Music

16 Canadian contenders for this year's song of the summer

Drake, Carly Rae Jepsen, Lido Pimienta and more — who will have this season's top tune?

Drake, Carly Rae Jepsen, Lido Pimienta and more — who will have this season's top tune?

What will this year's song of the summer be? (From left: Getty Images, ANTI Records, Getty Images; graphic by CBC)

While this is usually the time of year when large gatherings of people come together and sing and dance along to their favourite bands, many of us will have to do that at home now — whether that means live streaming artists performing from their homes or spinning new releases on their record players or computers. 

But while festival fields may be empty this summer, our playlists will be jam-packed as usual. 

Artists around the world have pushed ahead with new songs and albums, some even moving up release dates to help brighten up music fans' days. So as we enter the hottest months of the year, we want to look ahead at another annual tradition: the song of the summer.

Every year, one song emerges from the pack to claim this title. In the past, Carly Rae Jepsen, Shawn Mendes and Drake have all come out victorious with smash hits. Who will it be this year?

Below, find our picks for this year's top Canadian contenders.

Which Canadian song is soundtracking your summer? Let us know at @CBCMusic.


'Yummy,' Justin Bieber

Of all the songs on the treasure trove that is Justin Bieber's Changes, the one most closely aligned with song-of-the-summer criteria has got to be "Yummy," the album's lead single. Popular? It has amassed 400 million Spotify streams since January. Fun? Well, it's all about booty calls, so yeah. ("Say the word, on my way, yeah babe/ in the mornin' or late.") Made for moving? Bieber himself leads an entire restaurant full of people in an elaborate choreography in the song's extraordinary video. — Robert Rowat


'Te Queria,' Lido Pimienta

On the surface, Lido Pimenta's "Te Quería" is a summer song with attitude, and a perfect addition to the kiss-off canon of breakup songs. But upbeat cumbia rhythms, textured woodwinds, warm percussion and the song title with multiple meanings all evoke something more nuanced than "see ya never." Translated to English as either "I Used to Love You" or "I Wanted You," "Te Queria" centres a narrator whose agency is never in question. This is someone who relishes their freedom and has transcended the petty ugliness of those who, as Pimienta said in a press release, "won't appreciate your light but still can see it enough in you to want to steal it." "Te Queria" is the last word in dancing out the door and never doubting that decision.  — Andrea Warner


'Toosie Slide,' Drake

"Toosie Slide" feels like it was reverse engineered to be the song of summer, from launching and going viral on Tik Tok, to its upbeat easy listening vibe, to the chorus that tells you how to dance in the simplest manner possible ("Right foot up, left foot slide"). It's a non-challenging song in challenging times, one that simply asks us to forget about what's going on and slide your feet. — Jesse Kinos-Goodin


'Never Come Back,' Caribou 

"Sometimes the best pleasures are the simple ones," said Dan Snaith, a.k.a. Caribou, describing the making of this early 2020 track. Built on synth chords and the title's repeated refrain, "Never Come Back" is one sweaty, pleasurable dance party, one that warmed us in winter and will keep us moving in these summer months. Caribou's vocals warm the underlying house beat, reaching for that falsetto in the latter half of the song to plead, "I can never forget it/ promise me that you don't regret it/ you and I were together/ even though we both knew better." And that cowbell? The perfect amount. — Holly Gordon


'In Your Eyes (Remix),' the Weeknd feat. Doja Cat

The Weeknd's music often evokes icy winter nights, but on his After Hours cut "In Your Eyes," he literally kicks off the song by admitting, "I just pretend that I'm in the dark/ I don't regret 'cause my heart can't take a loss." Against the track's slinky synths, the Canadian R&B star explores a more tenderhearted approach to love here, opening up to someone in a way that feels like the clouds have finally parted to let a sliver of sunshine in. This updated remix brings in chart-topper Doja Cat to balance out the track as she counters the Weeknd by singing, "Hate the way I feel love, only hurts with real love." And a bonus marker of a great song of the summer contender: kicking your song off with a killer saxophone part— Melody Lau 


'Summer Feelings,' Lennon Stella feat. Charlie Puth

As we learned from Calvin Harris's 2014 estival bop, "Summer," sometimes it pays just to put it right in the title of the song. That's the case with "Summer Feelings," perhaps the most obvious contender for 2020's song of the summer. This happy disco number from the soundtrack for Scoob! has all the elements: danceable beat, carefree California vibe, memorable chorus (that octave leap!) and lyrics that are all about summer romance, sung by two perfectly cast vocalists. And if all that weren't enough, the animated video depicts an idyllic day at Venice Beach. — RR


'Solo,' Carly Rae Jepsen 

It's the summer of self-isolation and Carly Rae Jepsen has released the perfect song for those living alone and looking for a much-needed boost of serotonin. A spiritual continuation of Robyn's hit "Dancing on My Own," Jepsen's "Solo" carries a similar sentiment of letting go, moving on, and remedying that with a solo dance party. "So what, you're not in love?/ Don't go wasting your nights getting so low./ So what, you're not in love?/ You shine bright by yourself dancing solo," Jepsen exclaims in the chorus over splashy '80s synths. Go ahead, have a party for one. — ML


'Stuck With U,' Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande

It would be appropriate if a song about living under quarantine did in fact become the official song of the summer under quarantine. We could do worse, especially given the mixed quality of songs that have been released about the current situation. Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande manage to make the best of a bad situation, flipping the idea of lockdown on its head and making it into a sultry ballad about being infatuated and being in love. That said, for anyone locked down with family or a roommate, a line like this is sure to hit way too close to home: "Baby, come take all my time/ go on, make me lose my mind." After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder. — JKG  


