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Here Are Your Candidates for Song of the Summer

5 minute read

It’s been almost three years since Justin Timberlake released solo music, but he more than delivered with “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” a poppy, punchy track made for the movie Trolls that dropped last week.

Consider this Timberlake’s blatant bid to claim the song of the summer — he shamelessly tells us exactly that in a teaser video. And honestly, why else would you have a chorus that consists of “Just dance, dance, dance”?

That said, Timberlake’s up against some pretty stiff competition; Rihanna’s “Work” has been on steady rotation since it debuted in January and Desiigner’s trap hit “Panda” has been gathering speed since it was sampled on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo in February.

In fact, these releases might even benefit from the fact that they were released in the dead of winter — Forbes reports that six of the songs crowned “The Song of the Summer” by Billboard in the past 10 years were released before April, which makes sense when you consider that the song of the summer has a lot more to do with circulation than a carefree chorus.

While JT seems pretty confident that he has it in the bag, here are nine songs that could (or should) give “Can’t Stop This Feeling” a serious run for its money.

Justin Timberlake — “Can’t Stop the Feeling”

The song’s peppy message (“I got that sunshine in my pocket!”) and bright sound are a departure from the sultry crooning of Timberlake’s recent discography; considering that the “Mirrors” singer made it for the movie Trolls, let’s chalk it up to the fact that he’s reaching for a much wider (and younger) demographic with his latest release.

Beyoncé — “Sorry”

While Beyoncé’s entire Lemonade album will no doubt be ubiquitous this summer, “Sorry” has the most hit potential of any song from the record. With its catchy soundbites (“Boy, bye!”) over an easy melody, it makes suspicions of infidelity feel summertime fine.

Rihanna — “Work”

Rihanna’s dancehall-flavored hit with frequent collaborator Drake has been work-work-work-working its charm since January and shows no sign of slowing down.

Zayn — “Pillowtalk”

Zayn’s breakout single as a solo artist is decidedly sultry—par for the course for most singers trying to leave their boy band pasts behind them—and surprisingly catchy, which could make it the sleeper song of the year if it can maintain its momentum. Added buzz factor comes courtesy of Malik’s model-of-the-moment girlfriend Gigi Hadid starring in the music video.

Ghost Town DJs — “My Boo”

This 1996 hit has been a favorite of R&B enthusiasts for nearly 20 years, but it’s found a whole new generation of listeners now, thanks to the viral internet trend called the “Running Man Challenge.” Started by college basketball players who broke out into dance moves whenever the song played, it’s got everyone from NBA star Kyrie Irving to the NYPD dancing.

Desiigner — “Panda”

19-year-old Brooklyn rapper Desiigner bought a beat from a UK producer for $200, which he then rapped over in the style of Future. In little more than two months after the song was released, “Panda” shot to fame when Kanye West sampled it heavily on his album, The Life of Pablo. Now, Desiigner is signed to West’s G.O.O.D. Music label while his single continues to climb the charts.

Drake (ft. Wizkid, Kyla) — One Dance

Drake’s current obsession with all things dancehall is seen probably most prominently on “One Dance,” his infectiously catchy single that vastly benefits from sampling Nigerian Afrobeat artist Wizkid and British singer Kyla; since the Six God has laid claim to summer ’16, he could definitely dance his way to the top with this track.

Lukas Graham — “7 Years”

Lukas Graham’s sentimental ballad “7 Years” is quintessential easy listening — a surefire sign of a summer favorite.

Calvin Harris ft. Rihanna — “This Is What You Came For”

The Scottish DJ’s dynamic collaboration with Rih reminds us again why their intoxicating hit “We Found Love” was ubiquitous for most of 2011.

Fifth Harmony — “Work From Home”

Fifth Harmony’s girl-powered fueled jam boasts bars from Ty Dolla $ign and a beat made for hot summer nights. Is this infectious track a sign of the girl group’s dominance this summer? Only time will tell.

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Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com