Song of the summer 2012: Santigold, the Walkmen, Nicki Minaj and more contendersBy Reverb Staff | July 18th, 2012 | 1 Comment »
Three out of the four seasons do not require an “anthem.”
There has never been, nor will there ever be, an official “song of the fall.” What would it sound like? Impatient Monday night trips to Office Depot and a kitchen timer nervously ticking until a fresh loaf of pumpkin bread is ready for slicing?
But summer — with its front porch conversations and twilight backyard barbecues and seemingly bottomless coolers of beer — requires a pop song that reminds us where and when we find ourselves at this given point in time.
Last year, it was the inescapable chorus of Foster The People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” — a medley crafted to pop perfection by a former commercial jingle writer (lead singer Mark Foster). In 2010, it was Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” a dance song laden with sunshine, bikinis, Daisy Dukes and a questionable guest verse from Snoop Dogg. The year before that: Miley Cyrus’ guitar-heavy “Party in the U.S.A.” — concerned with, among other tragic scenarios, feeling homesick after arriving in Los Angeles and listening to Jay-Z and/or Britney Spears … for comfort.
While many contend that Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” will be remembered as summer 2012’s definitive headache/anthem, the song was actually first released as an iTunes single on Sept. 20, 2011. So here, instead, are seven contenders for the coveted — and, in actuality nonexistent — award. -John Hendrickson
Santigold, “Disparate Youth”
A close listen to the first single off Santigold’s sophomore album, “Master of My Make-Believe,” finds the singer leading us down a futuristic road with hooks at every turn. This part reggae, part dubstep, part hip-hop, wholly original pop song debuted just before this year’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas — a week wherein Santigold regained her headliner status with swagger and ease. “Oh, we said our dreams will carry us/And if they don’t fly we will run,” Santigold lazily proclaims on the song’s chorus. She acknowledges adversity while brushing off the mere concept of it. It’s a song designed for blasting with heavy bass in a car full of friends, windows all the way down — of living in the moment without neurotic worry as to what comes once the car stops. -John Hendrickson
Japandroids, “The House That Heaven Built”
Summer days are long by design. Restlessness begins to set in for those of us without central air conditioning, and the extended daylight gives way to extra-long nights. Nights where midnight bike rides or car cruises find one blaring that “one” song while looking for something to do. Vancouver indie-rock duo Japandroids has found “that” song in “The House that Heaven Built,” off its second album, “Celebration Rock.” It’s a raucous rock anthem that gives birth to many a fist-pumping moment, a song that implores you to keep the beat between your hand, steering wheel and car ceiling while screaming: “If they try to slow you down, tell ‘em all to go to hell!” -Julio Enriquez
For much of the summer, Denver has been doing its best hell-on-earth impersonation: Sweltering heat has been out-bedeviled only by the fires burning all around us. And with that in mind, no song could be more appropriate than Usher’s sticky, sweaty “Scream.” Explicitly about sex — the gist being Usher’s sexual prowess. The beat is propulsive and chaotic, the lyrics are ribald and even adolescent. Is Usher fanning the proverbial flames? Sure, but this summer, it makes perverted sense. -Colin St. John
The Walkmen, “Heaven”
It’s easy to be cynical in these trying times, and some of our best music comes from places of anger and disillusionment. But rakish New Yorkers the Walkmen would rather shed some perspective on this mess by yelling “Remember! Remember all we fight for!” Hamilton Leithauser’s sandpapery howl sells it in a way that invokes rock’s finest male vocalists, like a young Dylan tripping on Lennon and Springsteen’s late ’70s junk, all the while magically predicting Bono’s late-’80s caterwaul. Wrapped in tremolo-laden guitar, rubbery bass and propulsive beats, this is the definition of what you should hear pumping from rusty Jeeps on mountain roads. Their tops are down, their sunglasses-clad drivers are smiling without irony and the volume is definitely ruining those pathetically cheap speakers. It’s the soundtrack for every great moment your summer deserves, sans headphones. -John Wenzel
Nicki Minaj, “Starships”
Nicki Minaj’s “Starships,” as nonsensical as it is, is so summery that it practically reeks of sunscreen and salt water. From the first lyric (“Let’s go to the beach”) to the breezy, dance-friendly beats, this radio hit does everything but put your sunglasses on for you. Minaj portrays herself as a total freak, sure, but she’s more pop-savvy and mainstream-friendly than alt or weird or even avant garde. But what is this song about exactly? Imagine an interstellar party, the bar packed with Bud Light and Patron tequila, Minaj on the dance floor with her “hands up — touch the sky.” It’s not great. It doesn’t make sense. But it’s fun. And summery. And if that simple chorus and prefab beat doesn’t make you sing along and dance, then perhaps you’re from another planet. -Ricardo Baca
Dave Matthews Band, “Mercy”
As wild weather devastates hills and hearts on the Front Range, the new Dave Matthews Band single “Mercy” provides a refreshing, soft song served with a side of jam and a dash of hope. This isn’t just a song for summer; it’s a song for Colorado. As a call to action, this anthem comes complete with a sunny vibe, relaxed and breezy, while still keeping enough powerful buildup to stay true to the folk/jam genres. The vintage, yet still improved, sound is largely thanks to the return of critically acclaimed producer Steve Lillywhite. DMB hits home with lyrics like “Mercy, we will overcome this/ Oh one by one could we turn it around?/ Maybe carry on just a little bit longer.” Carry on, Coloradans. -Kelsey Fowler
My Darkest Days, “Casual Sex”
On “Casual Sex,” the intentions are clear. The Toronto rockers do not hide behind kitschy symbolism or pop music gimmicks when writing the song — they just go right there. “There,” being sex. Like any big summer hit, this song has everything partygoers need: a catchy hook, a memorable beat and fun-yet-suggestive lyrics that inspire girls to dance and drinks to flow. Rock bands typically do not strive to record the song of the summer, but My Darkest Days goes right for it — and succeeds. -Paige Montgomery