Thursday, December 29, 2011
Top 250 Singles of 2011
1. King - The Story
Some of the imagery here is of a galactic nature, with references to the mothership, stars and such. Not uncommon at all in pop music, but very fitting since every listen to "The Story" feels like a journey beyond space, possibly on an astral plane. There's a magic going on here that's hard to explain, but something about paving your own path and following your own heart spoke loudly to the dreamer in me, in the sort of way that my favorite songs of all-time do. We sometimes have a tendency to sneer at anything that's purposefully positive in this world. Perhaps it's out of jealousy or maybe because we simply don't like being told how to feel. Whatever it is, I implore any cynics to not let that get in the way of enjoying this song. There is too much warmth in those keyboards and too much love in the harmonies to feel anything but empowered when your heart is fully opened to this track. In the seven years I've been doing these lists, never have I been this sure of what my #1 single would be.
2. Betty Black - Spring Blossoms
There is something both sexy and scary about Sylvia Gordon, which is why I find her so intriguing. To be obvious, her lower register has a mature purr that oozes sensuality, but she is rarely overt. She coos as if she knows all the secrets to carnal ecstasy and would only be willing to share them with whoever has enough courage. This is the aura that pervades throughout "Spring Blossoms," a ghostly yet romantic track that ranks among some of her best work, including even Kudu. It's like a brooding, erotic slow dance through a cemetery with a pale moon providing the only source of light.
3. Azealia Banks - 212
Aside from making me say the word "cunt" more than I have in the past few years combined, "212" is pretty remarkable on its own merit. One of the big appeals here is the vocabulary in general, filled with slang rarely heard over a house beat and mostly filtered through an accent that's half-valley girl and half-Southern. It's a bit disorienting to hear so much smack talk and repping for NYC in anything but the stereotypical East Coast growl, which is a huge part of why I've played it so many times. Most of the fun for me is in deciphering the artistic choices made and why it's so addictive. A simple answer as to why I can't stop playing it is because everything from the production to the personality is loud, kinetic and colorful.
4. Lloyd feat. Lil Wayne and Andre 3000 - Dedication To My Ex (Miss That)
In some way, I feel like this is the type of song that a lot of soul artists from back in the day wouldn't have minded recording at least just once without consequence. The 50s and 60s were indeed a time of subtle courtship and stricter social mores, but as we're all aware, the lifestyle of rock stars back then were much looser than what was being advertised. Let's not kid ourselves into thinking that Solomon Burke and Wilson Pickett were practicing celibacy on the road. It's not my intention to compare Lloyd to the aforementioned artists, but their penchant for raw, hip-shaking music share more than a few similarities with "Dedication To My Ex." Luckily for us, Lloyd has the luxury of being unrestricted and can channel the spirit of decades past to create something both filthy and fun in an authentic way. I've never heard Lloyd wail like this before, as most of his tracks are much smoother than this. Here, he convincingly sounds like a man whose entire existence depends on growling the word "pussy," if only to show you how betrayed he feels.
5. MNDR - Cut Me Out
She lent vocals to my #2 single of 2010, "Bang Bang Bang" by Mark Ronson, and call me cocky if you want but I think it bodes well for her that she cracked my top ten again in 2011 with her debut album still to come. The dark electropop textures of "Cut Me Out" weren't that far from her E.P.E. EP, but it's more accessible than anything on that release. While she's no stranger to using pop structures for her songs, MNDR's work is more challenging than the typical electronic diva, yet the rewards are more bountiful. The skittery backing track doesn't lend itself to be easily danced to, which is not a flaw against it but part of what makes it a compelling record.
6. Wynter Gordon - Buy My Love
The great thing about music is that you don't necessarily have to agree with what is being said to enjoy it. For me, it's all about the approach. There's nothing wrong with being told what you want to hear, but I like to be challenged once in a while. In real life, I do not care much for women who plot to spend my earnings on frivolous things, but with a song as full of sparkle as "Buy My Love," I allow it but only for three minutes. The song feels like one big giant grin, as if Gordon knows that her beaming delivery will be enough to convince you that spending money on her will make you happy as well. That sort of charisma is welcome for a track so concerned with money and is a testament to Gordon's capabilities as a performer.
7. tUnE-yArDs - Bizness
When Merrill Garbus holds out those notes during the first verse, I immediately switch into a primal state of mind. It makes me want to jump on top of a table because of how deep down it reaches into your soul. This doesn't happen because of technical mastery, but just pure, unrefined emotion, which Garbus knows how to squeeze every inch of. Along with the help of an African-inspired rhythm and a hopping bass line, "Bizness" became a semi-aggressive rallying cry for those who can't seem to offer up enough sacrifices when trying to please someone. Garbus is always a few steps from screaming and if she can sound so defiant, then dammit, why can't you?
8. Katy B - Movement
Blessed with a silky house groove, "Movement" was easily one of the highlights from On A Mission, which by default made it one of the best tracks of the year. Although less verbose than some of her more popular songs, we still get lines like "Silence is the sound of now/When I much prefer love bold and loud" that are near poetic and more vivid than the typical club banger. It's the happy kind of medium on the dancefloor where intelligence and entertainment are not at odds, but instead gloriously grinding on one another.
9. Summer Camp - Better Off Without You
When one is getting over an unworthy ex, you should feel overjoyed. The beauty of what Summer Camp did with this song is how they were able to capture that feeling so accurately through a chorus that shimmers radiantly, regardless of what decade they're trying to pay tribute to or what decade you're listening to this song in. This is their finest moment yet in a career that has already seen enjoyable releases such as the Young EP and Welcome To Condale, which makes their future look all the more promising. For right now, the rush of "Better Off Without You" is more than enough to appease any fixes for ear candy I might have.
10. Pistol Annies - Hell On Heels
It goes without saying that I hold the concept behind on "Hell On Heels" in high regard due to its placement, but the reason why it's a step above most bad girl songs is how casual it all comes off. There's no brimstone in these ladies' voices, but a soft flickering flame that serves as only a slight warning instead of something the fire department would need to get involved in. When they sing that the Devil made them pretty and he made them smart, it's not a boast but a simple fact of life and it's easy to buy into. It also doesn't hurt that this is one of the dustiest sounding country songs to chart in some time. I do enjoy some of the glossy Nashville stuff, but stripped down efforts like this that make a nod to the genre's past are more engaging for me.
11. Lovelle feat. Lady Cham - Uh-Oh
A delirious, frantic mix of pop and grime.
12. Tyler, The Creator - Yonkers
Sometimes when I listen to this, I picture Satan with some headphones on in front of a recording console, playing with the knobs and just bobbing his head with a look of concentration on his face.
13. Robyn - Call Your Girlfriend
Robyn tells you to give your girl the cold shoulder. She brought some frosty synths to help you out.
14. Lady Gaga - Born This Way
Like Madonna never borrowed from anyone.
15. King Louie - Too Cool
Don't let the 8-bit influenced riff fool you: this beat will murder your speakers.
16. Star Anna and The Laughing Dogs - Alone In This Together
As pained a vocal performance I've heard all year.
17. T.I. feat. Pharrell - Here Ye, Hear Ye
Nope, this track isn't from 2003. They both just sound that hungry.
18. Class Actress - Weekend
Former folk singer revamps herself as a synthpop goddess with glamorous results and a slick chorus.
19. Cam'ron & Vado - Girls Cry
Cam + soul sample = repeat-worthy no matter what the year.
20. Mara Hruby - The Panties
Very faithful cover of Mos Def track that's even sultrier than the original.
21. XXXY - You Always Start It
Let's end the insanity now, America. This is dubstep, and one of the best damn examples out there.
22. Chris Brown feat. Benny Benassi - Beautiful People
I honestly haven't been this excited by a Brown track since "Kiss Kiss." He's made solid stuff in between, but rarely does it come out this exhilarating.
23. My Chemical Romance - Planetary (Go!)
Glam punk goes to the disco.
24. Jackie Chain feat. Bun B - Parked Outside
In a busy year, Big K.R.I.T. saves one of his best beats for an upstart and a Dirty South legend.
25. Timothy Bloom feat. V Bozeman - 'Til The End Of Time
Terrific traditional soul that holds up beautifully without the provocative visuals of the video.
