THR Music Editor's Top 10 Singles of 2011
Pop music was more unpredictable than ever in 2011 as multiple genres converged on the Hot 100. From the retro soul sounds of Adele to dance tracks by Dev and LMFAO, hits by hip-hop elite Drake and Lil Wayne and rock stalwarts Foo Fighters, The Hollywood Reporter's Shirley Halperin runs down the best songs this year had to offer.
Ease of access has made a vast library of music instantly available and increasingly difficult to curate -- there's so much crap out there that most casual listeners can easily get lost without a proper guide. Enter: pop radio 2011, which for the first time in a long time, offered diversity among its playlists, even if repetition still ruled.
Our pick for top song? Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass," one of 14 commercially-released singles to feature the female rapper's name in 2011. It was the sugary antidote to Adele's depression, the girl's comeback to big ballers who winced, "Look At Me Now," and something an eight-year-old could sing as competently as her adult mother.
In short, "Super Bass," along with these 10 more songs, made our hearts go "Boom, badoom, boom, boom, badoom, boom" this year -- and here's hoping for more irregular heart beats in 2012.
1. “Super Bass,” Nicki Minaj
Featured on no fewer than eight songs before scoring with her first hit, “Your Love,” Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” became her biggest smash and the most delectable track of 2011. Undeniable at every turn of phrase, thanks to brilliant rhymes (“He cold, he dope, he might sell coke / He always in the air, but he never fly coach”) and the kind of chorus you just can’t shake, it shot to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and would spend more than 11 weeks in the Top 20 -- an amazing feat in and of itself but even more astonishing considering the song was a bonus track on Minaj’s debut album, Pink Friday. No doubt it helped spur sales of the more expensive deluxe edition, but it all honesty, “Super Bass” on its own is almost worth the price of admission.
2. “Rolling in the Deep” / “Someone Like You,” Adele
When “Rolling in the Deep” debuted in November 2010, its soulful vocals and organic beat of the kick drum, seemingly devoid of digital enhancements, was unlike anything most radio listeners had ever heard, outside of an oldies station. Yet that song -- and two months later the gut-wrenching “Someone Like You” -- felt strangely familiar, even contemporary in a retro way, and oh so good. Adele hit it out of the park her first time at bat, eventually selling more than 5 million copies of her album 21 and ensuring that the pop music game will likely never be the same.
3. “Walk,” Foo Fighters
Another year, another rock anthem by the always reliable Foo Fighters, who have nearly two decades’ worth of hits to call their own. And wouldn’t you know, “Walk” holds up to the very best. Like “All My Life” or “Best of You” or “Times Like These,” frontman Dave Grohl delivers a sense of ageless urgency as the song crescendos to a wail: “Dancing on my grave / Running through the fire / Forever, whenever / I never wanna die!” Can’t you just see the fists pumping?
4. “In The Dark,” Dev
After delivering the hook on Far East Movement’s “Like A G6,” Dev graduated from featured player to full-fledged solo star in 2011 with the irresistible “In the Dark.” Spotlighting the sexiest sax solo this side of Duran Duran’s “Rio” and a sultry, almost Latin-flavored vibe, it may or may not be an ode to masturbation (sample lyric: “Think about it when you touch me there / Close my eyes, here you are / All alone dancing in the dark”), but it definitely satisfies in all the right places.
5. “Look At Me Now,” Chris Brown feat. Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes
Chris Brown’s triumphant return to the top 10 was marked by 3 minutes and 42 seconds of unapologetic hip-hop bravado. "Look At Me Now," with its gritty, dirty south-inspired flavor, was a group effort, no doubt. Besides rappers Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne, in-demand electronic music producers Diplo and Afrojack added their magic. The end result: a pop masterpiece.
6. “You and I,” Lady Gaga
It wasn’t a Gaga out-the-gate smash, but "You and I," with its soulful delivery and country charm (it should come as no wonder: Robert “Mutt” Lange, ex-husband of Shania Twain, produced the track) is Stefani Germanotta the songwriter at her best. Peaking at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, it had a curious climb to the top 10, starting with a stellar pre-release performance on American Idol by finalist Haley Reinhart, then Gaga’s unforgettable turn as male alterego Jo Calderone on the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, a performance that received mixed reactions. In the end, it found its way to America’s heart with no visuals at all: as a radio hit.
7. “I’m On One,” DJ Khaled feat. Drake, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne
In a year when hip-pop ruled, the might of four rap heavies packed the sort of chart-worthy punch that practically guarantees a welcome to the Top 10, which is exactly what happened to Khaled and crew who, back in May, released "I'm on One," a moody anthem to cash, booze, drugs and hometown pride -- all rolled into one extra potent joint.
8. “Party Rock Anthem,” LMFAO
It’s likely you heard “Party Rock Anthem” several hundred times in 2011 and, by now, the mere mention of the song might have you running for the hills but admit it: you’ve shuffled on more than one occasion. Indeed, the simplicity of LMFAO’s massive hit, which spent five straight weeks in the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, is the genius of the year’s biggest dance track, which defied genres and certainly expectations.
9. “Tongue Tied,” Grouplove
Where Foster the People tried and succeeded with the paint-by-numbers approach to indie rock, LA’s Grouplove needed no such pretenses to come up with “Tongue Tied.” Apple used the song’s “take me to your best friend’s house” hook for the latest iTouch commercial, always a sure sign of a hit to come, while the video -- with its “Fight For Your Right to Party”-like debauchery -- truly drives the good times home.
10. “Charlie Brown,” Coldplay
The third single off the band’s latest album Mylo Xyloto, “Charlie Brown” is everything people love about Coldplay and deride them for: swelling, anthemic guitars, hypnotic hooks, singer Chris Martin’s trademark falsetto howl. While still bubbling under the Billboard Hot 100, expect this arm-waver to make its impact in early 2012.