Every year when the weather turns warm, publications like this one reopen the all-important debate on the best songs of that particular summer. Katy Perry, Kanye West, and Usher are among the artists in contention for the 2010 title by our reckoning. Billboard recently tried to add a scientific and historic dimension to the discussion by ordering the 10 top songs for each summer from 1985 to 2009 based on chart performance. Their 25 individual lists are well worth perusing for anyone inclined to musical nostalgia. Taken together, they also raise an intriguing secondary question: Which of those summers gone by had the best songs?
I hereby nominate 1995. I knew I’d end up picking some year from the ’90s before even looking at the lists, simply because that’s when I first started paying pop music serious attention as an adolescent. Regarding each list more closely, though, I’m struck by how many classic tunes were inescapable between June and August ’95. TLC’s unassailable “Waterfalls” tops the count. At No. 3, it’s the Notorious B.I.G’s timeless “One More Chance.” Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose” and All-4-One’s “I Can Love You Like That” round out the R&B roster nicely. Rock fans, meanwhile, could choose between Bryan Adams’ enduringly cheesy “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?” and Blues Traveler’s alt nugget “Run-Around.” Yeah, that was a great summer on the radio.
Then again, who’s to say 1985 (Tears for Fears, Duran Duran, Phil Collins, Prince) or 1999 (Christina Aguilera, Destiny’s Child, Ricky Martin, Backstreet Boys) or 2002 (Nelly, Jimmy Eat World, Cam’ron, Nelly again) doesn’t have it beat? Check out Billboard‘s lists and let us know which summer you think had the best hits.
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