Like they always do, the hot months are zipping by. But when the clock blinks noon on Tuesday, summer will technically be only half over. Which means there’s still plenty of time to haggle over the song of the summer.
Popular opinion suggests the case is closed. Our winner is Robin Thicke and his “Blurred Lines,” that galloping, four-minute come-on where the son of ’80s sitcom dad Alan Thicke channels the ghost of Marvin Gaye’s libido and then slumps into a beach chair at the top of the pop charts for eight weeks. Contrary to its great success, this song is just okay.
Trailing by half an inch: Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” a neo-disco superball that’s enjoyed three months of perpetual bounce at nightclubs, baseball stadiums, casino floors, dentists offices and other public spaces where Americans need luck, which is apparently all of them. Considering its perky omnipresence, this song is just about exhausted.
Posing for selfies near the winner’s circle, there’s the bafflingly popular “We Can’t Stop.” It’s a mid-tempo misbehavior anthem by Miley Cyrus which paraphrases Lady Antebellum (“Can’t you see it’s we who own the night?”) and Waka Flocka Flame (“Can’t you see it’s we who ’bout that life?”) in the same tangy-hot breath. Unlike its naughty video, this song is incredibly boring.
It’s also by everybody else. Drake, Meek Mill, Angel Haze, Soulja Boy and Travis Porter are among the growing mob of rappers that have recorded versions of “Versace,” making the song feel meme-ish in a fresh way. Instead of enjoying exponential reincarnation through a surplus of fan-made dance videos on YouTube — like Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” did last summer — “Versace” has been elevated by the artists. Rappers are grabbing on to it and making it their own, knowing full well it belongs to anybody who wants to take a crack at it.
And while the flukey success of “Versace” qualifies as a surprise, isn’t summertime all about flirting with surprise? The popularity of “Blurred Lines,” “Get Lucky” and “We Can’t Stop” feels preordained. Why not root for the song that came cannonballing into the pool like a sizzling meteor crumb?
Another question: Has the line between catchy and irritating ever been so perilously thin? “Versace” feels like it’s tickling your brain while eating it. The original refrain, rapped by Migos, is hypnotic, vacant and magnetic against all odds. “Versace, Versace-Versace, Versace-Versace, Versace! Versace, Versace-Versace . . .”
After hearing these guys enunciate the name of the Italian fashion house 158 times within 3 minutes 7 seconds, it becomes apparent that this three-syllable word — with its intoxicating combination of fricative consonants — is surprisingly fun to say out loud, over and over and over.
The song has other words, too. But none are as dizzying as the backing track supplied by Xavier “Zaytoven” Dodson, a Georgia-based producer who’s crafted all kinds of woozy soundscapes for Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane. The sickly glimmer of “Versace” is consistent with Zaytoven’s discography. It’s icy, slippery, tough.
But artists aren’t gravitating toward “Versace” just to jump on the beat. Nearly every rapper who’s remade the song has mimicked Migos’ off-kilter vocal cadences, turning the “Versace-Versace” of each opening verse into an incantation, a blurt of magic words, the new “abracadabra.” Every new version of the song casts its own skittery spell.
For most, “Versace” has become a sort playground. The historically grumpy Game cracks a smile on his rendition: “Versace, Versace, Versace, Versace, Versace, Versace . . . These are my ‘Happy Days’/Just call me Chachi.”
But for perennial frustrated Brooklynite Papoose, the song is a battlefield, where he can scold the whippersnappers. “Versace, Versace, you fakin’, you phony, you corny, man, honestly,” he spits. “The first one to wear it was Biggie/You ain’t from the borough, that’s mockery.”
Many of those young rappers are presumably too busy finessing their own versions of “Versace” to roll their eyes. Tink, a rapper-singer from Chicago, might boast the most tenacious of all versions of “Versace,” bullet-pointing her career goals, then expressing her community’s anger over the Trayvon Martin case.
Frank Ocean has concocted the best version of “Versace” that no one’s actually heard. After a torn vocal cord reportedly forced him to cancel an overseas tour, the Los Angeles R&B phenom posted his lyrics to “Versace” on his Tumblr page, presumably unable to record it.
“Versace, Versace, I’ll play the piano, I’m not Liberace,” the lyrics read. Then Ocean reignites a feud Chris Brown, whom he outshone on Grammy night in February. “You could stay seated, I’m taking that Grammy, your music is sloppy.”
Never mind the song of the summer. What’s the “Versace” of the summer? Vibe recently tried to provide a little perspective with an online listicle titled, “The Final Word: Ranking The Best (And Worst) ‘Versace’ Remixes.”
Fun list, but the final word? Nah. There won’t be any final word. This song only seems to keep growing. Like summer itself, we can hope it never ends.