'24 (Toronto remix),' TOBi feat. Shad, Haviah Mighty, Jazz Cartier and Ejji Smith

The imagery in TOBi's video for "24 (Toronto remix)" may be wintry, but the feeling is all fire. Featuring new verses from high-profile acts Haviah Mighty, Shad and Jazz Cartier, "24 (Toronto Remix)" is a thunderbolt, produced by Take a Daytrip and built on a track that TOBi originally wrote to "counter negative stereotypes and tropes that have been put on Black men." The remix focuses on the power that TOBi and his collaborators bring to the table, with the addition of Ejji Smith's guitar work — and a fresh, rapid-fire verse from TOBi — adding a forceful new bite. "24 (Toronto remix)" is a smooth, inspiring update to an ever relevant track that was always a banger no matter the season — but especially heading into this summer.— HG


'Life is Good,' Future feat. Drake

Sometimes we don't choose the song of the summer, it chooses us. While past standouts have been upbeat and dancey, with the artist usually singing about summer, about dancing, or about being in love (or all of the above), "Life is Good" is none of those things, but it speaks directly to our situation in a very effective way. Just take a look at some of the lyrics: 

"Working on the weekend, like usual."
Check.
"Way off in the deep end like usual."
I mean, look around.
"Haven't done my taxes, I'm too turnt up."
Our tax deadline was extended till June, so.

By the time the beat changes halfway through the song, and Future comes in to rap about enjoying some of the finer things in life, we're fully ready for the escapism on offer. It may not be the vibe we want in a summer song (see: Drake's "Toosie Slide"), but it comes at a time to remind us that, hey, life is good, but it can also be really hard. — JKG


'Both of Us,' Jayda G 

Jayda G's music is best enjoyed in sweaty nightclubs or sunny music festivals and while we can't be at either this summer, her latest track "Both of Us" is able to momentarily transport us there. Pianos dance atop a pulsating beat as Jayda G's airy vocals soar miles above. The Canadian-born DJ and producer admittedly wasn't sure if it was a good idea to release this track right now, noting in a statement, "Things can feel really f--king depressing at the moment." But "Both of Us" is the exact antidote, a bright burst of joy that is here to keep us motivated until we can all unite on the dance floor once again. — ML


'Blinding Lights,' the Weeknd 

The Weeknd's "Blinding Lights" was released last November, but it's a song that's proven it has enough staying power to be a soundtrack for the summer. At the time of writing, it sits at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it debuted at No. 1 an impressive 25 weeks ago. With its searing synths and a pulsing drumline, it revels in that area between seedy and sensual that many '80s songs managed to pull off so perfectly — a sound the Weeknd has been slowly perfecting his entire career. "Blinding Lights" sounds like it could be the score for a high-stakes Miami Vice boat chase. And sure, maybe it also sounds a bit like Rod Stewart's "Young Turks" or that song from Flashdance ("Maniac"), but that's a major part of the appeal — one producer Max Martin understands all too well. — JKG 


'Comeback,' Carly Rae Jepsen

Songs of the summer can mostly be sorted into two categories: dance jams, or drive jams. While Carly Rae Jepsen's "Solo" is a shoe-in for the former, "Comeback" is perfect for a middle-of-the-night, windows-down cruise wherever your winding roads lead. With producer Jack Antonoff (a.k.a. Bleachers) on soothing backup vocals, "Comeback" is introspective, melancholic and filled with agency, Jepsen singing, "I was thinking about making a comeback/ back to me." Gentle '80s synths let Jepsen's vocals take centre stage, as "Comeback" slow jams its way into your summer playlist. (And the line "Dance your heart down onto your sleeve"? We can't get it out of our heads.) — HG


'Loyal,' PartyNextDoor feat. Drake

This single from PartyNextDoor and Drake dropped last November, and its warm tropical pop helped Canadians brace for winter. Now, as this disconcerting coronavirus summer begins, the song's familiarity feels like the ally we need to face the challenges ahead. "You're my best friend," it repeats, the word "best" amiably stretched out with vocoder effects before the laid-back chorus asserts, "Even when your troubles all look risky/ it's all under control." Instead of a banger, maybe this gently consoling tune is what's really required for 2020's song of the summer. — RR


'Cold Feet,' Loud Luxury

During the COVID shuffle of late March came Loud Luxury's new EP, Nights Like This, and the club banger "Cold Feet."  A sonic departure from the duo's planet-smashing hit "Body," "Cold Feet" starts with soft piano and hauntingly fragile lyrics from Royal & the Serpent. The song quickly grows from there by way of more piano, this time heavy on the keys and a foot-stomping bass line. From there, the cadence of the song shifts frequently, often punctuated by an infectious use of what appears to be a tongue clicking — a sound that breaks the tension wonderfully each time it's used. As the lyrics imply, soon this song will have you "dancing tipsy in the street," and when is there a better time to do that than in the summer? — Ben Aylsworth


'Speaking Moistly,' Anonymotif with Justin Trudeau

In one of his daily briefings to the Canadian public early in the pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used a highly unusual phrase that immediately caught everyone's attention: "speaking moistly." It was basically his polite attempt of saying, "Say it, don't spray it." The #speakingmoistly hashtag was trending on Twitter within minutes, and soon after came the unreal — and really good — dance remix, cleverly created by Anonymotif, an artist who mashes up "fake singers" with real music. If you haven't seen or heard it yet, now is your chance. It's catchy, and delivers a pretty good message — and very well could be Canada's song of the summer. — Grant Lawrence 

now