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Checking in on the 2017 Song of Summer Race

Did Justin Bieber’s “Dorito” gaffe help or hurt “Despacito”? Could a late entry by Selena Gomez shake up the field? That and more in the latest update of The Ringer’s mathematical guide to this year’s contenders.

(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)
(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

On May 18, The Ringer released the official, mathematical guide to the Song of Summer. It’s a complex methodology that attempts to determine a unifying summer anthem by taking into account a song’s Billboard Hot 100 ranking, "bloggability," prevalence on Spotify playlists, and overall quality. In the two weeks since that initial survey, some of our early contenders have bottomed out (we are — blessedly — able to eliminate one of two Kygo entrants), while others have flourished (felicitaciones, "Despacito"). Two new releases, including one from the internet’s favorite queen of pop, Carly Rae Jepsen, have also proved worthy of our attention. Here’s an update on where the race for the Song of Summer stands after Memorial Day weekend.

The Front-runner

"Despacito," Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee ft. Justin Bieber

Hot 100 Ranking: 1 (25/25)
Bloggability: 226,500 articles (25/25)
Playlist Prevalence: 6.5/25
Quality: 6.47 (16.18/25)
Total: 72.68

It was the Dorito heard round the world: One grainy cellphone video of Justin Bieber not knowing the words to his own damn song may have cemented "Despacito" as the Song of Summer. The video of Bieber’s gaffe was posted to TMZ and instantly went viral, keeping the song’s bloggability metric maxed out at 25/25 while likely introducing it to an even larger audience. "Despacito" is sitting pretty atop the Hot 100 for a third consecutive week, and it’s hard to imagine anything toppling it before the ideal Song of Summer peak date, which we previously identified as June 25. Barring an unlikely resurgence from "I’m the One" or "Humble," or another meteoric rise from Selena Gomez’s "Bad Liar" (which jumped from 80 to 27 this week), the Fonsi/Yankee/Biebs dream trio could have the Song of Summer 2017 competition in the bag early.

The New Challengers

"Bad Liar," Selena Gomez

Hot 100 Ranking: 27 (0/25)
Bloggability: 85,900 articles (21.48/25)
Playlist Prevalence: 2.5/25
Quality: 5.06 (12.65/25)
Total: 36.63

While Gomez’s "It Ain’t Me" felt like a composed-by-numbers club hit (Ringer staffers scored it a meager 2.74 out of 10 in Quality), "Bad Liar" has a sun-kissed coyness that could give it staying power as the weather heats up. The song samples 1977’s "Psycho Killer," borrowing a bassline so famous that people of all ages will recognize it whether or not they’ve ever listened to the Talking Heads. Instead of being vocoded into anonymity, Gomez’s voice anchors the track with the effervescence of a budding summer romance. The fact that the song may be an autobiographical take on her relationship with the Weeknd will only raise its bloggability, which is already high. Love songs are fine, but it’s infatuation songs that resonate best between May and August. And if the crescendo of harmonies in the last minute of this song don’t scream "I’m sprung" — the de facto motto of summer — we don’t know what does.

"Cut to the Feeling," Carly Rae Jepsen

Hot 100 Ranking: N/A (0/25)
Bloggability: 72,700 (18.18/25)
Playlist Prevalence: 0.5/25
Quality: 5 (12.5/25)
Total: 31.18

Over the years, Carly Rae Jepsen has morphed from a seeming one-hit wonder to the internet’s favorite pop star. So it’s no surprise that the blogosphere met her latest single, "Cut to the Feeling," with exuberance. If you’re a fan of Jepsen’s triumphantly sugary production and just-as-sweet songwriting ("I wanna wake up with you all in tangles"), this is probably already your summer anthem. If your interest in Jepsen begins and ends with "Call Me Maybe," "Cut to the Feeling" may not reel you in. Either way, the singer’s pop exploits remain forever bloggable, and this track may get an extra bump on the charts as part of the soundtrack for the upcoming animated film Leap!

The Fallen Contenders

"First Time," Kygo and Ellie Goulding

Hot 100 Ranking: NA (0/25)
Bloggability: 20,350 articles (5.09/25)
Playlist Prevalence: 5/25
Quality: 2.94 (7.35/25)
Total: 17.44

We thought "First Time" could last for a long time based on its syrupy, summer-ready lyrics and some early playlist love from the curators at Spotify. Alas, the song, released in late April, has charted only once (67) on the Hot 100. It’s on life support by our other metrics, too, registering only 20,350 Google News hits and down a full point in playlist prevalence. "First Time" could still rise through the ranks in July and August, but a start that late is almost certainly a death knell for Song of Summer consideration. Maybe the next time will be better for Kygo and Ellie.

"Believer," Imagine Dragons

Hot 100 Ranking: 15 (0/25)
Bloggability: 20,550 articles (5.14/25)
Playlist Prevalence: 1/25
Quality: 2.26 (5.65/25)
Total: 11.79

Unlike the nonstarter "First Time," "Believer" actually rose up the charts this week, moving from 20 to 15 on the Hot 100. But as we’ve previously discussed, the Hot 100 isn’t the only way to measure taste anymore, and "Believer" is flatlining by our other yardsticks: Its already-low Bloggability score has dropped more, it’s only on one Spotify playlist, and the Ringer staff awarded it a measly 2.26/10 for quality. We wanted to give a rock song an outside chance at the Song of Summer crown, but unfortunately, it’s not 1988 anymore.

The Overall Standings

Heading wholeheartedly into summer ’17, here’s where we stand: