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NPR Music Shares 2019's Songs Of The Summer


And finally today, have you picked your song of the summer?


LUIS FONSI: (Singing in Spanish)


KATY PERRY: (Singing) California girls, we're unforgettable...


ROB THOMAS: (Singing) Man, it's a hot one, like seven inches from the midday sun...


BEYONCE: (Singing) Got me looking so crazy right now, your love's got me looking so crazy right now. Got me looking so crazy right now, your love's got me looking...

MARTIN: OK. We're in the mood now. Our friends from the NPR podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour and NPR Music have been thinking about their favorites for this summer, and now they're ready to share. They've just released their songs of the summer playlist. Joining us now to talk about the list is NPR Music's Stephen Thompson.


MARTIN: He's - hello. He's also a panelist on the NPR podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. And also joining us is NPR Music's Lyndsey McKenna.



MARTIN: Welcome to you. OK. So, Stephen, what are you looking for in a summer song?

THOMPSON: Well, I'm looking for something vibrant, something that feels universal in some way, something that taps into an emotion. It doesn't even have to be a positive emotion. You know, a lot of times, when you think of a song of the summer, you think, like, sugary, you think poppy. But that's not necessarily the case. You want something that you would, like, jam in your car with your friends late at night, assuming that you are, as you once were, a young person.

MARTIN: OK. Lyndsey, what about you? What are you looking for in a song of the summer?

MCKENNA: When I think about why a song works as a song of the summer, I'm listening with a couple different pieces of criteria in mind. First things first, I want flexibility. Does this song work across the board?

MARTIN: What do you mean? Like, if you're miserable or if you're happy or what?


MCKENNA: Yeah, you need a...

MARTIN: If you're too hot, or...

MCKENNA: ...Bummer summer song.

MARTIN: OK. Oh, you need a bummer summer song, too. OK.


MARTIN: Got it.

MCKENNA: I mean - what I think I mean is, like, when you think about situations that you find yourself in during the summer - you know, that's everything from road trips to beach days to weddings to maybe even an adventurous night out or maybe even a night when you've had your heart broken by a summer crush. Who knows? I don't know.

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

MCKENNA: I want something that fits into any of those circumstances.

THOMPSON: OK. All right. So, Stephen, let's go back to you. What song did you pick for the playlist?

THOMPSON: So I mentioned, you know, that not every summer song has to be sugary. I picked one that brings a lot of salt - a Swedish singer named Tove Lo with song called "Glad He's Gone."

MARTIN: OK. We are going to play some of it.

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

MARTIN: But we cannot play much of it because, as our British producer would say, Stephen, it's quite rude.

THOMPSON: (Laughter) It is rude, and I think that's part of its charm. It is frank.

MARTIN: OK, frank. OK. Here it is.


TOVE LO: (Singing) I've got a girlfriend. She's got a boyfriend. She calls me crying every day 'cause they got problems. He likes complaining. She's compromising, coming to me for real advice when he just playing. I can tell she loves him way too deep. He loves being...

MARTIN: OK. There we go. That's enough. Thank you very much.


MARTIN: OK. Got it. Very frank. I understand. OK, Lyndsey, over to you. Hopefully, we can play a little bit more of your song. What did you pick?

MCKENNA: Let's give it a shot. This is Billie Eilish's "Bad Guy."


BILLIE EILISH: (Singing) Bruises on both my knees for you, don't say thank you or please. I do what I want when I'm wanting to. My soul - so cynical. So you're a tough guy, like it really rough guy, just can't get enough guy, chest always so puffed guy. I'm that bad type, make your mama sad type, make your girlfriend mad tight, might seduce your dad type. I'm the bad guy - duh.

MARTIN: Even if this were rude, we wouldn't know because we can't really understand what she's saying.


MARTIN: But OK. So tell me how this meets your criteria.

MCKENNA: All right. So I will also start by admitting that "Bad Guy" isn't really your typical song of the summer.


MCKENNA: It's a little bit darker. It's more minimal. It's not exactly what you'd expect. It's got a darker sense of humor and its own kind of catchiness, but not the typical big, brash pop catchiness. But I think that's exactly why it's a great song of the summer - because, again, this flexibility idea. Billie Eilish is pulling from a lot of different threads musically, which is why people kind of wonder what genre she fits in. I think Billie Eilish doesn't care what genre you think she fits in. And that's precisely the charm - that she's pulling in some of these left-of-center pop ideas from Lorde or from Lana Del Rey but also some of, like, the brash dramatics of Tyler, the Creator.