26. Little Tybee - Passion Seekers
One of the best combinations of calming and sunny this year.
27. Jay-Z & Kanye West - Otis
The Redding sample doesn't even get me the most giddy: it's the way they both play off each other's last lines of a verse like they've been practicing Run DMC routines in the mirror.
28. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Ffunny Frends
If lo-fi hip hop were a thing, it would probably sound a little like this.
29. Charli XCX - Stay Away
Murky goth pop that makes pain feel good.
30. Beyonce - Countdown
Explosively joyful ode to monogamy.
31. Big Boi feat. Janelle Monáe - Be Still
Holdover from last year's Sir Lucious Leftfoot that reminds us that Atlanta is still the champ of urban sci-fi.
32. Theophilus London feat. Solange and Devonte Hynes - Flying Overseas
The chorus is just about one of the creamiest things I heard in 2011.
33. Nicki Minaj - Super Bass
The rare bubbly pop confection that doesn't ruin hip hop cred.
34. Wynter Gordon - Til Death
So my options are either leave the dancefloor or die there? If this song weren't playing right now, I wouldn't be as conflicted.
35. Lil Wayne feat. Cory Gunz - 6 Foot 7 Foot
Dizzying verses with another monster of a beat from Bangladesh.
36. Rihanna - Cheers (Drink To That)
The rumors are true: I will be singing this every weekend I go out partying for the next few years. Friends and family, be prepared.
37. St. Vincent - Cruel
Gorgeously layered as expected but with as much bite as anything she's done.
38. Raphael Saadiq - Movin' Down The Line
If this had actually been released in the 1960s, our current population might be increased by about 3%.
39. Jill Scott feat. Anthony Hamilton - So In Love
I have a ton of respect for songs that make me feel like I'm in a happy relationship even when I'm single. Bonus points if I can step to it.
40. Giraffage - Visible
R&B-influenced collage with a dash of psychedelic leanings.
41. Katy B - Easy Please Me
Why can't we get more smart female anthems like this? It's like R&B cranked three of these out every week back in the 90s.
42. Kanye West - All Of The Lights
A colorful and aggressive barrage of sound that proves why Kanye is one of the most forward-thinking artists in pop music.
43. Keren Ann - My Name Is Trouble
I'm a sucker for icy, detached vocals if the lyrics are sly enough.
44. The Foreign Exchange feat. Paris & Amber Strother - All The Kisses
If being responsible for my #1 single wasn't enough, the girls of King also contributed to this slick, pulsating track.
45. Smith Westerns - Weekend
The kids are alright.
46. Hot Chelle Rae - Tonight Tonight
Don't fight it. It's useless...
47. 1,2,3 - Work
You'd think that a falsetto on a record about the daily grind wouldn't work, but it helps to give it that bit of optimism it needs.
48. Thundercat - Daylight
Smooth and pure as baby tears.
49. J*DaVeY - Raincheck
Every time I play this song, I can see the sex dripping out of the earphones. And it feels good.
50. Jai Paul - BTSTU (Edit)
I feel like I'm cheating since I heard the original last year, but it got a remastered release and it's still worth your time if you like slinky R&B-esque jams with cuss words and effeminate vocals.
51. Lady Gaga - You and I
The arena has spoken. Lighters out, please.
52. St. Vincent - Surgeon
Borrowing from my favorite Nancy Sinatra ever will only get you so far. Then comes that great first line, "I spent the summer on my back," and we're cool again.
53. Beyonce - 1+1
What I love is how the arrangement is used to squeeze every bit of drama out of this song. I usually feel exhausted after every listen.
54. Eleanor Friedberger - My Mistakes
More sax solos in my indie pop, please.
55. Purity Ring - Ungirthed/Loftcries
The best of the bunch this year from the indie world's growing fascination with R&B and modern pop.
56. Star Slinger - Mornin'
Dilla-esque chopping and boom bap with an ace Staples Sisters sample.
57. Beastie Boys feat. Santigold - Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win
Thumping ska production with the patented old school flair they always deliver.
58. Drake - Marvin's Room
After this song was over, I almost wanted to put my hand on Drake's shoulder and tell him it was going to be okay.
