We're only four days away from the official start of summer (a.k.a. "the summer solstice," if you're an evil Wiccan), which means two things: First, prepare to get skin cancer. And second, it's time to kick off the 2009 Summer Jam Sweepstakes!
Now, let the record state that I absolutely hate summer, as I am a pale scrivener who frequently gets sand kicked in his face. I burn easily, I can't swim and I sweat more than you could possible imagine. And yet, I still look forward to the summer-jam season every single year, because I love pop music ... and the more tangy and saccharine and completely disposable it is, the better.
See, summer is when the masses take their shirts off, get wasted and grind against one another at Señor Frogs locations all across the Caribbean (and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina). It's the time when they get ill-advised tattoos in places like Panama City, Florida, or wake up in a Lake Havasu holding cell or make out with some dude for 15 hours on the Jersey Shore. And, of course, the masses demand a musical accompaniment for all this: hooky, catchy, downright fluffy stuff — music to get drunk and tanned and kissed to.
Last year, that meant gems like Estelle's effervescent "American Boy" and Tyga's hyperactive "Coconut Juice," songs that came out of nowhere to compete with the big boys (and girls) for the summer-jam crown. And that's why predicting the winners for the 2009 sweepstakes is so difficult: really, anyone can win this thing, especially since all it takes to land a summertime smash is a catchy beat and lyrics with the heft of margarita mix.
But, that said, I'm still going to try my hand at predicting the winners. Sure, there will be some dark-horse candidates along the way, and don't forget the new songs from heavy-hitters like Jay-Z and Young Jeezy that are looming on the horizon. But, since summer can't wait forever (and because I have a huge gambling problem), here's my attempt at handicapping the race for the summer jam of 2009. Read it while you tan or do something you'll probably regret for the rest of your life!
Mariah Carey, "Obsessed"
Odds That It Will Rule the Summer: 4:1
Just 14 months after 2008's E=MC2 album fizzled, Mimi returns, this time with an Auto-Tuned kiss-off to wannabe lotharios (and Eminem?) that will probably be the soundtrack to a million summer hookups and just as many public-intoxication collars. And I'm not just saying that because the hook reminds me so much of Jamie Foxx's "Blame It," either. Glossy, flossy and decidedly "urban," Mariah strikes back. Your radio has been warned.
Drake, "Best I Ever Had"
Odds That It Will Rule the Summer: 6:1
The latest in a long line of heavy-browed sensations (after Chris Paul and that one Jonas brother), Drake doesn't even have a record label, and already he's landed tons of buzz, some hit singles and the approval of Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy, who are taking him out on the road this summer. "Best I Ever Had" is a straight-up classic R&B jam — strictly for the ladies, yet also cool enough for the dudes to dance to. And that bodes well for him this summer, to be certain.
Black Eyed Peas, "Boom Boom Pow"
Odds That It Will Rule the Summer: 8:1
This one would probably be higher on my list, if not for that fact that it probably peaked too early (you know, what with it topping the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 10 consecutive weeks now). Still, there's no denying this tune's pull — the mega-catchy, futuristic knob-twiddling from Will.I.Am, the big vocals from Fergie, even that karate dude isn't totally awful here — which should still earn it a ton of summer plays. Also, this is probably the first BEP song that I'll ever admit to liking, even if I do so begrudgingly.
Jeremih, "Birthday Sex"
Odds That It Will Rule the Summer: 10:1
Another one that's probably already peaked (by now, Jeremih's tune is practically inescapable), but don't count it out of the Summer Jam Sweepstakes just yet: There's still gonna be plenty of ladies celebrating their birthday in Cancún and Cozumel, and all of them are gonna be looking for one thing.
Sean Kingston, "Fire Burning"
Odds That It Will Rule the Summer: 11:1
I wrote about this song earlier this week, calling it a "sweaty, sunny, summertime jam." And while it certainly is — all dance-floor whoops and sing-song vocals — the question remains: Will the masses buy the baby-face Kingston as a mature, loved-up ladies man? Actually, what am I talking about? It's the summer. No one cares about crap like that!
Das Racist, "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell"
Odds That It Will Rule the Summer: 12:1
Especially if you're talking about summer in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Easily my favorite song of 2009, much to the consternation of everyone who's ever loved me/shared office space with me.
Flo Rida, "Sugar"
Odds That It Will Rule the Summer: 12:1
"Sugar" should probably be much higher on my list, especially when you consider that it might just be the most "by the books" summer jam ever created: sample one annoying/forgotten pop track (in this case, Eiffel 65's "Blue"), rap about females and various female-related proclivities, shoot a video on the beach, repeat if necessary. Bonus points for the fact that Flo Rida rarely actually wears a shirt, which should endear him to the toned and tanned masses.
La Roux, "In for the Kill"
Odds That It Will Rule the Summer: 13:1
This is my wild-card pick. A British electro duo fronted by the striking Elly Jackson, La Roux's gauzy synth pop has already won over the likes of Katy Perry and Lily Allen (and those two don't agree on anything). And armed with the success of songs like "In for the Kill" (in England, this kind of stuff actually charts!), they're taking aim at the States. This is perfect music for drinking in the clubs and vomiting in hotel rooms — try it and see for yourself!
Wale (featuring Lady Gaga), "Chillin' "
Odds That It Will Rule the Summer: 15:1
I love this song, and not just because of Wale's clever verses ("I remain a Giant/ And you're Jeremy Shockey"), the deft production work (spindly beats mingle with a sample of Steam's 1969 track "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye," in case you were wondering), or because Gaga seems to be channeling M.I.A. on the hook. No, it's because this is hungry, bare-bones hip-hop, the kind of stuff they don't make any more. It's what all the cool clubs will be playing this summer.
Grizzly Bear, "Two Weeks" and Discovery, "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend"
Odds That They Will Rule the Summer: 10,000:1
The summer jams for the kids who don't take their shirts off at the beach. Two of the best indie songs of the year, the former all gorgeous harmonies, the latter ridiculous, azz-shaking glitch pop, you'll be sure to hear these (sorta) blasting from MacBook Pros for the next four months. Could also insert Phoenix's "Listzomania" in here too.
Questions? Concerns? Hit me up at BTTS@MTVStaff.com.