It’s Gettin’ Hot In Herre: The Definitive History Of Songs Of The Summer 1994-2012

“Get Lucky” is the song of the summer. It’s already been proclaimed by us media elites, so deal with the fact that Daft Punk (really, Pharrell) will be the musical touchstone of the Summer of 2013.

But what has happened to past songs of the summer?  I decided to go back to 1994 (pre-1994 I mostly listened to Weird Al and my dad’s Jackson Browne 8-tracks) to look at the cultural impact of the songs that really captured the essence of each summer, as well as take a look at where the artist who performed each is now and inject a personal memory, Klosterman-style.

Of note, there’s no mathematical formula for determining a song of the summer.  Rather it’s just the song that best captures the zeitgeist of the moment, as determined by yours truly.  That means the song that was on MTV a lot (when I was a kid) or played in bars a lot (as an adult). Billboard ratings, friends’ input, timing of the release (May-June is ideal) and my own beer-addled memory play a role but I’m the Queen of Hearts here — the final decision is arbitrary and mine alone.  However, feel free to register your displeasure in the comments.

(Lead pic via Shutterstock)

1994 – “The Sign” by Ace of Base

Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: “I Swear” by All 4 One is too middle school dance and “Stay” by Lisa Loeb is too coffeeshop to be songs of the summer. And the video above says “1993” because that was the European release date; The Sign dropped in the U.S. right ahead of the summer of ’94 because we just weren’t ready for it until then.

Where Are They Now? In case you’re wondering why Ace of Base hasn’t been on 106 & Park yet, the fact that one of their members has some Nazi skeletons in his closet plays a role.

Personal Memory: My two most prized cassingles were this and “Mr. Wendell” by Arrested Development.

1995 – “Waterfalls” by TLC

Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: “This Is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan hit a little too early.Waterfalls was the song of not having to go to school and watching MTV all day.

Where Are They Now? Left Eye died, T-Boz got some type of disease and Chili had a reality show.  Nobody from TLC had a soft landing.

Personal Memory: My Jamaican babysitter loved TLC, probably because they were simpatico with Oprah.  That’s why she stuck by Whitney Houston even when she was doing horse cocaine with Bobby Brown.

1996 – “Crossroads” by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony

Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: Because you still say goodbye by telling people you’ll meet them at the crossroads.  There isn’t any competition here.  And extra points for the Anakin Skywalker-style appearance of Eazy-E. 

Where Are They Now? The Bone Thugs briefly broke up in 2011 but they’re still touring, making music and getting arrested at their own shows.

Personal Memory: Watching this music video on Martha’s Vineyard because there isn’t anything that I can’t make whiter.  Not even the Bone Thugs.

1997 – “Mo Money, Mo Problems” by The Notorious B.I.G. f/ Puff Daddy & Ma$e

Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: 1997 was the summer of Biggie and it was either this or “I’ll Be Missing You.”  But “I’ll Be Missing You” is too much of a downer for this list, if a bar played it everyone would leave because it’d remind them of their dead grandma.  “Say You’ll Be There” by The Spice Girls deserves an honorable mention, but 1997 belonged to Biggie.

Where Are They Now? Diddy (ne Puff Daddy) is a vodka spokesman who should act more because he was great in Get Him To The Greek.  Ma$e is suing Ke$ha for trademark infringement.  Biggie is still dead.

Personal Memory: Watching this video nonstop when my summer camp had a field trip to a water park.  Because if there’s one thing you need a vacation from, it’s summer camp.  Goddamn, I miss being 13 years old.

1998 – “The Boy is Mine” by Brandy and Monica

Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: By pure force of will.  Check out the run it had at Number One.  It also played nonstop on MTV.  It’s probably the most forgettable song on this list but Brandy and Monica were co-queens of 1998 (by default, as The Spice Girls broke up in May).  Nobody likes “The Boy is Mine” any more but it was nevertheless the champion of 1998, kind of like the Spurs.

Where Are They Now? Brandy was in a Tyler Perry movie and Monica was in a BET reality TV show.  Us Vineyarders don’t see a lot of them.

Personal Memory: Changing the channel after Number 2 of the MTV Top 20 countdown because I knew this damn song would be Number 1 again.

