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What's This Summer's Song Of The Summer?

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What's This Summer's Song Of The Summer?

What's This Summer's Song Of The Summer?

What's This Summer's Song Of The Summer?

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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So what's the song of summer this summer? The Black Eyed Peas or Amerie or even Michael Jackson?? music editor Maura Johnston talks to host Guy Raz about this summer's singular summer jam — or lack thereof.

(Soundbite of timer)

(Soundbite of bell)

GUY RAZ, host:

We're running out of time to solve a mystery.

Mr. JAMES WOOD (Literary Critic, The New York Times): The nurse left work at five o'clock.

RAZ: The mystery is what happens next. That's where you come in, by writing an original short story that begins with that line.

Mr. WOOD: The nurse left work at five o'clock.

RAZ: The catch is we have to be able to read your story in three minutes or less, which is why we call our writing contest Three Minute Fiction. Literary critic James Wood of the New Yorker will read our winning story on the air. And until then, we're posting one standout submission a week.

To read those stories and to submit your entry, go to our Web site, That's threeminutefiction all spelled out, no spaces. But remember, the clock is ticking. All stories must be in by 11:59 p.m. this Tuesday.

(Soundbite of timer)

(Soundbite of bell)

RAZ: We're well into summer jam season, and I wanted to thank you for tuning in to NPR. But if you decide to switch the station, you are very likely to hear this.

(Soundbite of song, "I Gotta Feeling")

Unidentified Man (Singer): (Singing) Fill up my cup, mazel tov. Look at her dancing. Just take it off.

RAZ: And you might also hear this.

(Soundbite of song, "Boom Boom Pow")

Ms. STACY ANN FERGUSON (Singer): (Singing) I'm so 3008. You so 2000 and late. I got that boom, boom, boom. That future boom, boom, boom. Let me get it now.

RAZ: That first song was the Black Eyed Peas, and the second one, also the Black Eyed Peas. They just broke a record by holding down the top spot on the Hot 100 chart for 20 weeks in a row. But despite that, pop music critic Maura Johnston says not one song, not a one, can claim the title of the song of the summer.

Maura Johnston is the music editor with, and she's in our New York studio. Hi, Maura.

Ms. MAURA JOHNSTON (Music Editor, Hello

RAZ: Let me ask you about the Black Eyed Peas, the song we're listening to. I don't really get their appeal. How do they always get to the top of the charts?

Ms. JOHNSTON: You know, this is a question that a lot of people actually ask themselves because some people think that they actually annoy their way to the top of the charts.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. JOHNSTON: You know, a lot of people would say, oh, the Black Eyed Peas, they're so annoying, and then they would be, like, but that song's not that bad because it does sort, you know, like, bring a lot of elements of, like, dance trends that were sort of percolating underneath, and it makes them very ready, say, to be an HP ad, like the video for the Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow" looks like. So…

RAZ: It's an HP ad?

Ms. JOHNSTON: Yeah, yeah.

RAZ: It's funny you said that because I said that when I first heard this song, I said this song is so annoying. But I've been listening to it so many times preparing for this interview that I actually kind of like it now, and I'm sort of dancing to it in the studio.

Ms. JOHNSTON: Yes, they will bludgeon you. That's what they do. It's mind control. Watch. They'll be the number one act from here until, like, 2015.

RAZ: Oh, god. Can I just play an awesome summer song for a moment? This is from the summer of 2007, and the song is "Umbrella" by Rihanna.

(Soundbite of song, "Umbrella")

Ms. RIHANNA (Singer): (Singing) Now that it's raining more than ever, know that we'll still have each other, you can stand under my umbrella. You can stand under my umbrella.

RAZ: Maura Johnston, how does a song go from just being popular, you know, just played on the radio a bit, to sort of exploding into a summer jam like this song "Umbrella" by Rihanna?

Ms. JOHNSTON: Well, you know, the one sort of metric that I use for the ultimate summer jam is hearing how it sounds coming out of a car at full blast. And "Umbrella" sounds absolutely massive, you know, these drums, the synths, you know, they just sound really big and really good, especially when they sort of, like, bend the sound as the cars are driving away.

RAZ: It kicks butt.

Ms. JOHNSTON: It kicks butt pretty much.

RAZ: Yeah.

Ms. JOHNSTON: And then, like, you know, I think it also needs a sort of, like, unifying message that a lot of people will - and it doesn't have to be deep. I mean, the message can just be, like, let's dance.

RAZ: So Maura, what's this summer's "Umbrella"?

Ms. JOHNSTON: Well, you know, it's funny because this summer's "Umbrella," I think, is not a song from 2009. I think this summer's "Umbrella" might actually be one of a selection of Michael Jackson's songs because, you know, the death of Michael Jackson sort of resulted in his music becoming, like, really - I mean, his music obviously was always a really big cultural force. But if you look at the album charts in the weeks following his death, he's had at least three albums in the Top 10, if not the Top 5, for the entire summer.

RAZ: Wow.

Ms. JOHNSTON: Yeah. And he's been consistently selling, you know, six figures, and that's in a time when who can sell records anymore? Nobody, you know?

(Soundbite of song, "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough")

Mr. MICHAEL JACKSON (Singer): (Singing): Keep on with the force, don't stop. Don't stop 'til you get enough.

RAZ: So he sort of stole the thunder from all these other artists who were hoping to be, you know, the kind of the summer anthem.

Ms. JOHNSTON: I think he did. I think it was also sort of, like, a collection of, you know, cultural factors. I mean, people are also, I think, listening to their own music collections a lot more, you know, with the rise of, like, iPods and with the rise of more personalized ways to listen to music.

RAZ: Maura, if you had to pick a song, one song that came out this summer that everyone should be, you know, blasting out their car windows, which one would it be?

Ms. JOHNSTON: I think it would be "Why R U" by Amerie, which is a song by this R&B singer. Her record is coming out in November, but the first single, "Why R U," is this really good sort of throw-backy R&B song, and it has a king of "Umbrella"-ish feel to it, I think.

RAZ: Okay, the song is "Why R U" by Amerie, Maura Johnston's pick for song of the summer, coming at you from NPR.

(Soundbite of song, "Why R U")

Ms. AMERIE (Singing): (Singing) Why are you the only thing that I care about? Why are you the only thing that I care about? Why are you the only thing that I think about? Why are you the only one?

RAZ: Maura Johnston is the music editor for Maura, thanks for coming in.

Ms. JOHNSTON: Thanks.

(Soundbite of song, "Why R U")

Ms. AMERIE (Singing): (Singing) You can be, you can be, you can, you can be the only one. You can be, you can be, you can, you can be the only one. And though I hate it, hate it that I can't forget you. I try my best but I'm a mess 'cause I cant shake you.

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