Usher: "Yeah" and "Burn" — "Yeah" and "Burn" have collectively spent 19 weeks at No. 1 in the charts, making Usher the reigning king of R&B and the best-selling artist of the first half of 2004. "Yeah" features the wildly popular "crunk" rap electro beats and will undoubtedly continue to blare out of every car's booming stereo system for a long time to come. At first listen, "Burn" could be a song about a summer tradition — the sunburn — but it is a lush, glossy over-the-top R&B ballad that will be embraced by summer lovers everywhere.
Lenny Kravitz: "Where Are We Runnin'?"
— Straight-ahead rock 'n' roll featuring guitar-heavy retro sounds from one of the most accomplished musicians of our time. Great musicianship complements lyrics like "Where are we runnin'?/We need some time to clear our heads." And it's an appropriate anthem for one of summer's most revered rituals — the road trip. Twenty years ago Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" was all over the radio airwaves throughout the summer of '84. Lenny Kravitz' "Where Are We Runnin'?" borrows some musical tips from Prince without losing Lenny's signature sound. Crank up "Where Are We Runnin'?" and hit the road!
Beyoncé: "Naughty Girl"
— Last summer belonged to Beyoncé, thanks to her massive hit "Crazy in Love," which was universally regarded as the song of the summer. "Naughty Girl," the follow-up, is positioned to become a definite bump 'n' grind party jam throughout the country. Sexy, seductive vocals are intertwined with subtle sampling of Donna Summer's "Love to Love You" and layered with Middle Eastern rhythms. With lyrics like "Tonight I'll be your naughty girl/ I'm callin' all my girls/ We're gonna turn this party out," this song's hook will stay in your brain long after summer's gone.
Beastie Boys: "Ch-Check It Out"
— The Beasties are responsible for the classic party anthem, "Fight For Your Right (To Party)," and their long-awaited return does not disappoint. At first listen, the raps and heavy bass beats are reminiscent of their 1992 track "So Wat'cha Want." But after a few spins, "Ch-Check It Out" is the perfect summer anthem for the city dwellers who will be catching rays at a nearby tar beach. The CD's title, To the 5 Boroughs, is an ode to the Boys' NYC roots and will probably be a huge underground hit — literally — as a favorite on the iPOD playlists of the city's subway riders who'll be spending the summer commuting to and from work. Los Lonely Boys: "Heaven"
— A slick, twangy guitar intro kicks off this flawless jam that's just right for the neighborhood bar while you're having a cold brew. Soulful three-part harmonies envelop this song while the lyrics flow as easy as a summer breeze. In just a few months, this San Angelo, Texas-based trio has amassed a huge following that includes fellow Texan Willie Nelson and Carlos Santana. The Garza brothers will be hitting the road spreading their "Texican rock 'n' roll" jams this summer as opening act of the Allman Brothers.