How perfect is it that the Cedric Gervais dance remix of Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” has marked the end of the season? It broke into the Billboard Hot 100’s top 10 in mid-August, as the melancholy anticipation of fall was just beginning to kick in, and it slipped one spot (to tenth place place) this week, just as two important seasonal milestones were passed: Labor Day and unseating of the Song of the Summer, the Robin Thicke juggernaut “Blurred Lines,” from number one.
We have Katy Perry and her charming “Roar” to thank for the second event, which suggests—along with the vertiginous advancement of some other key women in pop—a new synchronicity’s fully in play on the charts. But more on that in a moment. The rise of “Summertime Sadness,” a song that debuted in its original form on the second day of the summer last year, is not merely a poetic capper to a few paradoxically cheerless months dominated by the merry men who brought you the uniformly milquetoast “Blurred Lines,” “Get Lucky” and The 20/20 Experience. It’s also an example of how a good song—and by an extension, an overdiscussed artist—can steadily progress from “irrelevance” to “hey, turn this up.” And that’s an optimistic lesson to take into any new season.
Back in August, Sean Ross at Billboard laid out a few good reasons why “Summertime Sadness”—and Lana Del Rey—was finally finding success in the U.S. Although he failed to mention the most obvious one, which is that her black-widow croon is more palatable drizzled over clubby zoom-zoom and not just soaked up in a bunch of strings. Reanimated by a European DJ or not, it was a slow populist swell—like the one for “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons and “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line, to name two old singles eventually done good—that eventually put “Summertime Sadness” back into our ears.
As for that new synchronicity: Lana Del Rey’s divvying up the top 10 with Perry, Miley Cyrus (“We Can’t Stop”), Lady Gaga (“Applause”) and the teenage New Zealander Lorde (“Royals”). Miley is pop music’s rising star, Perry and Gaga its boundary-busting spirit leaders, and Del Rey and Lorde its (totally unalike) outsiders. (And look out for Ariana Grande on the album chart!) Unlike the boys of summer (not to mention Imagine Dragons and Florida Georgia Line) this is a cast of characters bound to keep surprising us, whether or not it’s their turn at bat.