The fifth summer of this decade isn’t over yet. But in the past few years, we’ve seen summer jams that will surely define the era for future generations, from indelible one hit wonders such as Gotye to the ongoing hit parade of super producers Dr. Luke and Pharrell Williams. We’ve even declared some early victors from the summer of 2014, including Magic! and Iggy Azalea. This list was assembled using Billboard data from Hot 100 charts between June 20th and this week, dictated by peak chart positions and total length of run on the Hot 100. To boil the list down to the most seasonally appropriate summer anthems, we omitted melancholy rap power ballads (Eminem, B.o.B., Lil Wayne) and bummery pop songs (Maroon 5, Adele, Sam Smith, John Legend).
After releasing an album every summer early in her career, Rihanna has recently taken to dropping albums in November. But her singles campaigns always last a year, and late 2011's Talk That Talk kept spinning off hits well into the next summer, with Calvin Harris and Dr. Luke helping propel the clubby fifth single "Where Have You Been" into the Top 10.
The duo of Bryan Kelley and Tyler Hubbard first topped the country charts in the winter of 2012 with their debut single, "Cruise." But it was the remix featuring summer jam MVP Nelly released the following April that made the song the country-pop crossover hit of 2013.
The title track and sixth single from Ellie Goulding's debut album, Lights, was one of her least successful releases in her native U.K. But in the States it was her breakthrough, a slow burning sleeper hit that climbed to Number Two in the summer of 2012 after 32 weeks(!) on the Hot 100.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis released "Can't Hold Us" as a promo single in the summer of 2011, but it wasn't until nearly two years later that the song followed "Thrift Shop" to the top of the Hot 100. In the track's verses, Macklemore pays tribute to his Seattle hip-hop crossover star predecessor, namechecking Sir Mix-A-Lot's classic 1988 single "Posse on Broadway."
Brit singer Taio Cruz's first U.S. hit, "Break Your Heart," topped the Hot 100 in the spring of 2010, while the follow-up, "Dynamite," settled for Number Two. But it was "Dynamite" that ran the summer, lasted longer in the Top 10, and ultimately proved to be the more indelible hit.
With "Last Friday Night," Katy Perry's Teenage Dream became only the second album in pop history to yield five Number One singles, after Michael Jackson's Bad. Perry loaded up the video with kitsch both old and new school, with cameos including Michael Bolton and YouTube star Rebecca Black.
Nico Sereba and Vincent Dery, two Norway-based singers born in Africa, originally released "Am I Wrong" under the name Envy. But as the song spread around the world, the duo changed their name to Nico & Vinz to distinguish themselves from any other bands named Envy that haven't scored an international summer jam.
In the fracturing marketplace of 2010s radio, R&B crossover stars like Usher have found themselves with a dilemma: Where songs like "Yeah!" could once unite urban radio and pop radio, the two formats can now only be catered to with dramatically different songs. So Usher launched his 2010 album Raymond v. Raymond by topping the R&B charts with the ballad "Papers," and conquered the pop charts with "OMG," a Will.i.am collaboration following the EDM template of Black Eyed Peas hits.
On urban radio, summer 2013 belonged to Mike WiLL Made It, with the Atlanta beatmaker producing hits including Ace Hood's "Bugatti" and Ciara's "Body Party." But it took the career reboot of the former Hannah Montana to bring his beats to the Top Five of the Hot 100 in July.
When Nicki Minaj released Pink Friday in late 2010, "Super Bass" was buried in the bonus tracks only available on certain editions of the album. But videos of Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez rapping along to the song went viral, paving the way for Nicki's first big crossover pop moment.
Daft Punk first crossed paths with Pharrell Williams in 2001, when the Neptunes produced an official remix of the French duo's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger." But that was nothing compared to the success they'd enjoy together with the lead single to Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, which won two Grammys and sold 9 million copies.
"Somebody That I Used to Know" topped the charts in Gotye's home country, Australia, in August 2011, although of course it was winter at the time in the southern hemisphere. The antipodean smash took nearly a year to make its way around the world, become the Number One song in America in the summer of 2012.
As a songwriter and producer, Nasri Atweh enjoyed success with minor summer jams including New Kids on the Block's 2007 comeback single "Summertime" and the 2011 Chris Brown/Justin Bieber duet "Next to You." But it wasn't until the Canadian singer formed the reggae band Magic! that he scored an international chart-topper with the current biggest song in America, "Rude."
Ariana Grande was a relatively obscure Nickelodeon sitcom star when her single "The Way" became a surprise Top 10 hit in 2013 and went multiplatinum that summer. But by the summer of 2014, she was a known quantity, fully prepared to capitalize on that momentum with "Problem," featuring the also rapidly rising Iggy Azalea, a saxophone and a whispering, uncredited Big Sean.
Everybody seemed to love Pitbull's first Number One hit in the summer of 2011, except for the subject of his lyric "locked up like Lindsay Lohan." Lohan attempted to sue over the line, but a judge ruled in favor of Pitbull's First Amendment rights.
Big Star frontman and cult hero Alex Chilton's death in the spring of 2010 prompted an outpouring of tributes from countless bands. But one of the biggest and subtlest came from an unlikely source: Katy Perry spelled the title of her blockbuster single "California Gurls" in homage to Big Star's "September Gurls."
As founder of Motown Records, Berry Gordy Jr. worked behind the scenes on countless hit records without ever becoming a star in his own right. Some of his offspring became stars, however — his son Kennedy "Rockwell" Gordy released the smash "Somebody's Watching Me" in 1984, and his son Stefan "Redfoo" Gordy and grandson Skylar "SkyBlu" Gordy scored a couple of chart-toppers as LMFAO.