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What Makes a Song of the Summer?

14/07/2022

What Makes a Song of the Summer? Sarah Brindell, associate professor of songwriting, breaks down the DNA of summer hits and shares her top contenders for this years title.

By

Colette Greenstein

July 13, 2022

Beyonc 's latest single, Break My Soul, is an early contender for this years song of the summer.

Image by Nat Ch Villa/Wikimedia Commons

Crazy in Love. Despacito. Butter.

What makes a song a Song of the Summer? Is it the music? The lyrics? The emotions that the song evokes?

For me, it's always been the feeling, says Sarah Brindell, an associate professor in Berklee's Songwriting Department. The feeling is first and that's not something that we can define even with words. The most beautiful moments of your favorite movie and the part that makes you cry the most is usually when the words go away and there's only music, and then we're all crying. When there's words, we're listening and trying to be a part of the movie. As soon as the music swells, that's when everybody is crying.

Sarah Brindell

Image courtesy of the artist

A professional musician for more than 20 years, Brindell has shared the stage and studio with some of music's biggest stars, such as Grammy Award-winning artists Norah Jones and Carole King, and has released five records, including her most recent EP, 2021s Songs from the Heart. She was a finalist in Billboard's World Song Contest and the Song of the Year contest supporting VH1's Save the Music Foundation, and her songs have been featured on several television shows, including MTV's Made. Brindell and her husband recently founded a five-day songwriting and production workshop at the Alpha Institute in Kingston, Jamaica, which is set to launch in July of 2023.

We spoke to Brindell about what elements make a true song of summer. The interview has been condensed for clarity and length.

What do you think makes a song a song of the summer ? Are there specific elements that contribute to that? This is an interesting question. A song of the summer, I think, is a subjective term. In thinking about it, it has to have an element of nostalgia in it. I actually looked up every single song of the summer for the last 46 years. Insider put out a list of all the different songs that were picked by Billboard. I was looking through the list and I was thinking about it. When Doves Cry by Prince is on there. Every Breath You Take by the Police is on there. At first, I thought, Oh, maybe it's a fast tempo; maybe that's what has to be but not always. It needs to be upbeat but chill, and accessible across many different demographics; something that everybody can groove to or get into. I think that's really important. Elements of lyrics that are vulnerable or nostalgic or also anticipatory. I think summer is a lot about anticipation.

I would say my contenders for the song of the summer this year are As It Was by Harry Styles and About Damn Time by Lizzo. Disco is super cool right now. This is hilarious for me because I won't even tell you how many times disco has come back into style during my life. It really is back with a vengeance in the last couple of years. Listening to About Damn Time was a super kind of throwback, borrowing elements from disco. It also has that kind of chill-yet-up-tempo thing about it. It's got a celebrational vibe, which is also something that happens quite a bit in a song of the summer, even if its a celebration of pain or heartache. I think that there's some kind of element of we're celebrating a moment that we know is fleeting.

Several of the songs on the Billboard list of song of the summer candidates lean towards Top 40, pop, and contemporary hits. Are there specific genres of music that make them more likely to fit this description? I'm not sure that a little bit more niche styles may ever be included in that category if you're looking at Billboard. However, I think that songs cross genres and, as an instructor and an influencer in the songwriting world, I have a hard time continuing the conversation about genre because I feel like it really ties in with appropriation of race, of gender, of all these things. It's unfortunate to me that they're so tied in with each other, but they are. I'm actually looking to sort of move past the need for genre and the categorization of music even though I know that's not marketable. The trend anyway from my students and many people that I've spoken to is: We're trying to cross genres. We're trying to move past genres. We're trying to define something new that's more fluid and less attached to what it was before. Getting back to the days of Woodstock 1969, when there were all different kinds of artists on that stage, all different races, and it kind of just seems to me like, that's what I want it to be, so if I'm an influencer in all of this, it's hard for me to speak to genre right now.

With that in mind, what do you think of Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill having a resurgence, and why do you think it's resonating with so many different people? It helps that it came back on Stranger Things. Now we have this accessibility towards it that we didn't before because it's been synced with that show. The fact that now all of the audience of Stranger Things is also listening to it and it's in association with a very crazy theme in the show that was really exciting, that's of course going to be a bump in the audience. Now there's a new generation that has never heard that song before, along with an older generation that is feeling nostalgic about that song because they remember when it came out. That's pretty fun and that reaches a larger audience of course. Talk about anticipating. You look up the lyrics and there's all kind
LINK: https://www.berklee.edu/berklee-now/news/what-makes-a-song-a-song-of-t...
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