1999 – “Steal My Sunshine” by Len

Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: It might not have charted as high as “Livin’ La Vida Loca” or “Genie in a Bottle” but this song IS summer.  The entire video takes place at the beach.  And not the Enrique Iglesias romantic secluded beach, but the one that everyone goes to in the summer.  They do what you do at the beach — play in the arcade, race go-karts and flout open container laws.  I’m not going to let the tyranny of Billboard rankings prevent me from naming this the song of the summer of 1999.

Where Are They Now? Len may be a one hit wonder but the main guy (Marc Costanzo) landed on his feet as a big-time producer in Canada.  The other guy now has a talk show…on YouTube.

Personal Memory: Going to Daytona and seeing all the sights from this video.  Haha yeah right I don’t remember ANYTHING from Spring Break Daytona.

2000 – “Real Slim Shady” by Eminem

Why It Was The Song Of The Summer:  Because Eminem made fun of Christina Aguilera giving Fred Durst head, and if that’s not the most 2000 thing ever then I don’t know what is.  The Billboard Number One Hit list again isn’t instructive, because look at the dogs that Eminem had to beat to be song of the summer.  Some people were way into Matchbox 20 back then.

Where Are They Now? Eminem decided to be a fat guy in Colorado for a while but he’s about to release his eighth album.  Whatever, I still miss D12.

Personal Memory:  This was the official soundtrack to driving with a learner’s permit, so the next time I do a bad job parallel parking it’s because of Slim.  J/k they don’t even make you learn how to parallel park in Connecticut because you only go between driveways and parking garages.

2001 – “Ride Wit Me” by Nelly 

Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: The Lady Marmalade cover was too drag queen-y, “Bootylicious” is just a ripoff of the “Thong Song” and “I’m Like a Bird” peaked too early.  Also, “Ride Wit Me” gets props for having most of its chorus edited out in the PG version.

Where Are They Now? Nelly does the song that ESPN plays before every bowl game.  Like “Coming to Your City” everyone hated it when it came out but now we have full blown Stockholm Syndrome.

Personal Memory: Much like the song itself, parts of that tale are just too explicit for public consumption.

2002 – “Hot in Herre” by Nelly

Why It Was The Song Of The Summer:  It ain’t rocket science, folks.  If you write a catchy song about being in heat then you’re going to have the song of the summer.

Where Are They Now? Why are you asking me this?  I answered in the last slide.  Jeez, when you don’t read what I write it hurts my feelings.

Personal Memory: Putting a graduation gown on over my suit, in a high school gym that didn’t have air conditioning, with 350 of my classmates.  You won’t believe this, but people thought that Hot in Herre applied to our situation and said “it’s getting hot in here [no St. Louis inflection], so take off all your clothes” about 1,000 times!

2003 – “Get Busy” by Sean Paul

Why It Was The Song Of The Summer:  We reached Peak Sean Paul in 2003 so it’s natural that he had the song of the summer.  It’s just a shame that he had to edge out Ignition (Remix), which dropped a little too early to win 2003.

Where Are They Now? Still making unintelligible music.  I seriously couldn’t tell you anything that he sings in this song outside of the chorus.

Personal Memory:  Hooking up with a girl at a party while this song was playing.  I’m not bragging when I say that because everyone who went to college in the ’00s hooked up while listening to Sean Paul.  It’s like getting your drivers license.

2004 – “Yeah” by Usher f/ Lil Jon and Ludacris

Why It Was The Song Of The Summer:  Nonstop play on both MTV and in bars.  The Chappelle Show meant that everyone knew who Lil Jon was.  Both crunk and Atlanta were at their pinnacles of popularity.  It popularized the phrase “lady in the streets and a freak in the bed.”  The easiest pick on the list.

Where Are They Now? Usher’s discovered Justin Bieber, Ludacris is in blockbuster movies and Lil Jon would like to borrow money from both of them.

Personal Memory:  A couple of friends and I once argued over which one of us would be Usher, which one would be Lil Jon and which one would be Luda, like groups of girls and the Sex and the City ladyrobots.  I was Luda.

2005 – “Beverly Hills” by Weezer

Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: Heavy MTV rotation plus it’s easy for bros to chant “Beverly Hills…that’s where I want to BE!” in a bar.  Mr. Brightside dropped too early, Hollaback Girl was too grating and We Belong Together was too vanilla.

Where Are They Now? Rivers Cuomo recorded an album in Japanese because WE GET IT DUDE YOU’RE INTO ASIAN CHICKS.

