Here Is Every “Song of the Summer” for the Past 50 Years
No matter the weather, these songs are sure to bring the sunshine.
Every year, as the weather gets warmer, a brand new single comes out that you can’t stop hearing everywhere you go. From gas stations to Starbucks to sports bars—it becomes inescapable. While, this year, it remains to be seen which major-key, upbeat ditty will earn the coveted unofficial title of “song of the summer,” we can, at least, take a look back. Using the Billboard Hot 100, plus data from the Recording Industry Association of America, we’ve compiled the songs that have turned up the heat all summer long every year since 1969.
1969: “In the Year 2525” — Zager and Evans
“In the Year 2525” hit the charts and held the top Billboard Hot 100 spot for six weeks, starting July 12, 1969. The song is about an apocalyptic future in which all of humanity is wiped from the planet, which, in contrast with its plucky, upbeat tone, is pretty depressing.
1970: “(They Long to Be) Close to You” — The Carpenters
This song, which was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, had several iterations before The Carpenters recorded it. Released in 1970, it became their first big hit and stayed at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart for four weeks. It was sung by Karen Carpenter, who is remembered for her angelic voice, but was also an incredible drummer.
1971: “I Feel the Earth Move” — Carole King
Carole King had spent most of the 1960s writing songs for other artists, but that all changes when she released Tapestry in the early 1970s. “I Feel the Earth Move,” which featured “It’s Too Late” on the album’s B-side, peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on June 19, 1971. It remained there for five consecutive weeks.
1972: “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” — Looking Glass
Nobody in the summer of 1972 could resist the smooth sound of “Brandy” by Looking Glass. In fact, “Brandy” was so popular that, according to Social Security Administration data, the number of newborn girls named Brandy nearly doubled a year after the single came out. The legend was that the song was written about a New Jersey spinster named Mary Ellis, who lived from 1750 to 1823, but the songwriter debunked that myth.
1973: “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” — Jim Croce
Sure, this Jim Croce tune came out in the spring, but it didn’t really take off until three months later. It peaked in the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1983. It was Croce’s last major hit before he died in a tragic plane crash on September 20th of that same year. (“Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” was still on the charts at the time of his death.)
1974: “Band on the Run” — Wings
After The Beatles split, Paul McCartney went on to form the band Wings. Their song “Band on the Run” became the song of the summer in 1974. It might even be the most popular non-Beatles song by McCartney—music magazine NME named “Band on the Run” the tenth best song of the entire decade.
1975: “Love Will Keep Us Together” — Captain and Tennille
This song, originally written by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, launched Captain and Tennille to the top of the charts in 1975 (from June 21th to July 12th specifically). What’s more, the duo nabbed a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year.
1976: “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” — Elton John and Kiki Dee
“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” was a one-off track recorded by Elton John and Kiki Dee that became the song of the summer in 1976. Released in June, it quickly topped charts in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, among other countries.
1977: “Best of My Love” — The Emotions
The Emotions managed to land the summer anthem of 1977 with their hit “Best of My Love.” The song was so lastingly popular that it dominated the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 in August and into September.
1978: “Shadow Dancing” — Andy Gibb
The song of the summer in 1978 was performed by Andy Gibb and written by his brothers in the Bee Gees while they were working on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band movie. “Shadow Dancing” stayed at the top of the charts for seven weeks, through almost all of June and July.
1979: “Bad Girls” — Donna Summer
The Donna Summer song “Bad Girls,” from the album of the same name, was, without a doubt, summer’s biggest jam in 1979. The song spent five weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, between July and August.
1980: “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” — Billy Joel
The 1980 summer anthem was “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” a surprisingly demure hit for the hottest time of year. The song, which was written by Billy Joel himself, was released on his album Glass Houses and spent two weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100.
1981: “Jessie’s Girl” — Rick Springfield
“Jessie’s Girl,” a song about lusting after a friend’s girlfriend, spent months climbing up the charts in 1981, finally landing in the top spot on August 1st.
1982: “Eye of the Tiger” — Survivor
The theme to the film Rocky III was also the song of the summer in 1982—it held on to the top Billboard spot for nearly all of July and August and went double platinum. The Survivor song has since been used in countless TV shows, movies, and advertisements, becoming iconic pump-up music in the process.
1983: “Every Breath You Take” — The Police
In 1983, the Police released “Every Breath You Take,” which quickly became a major hit that summer, dominating the Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks. But the tune’s success wasn’t relegated to the warmer months: “Every Breath You Take” was the best-selling U.S. single of 1983 in its entirety.
