"Cruel Summer" is a pop song written and originally performed by Bananarama that was a top ten hit in Britain in 1983. Singer Sara Dallin said the song "played on the darker side (of summer songs): it looked at the oppressive heat, the misery of wanting to be with someone as the summer ticked by. We've all been there!"
"Cruel Summer" was not an immediate international success when it was released. Although it hit #8 on the UK Chart, its international popularity soared after its inclusion in the 1984 feature film The Karate Kid; this was a year after the song's original release (the song was released in 1984 in the US). The group did not allow the song to be included in the film's soundtrack, but regardless it was their first top ten hit (#9) in the USA. When Bananarama were still struggling to make money in their early years, they even performed the song at a beauty contest in Hawaii.
The song has since been revived in various forms. It appeared in several television commercials, and was covered by other acts, such as Ace of Base, who scored an international hit with it (their version even reached gold in the US), and Blestenation on the Blue Crush soundtrack. In 2003, Swedish electronica female artist Sophie Rimheden sampled the beat and bassline from the song on the track "In Your Mind" of the album HiFi. In 2011, Athens, Ohio-based rock band Downplay covered the song on their album "Beyond the Machine."
Another version of the song was recorded and featured on their 2001 album Exotica. This version featured Latin instrumentation and additional lyrics, but it was not released as a single. In 2009 they released another updated version as a B-side to their single "Love Comes".
The song was also featured as the theme tune to the first series of Trouble's reality show of the same name, where a group of young adults were sent off to a holiday camp, only to be tortured and humiliated in an attempt to win a large sum of money.
The music video was shot in New York City in June 1983 and features a take on the American TV show The Dukes of Hazzard, with a bumbling cop duo who chase the girls as they make their escape in a truck (at one point, Bananarama members throw bananas at a trailing police cruiser).
"[It] was just an excuse to get us to the fabled city of New York for the first time," says Siobhan Fahey. She recalls the shoot as a difficult experience. "It was August, over one hundred degrees. Our HQ was a tavern under the Brooklyn Bridge, which had a ladies' room with a chipped mirror where we had to do our makeup."
After an exhausting morning, the band returned to the tavern for lunch. They made the acquaintance of some of the local dockworkers, who upon learning of their situation shared vials of cocaine with them. "That was our lunch" said Fahey, who had never tried the drug before. "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."
The music video for the 1989 remix was a compilation of different shots from Bananarama's earlier videoclips. Notably missing are clips from the original 1983 video. Fahey is only featured in a pair of frames. Bananarama were unable to record a proper video for the song due to being in the middle of a world tour at the time of release.
In 1998, the Swedish group Ace of Base recorded the song at the request of their Britishrecord label London Records (who also had released the original version). Produced by Cutfather & Joe, the song was released as the second single from their third album Flowers and as the lead single from the American version of the album titled Cruel Summer. It reached number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified gold. It also reached number eight in the United Kingdom, matching the peak of the original Bananarama version.
A different "dancier" version of the song (big bonus mix) was released on mainland Europe and in the United Kingdom.
Ace of Base united with the Frenchboy bandAlliage and re-recorded as a duet in a release designed specifically for the French markets. It is bilingual in English and French with added lyrics to the original. Ace of Base also performed the song live on French television joined by Alliage.
The joint version peaked at #24 in SNEP, the official French Singles Chart.