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Diversify Your Playlist And Find The Song Of The Summer

LYNN NEARY, HOST:

It's July 4 weekend. Do you know what the song of the summer is?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PRETTY GIRLS")

BRITNEY SPEARS AND IGGY AZALEA: (Singing) All the around the world, pretty girls wipe the floor with all the boys. Pour the drinks, bring the noise. We're just so pretty. All around the world...

NEARY: That's one contender for the title - "Pretty Girls" by Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea. According to a poll put out by Ryan Seacrest, it's the song of the summer. Usually that means it's a song that's ubiquitous on top 40 radio that everyone knows the lyrics to; a song that gets stuck in your head when the hot weather sets in. This year, a lot of songs are vying for that title like Demi Lovato's "Cool For The Summer." She just released it Wednesday and almost immediately, it hit number one on iTunes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COOL FOR THE SUMMER")

DEMI LOVATO: (Singing) We're cool for the summer.

NEARY: So, Ann Powers, there is no official song of the summer yet, right?

ANN POWERS, BYLINE: Not yet, Lynn.

NEARY: Ann Powers is NPR's music critic and correspondent, and she is here now to both handicap the race and broaden our horizons. Thanks for joining us, Ann.

POWERS: Thanks for having me.

NEARY: So correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that in years past, we knew what the songs of summer really were, and you didn't need a poll to tell us. I'm thinking of things like "Call Me Maybe" or "Blurred Lines" - you heard them all the time. What's the difference this summer?

POWERS: You know, the song of the summer is always a bit of a manufactured thing. I mean, usually it's the song of the spring that just lasts into the summer. But at the same time, what we have now, in an increasingly fragmented pop landscape, is kind of a battle on the edges. Think of it as, like, "Game Of Thrones," a battle from all these different kingdoms and queendoms for song of the summer - all very different, and we don't really know what's going to emerge.

NEARY: All right, well, let's look of the some of these people out there on the edges - some of these subgroups, I guess. For alternative rock, there's "Renegades" by X Ambassadors. Let's listen to that for a sec.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RENEGADES")

X AMBASSADORS: (Singing) And I say hey, hey, hey, hey, living like we're renegades. Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, living like we're renegades, renegades.

POWERS: That sing-along chorus is exactly what people want from a hit single. It's in a car commercial - a Jeep Renegade commercial. This is the kind of band that you hear the song outside the context of radio, you fall in love with it, and then when it gets picked up by radio, fans support it. So yeah, I think this one has a good chance.

NEARY: Now I just learned this week that a guilty favorite here on WEEKEND EDITION is "Cheerleader," which is a kind of reggae sounding tune by OMI.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHEERLEADER")

OMI: (Singing) Oh, I think that I've found myself a cheerleader. She is always right there when I need her. She walks like a model. She grants my wishes like a genie in a bottle...

POWERS: I always like a song that has a bit of a reggae beat in the summer. Who doesn't? But the interesting thing about this song is it's been hanging around for a couple of years on the international pop market. So here we go, a long time traveling to the charts, but now it's pretty lodged in there, and I think it, too, has a good chance of being the one we remember.

NEARY: Now here's a song that has a good name for a summer song; I think it's called "Last Kiss," and it's by Overdoz. That's spelled D-O-Z. Let's hear a bit of that, first.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LAST KISS")

OVERDOZ: (Singing) Never got a last kiss. Baby, do you remember me? Nope, nope. I never got it, never got it. Never got a last kiss. Baby, do you remember me?

POWERS: This song by the Los Angeles collective Overdoz is what hip-hop is when it mixes with the renowned and incredibly successful producer Pharell Williams. And I really think they are going to have a huge breakthrough this summer with this song and with their album, which is coming out soon.

NEARY: And you think this one has some traction?

POWERS: I do, it's fun, it's playful. It's - there's definitely a dirty version so be careful when you're out there. But it also just has that spirit, you know, that enjoyable of-the-moment spirit that works in the summer.

NEARY: So, Ann, do you have a favorite this summer?

POWERS: Well, I really like that Overdoz song, but if I'm rooting for anyone, it's Kelsea Ballerini, who is currently at the top of the country charts with her song "Love Me Like You Mean It."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE ME LIKE YOU MEAN IT")

KELSEA BALLERINI: (Sining) If you're gonna hold me, hold me like I'm leaving. If you're gonna kiss me, kiss me like you need it. Baby, if you're not, you best get to leaving. If you're gonna love me, love me like you mean it.

POWERS: What I'm trying to show you with all these different examples, Lynn, is that summertime is kind of a great free-for-all - lots of different genres popping up at the top of the charts. And I think it's a great time to diversify your playlist. So what I'd say makes a great song of the summer is something that's kind of familiar in its mood, but maybe out of left field in what you, as a listener, usually experience or enjoy. So be open this summer and enjoy some of these songs that might not be in your typical wheelhouse.

NEARY: Ann Powers is NPR's music critic and correspondent. Ann, thanks so much.

POWERS: Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "LOVE ME LIKE YOU MEAN IT")

BALLERINI: (Singing) If you're gonna hold me, hold me like I'm leaving. If you're gonna kiss me, kiss me like you need it. Baby, if you're not, you best, get to leaving. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.