A guest blog written by Ellis O’Connell. You can agree/disagree with him here.
Song: ‘Cool For The Summer’
Artist: Demi Lovato
US Chart Peak: 11
Release date: July 1, 2015
Writers: Demi Lovato, Savan Kotecha, Max Martin, Ali Payami, Alexander Kronlund
Producers: Max Martin, Ali Payami
Quintessential Max moment: The “Take. Me. Down.” background vocals – and all of its sister parts – in the final chorus
Video synopsis: Demi and her friends potentially face a driving ban on their way to an orgy situated within the Hannah Lux Davis pink filter universe
Sometimes, in the pop-sphere, there are moments that genuinely make you stop and think how they came into being. How did ‘Bang Bang’ fall into Jessie J’s lap? Who was responsible for greenlighting Meghan Trainor’s transition from songwriter to popstar? Why was Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Run Away With Me’ not an earth-shattering, record-breaking worldwide number one? All questions that have many theories surrounding them. Among these is how on Earth did confident, skyscraper advocate Demi Lovato manage to get her hands on 2015 euphorobanger ‘Cool for the Summer’? And, more importantly, how did she – and Max Martin – manage to make it such a triumphant pop moment?
Having previously been signed exclusively to Hollywood Records for her first four albums, Demi – along with fellow Max botherer Nick Jonas – set up a record label, named Safehouse (presumably after the one they built to shield themselves from ‘Cool For The Summer’’s explosion of a chorus), as a joint venture with Island Records. Island Records, within Universal, gave her access to the Wolf Cousins camp and specifically Max Martin. And so, ‘Cool For The Summer’ – the lead single from fifth studio album ‘Confident’ – was born.
What a birth it was. ‘Cool For The Summer’ is an electropop-rock number that clocks in at 3:35 (amazing) and sits as a four-to-the-floor version of Miley’s ‘We Can’t Stop’ with the ferocity of Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Since U Been Gone’ and ‘Behind These Hazel Eyes’. ‘Cool For The Summer’ is inherently Demi, with sporadically problematic lyrics about sexually experimenting with a female for one summer being the basis of the song. Why shouldn’t she tell her mother, Demi? That can be overlooked as the whole song seems to be separate hooks spectacularly stitched together in front of exquisite production.
The reserved first verse, along with the piano intro, sucker punch you into the instrumental pre-chorus, with a head bang-inducing grunt from Demi making the link. An electric guitar riff, courtesy of Ali Payami, starts and suddenly Demi is tackling those who question why she wears her Converse with her dress. But not for long, as three snares – also courtesy of Ali Payami – followed by a glorious synth riff segue into the chorus and take the song up yet another energy level. Much like Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream’ and Jessie J’s ‘Domino’, ‘Cool for the Summer’ features a syncopated chorus melody (“TAKE. ME. DOWN INTO YOUR PARADISE”) juxtaposing the verses, but then returning to being straight on for the “we’re cool for the summer” hook. Genius. Also, the elongation and extended melody of the word “type” is typical Demi but utterly incredible and possibly one of my favourite pop moments ever.
The middle eight is quintessential Max. What I mean is, it’s just a stripped back version of an earlier part of the song in order to give you a chance to breathe by hearing something familiar before crashing back into the chorus as the person singing tries to burst a blood vessel; and Ms Lovato happily adheres to the formula. Another great little moment happens at the 2:09 and 3:03 marks; a sound that hears like a cowbell shoved through a synthesiser almost acts as a warning signal, notifying us of an impending piece of cathartic production. The final synthesised cowbell is at the 3:20 mark, warning us of the frankly brilliant outro.
Then – THEN! – the energy is elevated yet again during said outro, which is ten seconds of pure sex (Outro of the Year needs to be a Grammy category and ‘Cool For The Summer’ needs to be the retrospective inaugural winner). The electric guitar riff ramps up its volume as some background vocals pad out a shouty, drowning, magnificent piece of pop music. It’s so refreshing to hear a song that ends with a bang.
You’ve got to hand it to Demi, too. She really sings the shit out of it, almost to the point where the song wouldn’t actually work in anyone else’s hands (bar Tove Lo). Yet, it doesn’t sound like the over sung work of Demi’s Disney past. We all know how specific Max is with vocals and vocal arrangements, particularly in the way a song should be sung. This really shines through on the verses; Demi holds back slightly, giving a breathier tone that only builds up anticipation for the chorus. Naturally, she belts said chorus, which in itself is glorious. ‘Cool For The Summer’ really was a walloping, in-your-face pop rock curveball that was perfect for radio. It was “rock” enough to hark back to the Demi of yesteryear while still sounding like an evolution of her sound, but pop enough to be accepted by a mass audience.
Sadly, I’m able to write this entry because ‘Cool For The Summer’ reached the dreaded Number 11 slot of the Billboard Hot 100 for two – TWO – consecutive weeks. There was no consolation upon discovering that for one of those weeks, Ed Sheeran leapfrogged 12-10 with the coma-inducing post-album Radio 2 anthem ‘Photograph’. It’s objectively an injustice and I’m going to leave it at that. It did go top three at pop radio so there’s that.
‘Cool for the Summer’ is a bittersweet pop moment. It’s a complete and utter triumph, but the song itself is very much bigger than the rest of ‘Confident’. It set a sky high expectation for the album seemingly out of nowhere that just wasn’t met, and ‘Cool For The Summer’ felt a bit wasted on what was an underwhelming album, despite a very good set of production and writing credits. Reflecting on this, my friends and I, when aptly on a holiday to Sweden, unanimously decided that Rita Ora should have released it directly after ‘I Will Never Let You Down’ as a massive fuck you to Calvin Harris. Obviously, this didn’t happen and will never happen but we can bask in hypothetical hindsight.
Anyway, when it all boils down, ‘Cool For The Summer’ should be the ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ of the summer months, returning to the charts every year and that’s all there is to it really.
If you’d like to write a guest blog on a Max Martin song that didn’t make the US Top 10 then there’s information on how to do that right here.