In this song, the singer finds herself alone in a hot city, as her boyfriend has left. For her, it's a cruel summer. Like most tracks on the album, the song was written by the the three group members - Sarah Dallin, Siobhan Fahey and Keren Woodward - and their producers, Steve Jolley and Tony Swain.
This did well when it was released in the UK in 1983, but it wasn't a hit in the US until 1984, when it was used in the movie The Karate Kid
. The group had four Top 10 UK hits to that point, but "Cruel Summer" was their first to make an impact in America.
Bertrand - Paris, France
From the Beach Boys' "Surfin' U.S.A.
" to Mungo Jerry's "In the Summertime
," certain songs work best in the summer. Sara Dallin of Bananarama told The Guardian
July 22, 2009: "The best summer songs remind you of your youth: what you did in your holidays, how it felt when you first kissed a boy, going away without your parents."
She added that this song "played on the darker side: it looked at the oppressive heat, the misery of wanting to be with someone as the summer ticked by. We've all been there!"
Directed by Brian Simmons, the video was shot in New York City, primarily because the group had never been there and wanted to go. In the video, somehow the girls end up in a truck on the run from the law. As they're pursued, they get away by throwing banana peels at the sheriff, because they're Bananarama. Later, they go to a rooftop party where they dance with the officers that were pursuing them.
For the shoot, they used a tavern in Brooklyn as their base camp, which is where they first discovered cocaine. Siobhan Fahey recalled in the book I Want My MTV: "When we repaired to the tavern for lunch, we met a bunch of dockworkers. They were intrigued by us and started chatting, and they all had these little vials of coke. I'd never done coke - I was aware of its existence, but I didn't know anybody who could afford it. We were exhausted and they gave us very generous bumps. That was our lunch. When you watch that video, we look really tired and miserable in the scenes we shot before lunch, and then the after-lunch shots are all euphoric and manic."
Ace of Base recorded a cover version in 1998 that hit #8 in the UK and #10 in the US. It was the last big US hit for the Swedish pop group.
In 1989, this was released as "Cruel Summer '89" with a hip-hop beat. This version hit UK #19.
Dallin recalled to The Guardian: "It was a huge hit in the US. I'll always remember coming out of our hotel in LA when we first became famous and seeing Mike Tyson sitting there. He burst into 'Cruel Summer' when he saw us. It was unbelievable. Summer songs do that to people. When the sun's out, anything goes."
Blestenation did a rap mix off of this song with the singer Diana that was featured on the movie Blue Crush
and appears on its soundtrack.
Nessie - Danville, VA
In addition to The Karate Kid, this song also appeared in the movies Fraternity Vacation (1985) and Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997), as well as the "K.I.T.T. vs. K.A.R.R." episode of the TV show Knight Rider.
In a nod to The Karate Kid, this was used in the 2019 season 2 finale of the Netflix series Cobra Kai, which follows the main characters from the movie. The version used on the show is a cover by Kari Kimmel.
2020 was indeed a cruel summer as the coronavirus pandemic canceled concerts and left us socially distanced. Evanescence covered the song during this time
, putting it together from quarantine. "So many songs have taken on a new and deeper meaning during this time, and that's one of them for me," lead singer Amy Lee