Sep 8, 2013

There Was No Song of the Summer, And That's OK

By Ian Cory

If pop culture critics on the Internet are to be believed, the summer of 2013 did not happen. More words than can be counted have been spent discussing the stunning failure of this summer’s blockbusters to deliver on either a cultural or financial level*, and similarly there’s been a lot discourse over the lack of a distinctive song of the summer. People were quick to anoint Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ when it was released in April, but it peaked too soon and quickly got lost in the shuffle once the summer actually started. Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, despite being released even earlier has a bigger shot at the title with its domination of the charts, but the mood around the song never reached the kind of fever pitch we want from a summer jam. There was even a weird and thankfully brief period where people were ready to crown “We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus**. But now the dust has settled and the throne remains conspicuously empty. Thing is, the throne never existed in the first place.

For most people it’ll only take looking back to 2012 to prove me wrong, but bear with me. “Call Me Maybe” might have been an outrageously popular song that was pretty tricky to avoid if you were even kind of social last summer, but its dominion over the air waves was not complete. For a substantial number of people, myself included, 2012 was the summer of "Mercy". Every time I reflect on those months the first thing that comes to mind was driving through the hills of North Carolina with two of my best friends screaming “STEP INTO DEF JAM BUILDING LIKE I’M THE SHIT” at the top of my lungs. “Mercy” was everything I wanted from that summer. Fresh out of college, I soaked up every ounce of bravado and in the moments between verses cherished the collaborative spirit that I shared with my own friends. I was of course aware of “Call Me Maybe” and I probably heard it more than “Mercy,” but if I can say one thing for certain it is that the summer is not about math, it’s about feelings. I don’t doubt that for a lot of people “Call Me Maybe” sounds like summer, and they aren’t wrong on a purely aesthetic level, but it will always be a runner-up in my heart.

The problem with trying to position a certain song as culturally ubiquitous is that it ignores how amazingly diverse the pop music landscape can be. Our associations with time are defined by our experiences, and in turn those experiences are informed by the communities we live in. While it is certainly romantic to imagine the whole of the country united under a banner of earth shaking string stabs and disco guitar, that kind of monoculture no longer exists. The multifaceted and surprisingly complex nature of popular taste isn’t without its own beauty. For the strength of every shared moment, there’s the intimacy of a private one. So sure, this summer might have failed us on the macro level, but it's important not to miss the forest for the trees. Chances are you’ll remember the summer not for being trapped in a crowd of people but for sharing a drink and a song with close friends on the porch while the sun sets. Now that it’s starting to get colder we’ll have to move inside, but the same rules apply. Keep warm and keep close.

*America, your failure to rally around Pacific Rim disappoints me deeply.

**Just briefly, can we all acknowledge how much better of a song this would have been if Rihanna had recorded it as planned? For one, the song is clearly set perfectly in her range and would have benefited from her insanely flat and emotionless affect, and we also would have avoided that whole VMA’s snafu. And hey, it’s been a while since “Diamonds.”

1 comment:

  1. In terms of summer 2012, um, "We Are Young" would like to have a word