Los Angeles Times

What is the song of summer? Music insiders spin the soundtrack for a once-in-a-lifetime season

Anointing the song of the summer was going to be a challenge even before once-in-a-generation protests roared to life last month in response to George Floyd's killing by Minneapolis police.

By shutting down so many of the activities that make a song of the summer happen - concerts, sporting events, pool parties involving people beyond your immediate family - the COVID-19 pandemic had already interrupted the annual process that led tunes like Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" and Luis Fonsi's "Despacito" to warm-weather cultural ubiquity.

But the explosive widening of the Black Lives Matter movement only deepened the task at hand: Suddenly, the established hallmarks of the song of the summer - a casually flirty lyric or a groove to inspire a night without cares - felt insufficient to soundtrack a season of such righteous discontent.

The Times asked 17 arts and music journalists and industry insiders to pick the song that best embodies the spirit of a summer defined by contradictory imperatives: to stay inside or to take to the streets? That so little consensus materialized says plenty about the different needs listeners count on music to meet.

Ideally, one

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