MCKENNA: So we've got a Gen Z-er who's really going to do Gen Z and just forget genre.

MARTIN: That is true. She does not care, which we had a very interesting conversation with her a couple of weeks ago...

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

MARTIN: And I confirm. She does not care what you think.


EILISH: (Singing) I guess I'm pretty glad that you're alone. You said she's scared of me? I mean, I don't see what she sees, but maybe it's 'cause I'm wearing your cologne. I'm a bad guy.

MARTIN: OK. I'm going to pull up another one on a list. This is Lizzo's "Juice." Let's play a little bit.


LIZZO: (Singing) Mirror, mirror on the wall, don't say it, 'cause I know I'm cute. Oh, baby. Louis down to my drawers, LV all on my shoes. Oh, baby. I be drippin' so much sauce, got a bih looking like RAGU. Oh, baby. Lit up like a crystal ball - that's cool, baby. So is you. That's how I roll. If I'm shinin', everybody's going to shine. Yeah, I'm goals. I was born like this, don't even got to try. Now you know.

MARTIN: OK. Stephen, why is this a great choice for song of the summer?

THOMPSON: Lizzo put out one of the albums of the year so far, and it's called "Cuz I Love You," and it is full of songs that you could pick for song of the summer. "Juice" Is kind of my favorite. It is that perfect cocktail of self-affirmation and celebration. This feels in many ways like the year of Lizzo, where we've all just kind of gathered together and decided collectively and rightly that she is absolutely amazing.


LIZZO: (Singing) It ain't my fault that I'm out here getting loose. Got to blame it on the Goose, got to blame it on my juice, baby. It ain't my fault that I'm out here making news. I'm the pudding in the proof. Got to blame it on my juice. Ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee...

MARTIN: All right, Lyndsey. Is there another song, even if it wasn't your pick, that you want to give a special shout-out to?

MCKENNA: All right. I do not think that we can have a segment talking about song of the summer without talking about Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road," especially the remix with Billy Ray Cyrus. It might actually - if it's not the year of Lizzo...


MCKENNA: It's definitely the year of "Old Town Road."


LIL NAS X: (Singing) I got the horses in the back, horse tack is attached, hat is matte black, got the boots that's black to match. Ridin' on a horse, ha, you can whip your Porsche, I been in the valley, you ain't been up off that porch.

MARTIN: That is so crazy because I'm having this image of a guy riding down the street in, say, Oakland or D.C. on a horse...


MARTIN: And I'm thinking something about this picture doesn't quite - but tell me about it. Why is this...

MCKENNA: Welcome to the yee-haw agenda.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

MCKENNA: This is what Lil Nas X is trying to do.


MCKENNA: So this song - you know, it didn't become the number one song in the country for 13 straight weeks without a little bit of controversy first. After its explosive rise, it was actually removed from the Billboard hot one country charts because it didn't meet the criteria of country. However, the reign of "Old Town Road" continues on the Hot 100 charts - like I said, 13 straight weeks at number one now.

MARTIN: What's not country about it?

MCKENNA: You be the judge. So it wasn't promoted by Sony out of Nashville. That - initially, it was told that the trap beats didn't necessarily make it a country song. So Billy Ray Cyrus hopped on the remix...


MCKENNA: And that's when it became a bona fide country song eligible for the charts.


BILLY RAY CYRUS: (Singing) Hat down, cross town, livin' like a rock star, spent a lot of money on my brand-new guitar. Baby's got a habit - diamond rings and Fendi sports bras.

THOMPSON: I do think that Little Nas X song is the closest thing we have to a "Despacito," the one undeniable song of the summer that when we look back, it's going to be the song - if there's a movie that's set in the summer of 2019, that song will be playing over some key scene.

MARTIN: That was NPR Music's Stephen Thompson. He's also a panelist on the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. We were also joined by NPR Music's Lyndsey McKenna. You can see and hear all the picks at npr.org.

Thanks so much to both of you.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

MCKENNA: Thank you.


LIL NAS X: (Singing) Can't nobody tell me nothin'. You can't tell me nothin'. Ridin' on a...

MARTIN: So yesterday, we asked you to tweet us your 2019 song of the summer. And guess what? Many of you agreed with the NPR Music folks on "Old Town Road." But what else? Let's keep it going. Tweet us your song choices. Our handle is @npratc. Use the hashtag #summersong2019.


LIL NAS X: (Singing) Can't nobody tell me nothin'. You can't tell me nothin'. Yeah, I'm going to take my horse to the... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)
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