1984: “When Doves Cry” — Prince
In 1984, “When Doves Cry,” off the Purple Rain soundtrack, was the summer anthem. It was Prince’s first number one American single.
1985: “Shout” — Tears for Fears
“Shout” was released by Tears for Fears in the United Kingdom in 1984, but it really took off after its 1985 release in the United States. It was the number one song for three weeks that summer.
1986: “Papa Don’t Preach” — Madonna
This massive Madonna hit spent two weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart in August 1986. The song became the pop star’s fourth song to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and its rebellious message—about a pregnant teen—caused tons of controversy.
1987: “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” — Whitney Houston
In addition to being the 1987 song of the summer, topping charts in more than a dozen countries, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” was also Whitney Houston’s fourth consecutive number one hit.
1988: “Roll With It” — Steve Winwood
In July and August of 1988, you couldn’t escape Steve Winwood’s “Roll With It,” which spent four weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100.
1989: “Forever Your Girl” — Paula Abdul
Before she became known for her ramblings on American Idol, Paula Abdul was a pop princess and a dancing machine. She dominated the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the summer of 1989 for two weeks with her hit single “Forever Your Girl.”
1990: “Step By Step” — New Kids on the Block
The group that started the boy band trend of the 1990s, New Kids on the Block, had their second inescapable number one hit in the summer of 1990. (The first was “Hangin’ Tough” in 1988.) “Step by Step” spent three weeks in the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 and it definitely got to a whole lot of girls.
1991: “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” — Bryan Adams
There was no avoiding this song from the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves soundtrack in the summer of 1991. It spent 16 weeks at the top of the U.K. Singles chart, the longest run in British chart history. Stateside, it dominated the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks, from July through September.
1992: “Baby Got Back” — Sir Mix-A-Lot
Sir Mix-A-Lot exploded onto the scene in 1992 with his hit song “Baby Got Back,” which has since been sampled by Nikki Minaj. In July and August of that year, you couldn’t spend much time in a mall before hearing, “Oh my god, Becky.”
1993: “That’s the Way Love Goes” — Janet Jackson
In May, June, and July of 1993, this Janet Jackson slow jam was everywhere. “That’s the Way Love Goes” spent two whole months dominating the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100.
1994: “I Swear” — All-4-One
Though Ace of Base’s “The Sign” kicked off the summer of 1994, the rest of the season belonged to All-4-One’s iconic love song “I Swear.” It spent an impressive 11 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and became the biggest wedding song for years to come.
1995: “Waterfalls” — TLC
In 1995, TLC found themselves with an unlikely summer jam—”Waterfalls”—released in May of that year. Thanks to the catchy chorus, the group’s song about HIV and illicit substances made its mark, spending seven weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. “Waterfalls” went on to nab two Grammy nominations and earned the number 10 spot on Billboard‘s list of the 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.
1996: “Macarena” — Los Del Rio
In 1996, one-hit-wonders Los Del Rio released the song of the summer, “Macarena.” In what could’ve been a death knell to any other popular song, it played at the Democratic National Convention that year and spent 14 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. To this day, you’ll find people shameless enough to do the accompanying dance—though the song has not yet reappeared at a major political party’s national convention.
1997: “I’ll Be Missing You” — Puff Daddy & Faith Evans featuring 112
This song was released in 1997 as a tribute to Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace, who was murdered earlier that year. The song sampled the 1983 song of the summer, “Every Breath You Take” by The Police. Proving the original song’s staying power, “I”ll Be Missing You” spent 11 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100.
1998: “The Boy Is Mine” — Brandy & Monica
This summer anthem from 1998, about two women dating the same man, was inspired by the Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney duet from 1982, “The Girl Is Mine.” The female-fronted version spent 13 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and fueled a summer of rumors about these two pop stars.
1999: “Genie in a Bottle” — Christina Aguilera
“Genie in a Bottle,” the 1999 song of the summer, is from Christina Aguilera’s debut album, which went platinum and helped place her on the pop music map.
2000: “Maria Maria” — Santana Featuring The Product G&B
Carlos Santana made a major mainstream comeback in 2000 with this song, produced by Wyclef Jean. “Maria Maria” spent a whopping 10 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Who could forget that guitar riff?
