Who Wins the Song of the Summer?

September is well under way, and those hot summer months are already starting to feel like a thing of the past. But before you pack up your swim trunks and stow away your sunscreen, one formality remains: choosing the Song of the Summer, a time-honored tradition here at Critical Kpop. Every year, starting this year, we review the hottest summer tracks, awarding the best and discounting the rest. So let’s hear it, Summer 2015. What you got?

Tim: To me, the Song of the Summer doesn’t necessarily mean the song that tries the hardest to encapsulate that summer feeling. In fact, the harder idols try to get that summer feel, the less authentic it feels. So sorry, Guhara, Girls’ Generation, Sistar, Apink, NS Yoon-G, try as you might, you may have tried too hard here, and you ended up, ultimately, being pretenders to the throne. They are “Summer Songs,” but “Song of the Summer?” Come on. Maybe this is an unfair criteria, but often the Song of the Summer captures the summer season by both happenstance and with a twist of fate. And unexpectedly, wonderfully, we are enthralled.

So, with that in mind, I should first throw T-ara’s “So Crazy” into the fray. Why? Because I love T-ara. But also because they switched it up a bit here, taking a step back from their EDM, and brought us a super-catchy Brave Brothers classic that had the summer upbeat feel without the summer pandering. Well, besides the sailor outfits? I’m not way off base here, am I, Zander?

Zander: Who? T-ara? Couldn’t be. And here’s why - “So Crazy,” though a whole lot of fun, and maybe the best thing T-ara’s produced in years, doesn’t have staying power. And that’s what song of the summer is all about: staying in your head. To qualify as song of the summer, the music has to be so fresh, so catchy that you can’t hear anything else. It’s the first song you hear on your Kpop playlist, and it’s the last song to leave your head. It’s the song you can’t escape. Sorry, Hello Venus, Sonamoo, Wonder Girls, and sorry, T-ara, you’re all too easy to escape.

Here’s one that I couldn’t get rid of. INFINITE’s “Bad.” This song hooked me from the very beginning. Long before I discovered the joy of 360 degree VR technology, I was obsessed with the obscenely catchy music. It’s simple enough to get lodged deep within my brain, but complex enough that it’s also endlessly repeatable!

Tim: Zander, you’re breaking my heart here. You really are. Because INFINITE’s “Bad” is one of my favorite songs (and releases) of the year. But, for me, it just doesn’t encapsulate the light, airy feeling of “summer.” Same goes for GOT7, SHINee, and BTS - who also had three releases that could rank up with my favorite releases of the year. These are timeless releases that will make most people’s end of the year lists, but as the Song of the Summer? I’m sorry, Zander (sorry/not sorry), but these classics don’t capture the summer as the Song of the Summer should.

You know what song does and what you’ve conveniently forgotten? 9 Muses’ “Hurt Locker.” It’s epic, it’s hopeful, it’s bright - it was on the top of my playlist, and may not have captured the airwaves, but certainly captured...my ears? I don’t know. All I know is that if you’re going to talk about the Song of the Summer, 9 Muses has to be in that conversation.

Zander: Okay, point taken about Song of the Summer needing to capture that special summer vibe. But now I feel like you’re just trying to push girl groups. No way does 9 Muses chart as an unforgettable song. “Hurt Locker” was enjoyable, but it just didn’t have that special something. I’d take Mamamoo or Super Junior over 9 Muses any day. But no, both of those are lacking in terms of sheer music-ear-worminess. Yes, I made that up.

Here’s one. How about Big Bang’s “Bang Bang Bang” or “We Like to Party” or “Sober”? They all have a carefree, summer edge, and true to any Big Bang song, all of them get stuck in your head on an endless loop. What about one of these monster hits for Song of the Summer? Eh?

Tim: Damn you, Zander. You know how awful I’ll look if I don’t declare this the Summer of Big Bang? Well, I won’t submit. I won’t. Yes, it’s true, the minute I listened to “Bang Bang Bang” I was one of the first to say, THIS IS THE SONG OF THE SUMMER, IT’S OVER. In all caps even! But, as the summer progressed, my feelings slowly changed. As it did with “We Like to Party,” which feels just like a summer anthem, but isn’t anywhere as good as “Bang Bang Bang” (sorry/not sorry) or “Sober,” which felt too heavy, thematically, to be even a song of summer, let alone the Song of the Summer.

I know that this isn’t shedding my girl group bias, but I have to go there. AOA’s “Heart Attack” has the lightness of 9 Muses and T-ara’s summer songs but also holds a hook that that stays with you and grows and grows and grows until it’s the only thing that’s in your head. It wasn’t even my favorite girl group releases, but by the end of the summer it was really the first song that came to my head. Sometimes, the only.

Zander: Come on, Tim. Another girl group? Just kidding. AOA’s “Heart Attack” was my idea! I’m the one who started this whole idea of awarding a song of the summer just so I could give it to AOA! Because seriously, of all the great Kpop that came out these past few months, there’s one song that stands out to me as the one that constantly pops into my head, that relentlessly pursues me until I give in and listen to it again, and again, and again, and I never stop because I never get tired of it because it’s just that good. Ah! AOA. Yes, Tim, GREAT IDEA! Song of the Summer. Boom. Done.

Tim: Done? Maybe. But what do you think, dear reader?

Zander: Whatever.

Tim: No! Not whatever! WE NEED THEM. We gave our opinions, now it's your turn! Who wins the song of the summer? Let us know in the comments!


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