shoes production, the pool-backed cover featuring his new Instagram accou– I mean son Asahd, his capitalizing off Chance the Rapper’s optimism-driven success. The credit goes to the fantastic performances.

Even after what must be a million and one guest verses, Quavo sounds original and fresh on his lines here. Chance the Rapper crafts a fun little story with his lines, most of which are worthy Instagram captions or tweets. And Lil Wayne does what he’s supposed to: spark a blunt to mark his appearance and be the final verse on a posse cut.

And of course, I’ll always welcome a chance to listen to the angelic voice of Justin Bieber.

Why not? Again, it’s a cash grab of a Song of the Summer nominee. As Debbie-Downer as it may sound, I can always see the real intentions behind DJ Khaled’s inspirational catchphrases. 

Will it win? I’m not as sure as everyone else is about this being the winner. I think Khaled is misunderstanding the tastes of his listeners, who’d probably rather pick something more fitting with the times.

Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee — “Despacito (feat. Justin Bieber)”

Why? Justin Bieber. Pure and simple. As much as we want to claim it’s Daddy Yankee, we would not be listening to this song if it wasn’t for his added intro. And I won’t lie: I do love his part on this.

Why not? Umm… it’s not a good song?? I’m sorry, but if you’ve ever heard Latin radio pop, you’ve heard a version of “Despacito” a million times before.

Will it win? No.

Calvin Harris — “Slide (feat. Frank Ocean & Migos)”

Why? I’m unabashedly excited for this Calvin Harris album! All the songs that have dropped from this project so far – “Heatstroke,” “Rollin” and “Slide” – have brought me back to my late high school/early college years vibing out to Passion Pit, Miami Horror, Breakbot and Classixx. To be fair, Calvin Harris also stems from that period of electronic music. These new songs have him updating those sounds to the present time, “Slide” being the best of the bunch.

Like “Passionfruit,” this song’s foundation is its relaxed bounce, fully formed by its sun-soaked chords and wiggling synth lines. Frank Ocean proves he’s better at being Drake in these types of songs than Drake is, and yet again, Quavo comes through with a verse that is surprisingly energetic and memorable. 

Why not? There is no reason why this song (or to be real, “Heatstroke” or “Rollin”) shouldn’t be the SOTS2K17.

Will it win? Yes! Let’s make it so! You know this is the right choice people! It’s up to you!!

Kendrick Lamar — “HUMBLE.

Why? I almost wasn’t going to include any songs off “DAMN.” in this list. But it seems the people are still loving “HUMBLE.”, and with good reason. It’s probably the most aggressive and powerful of all the SOTS picks in a list mostly characterized by careless cool. There hasn’t been a better hook, ragtime piano beat (Mike WiLL Made It really made it – sorry Zaytoven), and straight-up rap song so far this year. You can feel the heart in this one. 

Why not? That aggression both makes and keeps this track from becoming the SOTS. As much as Kendrick varies up his flow and voice, “HUMBLE.” moves along the grid with little dynamism. It’s straight-up rap, and as I much as I hate to say it, a lot of people don’t like rap.

Will it win? Probably not. Kendrick has bigger ambitions.

Carly Rae Jepsen — “Cut to the Feeling”

Why? I’ll be real, I only heard this song twice and instantly decided it should go on this list. I know it doesn’t have a strong chance of winning. (That’s of no concern to Carly Rae Jepsen, the artist behind one of the best Songs of the Summer of all time.)

I feel like Carly Rae Jepsen cranks out pop songs like she’s solving multiplication tables or hitting two-pointers at the gym: one after the other, not even thinking about it. “Cut to the Feeling” falls under the same strain as many of the songs off E•MOTION and its adjacent EP. Powerful synths, life-affirming drums and Jepsen’s unforgettable hook — ephemeral words of passion, lust and yes, emotion — make for a hit.


Will it win? Perhaps it has a chance of winning the alt-SOTS2K17 pick. Besides that, we can only dream.

KYLE — “iSpy (feat. Lil Yachty)”

Why? I wasn’t going to include this song. But its production — plunky piano keys à la “Minnesota” or “Broccoli” — and goofy delivery has kept it alive long enough to reach the boost pad into summer. It’s fresh, silly and carefree, which is pretty much all we want out of one of these songs.

Why not? The topic of this song is just so backwards and cringeworthy. KYLE’s hook is about wanting to marry a girl that has absolutely no traction on social media because of her looks, only to then say that he can’t be loyal and he’d rather go have sex with another chick. It’s the “No One Else” of bubblegum trap.

Will it win? Chances are slim, but keep this one around in your playlist.

Nao — “In the Morning (Mura Masa edit)”

Why? This is a good summer song, a perfect candidate for alt-SOTS2K17. Mura Masa is one the best producers of “this” music. You know, “this.” “This.” “This.” His play on the classic dancehall rhythm is light and refreshing, and his edit of Nao’s idiosyncratic voice is equal parts off-kilter and cutesy. 

Why not? Not nearly enough people know of Mura Masa or Nao for it to get the necessary pull this year. Again, a good pick for alt-SOTS. 

Will it win? Nah. But I want people to listen to this song and put it on their playlists.

WizKid — “Come Closer (feat. Drake)”

Why? This song is one of those perfect examples of music that sounds as good on the beach as it does in the club. WizKid is a talented dancehall vocalist, and he expertly darts around the song’s quick bounce and soft key hits. It’s short but sweet.

Why not? This track is in desperate need of a little more Wizkid and a lot less Drake. There is no reason for him to be on this song. His flat vocals puts me to sleep by the end. 

Will it win? No, but it’s great to hear more music like this on the radio.

Remember: In the end, this competition does not matter. These are the songs you will hear over and over again this summer. Get to know them, get to love/hate them. Most importantly, have a reason to listen. Even the rainy gloom of Minneapolis will give way to the sun.

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