Rev those engines, hopefuls: As summer officially launches Saturday, so does the race to snare the season's indisputable anthem. So who could lay claim to the song of summer title: A breakout Aussie rapper? A pint-sized powerhouse? An EDM all-star? A Norwegian pop duo?
At this point, don't hold your breath for a Robin Thicke-like run at the top (his Blurred Lines spent 12 weeks at No. 1 beginning last June). "Is there one that's really going to dominate? I'm not so sure," says Tom Poleman, Clear Channel's president of national programming platforms.
"Radio stations have a lot of options right now," he says. "There's a lot of great artists and variety of different styles to choose from," and consumers are gravitating toward them not only on the radio, but on "social (media) and in digital sales."
After polling the experts and crunching the numbers, USA TODAY rounds up the four hottest contenders:
IGGY AZALEA FEATURING CHARLI XCX, Fancy
No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100
- 1.9 million downloads
- 95 million views on YouTube
- 1.9 million Shazams
- 53 million streams on Spotify
- No. 1 on USA TODAY's top 40 airplay chart
Heat factor: Newcomer Iggy Azalea is in competition with herself (she's featured on Ariana Grande's Problem) for the top spot. At this point, her smash Fancy looks to have the upper hand, thanks to its carefree vibe and continued domination of the Billboard charts and Spotify, says Shanon Cook, Spotify's trends expert. "The song of the summer tends to be very upbeat and happy, and Fancy has a really alluring beat," she says. "Also, people love the chorus: It's just such a great hook and people keep comparing the sound of it to Gwen Stefani."
Why it could cool off: "Iggy's biggest problem is Problem," says Cook, adding that it could still be too soon to declare it the winner. "Fancy may need to stay in that top position for another five or six weeks before it can really be crowned the song of the summer."
NICO & VINZ, Am I Wrong
- No. 8 on Billboard's Hot 100
- 844,000 downloads
- 21 million views on YouTube
- 3.5 million Shazams
- 79 million streams on Spotify
- No. 8 on USA TODAY's top 40 airplay chart
Heat factor: Shooting to No. 1 on the global Shazam charts in the past two weeks — knocking off John Legend's uber-popular All of Me — Am I Wrong has gained steam since it was performed by contestants on The Voice season finale last month, says Shazam's head of music Peter Szabo. "(Nico & Vinz) are everywhere right now and really seem to be resonating well," says Szabo, noting the song's summery feel and standout music video filmed in Africa. "It's just incredibly strong."
Why it could cool off: Might Am I Wrong be too laid back for the bouncy, feel-good anthems often associated with summer? "It maybe starts off a little slower, but it certainly kicks in," Szabo says. The song took a hit on the Hot 100 last week, dropping two spots from No. 6 to No. 8.
ARIANA GRANDE FEATURING IGGY AZALEA, Problem
- No. 2 on Billboard's Hot 100
- 1.7 million downloads
- 30 million views on YouTube
- 170,000 Shazams
- 42 million streams on Spotify
- No. 2 on USA TODAY's top 40 airplay chart
Heat factor: After breaking out with The Way last summer, the former Nickelodeon star with Mariah Carey-esque pipes just "keeps getting bigger," says Billboard.com editor M. Tye Comer, referring to Grande's growing fan base. "Problem is a really upbeat song that's perfect for the summer." And as previous song-of-summer champs such as Robin Thicke (Blurred Lines) and Carly Rae Jepsen (Call Me Maybe) have proven, "these are not necessarily legacy artists; these are the hot new artists that come out with a really great, upbeat song."
Why it could cool off: "Problem's biggest problem is Iggy's fan base," Cook says. "It's the bigger winner at the moment." Fancy is also "a bit grittier and more brash" than Problem, and has the benefit of being the "more popular song right now," in terms of streaming activity and chart rankings.
CALVIN HARRIS, Summer
- No. 9 on Billboard's Hot 100
- 718,000 downloads
- 72 million views on YouTube
- 2.1 million Shazams
- 82 million streams on Spotify
- No. 4 on USA TODAY's top 40 airplay chart
Heat factor: Given the title alone, "it's almost the obvious pick, because of the lyrics," Poleman says. "It starts with the lyrics and the energy, and the song is completely reactive with the audience as well." Summer is the latest in a string of anthemic dance tracks that Harris has ridden up the charts, scoring top 20 hits such as the Ellie Goulding-assisted I Need Your Love, Sweet Nothing with Florence Welch, and hitting No. 1 on Rihanna's We Found Love in 2011.
Why it could cool off: Although Harris has had many smash singles, "if you look at the past songs of the summer, you get people with real personalities," says Comer, noting the success of LMFAO (with Party Rock Anthem in 2011) and Katy Perry (California Gurls in 2010). "Because of the nature of what he does, being the wizard behind the scenes of a song, (Calvin) is not necessarily the star, per se. That's something that makes him different than an Iggy or an Ariana."
OTHER POSSIBLE CONTENDERS:
Clean Bandit featuring Jess Glynne, Rather Be: "It could be an absolute smash here," Szabo says of the British group's song, which was the most Shazam-ed track globally this spring. "Now that they're starting to break in the U.S., we're excited to see how much (Rather Be) can continue that same trajectory."
Disclosure featuring Sam Smith, Latch: "Latch is a really popular song with our listeners, and they've been sharing it with friends and adding it to playlists in really, really high numbers," Cook says. "It's just a great song, too."
Jason Derulo featuring Snoop Dogg, Wiggle: "It's a good, funky song and it's got a lot of great energy," says Comer of the Billboard hit, already No. 5. "It's the kind of thing that puts people in a good mood. I wouldn't count (Derulo) out from having a huge hit this summer."
Magic!, Rude: "Rude has a fun, summer sound to it reminiscent of Bob Marley," Szabo says. Magic! considers itself "a pop band, but this reggae feel worked for (Rude). That in particular will pop for the summer."
Sam Smith, Stay With Me: With a downtempo song like Stay With Me, "the groove is more important," says Poleman. The soulful number, which recently broke into the top 10, has a "feel-good vibe, like, 'OK, I'm going to go the beach, I'm going to hang out, relax.'"