"Get Lucky" is the song of the summer. It's already been proclaimed by us media elites, so deal with the fact that Daft Punk (really, Pharrell) will be the musical touchstone of the Summer of 2013.
But what has happened to past songs of the summer? I decided to go back to 1994 (pre-1994 I mostly listened to Weird Al and my dad's Jackson Browne 8-tracks) to look at the cultural impact of the songs that really captured the essence of each summer, as well as take a look at where the artist who performed each is now and inject a personal memory, Klosterman-style.
Of note, there's no mathematical formula for determining a song of the summer. Rather it's just the song that best captures the zeitgeist of the moment, as determined by yours truly. That means the song that was on MTV a lot (when I was a kid) or played in bars a lot (as an adult). Billboard ratings, friends' input, timing of the release (May-June is ideal) and my own beer-addled memory play a role but I'm the Queen of Hearts here -- the final decision is arbitrary and mine alone. However, feel free to register your displeasure in the comments.
1994 - "The Sign" by Ace of Base
Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: "I Swear" by All 4 One is too middle school dance and "Stay" by Lisa Loeb is too coffeeshop to be songs of the summer. And the video above says "1993" because that was the European release date; The Sign dropped in the U.S. right ahead of the summer of '94 because we just weren't ready for it until then.
1995 - "Waterfalls" by TLC
Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: "This Is How We Do It" by Montell Jordan hit a little too early.Waterfalls was the song of not having to go to school and watching MTV all day.
1996 - "Crossroads" by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony
Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: Because you still say goodbye by telling people you'll meet them at the crossroads. There isn't any competition here. And extra points for the Anakin Skywalker-style appearance of Eazy-E.
1997 - "Mo Money, Mo Problems" by The Notorious B.I.G. f/ Puff Daddy & Ma$e
Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: 1997 was the summer of Biggie and it was either this or "I'll Be Missing You." But "I'll Be Missing You" is too much of a downer for this list, if a bar played it everyone would leave because it'd remind them of their dead grandma. "Say You'll Be There" by The Spice Girls deserves an honorable mention, but 1997 belonged to Biggie.
1999 - "Steal My Sunshine" by Len
Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: It might not have charted as high as "Livin' La Vida Loca" or "Genie in a Bottle" but this song IS summer. The entire video takes place at the beach. And not the Enrique Iglesias romantic secluded beach, but the one that everyone goes to in the summer. They do what you do at the beach -- play in the arcade, race go-karts and flout open container laws. I'm not going to let the tyranny of Billboard rankings prevent me from naming this the song of the summer of 1999.
2002 - "Hot in Herre" by Nelly
Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: It ain't rocket science, folks. If you write a catchy song about being in heat then you're going to have the song of the summer.
2003 - "Get Busy" by Sean Paul
Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: We reached Peak Sean Paul in 2003 so it's natural that he had the song of the summer. It's just a shame that he had to edge out Ignition (Remix), which dropped a little too early to win 2003.
2004 - "Yeah" by Usher f/ Lil Jon and Ludacris
Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: Nonstop play on both MTV and in bars. The Chappelle Show meant that everyone knew who Lil Jon was. Both crunk and Atlanta were at their pinnacles of popularity. It popularized the phrase "lady in the streets and a freak in the bed." The easiest pick on the list.
2005 - "Beverly Hills" by Weezer
Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: Heavy MTV rotation plus it's easy for bros to chant "Beverly Hills...that's where I want to BE!" in a bar. Mr. Brightside dropped too early, Hollaback Girl was too grating and We Belong Together was too vanilla.
2006 - "Hips Don't Lie" by Shakira f/ Wyclef Jean
Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: 2006 was the toughest year to pick. "Ridin" by Chamillioniaire and "SOS" by Rihanna both received heavy play and have withstood the test of time. I wish I could place the two of them in weaker years like 1998 or 2001. But "Hips Don't Lie" is a little catchier. Also, Shakira's butt.
2007 - "Umbrella" by Rihanna f/ Jay-Z
Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: It was the best graduation song since "Closing Time" by Semisonic and the other biggest songs that summer were by Maroon 5 and Fergie. Rihanna eats Maroon 5 and Fergie for breakfast. Also the video could make Varys go from phantom 6 to phantom 12.
2008 - "American Boy" by Estelle f/ Kanye West
Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: Because Estelle asking you to show her around the United States makes you feel like a BAWSE. It captured the summer much better than "I Kissed A Girl", and "Disturbia" is disqualified because it was written specifically for a bad movie (see; Wild Wild West).
2009 - "Party in the USA" by Miley Cyrus
Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: Because the summer was dominated by the Black Eyed Peas and f*ck the Black Eyed Peas. I can't tell any of their songs apart. "Party in the USA" dropped kind of late (July 29) but according to a little thing called SCIENCE that's barely 1/3 of the way through summer. So yeah, if you say the Black Eyed Peas had the song of the summer you hate science.
2010 - "California Gurls" by Katy Perry f/ Snoop Dogg
Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: Because it's Katy Perry singing about melting your popsicle. Again, this ain't rocket science.
2011 - "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO
Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: 2011 was a shitty year for pop music so LMFAO wins by default. Does anyone really want to make a case for "Moves Like Jagger" or "Give Me Everything"? Nope. This year really could have used some Nelly.
2012 - "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen
Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: Gangnam Style was an ubermeme, not a song of the summer. "What Makes You Beautiful" would have won in 2011 but it was only the song of the European summer. "Some Nights" came out too late. Besides, admit it, you like this song.