Is the Ultimate Summer Bop Happy or Sad? Welcome to Jezebel’s Song of the Summer Tournament

At last, a scientific way of answering the eternal question: Are uptempos or ballads the most summer friendly?

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Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion - “WAP” (2020)

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Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion - “WAP” (2020)
Image: L: Jive/RCA; R: Atlantic

Drums please!

“Summertime” is the estival counterpart to “All I Want for Christmas Is You”—a perennial jam whose fleeting presence is an essential signifier of the season. In fact, with all due respect to Memorial Day, I don’t consider it to be officially unofficially summer until I hear “Summertime” (this year, it happened one sunny Sunday in May on the way to Prospect Park). It’s based on a sample of Kool & the Gang’s “Summer Madness,” a psychedelic instrumental whose haze and ascending melody capture the feeling of hot air in sound. Will Smith’s summertime imagery—basketball courts, double-dutch, a barbecue—is familiar enough to be universal but specific enough to paint a vivid picture. “And as I think back makes me wonder how/The smell from a grill could spark up nostalgia,” he raps. And now his song itself lives among those hallmarks of summertime nostalgia.

What’s left to say about the song that altered the internet—and bachelorette parties—forever? From the outset, WAP wielded so much power that it inspired the great moral panic and conservative crusade of 2020. It didn’t just sit at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 for weeks—it made history as the first female rap collaboration to debut at number one. Sampling Frank Ski (“There’s some whores in this house” can be heard exactly 79 times from start to finish), and featuring truly Shakespearean lyrics (My head game is fire, punani Dasani/It’s going in dry, and it’s coming out soggy) the bawdy bop was just what the internet needed in the midst of a frightening, frustrating pandemic. It was fun to sing (poorly), fun to dance to (again, poorly), and fun to watch people lose their ever-loving minds over. This may sound dramatic, but WAP did more to save lives than the U.S. government, simply by providing housebound people with a filthy good time.

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