Song of the summer prognosticating has become a growth industry. Cultural observers aim to nail down which so-ubiquitous-you're-sick-of-it-already song will sum up the collective pop-fan experience, or at least become as hard to get out of your head as Pharrell Williams' "Happy" or Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe."
The song list that's annotated below and accompanied by a streaming Spotify playlist makes mention of some of this year's contenders, from Justin Timberlake to Rihanna and Drake, among others. But the listening going on at my backyard barbecue isn't ripped exclusively from the top of the Billboard charts. Yours probably isn't, either.
This mix blends a fair share of those mainstream bangers with a genre-hopping selection of other suitable-for-summer fare. That includes wistful Americana, raging punk rock, party-starting funk, and arresting indie-pop.
It also serves up 25 of the best songs that have been released, here at the halfway point of the year. So with apologies to near misses from Major Lazer, Blood Orange, and Carsie Blanton (plus some others I'll be tempted to add as bonus tracks), here's your summer of 2016 playlist.
1. "Dreaming My Dreams," Karl Blau
Let's ease into this party mix, shall we? Like much of Introducing Karl Blau, the Tucker Martine-produced collection that is actually the Pacific Northwest indie baritone's eighth album, this Waylon Jennings cover casts a fireflies-at-night summer's evening glow.
2. "Am I Wrong," Anderson. Paak featuring ScHoolboy Q
OK, time to get the party started. Maybe one reason Anderson.Paak's sun-dappled Malibu has taken so long to get the hearing it deserves is that it was released in the middle of winter. No, Mr. .Paak, you are not wrong.
3. "Summer Friends," Chance the Rapper featuring Jerimih and Francis & the Lights
A seasonal remembrance of growing up on Chicago streets ("Socks on concrete, Jolly Rancher kids/ I was talking back and now I gotta stay at grandma's crib") the tour de force Coloring Book mixtape, bittersweet with the knowledge that "summer friends don't stay." My pick for song of the summer.
4. "Controlla," Drake
Dancehall-flavored highlight from the Canadian rap star's too-mellow but still world-dominating album Views. Playing Aug. 21 at the Wells Fargo Center.
5. "This Is What You Came For," Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna
Like Drake, Made in America headliner Rihanna released a surprisingly down-tempo album this year yet continues to flood the charts with singles, such as the slow-burning Drake duet "Work" and this EDM-disco track with Taylor Swift's ex.
6. "Work From Home," Fifth Harmony
It's so nice for the X Factor-founded members of this vocal quintet to dedicate a song to lonely telecommuters. Oh wait, is it a different kind of "work" they're singing about?
7. "Wow," Beck
After getting Kanye West's goat by winning the album of the year Grammy with his purely folkie Morning Phase, Beck Hansen seems to be getting back to his Odelay hip-hop roots with this new single from a forthcoming album.
8. "Can't Stop the Feeling," Justin Timberlake
This good-not-great track from the forthcoming DreamWorks Animation blockbuster-to-be Trolls is a little too blatant of a corporate cross-promotional attempt by Timberlake, one of the movie's voice-stars, to attain Song of the Summer status.
9. "Wild Things," Alessia Cara
Canadian teen who previously scored with "Here," references Maurice Sendak and builds a following among those too cool to follow the cool kids around. Like Marlon Brando, she'd rather be "a wild one" instead.
10. "Boyfriend," Tegan and Sara
Indie-pop identical twin duo build on their "Everything Is Awesome!!!" Lego Movie success with a gleaming pop statement of self-worth.
11. "Shut Up Kiss Me," Angel Olsen
Second single from My Woman, the forthcoming album from Olsen, whose searing Burn Your Fire For No Witness was one of 2014's best. This time, she appears to be taking a less folkie, more synthy direction. At Union Transfer on Sept. 14.
12. "Everybody Wants to Love You," Japanese Breakfast
Sounds so happy, but it's so sad beneath the surface. Chiming indie pop from the Philadelphia band led by Michelle Zauner, who made their debut with this spring captivating Psychopomp.
13. "Your Best American Girl," Mitski
Lead track on the altogether impressive Puberty 2, the artistic breakthrough for Mitski Miyawaki, the New York-based bassist and songwriter, which explores issues of identity and belonging with superior songcraft.
14. "Beautiful Blue," Mudcrutch
Speaking of "American Girl," Mudcrutch is the bar band founded in the '70s by Tom Petty, who has been back out on the road with them. This languorous love song would fit in nicely on the top shelf of the Florida rocker's catalog.
15. "Surrender Under Protest," Drive-By Truckers
The first single from American Band, the due in September album for an election year from the southern rock exemplars. Patterson Hood, who recently relocated to Portland, Ore., remains the band's leader but second Truckers songwriter Mike Cooley penned this one, a response to the battle over the Confederate Flag in South Carolina. He plays July 1 at Underground Arts.
16. "Human Performance," Parquet Courts
Striving for a human connection in the title track to the Texas-born and now partially Philadelphia-based, unfailingly intelligent rock band. Comes with a strangely unsettling puppet video.
17. "Golden Days," Whitney
A wistful, summery road-trip vibe from the Chicago band featuring members of the Smith Westerns and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. With vocals reminiscent of Thunderclap Newman.
18. "Victim of Me," The Descendants
High-speed-energy-drink punk-rock about confronting the enemy on the mirror from Hypercaffium Spazzinate, the first album in 12 years from the California rock stalwarts, due July 29.
19. "Wriggle," clipping
Philadelphia jazz man Leslie Odom Jr., who's hosting the Welcome America! fest on July Fourth, isn't the only Hamilton cast member making his move. Daveed Diggs, who plays the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the Broadway show, is the charismatic motormouthed rapper in the band clipping. He makes Kendrick Lamar seem slow on the mic.
20. "Technique," Mai Lan
Instantly grabby and surprisingly witty EDM track from the French female vocalist and rapper who is frequently featured on Junk, the latest LP by her countrymen M83.
21. "Into You," Ariana Grande
This summer's "a little bit scandalous" banger from the former Nickelodeon and mini-Mariah's A Dangerous Woman.
22. "Panda," Desiigner
Hip-hop earworm by the Made In America-featured rapper and signee to Kanye West's GOOD Music label. West sampled the song on The Life of Pablo's "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1."
23. "Famous," Kanye West
The track behind Kanye's latest attention-getting act of genius or foolishness: the voyeuristic, boring art-project clip featuring nude likeness of famous people, including Taylor Swift, Donald Trump and Rihanna, who sings the hook, inspired by Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts instructor Vincent Desiderio's painting "Sleeping." A better song than video.
24. "My Church," Maren Morris
While West makes his point about how we all worship at the altar of celebrity, country newcomer Morris genuflects while putting the petal to the medal with Hank Williams and Johnny Cash blasting on the radio.
25. "Ancient Jules," Steve Gunn
Ready to hit the highway? Lansdowne-bred Brooklyn guitarist takes us out with this transfixing cut from his hypnotic album Eyes on the Lines. His summer tour pulls into Union Transfer on Saturday.