This year's 'Song of the Summer' declaration might bring much-deserved attention to worthwhile artists

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comJuly 24, 2013 

You can almost hear music writers, bloggers and critics feverishly tearing away the pages on their calendar as we inch closer to Labor Day, a holiday typically marked by the aforementioned scribes with a declaration of what this year's "Song of the Summer" is.

In the past, this largely meaningless title has been bestowed most often on gimmicky one-hit wonders like OMC's "How Bizarre," which hit in summer 1996, or Danish-Norwegian dance sensation Aqua's "Barbie Girl," which was the following year's Song of the Summer.

Lou Bega's "Mambo No. 5."

LFO's "Summer Girls."

Len's "Steal My Sunshine."

All "Songs of the Summer" produced by artists who then promptly fell off the face of the Earth, but the designation isn't strictly reserved for artists with little shelf life beyond their 15 minutes of fame.

More recently, Songs of the Summer have come from platinum-selling artists such as Beyonce ("Crazy In Love," 2003); Black Eyed Peas ("I Gotta Feeling," 2009 ) and two from Katy Perry ("I Kissed a Girl, 2008; and "California Gurls," 2010).

And while it seems Carly Rae Jepsen, whose "Call Me Maybe" spawned hundreds of insufferable viral videos before being named Song of the Summer last year, may be headed for the pop music dustbin, this recent trend of Songs of the Summer coming from better known artists appears to be holding.

Given that we're near the end of July, it seems unlikely that a song is going to enter the fray so we are left to consider the handful or so of songs that have become so unavoidable that turning on the radio and hearing one of them feels a near certainty.

And though, the well-coiffed Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" has made things interesting of late, as has paparazzi princess Miley Cyrus' "Can't Stop," the kings of Summer 2013 are -- quite improbably -- the French electronic duo Daft Punk whose utterly gimmick-less "Get Lucky" has ruled the airwaves.

The song, which features superstar producer Pharrell Williams singing over a no-nonsense 1970s-era R&B guitar riff and drum beat, is something of a departure for Daft Punk and includes only brief snippets of the machine-like vocals that helped make Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo early pioneers of mainstream electronic music.

But its hold over pop music audience has been undeniable since its release in late April when it was downloaded 38,000 times in the first three days and has since been downloaded 100,000 more times, helping Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories" go gold.

And the success of the song portends good things for pop music and, though the Song of Summer 2014 is unlikely to be something from The National or Bon Iver or Arcade Fire, the success of "Get Lucky" opens the door for other, less conventional acts to enjoy commercial success at a time of year usually dominated by one-hit wonders or the cast of usual suspects.

Score one for good taste.

This week's playlist comprises eight songs from lesser known but no less worthy bands that could have as easily vied for Song of the Summer. You know, had more people heard them.

Am I the only one that wishes LFO had released "Winter Girls," in which they talk-sing about what they like to do and like girls to wear when it's cold out?

 

  • Passion Pit, "Carried Away" -- Passion Pit scored big last year with "Take a Walk," but this song is every bit as good and twice as fun.  

  • Daft Punk, "Get Lucky (feat. Pharrell Williams)" -- Just have to include this to celebrate the sheer improbability of this great song becoming a pop hit.  

  • Bastille, "Pompeii" -- Good luck getting this song of your head.  

  • The 1975, "Chocolate" -- Another song that is, much to my surprise, getting some run on Top 40 radio.  

  • Jimmy Eat World, "I Will Steal You Back" -- This record flew under the radar when it was released in June, but this song shouldn't. Great alternative rock.  

  • Atlas Genius, "If So" -- The kind of song that makes little sense in October or March but strikes the perfect chord in July.  

  • The Front Bottoms, "Twin-Sized Mattress" -- I love everything about this song. Gritty and real but catchy and fun. A rare combination.  

  • Vampire Weekend, "Unbelievers" -- The best song from the best album of 2013 (so far).  

 

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/IPBG_Patrick.

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