One of the fundamental concepts of quantum physics is that objective reality doesn’t exist until we observe it. For example, a photon can be neither here nor there, neither strictly a particle nor strictly a wave, until we measure it. Or, perhaps a better example: The Song of the Summer.
The Song of the Summer is a nebulous nothing that doesn’t really exist, that was never really a thing until we all decided, one day, that it was. The Song of the Summer could be anything, this song or that one depending on location, medium and musical taste. But that hasn’t stopped us every year, around the beginning of September, from pointing our fingers and saying, That, right there, is it. That’s the Song of the Summer.
So, it being September 4th, it is about that time, and I regret to inform you that the answer is “Roses.”
While there are plenty of other songs that we would all probably prefer the Song of the Summer to be — Cardi B and Megan The Stallion’s “WAP,” Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now,” Harry Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar” — the numbers, at least, tell us that it is Imanbek’s pesky remix to Brooklyn singer and rapper Saint JHN’s 2016 song “Roses” that is, unequivocally, it.
Say what you will about the tinny beat at the heart of “Roses (Imanbek Remix),” but numbers-wise, it’s got everything. The Song of the Summer has to be heard both unwillingly, blasted out of car speakers, and by choice, which means it has to be popular on streaming and radio. It also must be relentless, showing steady numbers week after week from the beginning of May through August. If it can do so in an irritating manner, all the better. Hence, “Roses.”
Now, “Roses” was not the most popular streamer this summer. That was DaBaby’s “Rockstar,” with nearly 700 million on-demand audio streams from the beginning of May through August. Nor was it the most popular on radio, as The Weeknd’s “After Hours” ruled airwaves. But if you look at the top 10 songs on radio and on streaming this summer, only three songs made both lists: Only “After Hours,” Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage,” and “Roses.”
Top-Streamed Songs from May 1st through August 31st (on-demand audio)
- “Rockstar,” DaBaby feat. Roddy Ricch – 688 million
- “Roses (Imanbek Remix),” Saint JHN – 473 million
- “After Hours,” the Weeknd – 457 million
- “Whats Poppin,” Jack Harlow feat. DaBaby, Tory Lanez & Lil Wayne – 387 million
- “Savage,” Megan Thee Stallion feat. Beyoncé – 378 million
- “Toosie Slide,” Drake – 337 million
- “Watermelon Sugar,” Harry Styles – 310 million
- “Savage Love,” Jawsh 685 & Jason Derulo – 305 million
- “Party Girl,” StaySolidRocky – 301 million
- “Death Bed,” Powfu feat. Beabadoobee – 298 million
So, why “Roses”? Why not “After Hours,” which clobbered “Roses” on radio? Because while a Song of the Summer does need to be popular on radio, we at Rolling Stone believe the true measure of popularity in 2020 is streaming. So in a three-way tie, “Roses” wins, as it out-streamed “After Hours” and “Savage” from May through August with 473 million on-demand audio streams, second only to “Rockstar” during that time.
And while “Savage” had a far greater cultural impact, and also Beyoncé, it didn’t stick quite like “Roses.” Both songs started taking off on streaming in April, and as “Savage” surged to the top of the Rolling Stone Top 100 Songs Chart, “Roses” was quietly there, moving around 13 million streams per week, every week. By August, “Roses” was out-streaming “Savage.” (While “Savage” currently ranks 25th on the RS 100, “Roses” is in 12th.) In fact, when ranking the top 10 summer songs by on-demand audio streams, “Roses” had the lowest variation week to week in streams.
The origin of “Roses”‘ fame is up for debate. Nearly four years after the original song was released, around mid-March, the remix started to take off on TikTok — as songs tend to do these days — and was also featured in what became a wildly popular Snapchat filter. No matter where it came from, by early May it was streaming over 10 million per week, and caught the attention of Future, who hopped on a remix in late May. In early June, it reached Number Three on the RS 100 and has only dropped out of the top 20 twice, when Juice WRLD’s Legends Never Die and Taylor Swift’s Folklore flooded the top of the charts.
And now here it is, the Song of the Summer.