Jun. 12--It's barely June and 2019's purported songs-of-the-summer contenders are already getting old.

Every summer, beginning around Memorial Day, the song of the summer "race" begins. It's a hunt that's largely driven by industry forces and music critics for a song that, by Labor Day, will theoretically have dominated the airwaves to the point that it will define the season in the years to come. Luckily for listeners, the past few years of summer songs have been largely enjoyable thanks to a dominant run by Drake in 2016 and 2018 along with the feel-good rise of "Despacito" in 2017.

So why is this year's crop of potential summer songs so lackluster? Perhaps there's a summer smash waiting just around the corner. But for now, the combination of below-average releases from normally reliable superstars (DJ Khaled, Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber) as well as the lack of exciting breakout singles means that listeners are still waiting for this season's "Despacito."

In the meantime, here are this year's largely undeserving song of the summer contenders.

Lil Nas X, "Old Town Road"

It just seems mean to say anything particularly critical about "Old Town Road," the little country-rap song that could. The rise of Lil Nas X from an unknown, Internet-obsessed rapper to a bonafide star has been undeniably heartening to watch, as has been the ascent of "Old Town Road" from a TikTok meme to a legitimate smash single. But considering its novelty appeal, will the joke still be funny come August if the song is theoretically still ruling the radio? With "Old Town Road" spending its ninth week at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 this week, fans still can't seem to get enough. But in another few months, if the song manages the unlikely feat of maintaining its current popularity, it's hard to see how lyrics like "ridin' on a tractor / lean all in my bladder," after the umpteenth play, will still be amusing rather than eyeroll-worthy.

Drake and Chris Brown, "No Guidance"

Let's be crystal clear here: Chris Brown is trash and doesn't deserve a fraction of the music industry support he continues to get. Of all the artists Drake could have teamed up with on his entry to 2019's songs of the summer, he chose the wrong one, reuniting with Brown after a widely publicized beef instead of choosing literally anyone else to work with.

But "No Guidance" isn't just morally reprehensible. It's also one of Drake's all-time most boring collaborations, a lazy retread of every song he's ever made about female empowerment and hard-working women, with Brown singing the same lines fans have heard a million times about real men and trash exes as if listeners will ever believe he's the good guy in those scenarios.

"No Guidance" isn't just worse than any of Drake's summertime hits last year. It falls short of the majority of the songs on Drake's 2018 album "Scorpion" and would get utterly lost on its 25-song tracklist. Drake generally knows better than to make music as dull as this song. He should have known better than contribute his vocals to it.

Jonas Brothers, "Sucker"

Like Lil Nas X, the Jonas Brothers are theoretically difficult to hate. They just seem so nice, and have such great marriages, and do funny interviews and remind listeners of a certain age of our Disney Channel-watching tweenage glory days.

But "Sucker" is a completely unmemorable song, a sleek radio-ready production that nevertheless has zero distinctive qualities and reveals nothing special about the JoBros musical abilities, a totally bland few minutes of music that's better suited for soundtracking a credit card commercial than our entire summertime listening.

Cardi B & Bruno Mars, "Please Me"

While "Please Me" is far from the worst single that Cardi B and Bruno Mars have respectively released, it doesn't seem to have the same kind of sweeping influence as, say, "Bodak Yellow," which dropped in June 2017 and grew into a cultural behemoth. "Please Me" is not that -- a cute Cardi one-off maybe, but certainly not a summer-owning smash hit. The good news for Cardi fans is at the rate that the star is releasing new singles and contributing verses to other artists' songs, she may still deliver 2019's song of the summer, which just hasn't arrived yet.

Taylor Swift, "Me"

This isn't actually a song-of-summer contender, right? "Me" was a fluffy confection that was tolerable upon its release, but will be completely stale come August. Swift has also teased more new music allegedly coming soon. If Swifties are lucky, the singer has an actual summertime banger waiting in the wings to be released once the weather heats up, because we've already stopped paying attention to "Me."

Katy Perry, "Never Really Over"

Are we, as a culture, ready to embrace Katy Perry once again as our song-of-the-summer queen? Even Perry's staunchest fans have had a difficult road over the past few years, supporting her through her misguided "Witness" era complete with questionable publicity stunts, forgettable singles and far too many cringe-worthy moments.

Time to move on, though, because as of the beginning of June, "Never Really Over" may be the best of the big, poppy summertime songs released thus far. The best single she's released in years, "Never Really Over" is the comeback Perry needed. It's difficult not to hope that more summer smash hits are still forthcoming, but if "Never Really Over" ends up becoming the track that defines 2019, we could all do worse. ___

(c)2019 USA Today

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