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?


Adele - “Rolling in the Deep” (2011)

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Adele - “Rolling in the Deep” (2011)
Image: R: Island Def Jam; L: XL/Columbia

In 2005, Mariah Carey launched one of the most head-spinning comebacks in pop history. She’d been written off after the flop of her quasi-biopic Glitter (2001) and the following year’s Charmbracelet album failed to turn up a single hit. Carey came off as undaunted and unbothered on 2005’s varied and lively The Emancipation of Mimi. On the album, in general, and its second single “We Belong Together” in particular, Carey seemed to build on past strengths and tailor them for mass appeal. The sing-songy emulation of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s collective flow that she evinced on 1997’s “Breakdown” is back in “Together,” whose first and second verses have entirely different melodies. The dynamism is electric, from Carey’s plaintive singing to the titanic knock of co-producer Jermaine Dupri’s beats. It all made “Together” the ultimate fast slow jam, a distinctly summery sadness.

Top 40 radio likely ruined “Rolling in the Deep” for you back in 2011, but long before it ever became relegated to dentist offices, it was a smart, scornful breakup ballad. Equal parts authoritative tell-off, and mournful declamation of what could’ve been, “Rolling in the Deep,” did what few pop songs (save for Beyoncé’s, “Best Thing I Never Had” and Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts”) of the summer managed to achieve: It gave the heartbroken something profoundly cathartic to belt with the windows down.

Its thumping drum beat, mounting percussion, and mega chorus might disguise it as a track for those who’ve made it to the other side of a devastating split. But the lyrics? Those could only be written—and deeply felt—by someone in the throes. Also, it’s rumored to have been inspired by a British musician known as, “Slinky Sunbeam.” Which, yeah...that’s pretty bleak, too. Based on the song’s success, however, it’s safe to say we’ve all been there, and, hopefully, are saying hello! from the other side.

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