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NPR's forecast for the 2024 song of the summer? Lots of country, with a little bit of espresso

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

It is Memorial Day weekend, which means, of course, it is the unofficial start of summer. So we figured we'd get an early start thinking about what might end up as the song of the summer. You know it - the song that inevitably dominates the charts and sticks in our brains, whether we like it or not, all summer long. To give us a preview of what we might be listening to for the next three months, we have asked NPR music critic and correspondent Ann Powers to join us. Hey, Ann.

ANN POWERS, BYLINE: Hey. Thanks for having me.

DETROW: So let's start looking at the songs that are already popular. If you look at the top 10, who's in the mix?

POWERS: Well, it's a mix of veterans and newcomers, people whose names everyone knows and totally viral artists bubbling up. It's really quite a wide mix right now.

DETROW: Looking at the songs that are already pretty popular, walk us through which of these you think could be it this summer.

POWERS: Well, let's start right at the top with the most predictable No. 1. It comes from two very established artists, the undefinable rapper/singer/friend-to-all Post Malone and the country star Morgan Wallen with their song "I Had Some Help."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I HAD SOME HELP")

MORGAN WALLEN AND POST MALONE: (Singing) I had some help. It ain't like I can make this kind of mess all by myself. Don't act like you ain't help me pull that bottle off the shelf. Been deep in every weekend if you couldn't tell. They say teamwork makes the dream work. Hell, I had some help.

POWERS: Post Malone has had a huge spring. I mean, he's everywhere. He was on the Beyonce record. He duetted with Taylor Swift. He is pivoting from hip-hop pop, which is kind of what he did before, toward country music. And he's going right for the core by collaborating with the controversial but undeniably massively popular Morgan Wallen. And I want to talk about this song in connection to another one on the top 10 called "A Bar Song (Tipsy)" by Shaboozey. We're going to talk about these two together because they both connect with the same genre - country music. Country is the strongest charting genre right now. It's having a huge...

DETROW: Yeah.

POWERS: ...Moment. But, like, what even is country if you listen to these songs, right (laughter)?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A BAR SONG (TIPSY)")

SHABOOZEY: (Singing) One, here comes the two to the three to the four. Tell them bring another out. We need plenty more. Two-stepping on the table, she don't need a dance floor. Oh my, good lord. Someone pour me up a double shot of whiskey. They know me and Jack Daniels got a history.

POWERS: Shaboozey, he's more of an outsider or newcomer. He's a Black artist, and there's been so much talk about how country music absolutely needs to acknowledge its Black heritage and its current Black artists right now. But I think Shaboozey has balanced hip-hop and country elements perfectly in this song, incorporating, like, an old hip-hop song into this very twangy, classic, whiskey-soaked party song.

DETROW: Yeah. All right, that's country. I guess we could, as you said, in this moment keep talking about that for many more minutes.

POWERS: (Laughter).

DETROW: But let's pivot to another genre. What else are you thinking about?

POWERS: Well, let's stick with the whiskey though, OK? I mean...

DETROW: Sounds good.

POWERS: ...It is Memorial Day weekend. Let's have some fun.

(LAUGHTER)

POWERS: So I want to go to another artist who's been hanging around Nashville a lot. He's an Irish artist, Hozier, and his song "Too Sweet."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOO SWEET")

HOZIER: (Singing) If you're drunk on life, babe, I think it's great. But while in this world, I think I'll take my whiskey neat, my coffee black and my bed at 3. You're too sweet for me. You're too sweet for me. I take my whiskey neat, my coffee black and my bed at 3. You're too sweet for me.

DETROW: You know, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED airs in the cocktail hour. I think it makes sense to focus on all these whiskey songs. Tell us what we need to know about Hozier in this moment right now.

POWERS: Well, Hozier, of course, is a veteran artist. This is his biggest hit since his breakthrough, "Take Me To Church." And what grabs me about this song is really the bottom, you know, the bassline. It's very funky. But you also have, you know, Hozier's beautiful vocals. I think it's interesting that you can hear him breathe on this song. There's a lot of, like, just vocal life. It's a hot moment for blue-eyed soul, and Hozier is kind of riding that right now. I think this could be the song of the summer because he's - you know, we love a veteran artist who returns, has a big hit kind of unexpectedly. It reminds me of when U2, fellow Irish artist, had a huge hit in the '90s, "Mysterious Ways" - like were flexing, showing they can do the pop thing even though they're a veteran band.

DETROW: So this is an interesting song 'cause it actually hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 back in April, but it's...

POWERS: Yeah.

DETROW: ...Been sticking around since then. Is that where we are right now? If you want to be the song of the summer, do you need to be the song of the spring?

POWERS: There is no song that tells that story better than the one that probably many people have already chosen as the song of the summer. Yes, I'm talking about the one about working late...

DETROW: "Espresso."

POWERS: ...If you're a singer (laughter). Let's hear a little.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ESPRESSO")

SABRINA CARPENTER: (Singing) Oh, yes. I know I Mountain Dew it for you. Yes. That morning coffee, brew it for you. Yes. One touch and I brand-newed it for you. Stupid. And now he's thinkin' 'bout me every night. Oh, is it that sweet? I guess so. Say you can't sleep, baby, I know. That's that me espresso.

DETROW: And this is by Sabrina Carpenter. And there's a lot going on in that sound.

POWERS: Oh, there's so much going on. This one's been bubbling up since spring. It's a throwback song. It's kind of hard to figure out what era it's throwing back to, though. I mean, it does remind me, like, of '70s Euro disco, kind of the Boney M style, if anybody remembers that, but also could have come at the turn of the '90s with, like, Madonna or Paula Abdul or, I don't know, early 2010s, Carly Rae Jepsen.

DETROW: Yeah.

POWERS: It's like - you know what I think about this song? This is the beach blanket song of the summer. It is literally a beach blanket. It's bright. It's colorful. It's useful, and you can take it anywhere.

DETROW: Are there any songs out there that have not hit the charts yet that you think could have a chance to get really popular over the next few months?

POWERS: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Our queen, Billie Eilish, has brought a song of the summer that might just obliterate the rest. Let's hear a little bit of "LUNCH."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LUNCH")

BILLIE EILISH: (Singing) I could eat that girl for lunch. Yeah, she dances on my tongue, tastes like she might be the one. And I could never get enough. I could buy her so much stuff. It's a craving, not a crush.

DETROW: I've heard of this artist before.

POWERS: (Laughter). But this is a new Billie.

DETROW: Yeah.

POWERS: I mean, this is Billie going right for the top of the charts with a song about a perennial summer activity for those who are single out there, trying to hook up with an attractive person. And I just hear this - I just - you know, I know this is going to be on every radio, in every mall, at every pool for the next few months.

DETROW: That's NPR music critic and correspondent Ann Powers. Ann, thank you so much.

POWERS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LUNCH")

EILISH: (Singing) I could eat that girl for lunch. Yeah, she dances on my tongue, tastes like she might be the one. And I could never get enough. I could buy her so much stuff. It's a craving, not a crush. Oh, I just want to get her off. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.
Ann Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs.