Songs of the Summer

Analyzing the online conversation on summer hits

Every year, a new crop of summer songs rises to the top of charts. They become ubiquitous, blasted on the radio at restaurants and stores, included on party playlists, and streamed on Spotify. Billboard charts and streaming data may tell one side of the story about most favored summer songs, but what does online data say?

By looking at the online conversation about summer songs, we are able to see when the discussion about summer songs starts each year, discover the top songs from summers past, predict the top summer songs for this year, and understand what consumers like about summer songs and how their tastes change each year. Consumers are more vocal on social media than ever and freely unleash their opinions about summer songs. It may not be the official Billboard 100, but in many ways it’s even more enlightening.

Face the music

The song of the summer has increasingly become a bigger deal on social media. Barely making waves in 2010, the conversation volume doubled just two years later.

Then in 2013, One Direction’s Best Song Ever and Miley Cyrus’ party anthem We Can’t Stop drove a huge spike in the conversation, as many heralded them the songs of the summer in August. Breakout stars and teenage heartthrobs One Direction’s enthusiastic fanbase rallied around their new song. Paired with a fun music video, We Can’t Stop was unstoppable. However, the song of the summer discussion usually doesn’t peak in August; July is the top month.

What’s dominating the charts versus listeners’ hearts?

Each summer, artists vie to have their song dominate the airwaves. Only several have been successful in writing and producing an addictive tune.


In 2013, One Direction’s Best Song Ever, Miley Cyrus’ We Can’t Stop, Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines, and Daft Punk’s Get Lucky were the most discussed summer songs. Best Song Ever blew the competition out of the water, with 70 percent share of voice. One Direction’s fervent fanbase and Miley Cyrus’ stark departure from her old music propelled their songs to the top.

The next year, breakout rapper Iggy Azalea’s Fancy was the top song. Consumers deemed the song catchy and the music video clever, resonating with its Clueless reference. Magic!’s Rude and Ariana Grande’s Problem both had 18 percent share of voice, while Ed Sheeran’s Sing had 3 percent share of voice.

In 2015, Fifth Harmony released Worth It. It became an instant summer hit. In second place was pop punk band 5 Seconds of Summer’s She’s Kinda Hot. Demi Lovato’s summery Cool for the Summer had 17 percent share of voice and Carly Rae Jepsen’s Run Away With Me received 9 percent share of voice.

The next year, Ariana Grande’s Into You was deemed the song of the summer, with 66 percent share of voice. Drake’s One Dance received 19 percent share of voice. EDM artist Calvin Harris’ This Is What You Came For had 8 percent share of voice, while Sia’s Cheap Thrills had 7 percent share of voice.

In 2017, Luis Fonsi’s Despacito was everywhere, blasted from shopping mall speakers and beer gardens. DJ Khaled’s Wild Thoughts took second place and I’m the One took third place. Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You had 3 percent share of voice. In the span of four years, Ariana Grande and Ed Sheeran have dominated summer songs with two hits each.

However, just looking at hits from North America, Drake’s Nice for What is the most hotly anticipated song of the summer.

Swan song for genres rock and country

Now that we’ve analyzed the top songs each year, what is it that makes those songs so perfect for summer? We looked at how people described summer songs, and how that changed over time.

Most people call summer songs fun, happy, and fresh. Those adjectives are fitting for a season of outdoor activities and parties. Interestingly, sad and slow are also prominent in the summer song conversation, as some consumers deem summer a time to contemplate. Bright, fast, upbeat, describe the uptempo club and party songs of the summer. Funky and breezy are also prominent in the conversation.

Looking at the genres of summer songs, country and rock have fallen out of favor with listeners, making way for the growth of rap, EDM, and hip-hop. Pop is a mainstay, though its dominance varies by year.


By looking at the conversation about the song of the summer, we are able to see how the social picks differ from the songs that top the Billboard charts, or how they overlap. Looking at historical data, there are artists who consistently dominate the summer airwaves, and there are also newcomers. It is not just historical analysis that is valuable; we can also try to predict top contenders for the song of the summer before the season is in full swing, and analyze the characteristics that make a song suitable for the hottest season of the year. Brands can leverage this data to better understand audience music tastes.

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