The song was written by Bananarama members, Sara Dallin, Siobhan Fahey and Keren Woodward, along with successful songwriting and record production duo. Steve Jolley & Tony Swain. The single was released on 27 June 1983 (2 July 1984 in the U.S.) with “Cairo” on the B-side. “Cruel Summer” was initially a stand-alone single but was subsequently included on their self-titled second album in April 1984.
“Cruel Summer” is an uptempo pop song with a distinctive ’80s sound. It features synthesizers, a driving rhythm, and catchy vocal harmonies. The lyrics explore the feeling of loneliness and heartbreak during the summer months, with lines like “Hot summer streets and the pavements are burning / I sit around trying to smile but the air is so heavy and dry.”
The song achieved notable success, reaching the top ten in several countries, including the United Kingdom, where it peaked at number eight on the UK Singles Chart. In the United States, “Cruel Summer” reached number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming Bananarama’s first top ten hit in the country.The popularity of “Cruel Summer” was further boosted by its inclusion in the soundtrack of the movie “The Karate Kid.” The song became closely associated with the film and gained significant exposure, contributing to its success.
The music video was directed by Brian Simmons. It was filmed in New York City. The video opens with a shot of Manhattan in the background including the World Trade Center. Bananarama recorded three more versions of the song. “Cruel Summer ’89” was released in 1989. It featured Dallin and Woodward’s vocals as a duo for the first time. It reached #19 on the UK singles chart in June 1989.
In June 1998, the song was covered by Swedish pop group Ace of Base, reached #8 in the UK, and #10 in the United States
Over the years, “Cruel Summer” has remained a beloved pop classic and a signature song for Bananarama. Its infectious melody, memorable hooks, and relatable lyrics have made it a staple of ’80s music and a favorite among fans of the era.
The enduring appeal of “Cruel Summer” has been showcased through various cover versions and its inclusion in soundtracks, commercials, and other media. The song’s catchy and timeless quality continues to resonate with audiences, ensuring its status as a beloved pop anthem.