Songs of the summer are, in fact, much like summer itself — starry-eyed and full of promise at first, before the months pass and everything starts to feel sticky, stale and oppressively heavy.
Earlier this summer, USA TODAY ranked every official song of the summer from the past 20 years. And with Labor Day marking the unofficial end of the season on Monday, it’s time to look back at the hits that dominated summer 2017 — and pit them against each other for a definitive ranking.
Wondering why some summertime hits didn't make the list? The 20 songs listed below had the longest reigns on Billboard’s songs of summer chart, which left out favorites like Cardi B's Bodak Yellow and new songs like Taylor Swift's Look What You Made Me Do.
20. Say You Won't Let Go, James Arthur
Perhaps you were among the many listeners touched by Arthur’s British accent and acoustic-guitar strumming. We, on the other hand, couldn’t get past his mildly creepy opening verse where the object of Arthur’s affections pukes, smiles and asks him to stay over.
19. That's What I Like, Bruno Mars
At this point, most songs-of-summer contenders have been overplayed to the point of delirium. But few tracks feel as weary as That's What I Like, the sonic equivalent of massaging your brain with a cheese grater.
18. Believer, Imagine Dragons
Not only are we subjected to hearing an Imagine Dragons song in seemingly every single movie trailer, but Believer also turned into a radio hit this summer, the latest ploddingly rousing track from a band whose songs continue to be near-indistinguishable from one another.
17. There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back, Shawn Mendes
Another faceless pop hit that could've been performed by any number of other artists on this list, Mendes' Energizer Bunny of a track is earnest to the point of embarrassing, destined to live on via upbeat commercials and spin class soundtracks.
16. Issues, Julia Michaels
Michaels is legitimately an artist to root for, a pop songwriter who stepped out of the shadows and landed a breakout solo hit. Despite its sugar-headache sweetness, Issues is a promising start for Michaels, even if the track has, er, problems.
15. Shape Of You, Ed Sheeran
There's something annoyingly hypnotic about Shape of You, the kind of song you'll be absentmindedly humming for days before realizing how deep it's seeped into your psyche. A new crop of remixes have breathed new life into Sheeran's megahit, though there's not much that can help its chorus' audaciously bad grammar: "I'm in love with the shape of you / We push and pull like a magnet do."
14. Unforgettable, French Montana featuring Swae Lee
French Montana gets bonus points for snagging Rae Sremmurd's Swae Lee for the chorus' vocals, but unfortunately, thanks to the glut of similar, vaguely-tropical songs that arrived this summer, this track may not be as enduring as its title promises.
13. Attention, Charlie Puth
Like Puth's weirdly magnetic We Don't Talk Anymore, Attention is better than it deserves to be, considering the entire song is basically Kanye West and Jay Z's No Church in the Wildbeat with Puth's paper-thin vocals on top. Still, for Kanye karaoke, it's not bad.
12. Something Just Like This, The Chainsmokers & Coldplay
The Chainsmokers are 2017's kings of soullessly-thumping background music. Yes, Something Just Like This is easily among their best-ever tracks, largely thanks to Chris Martin's presence, his vocals elevating the song to something that's at least distinctive and listenable.
11. Stay, Zedd & Alessia Cara
Stay is the kind of shamelessly dramatic, swing-for-the-rafters EDM that sounds laughably bombastic in most settings — but under dark enough cover, with enough adrenaline (or booze) in the listener's bloodstream, has the potential to be magnetic. And while it's currently in vogue to hate on Taylor Swift, it's worth noting that Zedd's track is questionably similar to 1989's All You Had To Do Was Stay...but worse.
10. Body Like a Back Road, Sam Hunt
Hunt boasting about "drivin' 15 in a 30, I ain't in a hurry" may give us secondhand road rage, but once we figured out that Hunt calling someone's "body like a back road" was a compliment and not a comment on their personal hygiene, the track became a lot more enjoyable.
9. It Ain't Me, Kygo and Selena Gomez
Nobody ever said songs of the summer had to be upbeat, and few tracks on this list are as "openly weeping in the club" depressing as It Ain't Me, another one of Kygo's trop-house sound-alikes that gets its sting from Selena Gomez' quietly devastating performance.
8. I'm The One, DJ Khaled featuring Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance The Rapper & Lil Wayne
I'm the One is a maddeningly obvious hit, a parade of 2017's favorite artists that's seemingly reverse-engineered for radio success. And yet this dumb song, with its ice cream truck jingle of a chorus and Chance's winking verse, still makes us sing along, even when we hate ourselves for it.
7. Mask Off, Future
Rap flutes are easily the year's most inscrutable hip hop trend, and Mask Off is its definitive song. Even Future's prescription pill-happy chorus wasn't enough to deter its popularity, thanks to its infectious sample that inspired the year's purest meme — the #maskoffchallenge, featuring kids wailing away at the song on their flutes, violins and other instruments of choice.
6. Congratulations, Post Malone featuring Quavo
2017 was one never-ending Quavo guest verse, and his presence is felt heavy here, a woozy victory parade full of Instagram bio-ready lyrics that deservedly earned Post Malone his biggest hit yet.
5. Redbone, Childish Gambino
Among Donald Glover's many 2017 wins was his first proper hit song, which he landed by making Redbone sound like nothing else on pop radio right now, a slice of vintage soul with pitched-up vocals rendering his falsetto completely unrecognizable. But for an artist whose music has a tendency toward self-indulgence, going incognito was exactly what Glover needed.
4. XO TOUR Llif3, Lil Uzi Vert
XO TOUR Llif3 won the VMAs’ song-of-summer award, and in a year that feels like its foundation is crumbling under us, it’s fitting that MTV’s frothy summertime category was won by an emo-pop track with the chorus “Push me to the edge / all my friends are dead," from hip hop's straight-outta-Hot Topic personality Lil Uzi Vert.
3. Despacito, Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber
Yes, it’s everywhere. And overplayed. And, thanks to Justin Bieber and his “burrito” lyrics-flubbing, arguably problematic. And yet, much has been written about its flawless construction, how each track continually builds on the last one, how the subtle minor keys in its chord progression give the song its uniquely yearning quality. Sorry, everyone, but the song still rules.
2. Humble, Kendrick Lamar
Syrup sandwiches, Obama pagers, Kool-Aid for the analysts, that Grey Poupon, that Evian, that TED Talk — with everything going wrong in the world today, at least we've progressed enough as a society that Kendrick Lamar's Humble, a vividly-imagined song from arguably the greatest rapper of his generation, can rule the radio all summer.
1. Wild Thoughts, DJ Khaled Featuring Rihanna & Bryson Tiller
Despacito, with its 16-week chart-topping run, has a lock on 2017's official song-of-the-summer title, with Humble likely to go down as the critical favorite. And then, there's Wild Thoughts, the true victor of 2017's best summertime song, blessed with the same golden Rihanna touch that made last summer's This Is What You Came For so electric.
Yet, the best songs of summer don't take themselves too seriously. Wild Thoughts tempers Rihanna's lusty presence with silly lyrics and an endearingly familiar Santana sample, giving the track the same kind of levity that's made other historic summertime favorites, from Nelly's Hot in Here to Carly Rae Jepsen's Call Me Maybe, so much fun.
And even after a million and one listens, Bryson Tiller’s Bobby Boucher line still, unintentionally, makes us laugh.
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