Personal Memory:  This was a personal pump-up song for me when I was studying for the LSATs because 1. Do well on the LSATs 2. ??? 3. Playboy mansion.

2006 – “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira f/ Wyclef Jean

Why It Was The Song Of The Summer:  2006 was the toughest year to pick.  “Ridin” by Chamillioniaire and “SOS” by Rihanna both received heavy play and have withstood the test of time.  I wish I could place the two of them in weaker years like 1998 or 2001.  But “Hips Don’t Lie” is a little catchier.  Also, Shakira’s butt.<

Where Are They Now? Shakira is the Sonia Sotomayor of The Voice and Wyclef Jean is the Walter Mondale of Haiti.

Personal Memory: Being in bars and hearing this, Ridin and SOS on a loop.  Again, this was a TOUGH decision.

2007 – “Umbrella” by Rihanna f/ Jay-Z

Why It Was The Song Of The Summer:  It was the best graduation song since “Closing Time” by Semisonic and the other biggest songs that summer were by Maroon 5 and Fergie.  Rihanna eats Maroon 5 and Fergie for breakfast.  Also the video could make Varys go from phantom 6 to phantom 12.

Where Are They Now? Rihanna was in a little movie that you might have heard of, it was called BATTLESHIP.

Personal Memory:  Any time it rained I couldn’t say “umbrella” without someone adding “ella, ella” at the end of it.  If you did that, you were annoying as fuck.  Also, my sister saw Rihanna play at the Today Show and got me one of their preprinted I <3 Rihanna posters for my birthday.  It’s one of my most prized possessions.

2008 – “American Boy” by Estelle f/ Kanye West

Why It Was The Song Of The Summer:  Because Estelle asking you to show her around the United States makes you feel like a BAWSE.  It captured the summer much better than “I Kissed A Girl”, and “Disturbia” is disqualified because it was written specifically for a bad movie (see; Wild Wild West).

Where Are They Now? Estelle collaborated with Rick Ross on her last album and Kanye fucked a bunch of fish.

Personal Memory: Staying out to bars in New York until 4 am because when I was 24 I could still do that.  I f*cking love this song.

2009 – “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus

Why It Was The Song Of The Summer:  Because the summer was dominated by the Black Eyed Peas and f*ck the Black Eyed Peas.  I can’t tell any of their songs apart.  “Party in the USA” dropped kind of late (July 29) but according to a little thing called SCIENCE that’s barely 1/3 of the way through summer.  So yeah, if you say the Black Eyed Peas had the song of the summer you hate science.

Where Are They Now? Miley Cyrus twerked at a Juicy J concert, making her the trillest white girl ever.

Personal Memory:  The summer didn’t start for me until late July because I was studying for the bar exam, so I missed all those shitty Black Eyed Peas songs.  Haha suckers, who’s laughing now?

2010 – “California Gurls” by Katy Perry f/ Snoop Dogg

Why It Was The Song Of The Summer:  Because it’s Katy Perry singing about melting your popsicle.  Again, this ain’t rocket science.

Where Are They Now? Katy Perry is dating John Mayer and has ditched her purple hair.  WTF?  We all loved that purple hair.  And John Mayer hates blacks. BRING BACK THE PURPLE HAIR.

Personal Memory:  I first saw the music video in a club that projected it onto a big screen.  I’m pretty sure that I had to pick my jaw up off the table after seeing Katy Perry naked on a cloud with purple hair.  Bring back the purple hair.

2011 – “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO

Why It Was The Song Of The Summer:  2011 was a shitty year for pop music so LMFAO wins by default.  Does anyone really want to make a case for “Moves Like Jagger” or “Give Me Everything”?  Nope.  This year really could have used some Nelly.

Where Are They Now? LMFAO broke up, leading to President Obama getting re-elected because people were better off than they were four years ago.

Personal Memory:  The summer of 2011 was the summer of a really nasty breakup for me so my song of the summer was actually “Someone Like You” while crying and eating ice cream out of the box.

2012 – “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen

Why It Was The Song Of The Summer: Gangnam Style was an ubermeme, not a song of the summer.  “What Makes You Beautiful” would have won in 2011 but it was only the song of the European summer.  “Some Nights” came out too late.  Besides, admit it, you like this song.

Where Are They Now? Carly Rae Jepsen is missing and presumed dead.

Personal Memory:  Watching the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders’ version of the song with the sound off.