Memorial Day has come and gone, so the season of the summer jam has officially begun! We will be paying close attention to the competition for the 2011 Song of the Summer here on the VH1 Blog. Of course, the pop audience will decide who will win, but here are three of our favorites:
NOMINATION: Lady Gaga: “Edge of Glory”
EXPLANATION: “Edge of Glory” seizes on a combination of rock and Euro-house not heard since 2002 (when DJ Sammy’s cover of Bryan Adams’s “Heaven,” among others, hit huge). Gaga’s song provides something not only for fans of the dominant sound of dueling pop kings Doctor Luke and RedOne, but also for those who appreciate more of a classic rock sound.
On top of that, the Clarence Clemons solo happens to coincide with the return-of-sax zeitgeist. Willa Paskin pronounced 2011 the “Summer of Sax” at New York‘s Vulture blog, but her only other evidence was Katy Perry‘s upcoming single “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F),” so the claim is a bit overstated. But it’s true that sax is back in vogue—indie rockers like Destroyer, and to a lesser extent Gayngs (featuring Justin Vernon of Bon Iver), have returned to a smooth-sax sound, and other artists on the edge, like Gorillaz collaborators (and Raphael Saadiq favorites) Little Dragon, have revived that specific smoothness, though with different instrumentation.
NOMINATION: Beyoncé, “Run the World (Girls)”
EXPLANATION: Dancehall has been making a slow return to the charts since its peak in the early 2000s with Sean Paul‘s “Get Busy” and a slew of other hits. Last summer “Hold Yuh” was the biggest hit that no one could name, and “Pon de Floor” (which provides the beat for Beyoncé’s single) was a big hit among hipsters (if also the cause of not a little hand-wringing about whether the Jamaican vocalists like Vybz Kartel had been exploited). As of this writing, “Drumz” by Desloc Piccalo featuring Adiah is one of the biggest audience favorites on Miami’s 99Jamz, if its Youtube comments are to be believed, and British pop critic Alex Macpherson’s own pick for song of the summer. Though this particular track probably won’t catch on elsewhere (except maybe New York), which is a shame, it’s another example of the ways in which Caribbean influences are returning to 2011 summer pop.
That said, we’ve heard little of 4 as of yet, so even if “Run the World (Girls)” doesn’t last, it’s hard to imagine Beyoncé doesn’t have another potential summer song ready to roll out, especially considering the influences she listed off to Billboard: Fela Kuti, ’90s R&B, Earth, Wind & Fire, DeBarge, Lionel Richie, Teena Marie, Jackson 5, New Edition, Adele, Florence + the Machine, Prince, and her “hip-hop influences.” If even half of that can be heard on 4 then forget “song of the summer”—this could be the album of the summer.
NOMINATION: Swizz Beatz, “Dance Like a White Girl”
EXPLANATION: It’s a dancefloor-ready overstuffed jam, of the type we’ve come to expect from Swizzy when he has free reign (e.g. on his own records and on Diddy’s). This is the guy who produced “Check On It,” “Ring the Alarm,” and “Get Me Bodied” for Beyoncé. He uses the same siren preset as at the beginning of Quincy Jones’s “Ironside” (recognizable from its use in Kill Bill) and simple, catchy lyrics, with just enough of a wink in them: “Every day is your birthday/ Let’s go/ And dance like a white girl.” If Swizz Beatz sticks to his plan, the song will drop really soon, and (we hope) become a summer jam.
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]