It was 40 years ago this month that the British pop trio (now a duo) Bananarama released their hit single “Cruel Summer,” a song that actually looked at the darker side of the season—noting the oppressive heat, and the loneliness that can come when your friends are away likely having a good time without you.
The song has been an ode for summer and could even have become the theme tune of the summer 2020, when the pandemic is likely to disrupt many vacation plans.
The Song of Summer: A History
Summer song history predates it by only about 100 years. It was 1883, when sales of sheet music began to increase during summer. In the early part of the 20th century the music industry was basically born, as the public began adopting phonographs.
The first true song of summer is arguably Irving Berlin’s “My Wife’s Gone to the Country—Hooray! Hooray!” Released in 1909, it was arguably as risqué for the day as the summer songs to come.
There have been countless summer anthems over the years, from Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” to The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City” to Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” to “Hot Girl Summer” by Megan Thee Stallion ft. Nicki Minaj & Ty Dolla $ign.
Enjoying Summer TV
There will always be songs for summer, the time of BBQs, beach parties and warm weather. But the way in which new music is discovered is changing. For most of the 20th century, summer songs were likely heard first on radio.
Bruce Barber is the professional in residence at 88.7 WNHU and the general manager of WNHU.
Barber said, “There used to be a time where the song associated with summer would have been the one you heard on the radio the entire summer.” Music discovery is different now, thanks to smart phones and social networks.
YouTube, TikTok or even Twitter can play as big a part in determining which song is the most popular this summer as top-40 radio stations.
Barber stated that “we’ve seen the TikTok videos were watched by a lot of people and can really help make a tune go viral, which was impossible with radio.” “It is the new platforms and apps on their smart phones where young people are finding the summer songs—as opposed to on the transistor radio.”
International Songs And Smaller artists Getting Notified
There was also a time when established artists—like the aforementioned Frank Sinatra and Don Henley, not to mention the likes of Bryan Adams, Taylor Swift and Garth Brooks—may have had an unfair advantage when it came to releasing a summer anthem.
Though a few artists could use their summer song to break through, like Bananarama and DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, by releasing a summertime classic, smaller artists didn’t stand a chance. The streaming services and social media have helped level the playing field.
Barber said that social media is helping international music to reach a wider audience.
This helps to explain why K-Pop, from South Korea, and other European artists can stand out. Back in the day, music like this would have been relegated into the import or, worse yet, world music section at a record shop. Such music is now able to go viral, thanks in part to a TikTok-style video.
Barber stated that “the world of Music is becoming smaller due to the social media and smartphones, but we are still in Wild West territory when it comes music discovery.” Today, it is not difficult for smaller artists you’ve never heard to go viral. That could mean that we will hear some fantastic summer songs.