My 15 Favorite Songs of 2011, Or, The Year Mainstream Owned Me: By Anthony Benigno
I am, in fact, alive. And if there is one thing I learned about my musical tastes in 2011, it’s that I am a man-whore for the mainstream. It’s not my fault, really. Well, actually, it totally is. Suffice it to say you will find no indie schminde bullshit cluttering this list; this is a Best-Of as dictated by Top 40 simply because it was a pretty good year, quality-wise, for Top 40 in 2011. So, fair warning at the outset: Bon Iver does not make an appearance; Tune Yards have no place here, and while I did rather enjoy The King of Limbs, I can’t say a single track from the whole stood out enough for me to include it on this list. These are not the BEST songs of 2011 in terms of their musical quality or innovation, they just happened to be the 15 that I enjoyed the most. Hopefully, you do too. Happy new year, folks.
15: DJ Scrillionaire: “I Just Can’t Wait to Be Badd”
Two things I have a deep — almost irrational, really — and undying love for are The Lion King and Mike Jones circa 2006 (“281-330-8004/hit Mike Jones up on the low/cuz Mike Jones about to blow”). And I must say, I don’t have the slightest idea of who, exactly, DJ Scrillionaire is, but clearly the man is a genius for combining the two. In fact, its fair to say this man has changed the Disney classic for me forever. Real talk, the last time I saw this scene in Lion King I half-expected Mufasa to be lying back, stogie in hand, on the throne of Pride Rock and intoning to Lil Simba: “Look, shorty. Everything the light touches, is our pimpdom.”
14: Theory of a Deadman; “The Truth Is (… I Lied About Everything)”
Here, in song form, is everything you really wanted to say to that bitchy ex of yours, but for lack of these gentlemen’s monumental brass balls. If I were a chick (hopefully not this particular chick, since she sounds kind of nasty) and somebody dumped me with a song half as catchy as this … well, I can’t say I’d be all that upset.
13: Lady Antebellum; “We Owned the Night”
In the absence of a new Taylor Swift song in 2011 (well, minus that depression-inducing dirge from The Hunger Games) these guys more than happily filled the kinda-girly-country-that-I’m-totally-unironically-blasting-in-my-headphones-as-I-walk-down-the-street void, thank you very much. Next!
12: Flo Rida; “Good Feeling”
Flo Rida is, realistically, middle of the pack as far as rappers are concerned, but when it comes to singles that make you want to drop what you’re doing and DANCE, the man cannot be denied.
11: Glee Cast; “I Can’t Go For That/You Make My Dreams”
I’m absolutely every bit as embarrassed as you might think I would be. This is me moving on with my life.
10: Killer Mike; “Ric Flair”
Yeah, sure, Mike isn’t exactly the slickest or most dazzling MC out there in terms of his flow, or skills, or even stage presence. But goddamn, shouting out the Nature Boy in song, incorporating clips of old promos, and having the balls to basically mark out on a gangsta rap record is as deserving of Top 10 status as anything Fleet Foxes made in 2011. WOO!!!!
9: Lady Gaga; “The Edge of Glory”
For me, this was the year that Lady Gaga’s shtick started to overwhelm her talent, but this song was the perfect marriage of that weird mish-mash of pop-culture/social movement tidbits that make up Gaga’s persona: it was overblown (“the edge of glory?” Yeesh) but not overwhelmingly so, it was well sung (no weirdo voices/sound effects here), and it was the sort of hit you could imagine being perfectly at home in any of the past three decades. People will be trying to cover this one for years and there’s a good chance nobody will get it right. And, yes, it has Clarence Clemons on it, the last song to ever make that claim.
8: The Strokes; “Under Cover of Darkness”
I’ll be honest: I’ve never really seen what’s so great about The Strokes. There were better garage bands in 2002 and there are better rock bands out now. And I kind of hated their record back in March. All that said, this song? Pretty damn good.
7: Nicki Minaj; “Super Bass”
Resistance is futile.
6: Tyler the Creator; “Yonkers”
With a better album he’d have been the new Eminem, and a crappy back-end of 2011 dampered Odd Future’s meteoric rise in the beginning of the calendar year. That said, there’s something to be said for this Kanye-cosigned track; easily the most buzzed-about debut of ’11 (with 2011′s best music video to boot), with its pitch-dark imagery and whip-sharp humor, “Yonkers” made it seem, if only for a minute, like the sky was the limit for this weird motherfucker with the skateboard.
5: Dropkick Murphys & Bruce Springsteen; “Peg O’ My Heart”
The most deceptively old-school rock song of 2011. No frills, no bullshit, just some bad mofos on guitar singing with the joyful abandon of some working-class mooks who may have had a few too many.
4: Jay-Z & Kanye West; “Niggas in Paris”
It’s the dirty little secret of 2011 that Watch the Throne was terribly overrated. This song, however, can’t be praised enough. Jay and ‘Ye have been better on their own individual records, but they trade verses back and forth here in a matter that’s almost symbiotic. The resulting swag is so powerful they played the damn thing anywhere from three to eleven times a night on their tour. No, seriously.
3: David Guetta & Usher; “Without You”
Sappy? Abso-goddamn-lutely. But it’s the kind of sappy that can raze the club to the ground. How can you argue with that? Grab somebody sexy and tell ‘em you love ‘em.
2: Adele; “Rolling in the Deep”
This bombastic blues-rocker was all over the place in 2011, and rightfully so: it seems like a song from another time in the ebst possible way, with its minimalist backing track and bleeding-heart lyrics. No gimmicks, no frills, no — wait, what’s that? Technically it came out in 2010? Fuck that shit.
1: Paul Simon; “Dazzling Blue”
Still doin’ it better than anyone else out there: Garfunkel’s better half took it back to Graceland on this hypnotic track from his latest, So Beautiful or So What, infusing African rhythms with some Middle-Eastern mystique. Damn if I know the exact combo of musical ingredients, but the final result is divine. See ya next year, folks.
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