Chart Watch Extra: Rewinding ‘Songs of the Summer’ 1985-1999

Paul Grein
·Writer

If you associate Katy Perry with summer, there's a good reason for that. The California native has had the #1 song of the summer twice. Her debut hit, "I Kissed A Girl," was the biggest hit of the summer of 2008. "California Gurls," her summery collaboration with Snoop Dogg, was on top for the summer of 2010.

Two other artists from the past few decades have also had the biggest song of the summer twice. Mariah Carey led in 1990 with her debut hit, "Vision Of Love," and in 2005 with her comeback smash, "We Belong Together." Jay Z was featured on both Beyonce's solo debut hit, "Crazy In Love" (2003), and Rihanna's "Umbrella" (2007).

Billboard has gone back to 1985 and ranked the Songs of the Summer based on each song's performance on the Hot 100 between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Usher and the Black Eyed Peas are the only acts to have both the #1 and #2 Songs of the Summer. Usher scored in 2004 with "Confessions Part II" and "Burn." The Peas scored in 2009 with "I Gotta Feeling" and "Boom Boom Pow." Pharrell Williams nearly equaled this feat last year. He was featured on both Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" (#1) and Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" (#3).

The #1 Song of the Summer was by an individual act every year from 1985 through 1996. But the picture started changing in 1997. Collaborations have led the way in nine of the past 17 years.

Most of the #1 Songs of the Summer have been fun and escapist. But there have been exceptions. "I'll Be Missing You" by Puff Daddy & Faith Evans featuring 112 was a tribute to The Notorious B.I.G., who was shot to death just three months before the song's chart debut. TLC's "Waterfalls" alludes to the illegal drug trade and a death from HIV/AIDS. In "Papa Don't Preach," Madonna plays a young woman who is apprehensive about how her father will react to the news that she's pregnant. In "Confessions Part II," Usher is nervous about how "the woman I love" will react to the news that he's gotten another woman pregnant. (These are four of the best Songs of the Summer. Maybe there's something to be said for lyrical content.)

Here are Billboard's Songs of the Summer for every year from 1985 to 1999. I show which won Grammys and/or Moonmen at the MTV Music Awards.

1985: "Shout" by Tears for Fears. This synth-pop smash hit #1 on Aug. 3 and stayed there for three weeks. It was the second #1 hit from the duo's album, "Songs From The Big Chair."

1986: "Papa Don't Preach" by Madonna. This hit #1 on Aug. 16 (which happened to be Madonna's 28th birthday) and stayed there for two weeks. It won a Moonman for Best Female Video. The arrangement blends baroque accents and a solid beat. Danny Aiello plays Madonna's "papa" in the compelling video. (You can also glimpse the Twin Towers.) This is one of Madonna's best singles ("and I don't mean maybe").

1987: "Alone" by Heart. This elegant power ballad hit #1 on July 11 and stayed there for three weeks. (As you can see in the video, big hair was at its peak in 1987.)

1988: "Roll With It" by Steve Winwood. This rollicking pop/rock song hit #1 on July 30 and stayed there for four weeks—longer than any other song that year. Winwood was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. Madonna and Heart have since joined him, which means three consecutive Songs of the Summer are by Hall of Fame honorees.

1989: "Right Here Waiting" by Richard Marx. This tender ballad hit #1 on Aug. 12 and stayed there for three weeks. The guitar gives the song a light Spanish flavor. Barry Manilow included the song on his 2008 album, "The Greatest Songs Of The Eighties." (Now that you mention it, it does sound like a Barry ballad.)

1990: "Vision Of Love" by Mariah Carey. This marked the first time (since 1985, anyway) that an artist's first Hot 100 hit emerged as the #1 Song of the Summer. The sleek ballad hit #1 on Aug. 4 and stayed there for four weeks. It won a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female.

1991: "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" by Bryan Adams. This song hit #1 on July 27 and stayed there for seven weeks—longer than any other song that year. The song, which was featured in the Kevin Costner movie "Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves," was nominated for an Oscar for Original Song. It won a Grammy as Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television. "Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves" was the second highest-grossing movie released in 1991, just behind "Terminator 2: Judgment Day."

1992: "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-A-Lot. This good-natured salute to an ample derriere features the most memorable opening line of any #1 Song of the Summer: "I like big butts and I cannot lie…" This was the first rap song to wind up as the #1 Song of the Summer. It hit #1 on July 4 and stayed there for five weeks. It won a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance. It's tempting to call this a fun novelty song, but it's more than that. It has a strong African American man challenging conventional (read: white) standards of beauty and saying that women of color are attractive just as they are. Plus, it's funny: "36-24-36? Only if she's 5' 3"." And "Even white boys got to shout…"

1993: "Can't Help Falling In Love With You" by UB40. This reggae-tinged remake of an Elvis classic hit #1 on July 24 and stayed there for seven weeks. The song was featured in the Sharon Stone movie "Sliver." The movie wasn't nearly as successful: It was just the 45th top-grossing movie released that year. UB40 was the third British act in nine years (following Tears for Fears and Steve Winwood) to wind up with the #1 Song of the Summer.

1994: "I Swear" by All-4-One. For the second year in a row, the #1 Song of the Summer was a remake. This was a redo of a recent #1 country hit by John Michael Montgomery. All-4-One's courtly, old-fashioned ballad reached #1 on May 21 and stayed there for 11 weeks. It won a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

1995: "Waterfalls" by TLC. This superb hip-hop smash hit #1 on July 8 and stayed there for seven weeks. It swept four Moonmen: Video of the Year, Viewer's Choice, Best Group Video and Best R&B Video. This marked the only time an all-female group (not a collabo) had the #1 Song of the Summer. The late Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes delivered the rap verse.

1996: "Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix) by Los Del Rio. Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, we have this novelty smash, which hit #1 on Aug. 3 and stayed there for 14 weeks—longer than any other song that year. This is one of the loopiest songs ever to reach #1—down to the twice-repeated admonition, "I am not trying to seduce you." It was the Spanish duo's first Hot 100 hit. The gentlemen who comprise the duo, who first teamed up in 1962, are easily the oldest artists to have the #1 Song of the Summer.

1997: "I'll Be Missing You" by Puff Daddy & Faith Evans featuring 112. This was the first collaboration to wind up as the #1 Song of the Summer. It's also the only Song of the Summer to have entered the Hot 100 at #1. At 5:02, it's the longest Song of the Summer. This tribute to The Notorious B.I.G. entered the Hot 100 at #1 on June 14. It remained on top for 11 weeks. It won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group and a Moonman for Best R&B Video. The song leans heavily on The Police's "Every Breath You Take," which was the hottest song of the summer of 1983. Evans, who was Biggie's widow, sings that part.

1998: "The Boy Is Mine" by Brandy & Monica. This sensuous, mid-tempo ballad hit #1 on June 6 and remained there for 13 weeks—longer than any other song that year. It won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. Brandy was 19 and Monica was 17 when this song hit #1. That made Monica the youngest artist to have the #1 Song of the Summer. Jerry Springer's image appears in the video as the girls channel-surf.

1999: "Genie In A Bottle" by Christina Aguilera. This was the second year in a row that a teenaged girl (or girls) had the #1 Song of the Summer. Aguilera was 18 when this hit #1 on July 31. The song stayed on top for five weeks. It was her first Hot 100 hit.


Tomorrow, we'll conclude our sweep through the #1 Songs of the Summer—2000 through 2013.