How the chaos of 2020 changed the song of the summer

How the chaos of 2020 changed the song of the summerJuly 17, 2020

With holidays and festivals cancelled in favour of indoor TikTok challenges and a wave of activism, this year’s big summer hits have warped in the heat

In the summer of 2017, Despacito travelled through the air like pollen. From February that year, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s reggaeton single climbed with the mercury from No 88 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart to No 1, where it sat, unchallenged, for a record-tying four months. It wasn’t just the song of that summer: “It was the biggest song of probably all the summers,” jokes the singer-songwriter Poo Bear, who put together the smash-hit remix featuring Justin Bieber.

By this point in the year, the song of the summer is usually obvious. “It’s the song you hear at a bar, in a club, coming out of a car, or in a grocery store,” says Hanif Abdurraqib, a poet and cultural critic based in Ohio. But in 2020, the race has been disrupted by coronavirus. In lockdown, says Abdurraqib, “there’s no mechanism where a song could come on and you could see a mass of people rushing to revel in it”.

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