By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

While getting ready for work yesterday, I was listening to the album “R.E.V.O.” by the band Walk Off the Earth. I saw them for the first time this past weekend when they headlined the post-race festival at the Rock n’ Roll Half-Marathon in Chicago’s Grant Park, and I’ve been hooked on their album since. This time while listening, I instinctively labeled their song “Gang of Rhythm” as a “great Summer Song.”

 

And immediately after, I thought, “What the hell is a Summer Song?”

Every summer, a song is labeled THE Song of the Summer. Billboard defines the top summer song as the one with the best “cumulative performance on the weekly Billboard Hot 100 chart from Memorial Day to Labor Day.” Currently, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” is in the lead (even though it was released as a single on March 26, well before summer). Last year, the winner was Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”

thicke-blurred-lines1But defining a Summer Song by Billboard data is too simple. Too numerical. Too inaccurate. Partly, this is because there is a difference between The Song of the Summer (ie: the song that just happens to be the most popular during the summer months) and a Summer Song (ie: a song that somehow just FEELS like summer.)

When I defined “Gang of Rhythm” as a great Summer Song, it wasn’t based on data. It just FEELS like a Summer Song. In fact, “data” works against it. It isn’t a chart topping hit. It isn’t even one of the three best songs on “R.E.V.O.”

This then means that a great Summer Song doesn’t necessarily have to be a great song. (Ahem – lookin’ at YOU Carly Rae Jepsen….)

But to be a Summer Song, the song must have certain qualities.

Consider two songs that are undeniably Summer Songs, both by name and by sound:  “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince and “Summer Song” by Joe Satriani.

One is lyric-driven rap. The other is guitar-driven instrumental rock. Yet, both are Summer Songs.

Both songs are upbeat, light-hearted, and fun. More than that, they are anti-melancholic. The same can be said (for me) for “Gang of Rhythm.” The same can be said of “Blurred Lines,” and for the last several Billboard winners of Song of the Summer.

Still, the case is not closed. I can think of plenty of upbeat, light-hearted, fun songs that don’t FEEL like Summer Songs.

It must have something to do with how we view summer. Notice that we don’t do a Song of the Season for the other seasons. Come early December, you won’t hear people saying, “Jingle Bells is the WINTER JAM of 2013, y’all!”

What is it about summer that makes us want to crown a song and to label some as Summer Songs? And what are the remaining qualities that a song must possess to fit the description as a Summer Song?

I need help here, people, because I wouldn’t accept “….it just FEEEEEEEEEELS like it,” in an argumentative essay from my students, so there must be some solid way of defining a Summer Song.

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