What makes a summer jam? Is it the sunniest chorus, the hottest beat, the most weeks on the charts? Do the lyrics have to be about beaches and barbecues, or is it a question of vibe? What if it’s a song on your summer playlist and no one else’s?
We believe the answer is “all of the above.” This summer, Rolling Stone’s writers will celebrate the songs that are ruling each of their worlds – from huge hits to weirder, more personal choices. Check back soon for more summer songs, and hear all our picks in the Spotify playlist at the bottom of this post.
Quite a bit has happened since Drake released “Nice For What” at the beginning of April. The song rightfully debuted at Number One on Billboard‘s Hot 100, stealing the top spot from Drake’s other, inferior song of the summer contender, “God’s Plan.” It enjoyed a fruitful run, but it’s been upended twice – by Donald Glover’s “This America” and Post Malone’s “Psycho,” for a week each – before reclaiming its rightful place at the top of the charts. This week, the death of XXXTentacion propelled the Florida rapper’s single “Sad!” to number one, but, at this point, counting “Nice For What” out for anything longer than seven days feels like a losing bet.
Like me, America can’t get over “Nice For What.” There hasn’t been a song this year that boasts its sheer replayability. Every time it ends, I wish it were beginning. That’s largely thanks to that looped Lauryn Hill sample, cut with the infinity-inducing precision of a perfect Vine. Usually, the songs blasting out of car windows in New York City serve as anecdotal evidence: The more you hear it, the more likely it is that rarest of things – the song of the summer. “Nice For What” works in that sense, sure, but it also functions as an imperative. Just eight bars is enough to send me scrambling to Spotify to hear the whole thing, the kind of suggestion that once it’s mentioned can’t be ignored.
Drake’s biggest singles often have an inevitability to them, shaped by his preternatural ability to adapt to trends. He sees what’s on the horizon, and makes songs to meet it. Of course someone was going to make “One Dance,” and of course it was Drake. “Nice For What” is different. It’s fast instead of slow; its chorus is memorable but inimitable; it’s structurally unsound, opting to meander rather than repeat. There’s a lot that shouldn’t work, from the bounce-indebted beat to the very idea of a Drake-led female empowerment anthem. And yet, it’s clearly working.
Since “Nice For What” dropped, Kanye released five albums, Jay-Z and Beyonce dropped their long-rumored joint album, and Pusha-T viciously revealed to the world that Drake was (allegedly) hiding a child. I forget all of that, every time this song plays. And every time it ends, I look for the rewind button.