So it’s officially time we discussed the song of summer.
Join us as we look back at the last 50 years of summer songs—which we’re defining as the tune that spent the longest at #1 on the Billboard charts during the summer of a given year. We analyzed each song by beats per minute, compiled its most common lyrics and established the feeling it evokes as determined by our dauntless colleagues.
What was learned?
That maybe BPM doesn’t have bearing over a song’s chance at being “the one.” Though it was notably slower in the ’90s. (Ugh. The ’90s.)
That the most sung words of the last half century of summer songs were “baby” and “love.” Which, sure, we could have guessed.
That we never want to hear “Bette Davis Eyes” again.
Anything else? No?
Get to it, then.
Song: “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful
Weeks at #1: August 13–August 27
Most used words: City, Summer, Night
Evokes: Oscillating fans; that damn landlord who better fix this air-conditioning.
Song: “Windy” by the Association
Weeks at #1: July 1–July 22
Most used words: Windy, Cloud, Above
Evokes: Driving with the top down along the coast; every Wendy you’ve ever met.
Song: “People Got to Be Free” by the Rascals
Weeks at #1: August 17–September 14
Most used words: Free, See, People
Evokes: High fives; teamwork; Schoolhouse Rock.
Song: “In the Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus)” by Zager & Evans
Weeks at #1: July 12–August 16
Most used words: Year, Gonna, Man
Evokes: Space; acid flashbacks; oddly, the year 1969.
Song: “(They Long to Be) Close to You” by the Carpenters
Weeks at #1: July 25–August 15
Most used words: Close, Long, Just
Evokes: Rowing on a glistening lake in a faded dream sequence.
Song: “It’s Too Late”/“I Feel the Earth Move” by Carole King
Weeks at #1: June 19–July 17
Most used words: Feel, Down, Tumbling
Evokes: Your first time; the San Andreas Fault.
Song: “Alone Again (Naturally)” by Gilbert O’Sullivan
Weeks at #1: July 29–August 19
Most used words: Alone, Again, Naturally
Evokes: Your first breakup; going stag to a sock hop; “combing your hair” in the bathroom.
Song: “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” by Jim Croce
Weeks at #1: July 21–July 28
Most used words: Leroy, Bad, Brown
Evokes: A sea of kids partying on summer break parting to make way for the school badass.
Song: “(You’re) Having My Baby” by Paul Anka and Odia Coates
Weeks at #1: August 24–September 7
Most used words: Love, Baby, Having
Evokes: Staying home from school and watching Maury.
Song: “Love Will Keep Us Together” by Captain & Tennille
Weeks at #1: June 21–July 12
Most used words: Love, Stop, Keep
Evokes: Sailor hats; jumpsuits; ’70s variety shows.
Back to top
Song: “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John and Kiki Dee
Weeks at #1: August 7–August 28
Most used words: Go, Heart, Breaking
Evokes: Transistor radios at the beach; basement dance parties; the heyday of Elton John’s eyewear.
Song: “Best of My Love” by the Emotions
Weeks at #1: August 20–September 10
Most used words: Love, Oh, Whoa
Evokes: Boogie Nights; light-up dance floors.
Song: “Shadow Dancing” by Andy Gibb
Weeks at #1: June 17–July 29
Most used words: Shadow, Dancing, Through
Evokes: Feathered hair; California; silk shirts and white suits.
Song: “Bad Girls” by Donna Summer
Weeks at #1: July 14–August 11
Most used words: Toot, Beep, Girl
Evokes: Dark alleys; hot nights; leopard prints.
Song: “Magic” by Olivia Newton-John
Weeks at #1: August 2–August 23
Most used words: I’ll, Magic, Believe
Evokes: Oversize blazers with shoulder pads.
Song: “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes
Weeks at #1: May 16–June 13, June 27–July 18
Most used words: She’ll, Davis, Bette
Evokes: Black-and-white movies; sultry stares; that lunch lady with the husky cigarette voice.
Song: “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor
Weeks at #1: July 24–August 28
Most used words: Eye, Tiger, Rising
Evokes: Getting ready for work even though you definitely want to call in sick.
Song: “Every Breath You Take” by the Police
Weeks at #1: July 9–August 27
Most used words: Every, I’ll, Watch
Evokes: That drunken mistake you just can’t seem to get rid of no matter how hard you try.
Song: “When Doves Cry” by Prince
Weeks at #1: July 7–August 4
Most used words: Cry, Dove, Just
Evokes: The color purple, but not The Color Purple.
Song: “Shout” by Tears for Fears
Weeks at #1: August 3–August 17
Most used words: Come, Shout, Without
Evokes: Letting it out. All of it. Whatever “it” is.
Back to top
Song: “Papa Don’t Preach” by Madonna
Weeks at #1: August 16–August 23
Most used words: Papa, Baby, Keep
Evokes: A disappointed pastor.
Song: “Alone” by Heart
Weeks at #1: July 11–July 25
Most used words: Alone, How, Get
Evokes: Romance scenes from any ’80s movie.