2001: “Lady Marmalade” — Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya & P!nk
Aguilera came back to nab another summer anthem in 2001—this time with Missy Elliot, Lil’ Kim, Mya, and P!nk. Their cover of the Patti LaBelle classic “Lady Marmalade” for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack was everywhere that summer.
2002: “Hot in Herre” — Nelly
The 2002 song of the summer was Nelly’s “Hot in Herre,” which spent seven weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and went on to win a Grammy for Best Male Rap Solo Performance.
2003: “Crazy in Love” — Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z
You couldn’t go anywhere in the summer of 2003 without hearing “Crazy In Love,” the hit single off Beyoncé’s debut solo album.
2004: “Yeah!” — Usher Featuring Lil Jon & Ludacris
“Yeah!,” the 2004 song of the summer, held the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for 12 weeks until it was bumped off by another single by Usher, “Burn.”
2005: “We Belong Together” — Mariah Carey
The 2005 song of the summer, “We Belong Together,” from Mariah Carey’s album The Emancipation of Mimi, was considered by many to be her musical comeback. It was the second longest running number one song in U.S. chart history. Oh, it also went triple platinum.
2006: “Promiscuous” — Nelly Furtado
Nelly Furtado switched things up after her hit track “I’m Like a Bird” with this hip-hop-inspired song featuring Timbaland. With her infectious vocals and the song’s catchy beats, “Promiscuous” quickly became the 2006 summer jam, topping the Billboard Hot 100, Mainstream 40, and Top 40.
2007: “Umbrella”— Rihanna featuring Jay-Z
The 2007 song of the summer was Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks and eventually won a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
2008: “I Kissed a Girl” — Katy Perry
Katy Perry’s hit “I Kissed a Girl” held the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for seven weeks in 2008, and has sold over four million copies since.
2009: “I Gotta Feeling” — Black Eyed Peas
Nearly the entire year of 2009 belonged to the Black Eyed Peas. “Boom Boom Pow” was the top song on the Billboard Hot 1o0 for 12 weeks between April and July. Then “I Gotta Feeling” came in and finished out the summer, sitting at the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 for 14 weeks from July through October.
2010: “California Gurls” — Katy Perry
In 2010, Perry gave us another summer jam with her song catchy “California Gurls,” which spent six weeks at the top of the charts in June and July.
2011: “Party Rock Anthem” — LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett and GoonRock
The 2011 song of the summer, “Party Rock Anthem,” was released in January, but it stayed on the charts for a mind-boggling 68 weeks, peaking in July and August.
2012: “Call Me Maybe” — Carly Rae Jepsen
Carly Rae Jepsen released summer anthem “Call Me Maybe” in 2012, sky-rocketing her to fame. The song prompted countless parodies, including one famous video in which Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Ashley Tisdale, and other celebrities lip-sync the song.
2013: “Blurred Lines” — Robin Thicke
Robin Thicke’s problematic hit “Blurred Lines” was the song of the summer in 2013, selling more than 14 million singles before outrage over the offensive lyrics—and a widely publicized lawsuit on behalf of Marvin Gaye’s estate—derailed its success. Still, it definitely had its moment in the sun: “Blurred Lines” was the top Billboard Hot 100 hit for 12 weeks from June until Labor Day weekend.
2014: “Fancy” — Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea burst onto the charts in 2014 with her song “Fancy,” which dominated the top Billboard Hot 100 spot for seven weeks. While she’s tried to recapture the magic of this peppy track, “Fancy” remains Azalea’s biggest hit.
2015: “Bad Blood” — Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar
The 2015 song of the summer came from Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar, thanks in no small part to the very hyped-up music video that accompanied the tune and the rumors it fueled about Swift’s biggest enemies.
2016: “One Dance” — Drake featuring WizKid and Kyla
In addition to being the 2016 song of the summer, “One Dance” also carried the distinction of being the most listened to song on Spotify though Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” eventually overtook it.
2017: “Despacito” — Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber
Even non-Spanish speakers were singing along to this hit. The Luis Fonsi track was literally the top Billboard Hot 100 song the entire summer of 2017, from May 27th to September 9th.
2018: “In My Feelings” — Drake
Released shortly after the July Fourth holiday weekend, “In My Feelings,” by Canadian rapper Drake (real name: Aubrey Graham) set summer stereos ablaze. In addition to shattering the record for single-week streams (116 million), it stayed at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 weeks. If you want more music nostalgia, it’s time to check out these 50 Cover Songs Way Better Than the Original.
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