59. Lethal B - Pow (2011)
Elbows will fly and teeth will come out if you're not careful with this track.
60. Orval Carlos Sibelius - I Don't Want A Baby
My favorite excuse: "I may have a cancer." Not just cancer, but a cancer. Cracks me up for some reason.
61. Beastie Boys - Make Some Noise
I don't care if it sounds like it could have easily been on Hello Nasty. This was one of my favorite beats of the year.
62. Zee Avi - Swell Window
Delicate acoustic ditty that's perfect for when you're pining for someone.
63. The Joy Formidable - Whirring
Their epic can probably beat your epic.
64. Glass Candy - Warm In The Winter
I climbed to the mountaintop and as I looked over the glacial terrain, this was the first song that was played.
65. Best Coast - Our Deal
Neko Case is probably kicking herself for not writing this.
66. Moullinex - Love It Is, Then
I tried to come up with something thoughtful for this, but I couldn't stop dancing.
67. Adele - Someone Like You
I was going to write something completely snarky, but then I remembered that "Chasing Pavements" cracked my top 10 back in '08, so I should have been less surprised that nearly everyone in the world enjoyed this song.
68. Yelle - Safari Disco Club
More restrained than their previous singles, but you'll still want to bounce around.
69. Cities Aviv - Coastin'
I guess this really is the 21st century if we have an MC from Memphis who convincingly sounds like he's from the East Coast.
70. Cymphonique - Something
The most talented member of Master P's clan does surprisingly well over an old Michel'le track.
71. Gang Gang Dance - Glass Jar
Good ol' dancefloor psychedelia like they're used to cranking out.
72. Ladytron - White Elephant
Good ol' moody electropop like they're used to cranking out.
73. Nadia Oh - Taking Over The Dancefloor (Kate Middleton)
Still trying to decide whether this is idiotic or genius.
74. MAKE OUT - You Can't Be Friends With Everyone
One minute and forty-two seconds of snotty garage pop that even manages to sneak in a key change.
75. Van Hunt - Eyes Like Pearls
Can anyone explain to me why this isn't being played on modern rock stations? Too much like Prince?
76. Class Actress - Keep You
Someone's been brushing up on their Depeche Mode and Human League.
77. Amy Winehouse feat. Nas - Like Smoke
A reinvigorated Nas continues his current winning streak on a track that wouldn't be out of place on Frank.
78. Acrylics - Sparrow Song
It's the floating soundtrack of a pivotal scene in an 80s teenage movie where two characters fall in love. I'm thinking somewhere in the hallways of school during the dance.
79. Chris Brown - She Ain't You
Based on merit, I'm disappointed that in the beginning it also lifts the vocal melody from the original SWV track it samples. Then I shrug and hit play again.
80. Rihanna - You Da One
Can I give the title of this era's Madonna to her already? She's got the combination of style and music to prove it. This song only helps her to further set the standard for mainstream pop.
81. EMA - California
A hookless, shoegazey ramble that's more engaging than I'm making it seem.
82. Cee Lo Green feat. Melanie Fiona - Fool For You
As much as I love all things eclectic, I think Cee Lo's at his strongest when he's in soul mode like this.
83. Ivy - Distant Lights
Feels like softly flashing colors across a calm sky set to a 4/4 beat.
84. Neon Indian - Polish Girl
Coming to you in a Victoria Secret's commercial in 5, 4, 3...
85. Jay-Z & Kanye West - Niggas In Paris
This club cray. This club cray.
86. Chris Brown feat. Busta Rhymes & Lil Wayne - Look At Me Now
Still trying to wrap my head around Busta's verses and how much of a technical accomplishment that was.
87. Flo Rida - Good Feeling
Not saying that he needed an Etta James sample for me to consider him as a serious pop artist, but this guy has been pretty consistent in the genre for the past few years.
88. Lady Gaga - The Edge of Glory
More sax solos in my dance pop, please.
89. Pusha T featuring Tyler the Creator - Trouble On My Mind
Everything about this is just plain devious. Especially that Neptunes beat.
90. The Strokes - Under Cover of Darkness
At this point, why not go back to the formula from Is This It? What harm could it do? Very little, I tells you.
