From "Bent" to "Fancy": What the past 10 songs of the summer say about us

If aliens came to Earth and used these song lyrics to understand how we experience summer, here's what they'd learn

Published September 1, 2014 2:00PM (EDT)

Earlier this month, Maura Johnston took to the New York Times to contemplate the stubborn persistance of the label "song of the summer," and observed how, increasingly, that honor goes not to a song that captured a moment or hit upon a greater truth, but to one of the few Top 40 hits that gains momentum over online media like Spotify or Rdio. In other words, the songs of the summer don't necessarily reflect a greater truth about us. It's generally not the lyrics that matter, it's that new, catchy hook, that beat, or just how fun it is to sing at Karaoke.

Billboard's catalog of top summer songs are all very catchy. But their subject matter, and hence, their lyrics, are diverse. In fact, if an alien came to Earth and used these song lyrics as any indication of how we experienced summer, it would be terrifying.

We begin the 2000s broken, perhaps from the Y2K scare, perhaps because Jerry Falwell predicted the apocalypse but we survived, or maybe we were all hung over from 1999. For whatever reason, in the summer of 2000, America was angsty and sad:

2000 - "Bent" - Matchbox 20

Can you help me I'm bent
I'm so scared that I'll never
Get put back together
Keep breaking me in
And this is how we will end
With you and me bent

But man, does a lot happen in a year! By 2001, we were all feeling empowered and exuded so much self-confidence that we bordered on aggressive:

2001 - "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" - Eve feat. Gwen Stefani

Now while you grittin your teeth
Frustration baby you gotta breathe
Take a lot more than you to get rid of me
You see I do what they can't do, I just do me

And in 2002, we all had so much positive body image that we decided to get naked. After all, summer is quite hot:

2002 - "Hot in Herre" - Nelly

Its gettin hot in here (so hot)
So take off all your clothes
(I am gettin so hot, I wanna take my clothes off)

But things started turning serious by 2003 -- first loves and all that:

2003 - 1. "Crazy In Love" - Beyoncé feat. Jay Z

Got me lookin so crazy right now
Your love's got me lookin so crazy right now
(your love)

Summer love doesn't seem to last, though. Cause he cheated:

2004 - 1. "Confessions Part II" - Usher

These are my confessions
Just when I thought I said all I could say
My chick on the side said she got one on the way
These are my confessions
Man I'm thrown and I dont know what to do
I guess I gotta give part 2 of my confessions
If I'm gonna tell it then I gotta tell it all
Damn near cried when I got that phone call
I'm so throwed and I don't know what to do
But to give you part 2 of my confessions

We dumped him (good), but we missed him ...

2005 - 1. "We Belong Together" - Mariah Carey

I didn't mean it when I said I didn't love you so
I should've held on tight, I never should've let you go
I didn't know nothing, I was stupid, I was foolish
I was lying to myself

Heartbroken and single, but back on the prowl by 2006!:

2006 - 1. "Promiscuous" - Nelly Furtado feat. Timbaland

Promiscuous girl
Wherever you are
I’m all alone
And it's you that I want

Promiscuous boy
You already know
That I’m all yours
What you waiting for?

Promiscuous girl
You're teasing me
You know what I want
And I got what you need

Promiscuous boy
Let's get to the point
Cause we're on a roll
Are you ready?

And then we fell in love again. This time, it wasn't "crazy" love. It was real, friendship, umbrella-sharing love:

2007 - "Umbrella" - Rihanna feat. Jay Z

When the sun shines, we'll shine together
Told you I'd be here forever
Said I'll always be a friend
Took an oath I'ma stick it out 'til the end
Now that it's raining more than ever
Know that we'll still have each other
You can stand under my umbrella
You can stand under my umbrella

Oh just kidding. He was NOT the one. We discovered the Kinsey scale is a thing:

2008 - "I Kissed a Girl" - Katy Perry

I kissed a girl and I liked it,
the taste of her cherry chapstick.
I kissed a girl just to try it,
I hope my boyfriend don't mind it.
It felt so wrong,
It felt so right.
Don't mean I'm in love tonight.
I kissed a girl and I liked it (I liked it).

That phase lasted for a while -- it's fun to let go of the relationship drama and just party and crush on people and party some more:

2009 - 1. "I Gotta Feeling" - The Black Eyed Peas

Tonight's the night
Let's live it up
I got my money
Let's spend it up

Go out and smash it
Like Oh My God
Jump off that sofa
Let's get get OFF

2010 - "California Gurls" - Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg

California girls
We're unforgettable
Daisy Dukes
Bikinis on top
Sun-kissed skin
So hot
We'll melt your popsicle

2011 - "Party Rock Anthem" - LMFAO feat. Lauren Bennett & GoonRock

Party rock is in the house tonight
Everybody just have a good time (yeah)
And we gonna make you lose your mind (whoa!)
Everybody just have a good time (clap!)

2012 - "Call Me Maybe" - Carly Rae Jepsen

Hey I just met you
And this is crazy
But here's my number
So call me maybe
It's hard to look right at you baby
But here's my number
So call me maybe

Until last year, when the party got a little date rape-y:

2013 - "Blurred Lines" - Robin Thicke feat. T.I. and Pharrell

And that's why I'm gon' take a good girl
I know you want it
I know you want it
I know you want it
You're a good girl
Can't let it get past me
You're far from plastic
Talk about getting blasted
I hate these blurred lines
I know you want it
I know you want it
I know you want it

We drove that creep away, though. Now we're back to being fancy. Except this time, we're bringing 1988 back:

2014 - "Fancy" - Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX

First thing's first, I'm the realest (realest)
Drop this and let the whole world feel it (let them feel it)
And I'm still in the Murda Bizness
I could hold you down, like I'm givin' lessons in physics (right, right)
You should want a bad bitch like this (huh?)
Drop it low and pick it up just like this (yeah)
Cup of Ace, cup of Goose, cup of Cris
High heels, somethin' worth a half a ticket on my wrist (on my wrist)
Takin' all the liquor straight, never chase that (never)
Rooftop like we bringin' '88 back (what?)
Bring the hooks in, where the bass at?
Champagne spillin', you should taste that

What a life-affirming, romantic journey it's been! Wonder where we'll be next summer ...

By Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at

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