It’s that song. When it comes on the radio, you roll down the windows, turn up the volume, and sing along. Because whether you want to or not, you know all the words. It’s the song of the summer. And it’s stuck in your head.
In 1958, Billboard launched its Hot 100, chronicling the songs that were flying off record store shelves, playing non-stop on juke boxes, and blaring through radio speakers. Almost sixty years on, how we listen to music and how we track a song’s success may have changed, but music remains a powerful force in our culture.
We asked some of our favorite music writers to pick a year and a song from that summer’s top ten, and tell us what that song—and the top ten in general—show us about ourselves. What cultural shifts do the songs reflect? What musical trends? Or were they just catchy?
All summer, we’ll be crafting our historical mixtape. Listen and read along.