Well, school’s out and summer is officially here, which means it’s time to handicap the race for Summer Jam 2011 — the annual sweepstakes of sweaty, sex-drenched (and, this year, sax-heavy) songs that turns our nation’s finest beaches and waterfront drinking establishments into an all-out battle for summer-soundtrack superiority.
Last year, it was Katy Perry who emerged victorious, thanks to “California Gurls,” her slinky ode to daisy dukes and melting popsicles, and she’s back to defend her crown this summer with “Last Friday Night.” But she’ll face considerable competition from a host of big-name stars — Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj and Adele — each of whom are looking to take home the title. And even if she manages to outgun them, will Perry have enough left in the tank to takedown the suddenly sizzling Pitbull or the unstoppable LMFAO? We’ll just have to wait and see.
And with the action just getting under way, here’s our up-to-the minute standings in the Song of the Summer Sweepstakes. If there’s a song we’ve missed, you can let us know about it via Twitter, using the hashtag #mtvsos, or in the comments below. So without further ado, let’s slather on some sunscreen and get to the jams!
1. Katy Perry, “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”: She dominated the summer of 2010 with “California Gurls,” and now Perry is out to make it two in a row with the ebullient “T.G.I.F.,” the 183rd single from her Teenage Dream album. It currently sits at #4 on Billboard‘s Hot 100, and it seems like it’s only a matter of time before it makes the leap to #1. Call it manifest destiny.
2. Pitbull (featuring Ne-Yo, Afrojack and Nayer), “Give Me Everything”: Perhaps the only man standing between Perry and her second-straight Song of the Summer crown is the suddenly ubiquitous Pitbull, whose “Give Me Everything” just went to #1 on the Hot 100. It’s from his well-received, club-approved Planet Pit album, and its success only validates the fact that the Miami rapper may finally be having his moment.
3. LMFAO (featuring Lauren Bennett and GoonRock), “Party Rock Anthem”: Aptly titled hit from America’s leading purveyors of sublimely stoopid odes to inebriation, “Party Rock Anthem” is basically the spiritual sequel to all of LMFAO’s earlier jams (like “I’m in Miami, Bitch” and “Get Crazy,” the theme from MTV’s “Jersey Shore”) only, you know, times one thousand. Could this be the jam that finally puts them over the top?
4. Nicki Minaj, “Super Bass”: Ms. Minaj’s ode to the guys with the booming systems (and she’s not necessarily talking about the ones in their cars), it’s breezy, sexy and unspeakably catchy — which means it’s a mortal lock to be the soundtrack to a million wet T-shirt contests, only, you know, the ones featuring dudes.
5. Maroon 5 (featuring Christina Aguilera), “Moves Like Jagger”: Riding high off the success of NBC’s “The Voice,” this jam from one-half of the judging panel debuted on the Hot 100 at #8 and seems like it could be poised to go all the way to #1. As a bonus, it’s basically about guys who dance like Mick Jagger, and, really, what summertime girl doesn’t want someone like that? Also, whistling!
6. Eminem and Royce Da 5’9″ (featuring Bruno Mars), “Lighters”: Unexpectedly bright single from Em and Royce’s decidedly dark Hell: The Sequel EP, it may not seem like a logical Summer Jam, but when you hear the hook (courtesy of Bruno Mars, a guy who knows a thing or two about summertime smashes) and consider the tremendous fanbase Mr. Mathers possesses, you know this one’s a contender.
7. Britney Spears, “I Wanna Go”: On one hand, it’s yet another club-ready jam from Ms. Spears. On the other, it’s not as good as “Till the World Ends.” Still, with her just-launched tour and a near-constant presence on pop radio, you can bet Britney’s not going away anytime soon.
8. Enrique Iglesias (featuring Usher and Lil Wayne), “Dirty Dancer”: Iglesias’ “I Like It” was a sneaky runner-up to “California Gurls” in the Summer Jam 2010 sweepstakes, and “Dirty Dancer” follows a similarly clubby path. Add hard-working guest appearances from Usher and Wayne — both of whom know a thing or 13 about making hits — and “Dancer” could end up shocking the world this summer.
9. Jason Derülo, “Don’t Wanna Go Home”: It opens with Derülo aping the “Day-O” chant from “The Banana Boat Song,” rolls on a sample of “Show Me Love” and is basically about one never-ending party. Yeah, we wouldn’t bet against this one either.
10. Adele, “Rolling in the Deep”: Unstoppable lead single from Adele’s equally unstoppable 21 album, “Deep” has been with us for a minute now, yet there’s the very real feeling that more and more people are discovering it every day. She’s already conquered the Billboard charts, but now, could Adele conquer the summer too?
11. Lady Gaga, “The Edge of Glory”: Not the most conventional choice, but given the fact that, A) It features a wailing sax solo from the late Clarence Clemons (which, when considered alongside the wailing “T.G.I.F.” saxophone majesty, seems to suggest we’re currently living in “the summer of sax”) and B) It’s from Lady Gaga. We wouldn’t be surprised to see it take the Summer Jam crown.
12. David Guetta (featuring Nicki Minaj and Flo Rida), “Where Them Girls At”: French DJ David Guetta continues his bid to take over the entire universe with this walloping, galloping party starter. Throw in cameos by Flo and Nicki, and you’ve got all the makings of a certified smash. Equally important, it takes the work out of actually inquiring about the location of females, which makes your summer approximately 75 percent easier already.
13. DJ Khaled (featuring Drake, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne), “I’m On One”: A sun-drenched ode to excess in just about every conceivable way, it’s a song that sounds best when blasting out of a high-end system. It’s got the superstar pedigree and the shelf life (check the ever-growing list of remixes), so who’s to say Khaled can’t also take home the Summer Jam crown?
14. Chris Brown, “She Ain’t You”: Built around a sample of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature,” it’s a smoove, supple jam, equally suited for those late-night make-out sessions and those hazy, lazy days of tanning. A true multipurpose Summer Jam indeed.
15. Foster the People, “Pumped Up Kicks”: Ultra-catchy tune from the Los Angeles-based rock outfit, it’s easy and breezy enough to be considered a dark-horse contender, so long as folks don’t pay attention to the lyrics, which are dark indeed (it’s about a kid and a gun, in case you hadn’t noticed). Then again, when it comes to Summer Jams, no one actually listens to the lyrics, do they?
What did we miss? Share your Summer Jam picks in the comments!