91. Nicola Roberts - Lucky Day
So all that talk about the members of Girls Aloud having indiscernible personalities turned out to be rubbish. Also, the onomatopoeias make me smile.
92. Those Dancing Days - I'll Be Yours
Sugary and rockin'. These ladies are some of the best at it.
93. Le Kid - America
A flat-out killer of a pop chorus. They're from Sweden, so the apt response would be, "Well, duh."
94. Jeremih - Another Song
Drop your guard and give this a chance. Might be one of the catchiest things you'll hear all day.
95. R. Kelly - Radio Message
Touching throwback to the sounds of yesterday and reminiscent of a time when apologies through a radio station were perfectly logical.
96. Jesse Boykins III - B4 The Night Is Thru
A sexy synth-heavy R&B cut that's proof there's an infinite amount of ways to draw inspiration from Prince.
97. Toby Keith - Red Solo Cup
I was completely sober when I made this list and I was completely sober every time I enjoyed this song, mind you.
98. Adele - Rolling In The Deep
Everybody sing along with me now.
99. Selena Gomez & The Scene - Who Says
I left adolescence a while ago and I never owned a pair of ovaries, but I'll be damned if the day doesn't look brighter and empowering after listening to this.
100. Maroon 5 feat. Christina Aguilera - Moves Like Jagger
Not much about this song screams "Rolling Stones," but I swear that every time Adam Levine hits those ooohs during the chorus, I feel like doing that patented Mick shimmy.