Song: “Roll with It” by Steve Winwood
Weeks at #1: July 30–August 20
Most used words: Baby, Roll, Just
Evokes: The heyday of “dad rock.”
Song: “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx
Weeks at #1: August 12–August 26
Most used words: Waiting, Whatever, Go
Evokes: The slowest of slow dances.
Song: “Vision of Love” by Mariah Carey
Weeks at #1: August 4–August 25
Most used words: Love, Vision, Given
Evokes: Fedoras and oversize vests.
Song: “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” by Bryan Adams
Weeks at #1: July 27–September 7
Most used words: Yeah, Tell, Can’t
Evokes: Montage-y music videos at sunset.
Song: “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot
Weeks at #1: July 4–August 1
Most used words: Want, Butt, Baby
Evokes: Baby oil in place of sunscreen.
Song: “(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You” by UB40
Weeks at #1: July 24–September 4
Most used words: Fall, Help, Can’t
Evokes: British Jamaicans.
Song: “I Swear” by All-4-One
Weeks at #1: May 21–July 30
Most used words: I’ll, Swear, Heart
Evokes: The wedding song you never wanted.
Song: “Waterfalls” by TLC
Weeks at #1: July 8–August 19
Most used words: Go, Know, River
Evokes: Thinking you’re cool because you memorized Left Eye’s rap.
Back to top
Song: “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)” by Los Del Rio
Weeks at #1: August 3–November 2
Most used words: Macarena, Cuerpo, Alegria
Evokes: Bad wedding dances; ’90s spring break trips; “The Song that Never Ends.”
Song: “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy and Faith Evans featuring 112
Weeks at #1: June 14–August 23
Most used words: Every, Day, Can’t
Evokes: Overhearing the radio from just about every passing car on any New York street in the summer of ’97.
Song: “The Boy Is Mine” by Brandy and Monica
Weeks at #1: June 6–August 29
Most used words: Mine, Know, Boy
Evokes: Brandy. Remember Brandy?
Song: “Genie in a Bottle” by Christina Aguilera
Weeks at #1: July 31–August 28
Most used words: Baby, Come, Bottle
Evokes: Nothing sexual. Only platonic thoughts since Aguilera was so young.
Song: “Bent” by Matchbox Twenty
Week at #1: July 22
Most used words: Bent, Get, Just
Evokes: Angsty days into angsty nights.
Song: “U Remind Me” by Usher
Weeks at #1: July 7–July 28
Most used words: See, Knew, Look
Evokes: Caribbean steel drums. Only sexier.
Song: “Hot in Herre” by Nelly
Weeks at #1: June 29–August 10
Most used words: Hot, Off, Take
Evokes: A sticky summer dance party that’s too crowded but you just don’t care.
Song: “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé featuring Jay Z
Weeks at #1: July 12–August 30
Most used words: Oh, Uh, Crazy
Evokes: Trying to do that butt thing.
Song: “Confessions Part II” by Usher
Weeks at #1: July 24–July 31
Most used words: Confession, Know, Tell
Evokes: Things Usher should have saved for his journal.
Song: “We Belong Together” by Mariah Carey
Weeks at #1: June 4–June 25, July 9–September 10
Most used words: Baby, Together, Gonna
Evokes: Nick Cannon. Really? Really?
Back to top
Song: “Promiscuous” by Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland
Weeks at #1: July 8–August 12
Most used words: Get, Promiscuous, Girl
Evokes: Your wild oats.
Song: “Umbrella” by Rihanna featuring Jay Z
Weeks at #1: June 9–July 21
Most used words: Eh, Ella, Rain
Evokes: Onomatopoeia as lyrics.
Song: “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry
Weeks at #1: July 5–August 16
Most used words: Girl, Kissed, Like
Evokes: Your experimental phase; cherry ChapStick.
Song: “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas
Weeks at #1: July 11–October 10
Most used words: Good, Night, Tonight
Evokes: Noon on the first day of Summer Fridays.
Song: “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem featuring Rihanna
Weeks at #1: July 31–September 11
Most used words: Love, Way, Lie
Evokes: The thought that Eminem should definitely seek therapy.
Song: “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO
Weeks at #1: July 16–August 20
Most used words: Put, Hands, Just
Evokes: Drugs you shouldn’t do; lights that shouldn’t flash so much; hangovers.
Song: “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen
Weeks at #1: June 23–August 18
Most used words: Bad, Call, Maybe
Evokes: Viral videos; indecisiveness.
Song: “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke
Weeks at #1: June 22–September 7
Most used words: Hey, Get, Want
Evokes: Inappropriate touching; “Maybe don’t.”
Song: “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX
Weeks at #1: June 7–July 19
Most used words: I-G-G-Y, Fancy, Money
Evokes: The outback; iguanas, for some reason.
Song: “Cheerleader” by Omi
Weeks at #1: July 25–August 25
Most used words: Need, Think, Right
Evokes: A literal cheerleader, which was not the point, probably.
Back to top