I watch a lot of movies, and follow a lot of television shows, and listen to quite a few podcasts, and even read the occasional book, but unfortunately, what usually falls by the wayside is my pop-culture knowledge of music. I typically do not have any idea of what the “song of the summer” is until Slate or Flavorwire of The Atlantic writes one of their trend pieces. I remember finding out via a trend piece around this time last year that Daft Punk and Robin Thicke were up for “Song of the Summer,” and now I’m to understand that Iggy Azalea is vying with some others (Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, and Michael Jackson?) for 2014’s “Song of the Summer.”
I try and make it a point to familiarize myself with those in contention, just so I know what people are talking about, but beyond the Wilco or Ben Folds radio station I have on Spotify, most of the music I hear these days is in movie trailers. And if you go to a lot of movies, you see a lot of trailers, and over the course of the summer, certain trailer songs end up vying for the song of the summer title.
Here are the songs that have been on constant rotation at the multiplex and indie theaters this season, otherwise known as a ranking of my songs of the summer.
5. “Gangster’s Paradise,” Coolio (Tammy) — I feel like Coolio’s 1996 song resurfaces every few years in another movie trailer, but it is done with great effect in the Tammy teaser trailer, which would end up being the film’s entire marketing focal point, in part because the film itself is barely even a comedy (and though it runs long, the robbery scene is the only one in the movie that really approaches anything resembling funny).
4. “Say Something” by A Great Big World Featuring Christina Aguilera (If I Stay) — The movie hasn’t come out yet, but the trailer for If I Stay — another weeper based on a YA novel — has been ever-present this summer. It always sounds to be like a leftover from the Once soundtrack, but it certainly gets us in a mood to weep. Of course, the song already reached #1 on the Digital and ITunes charts late last year after Christina Aguilera performed it on The Voice, but for frequent moviegoers, If I Stay was our first introduction to the song.
3. “What You Wanted,” OneRepublic (Fault in Our Stars) — OneRepublic has been around since being discovered on MySpace in the early aughts, but it’s only recently begun to break out. Part of the band’s surge in popularity, no doubt, had to do with the fact that one of the band’s non-singles, “What You Wanted” ended up on one of the most popular trailers of the year. The version below alone was seen by over 25 million people.
2. “Hero,” Family of the Year (Boyhood). Essentially discovered by Ben Folds in 2009, Family of the Year never became a particularly popular alt-band, peaking with “Hero” in 2012, which reached #12 on the Billboard alternative charts. But its presence on the Boyhood trailer (and it plays even better in Linklater’s film) has made it relevant again. Having already seen the movie, I’ve played this song myself at least 3,000 times. After the movie’s release this weekend, “Hero” may make another climb on Billboard, two years after its initial release.
1. “Hooked on a Feeling,” Blue Swede (Guardians of the Galaxy). The song is nearly 45 years old, but hasn’t achieved this much popularity since the early 90s when it became a sensation on Ally McBeal, which nearly ruined the song for an entire generation. Leave it to Chris Pratt and Marvel to make it fresh again.