2011 was a pretty strong year for pop singles, with a fairly identifiable center emerging, combining dance beats, electro sounds and hip-hop swagger. To the left, there was no shortage of low-fi alt rockers, whose aesthetic often recalled early, pre-Beatles rock–a refreshing turn. My Top 30 list turns out to be a mix of those two styles, plus some great cheesy Europop (Hoffmaestro!), neo-soul (Timothy Bloom!) and even a Trinidad Carnival song (Kes The Band!). And oddly, three late, great soul singers (Otis, Ray Charles, Michael Jackson) saw their names as titles of songs in my Top 30, with no discernable musical link among the three songs. I’ve taken some heat at home for being too mainstream by picking Nikki Minaj over the Pierces and Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jr. as the best single of the year. But as the months went by, I just never got tired of the awesome “Superbass.” Bu it was close between those three finalists.
I would be remiss if I didn’t note that while this may have on one level been the year of Adele–and deservedly so–the record that defined the year on so many levels was Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” The manifestation of a family’s overindulgence of their barely talented daughter’s dream of pop stardom, it was the logical result of our “look at me look at me” culture, where any attention is good attention. And in its reliance on auto-tune, is showed how incidental vocal talent is to much of mainstream electronic pop music in today’s world. It’s been said that progress is when any idiot can do what it once took a genius to accomplish. We may well be at a point in commercial pop where, due to technology, the gap between the untalented wanabee and the truly gifted artist has narrowed to the point where the two can pretty much reach out and touch each other across the divide. In the case of “Friday,” this was made tangible by Rebecca Black’s cameo in Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night” video. Katy wasn’t making fun of Rebecca by featuring her in the video. She was, rather, temporarily welcoming her into the club, patting her on the back and signaling “Bravo–well done!”). What makes “Friday” so tantalizing is that it’s only A LITTLE BIT less good than run of the mill Top 40 pop. Even the stupid lyrics aren’t completely off the mark–they’re just a little bit stupider than everybody else’s lyrics. And it’s this slightly off nature that gives it its eccentricity and makes it actually more interesting than a lot of run of the mill Top 40 pop. There will be more to come from left field in the coming year, I’m sure. I predict strange days ahead.
And now, without further ado, my 30 Best Singles of 2011–plus my favorite S-Curve singles of the year (I never include the songs from my label on the Top 30 list–wouldn’t be fair).
Super Bass–Nikki Minaj
You’ll Be Mine–The Pierces
We Almost Lost Detroit–Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jr.
Two Against One (feat. Jack White)–Danger Mouse & Daniel Luppi
Hello–Martin Solveig & Dragonette
Hold My Hand–Mr. Heavenly
Someone Like You–Adele
Ray Charles–Chiddy Bang
Changed The Way You Kidded Me–Example
Somebody That I Used To Know–Gotye
If You Wanna–Vaccines
Otis (feat. Otis Redding)–Jay-Z & Kanye West
Feel So Close–Calvin harris
The Edge Of Glory–Lady Gaga
Dedication To My Ex (feat. Andre 3000 & Lil Wayne)–Lloyd
Scared, But Not That Scared–1,2,3
The Missing Year–Nightmare & the Cat
Mr Saxobeat– Alexandra Stan
So American–Portugal The Man
Coming Home–Diddy-Dirty Money feat. Skylar Grey
Throw Your Hands Up–Qwote feat. Pitbull & Lucenzo
Down With The Trumpets–Rizzle Kicks
Coming Down–Dum Dum Girls
Om Sanningen Ska Fram–Eric Amarillo
Wotless–Kes The Band
Michael Jackson (feat. Travis Rosenberg)–Das Racist
We Found Love–Rihanna & Calvin Harris
‘Til The End of Time–Timothy Bloom