Pick your own song of the summer.
Several of the popular candidates in the artificial sweepstakes that’s been going on for months by the time the July Fourth weekend rolls around are included in my Summer of 2017 playlist that’s annotated here.
The competitors in that media-driven competition range from seasoned hands at hot-and-sticky hit-making like Bruno Mars and Carly Rae Jepsen to less familiar (to English-language ears) upstarts like Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi, who scored with “Despacito.”
However, the list that follows isn’t just a compilation of smash hits. It’s a personalized multi-genre sampling of songs suitable for the season, from the ubiquitous to the less familiar.
A number of Philadelphia acts are featured, and many others will make their way through the area before the fall solstice.
Check out the Spotify playlist, and see if your own personal song of the summer is contained therein or unforgivably omitted. Listen up!
Selena Gomez, “Bad Liar.” Yes, that’s Tina Weymouth’s bass line from the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” reeling you into this smartly constructed ditty about not admitting the truth to oneself by the woman with the 15th-most Twitter followers in the world.
Bruno Mars, “That’s What I Like.” The Hawaiian hit-maker may be the most reliable source of snappy, funkified radio fodder in modern pop. This isn’t quite the equal to “Uptown Funk,” but it’s as dependably engaging as you would expect from the irrepressibly perky entertainer. Plays Wells Fargo Center on Oct. 10.
Carly Rae Jepsen, “Cut to the Feeling.” A song-of-summer survivor, Jepsen was consensus winner in 2012 with “Call Me Maybe” and has gone on to make savvy pop songs without becoming a personality-driven pop star. In that way, she’s similar to highly regarded Swedish singer Robyn, whom she sounds a bit like here.
Luis Fonsi, featuring Daddy Yankee, “Despacito.” The first Billboard chart-topper to be sung entirely in Spanish since Los del Rio’s “Macarena” in 1996, the collaboration between the Puerto Rican singer and the reggaeton rapper is only the third song ever to accomplish that feat, the other being Los Lobos’ remake of Richie Valens’ “La Bamba“ in 1987.
DJ Khaled featuring Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Wayne, “I’m the One.” Other than yell out, “We the best music!” and dominate on Snapchat, what does DJ Khaled actually do? Assemble stars and make hits, that’s what. His Rolodex is put to good use on this difficult to resist hip-pop bopper.
Lil Uzi Vert, “XO Tour Llif3.” Philly rapper Lil Uzi Vert — real name Symere Woods — keeps his good year going by following up his turn on Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” with the worried-mind sounds of this Top 10 hit: “Push me to the edge / All my friends are dead.” Take care of yourself, Lil Uzi.
Matt Ox, “Overwhelming.” The 12-year-old fidget-spinning rapper from Lawncrest proclaims, “Philly what I’m reppin’ ” and wonders how it could possibly be that you’re not yet appreciating his greatness: “Am I too overwhelming?”
Japanese Breakfast, “Machinist.” Sci-fi future-pop single from Philadelphia songwriter Michelle Zauner’s Soft Sounds from Another Planet follow-up to last year’s grief-stricken Psychopomp. Playing Union Transfer on July 8.
Amadou & Mariam, “Bofou Safou.” Sung in the Malian language of Bambara as well as French, this dance track by the blind husband-and-wife team delivers a carpe diem message that translates in part as “one must not cross one’s arms in life.” At World Cafe Live on July 22.
Arcade Fire, “Everything Now.” This title track from the Canadian band’s forthcoming album is a critique of the culture of immediate satisfaction that excels at the kind of ABBA disco-ball pop that the 2013 album Reflektor failed at. At Wells Fargo Center on Sept. 17.
Jason Isbell, “If We Were Vampires.” Grown-up love song of the season, a duet between Isbell and his fiddle-playing and songwriting wife, Amanda Shires. All we have is time, and summer will be over before you know it.
Steve Earle and Miranda Lambert, “This Is How It Ends.” Grown-up, no-longer-in-love song of the summer, from two stellar country-plus songwriters who have had eight divorces between them, seven of them Earle’s.
Mac DeMarco, “One Another.” Sunny acoustic ditty from charming Canadian singer-songwriter’s This Old Dog. Headlines the Skyline Stage at the Mann Center on Sept. 24.
The War on Drugs, “Holding On.” The second song out of the chute from A Deeper Understanding, the follow-up to the Philly band’s 2014 Lost in the Dream, sweeps you up in its Technicolor soundscape. Playing the Dell Music Center on Sept. 21.
Prince, “Wonderful Ass.” What were the chances the Paisley Park archives didn’t include a song with such a title? One of many playful unreleased cuts that maintain a high standard of sexualized funkiness on the new Purple Rain deluxe edition.
Sheer Mag, “Need to Feel Your Love.” Philly rock-and-roll band fronted by Christina Halliday featuring guitarist Kyle Seely’s ripping riffage. The title track to their debut LP due July 14. Headlining Union Transfer on Aug. 26.
Deadfellow, “Miss California.” Quasi-title track to Mescalifornia: A California Dream, the album from Philadelphia band leader Hayden Sammak that takes a melancholy trip down a road paved by the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. Playing Boot & Saddle on Aug. 11.
Jade Jackson, “Finish Line.” Highlight from standout release by young California old-school country stylist Jackson, whose Gilded debut was produced by Mike Ness of Social Distortion.
Miley Cyrus, “Malibu.” The transgressive bad girl has exited to make way for this conventional toes-in-the-sand exercise in romantic longing, as the former Hannah Montana shows she can still play it straight.
Harry Styles, “Meet Me in the Hallway.” The One Direction heartthrob — also proving his seriousness with an acting role in the World War II drama Dunkirk — pulls off the teen pop transition effectively on his self-titled debut, which kicks off with this dreamy ballad.
Kendrick Lamar, “ELEMENT.” Summer isn’t just about fun and games. This standout from the Compton rapper’s chart-topping DAMN. has a video directed by Jonas Lindstroem & the Little Homies that includes scenes inspired by the late, great photographer Gordon Parks. Playing Wells Fargo Center on July 19.
John Gary Williams, “The Whole Damn World Is Going Crazy.” This song was recorded in 1973 and was included on the self-titled album by the Mad Lads singer released on the Stax label that year. So why is it on this playlist? Because it was reissued in April, and, as its title would indicate, it speaks to the state of the world in 2017.
Alvvays, “In Undertow.” The Toronto five-piece band with no “w” in their name make wonderfully breezy indie pop that leans toward the twee. “What’s left for you and me? I ask the question rhetorically,” Molly Rankin sings as she compares a breakup to getting sucked out to sea by a receding wave. Playing Union Transfer Oct. 6.
Spoon, “Hot Thoughts.” Yes, this typically understated and efficacious rock song by the foursome from Austin, Texas, came out in the spring. But what kind of thoughts is Britt Daniel singing about? Playing the XPoNential Festival at the BB&T Pavilion in Camden on July 29.
Lorde, “Perfect Places.” “I hate the headlines and the weather / I’m 19 and I’m on fire,” sings the coming-of-age New Zealand thinking-woman’s pop star. “But when we’re dancing I’m all right.” Summertime music, please make the world go away.