101. Nicki Minaj feat. Drake - Moment 4 Life
102. Raphael Saadiq - Good Man
103. Young The Giant - My Body
104. M83 - Midnight City
105. Britney Spears - Till the World Ends
106. Lights - Toes
107. T-Pain feat. Lily Allen and Wiz Khalifa - 5 O'Clock
108. Dum Dum Girls - He Gets Me High
109. Katy Perry - Last Friday (T.G.I.F.)
110. Real Estate - It's Real
111. Miguel - Sure Thing
112. S.C.U.M. - Whitechapel
113. Nicole Atkins - Vultures
114. Reema Major - I'm The One
115. Washed Out - Amor Fati
116. SBTKRT - Wildfire
117. K. Michelle - How Many Times
118. Drake - Headlines
119. Kendrick Lamar - HiiiPower
120. Jessie J feat. B.o.B. - Price Tag
121. Jennifer Hudson - Where You At
122. Glee Cast - Loser Like Me
123. Pink - Fuckin' Perfect
124. Twin Sister - Kimmi In A Rice Field
125. Lana Del Rey - Video Games
126. Catcall - Satellites
127. Cut Copy - Need You Now
128. Colbie Calliat - Brighter Than The Sun
129. Katzenjammer - I Will Dance (When I Walk Away)
130. Zomby - Natalia’s Song
131. Martin Solveig (feat. Dragonette) - Hello
132. LMFAO - Party Rock Anthem
133. Veronica Maggio - Jag kommer
134. AraabMUZIK - Streetz Tonight
135. Cults - Abducted
136. Demi Lovato - Skyscraper
137. Britney Spears - I Wanna Go
138. Florence + The Machine - Shake It Out
139. Marsha Ambrosius - Late Nights & Early Mornings
140. Anna Calvi - Desire
141. Ladytron - Ace of Hz
142. Alexis Jordan - Good Girl
143. Girls Generation - The Boys
144. Katy B - Broken Record
145. The Rapture - How Deep Is Your Love?
146. Little Jackie - Cock Block
147. Never Shout Never! - Time Travel
148. Skream feat. Sam Frank - Where You Should Be
149. Foster The People - Pumped Up Kicks
150. Childish Gambino - Freaks and Geeks
151. Kathryn Calder - Who Are You?
152. Summer Camp - Down
153. Natalia Kills - Kill My Boyfriend
154. 151 Feva Gang - Kush Groove
155. The Go! Team - Secretary Song
156. CREEP feat. Nina Sky - You
157. Marit Larsen - Coming Home
158. Caroline - Swimmer
159. Iron & Wine - Tree By The River
160. Kelly Clarkson - Mr. Know It All
161. Selena Gomez & the Scene - Hit the Lights
162. Go Home Productions - Imagine The Band
163. Young The Giant - Cough Syrup
164. The Jezabels - Endless Summer
165. Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire - Lou Ferigno's Mad
166. Icona Pop - Nights Like This
167. The Lonely Island feat. Nicki Minaj - The Creep
168. Jill Scott - Hear My Call
169. Nikkiya - When I Was High
170. Nicola Roberts - Beat Of My Drum
171. Yeasayer - I Remember
172. Foo Fighters - Walk
173. Selena Gomez & The Scene - Bang Bang Bang
174. Emmy The Great - Iris
175. Apples In Stereo - C.P.U.
176. Austra - Lose It
177. Oh My! feat. Scrufizzer - Dirty Dancer
178. Kelly Clarkson - Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)
179. Best Coast - Crazy For You
180. Kissy Sell Out - Wild In The Warehouse
181. Les Demoniaques - Teenage Lust
182. Kelly Price feat. Stokley Williams - Not My Daddy
183. Big Troubles - Misery
184. DJ Quik feat. Jon B - Real Women
185. Bad Meets Evil - Fast Lane
186. Cee Lo Green - Cry Baby
187. Mayer Hawthorne - The Walk
188. Tycho - Hours
189. DJ Khaled feat. Drake, Rick Ross & Lil Wayne - I'm On One
190. The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow
191. Big K.R.I.T. feat. Bun B & Ludacris - Country Shit (Remix)
192. Katy B - Witches Brew
193. Andy Allo - Lost In The World
194. Frank Ocean - Thinking About You
195. VV Brown feat. Chiddy Bang - Children
196. Lil Wayne - How To Love
197. Austra - The Beat and the Pulse
198. Common feat. Nas - Ghetto Dreams
199. Miranda Lambert - Baggage Claim
200. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
201. Rustie - Ultra Thizz
202. Air France - It Feels Good To Be Around You
203. Little Majorette - Never Be The Same
204. Sess 4-5 and Keedy Black - I Luv Dat Boy
205. Ghostface Killah - 2Getha Baby
206. Butch Walker and The Black Widows - Summer of '89
207. Little Majorette - Overflow
208. Bon Iver - Holocene
209. Foo Fighters - Rope
210. The Lonely Island feat. Akon - I Just Had Sex
211. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Belong
212. The Drums - Money
213. Main Attrakionz - Perfect Skies
214. Big K.R.I.T. - Dreamin'
215. Nas - Nasty
216. Little Dragon - Nightlight
217. Radiohead - Lotus Flower
218. Icona Pop - Manners
219. Lykke Li - Sadness Is A Blessing
220. Estelle feat. Rick Ross - Break My Heart
221. Selena Gomez & The Scene - Love You Like A Love Song
222. My Chemical Romance - Sing
223. Pictureplane - Real is a Feeling
224. A$AP Rocky - Peso
225. Rewards feat. Solange Knowles - Equal Dreams
226. Bruno Mars - The Lazy Song
227. Waka Flocka Flame feat. Kebo Gotti - Grove St. Party
228. Kelly Rowland feat. Lil Wayne - Motivation
229. U.S. Girls - Island Song
230. jj feat. Ne-Yo - We Can't Stop
231. Le Kid - We Are The Drums
232. J. Cole - Work Out
233. Gigi Barocco feat. Jane Berg - Crunk It
234. Wild Flag - Romance
235. Natalia Kills - Free
236. Wale feat. Rick Ross & Jeremih - That Way
237. LMFAO - Sexy and I Know It
238. Cold Cave - The Great Pan Is Dead
239. Pure X - Twisted Mirror
240. J*Davey - Quicksand
241. Nikkiya - Nobody But Me
242. OG Melody - OG Realness
243. Nelly feat. Kelly Rowland - Gone
244. SCB - Loss / FutureUnknown
245. Nurses - Fever Dreams
246. Factory Floor - Two Different Ways
247. Big & Rich feat. Gretchen Wilson - Fake ID
248. Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris - We Found Love
249. Win Win feat. Lizzi Bougatsos - Releaserpm
250. Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Starlight