"Kiki" or Cardi? Crowning song of the summer
It is that time of year again. The youth go back to school, parents take a deep breath and the warm weather (at least in theory) begins to subside. It is also the time when the hotly contested prize of “Song of the Summer” is crowned. While seen by many as a reward for being inescapable and obnoxious, songs of the summer usually have the uncanny ability to be played for years and years, maybe even decades. Take Elton John’s 1976 classic, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” or TLC’s “Waterfalls” in 1995 – both songs have proved to have legs both on the radio and in shopping malls across the country.
This summer saw the continued rise of hip-hop’s mainstream popularity, with new releases from just about every major artist in the game. Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, Travis Scott and The Carters all dropped full-length projects, jockeying for the top spot on Billboard’s coveted 200 chart. Many of these albums struggled to move past their singles, namely with The Carters’ self-titled album in which the Migos-assisted “Apesh*t” is arguably the only song the public recognizes.
DJ Khaled was also back with the first single off his forthcoming “Father of Asahd” album, “No Brainer,” which drew features from “I’m the One” cast members Justin Bieber, Quavo and Chance the Rapper. While the song bumps, one cannot escape its pandering nature and the feeling that Khaled was mixing promising ingredients together to chase his runaway hit from 2017. Evidently, this was the sentiment of the public, with the song entering and quickly departing the Top 10 shortly after its release.
Elsewhere, the reigning king of sales and “memeable” moments, Drake, unloaded his 25-track album “Scorpion” fresh off the success of several singles, including “God’s Plan” and the fervent “Nice For What.” “Scorpion” delivered the quintessential Drake track that is “In My Feelings,” which takes the cake for most streamed song of summer 2018. Following in the vein of Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles,” “In My Feelings” saw a dominant social media challenge to bolster its sales. Just about everyone with a pulse was hopping out of moving vehicles to ponder the affections of the elusive ‘Kiki.’
In considering a definitive “Song of the Summer,” it is important to go beyond mere chart positioning. Summer is a vibe in and of itself – beaches, drinks and parties. “Girls Like You,” Maroon 5’s latest grab for Target airplay, does not really fit this mold despite its staggering 293 million Spotify streams. It is catchy, sure, with a guaranteed lifespan, but is hindered by the somewhat random Cardi B feature in which she claims her masturbation regime is not dissimilar from Maroon 5’s skills on the guitar (yes, really). “In My Feelings” came in late June, well into the summer, and felt like a second act rather than an overall motif. Even tracks like Ariana Grande’s “no tears left to cry” and newcomer Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up,” while certified bops, did not quite entrap the public like our winner – Cardi B’s “I Like It.”
“I Like It” was everything you could hope for in a summer track – a bouncy energy, memorable bars and a beat that positively slaps. The Urbano Latino feel carried by Bad Bunny and J Balvin keeps the song’s momentum going for infinite plays. It is a record that can cause perpetual excitement, able to start or carry the torch of any party. Sure, it does not have the biting feel of Nicki Minaj’s “Chun-Li,” but it appears to represent the kind of song people are looking for in 2018.