I think last year, at this time, I made a prediction that the music in 2011 was basically just going to suck. However, I think I have been proven wrong with the impact of Adele and the advancing of the indie genre with Bon Iver and Mumford & Sons. We had the introduction of Beats by Dr. Dre (which I’m happy to say that, thanks to Santa Claus and Christmas, I am currently listening to music through right now), and Spotify brought a new way of launching a variety of music to listeners (furthering the idea of the Long Tail. The music industry also transitioned from a business model to a subscription model (which thanks to UW-Madison’s fine, fine education, I actually understand what that means now… well, sort of).
Before you can discuss the rest of the positives of the music industry’s bounce back in 2011, you have to understand the state it was in before. In February, EMI, the record label for The Beatles and Pink Floyd in the past and Katy Perry and Coldplay in the present, hit bottom and was split in half: its recording division being sold to Universal $1.9 billion and its publishing division to Sony for $2.2 billion (Knopper, 2011). On a smaller level, Chicago’s Q101 and New York’s WRXP, two alternative radio stations responsible for the introduction of Coldplay and The Black Keys, left the music industry and switched to talk radio. The most obvious, we lost a music legend, Amy Winehouse.
So, moving on to the positives. According to Rolling Stone magazine, The Year of Adele had a major impact on the music industry. Her album, 21, sold 14.5 million copies in 10 months and boosted the overall album sales by three percent in the US. Then, there was the introduction of, and fight over the control of, the Music Cloud – Spotify, iTunes Match, Google Music, Amazon Cloud, and MOG. (For more information on those, check out Rolling Stone’s article “Digital Music’s Cloud Revolution.”)
I think that Billboard.biz editor Jem Aswad sums it up best: “…we all continue to wrap our heads, hearts and wallets around a world in which music isn’t an object or even a possession anymore, but – in terms of artist’ livelihood, anyway – a means to sell tickets, placements, merch, swag, scents, booze, and every other conceivable revenue tributary of Brand Me.”
With that in mind, let me introduce the Top 30 Songs of 2011, my way.
There are some general guidelines for my list. First, it was created based on an average rating compiled from Billboard Top 100 Songs of 2011, iTunes Rewind 2011, and Rolling Stone’s Top 50 Singles from 2011. Second, the song had to be on a minimum of two lists in order to be eligible for WTF Music Review’s list (as much as I wanted OneRepublic’s “Good Life” to be on my list, I had to cut it). Third, I did not count a Not Rated (NR) as a 0, but instead I just did an average based out of two; therefore, it might not be the most reliable list, but who cares. Fourth, if an artist had more than one song on my list of 30 Songs of 2011, I don’t bother repeating myself so the second (or third, fourth, etc.) song doesn’t have information to go along with it. Fifth, and finally, I’m only talking about the top 10 songs because I realize how long this post is already and I need to take into account the “news hole” (check out what I learned in my Journalism class this past semester). Deal with it.
1. Adele – “Rolling in the Deep”
(Billboard = 1, iTunes = 1, Rolling Stone = 1)
Adele had a great year, hence why all three lists had her hit single, “Rolling in the Deep” ranked number one of 2011. Her album itself, 21, sold 14.3 million copies. “Rolling in the Deep” spent 51 weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100, just jumping up six spots this past week to number 35. Although Adele did not take away any American Music Awards for “Rolling in the Deep, the single won Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing in the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. Recently, the single was listed as a 2012 Grammy nomination for Record of the Year, Best Short Form Music Video, and Song of the Year; in addition, the producer of the Record, Paul Epworth, was nominated for Producer of the Year. It’s no argument that this song should be number one (and believe me, I tried really hard to figure out a way to put Katy Perry at number one). The most current rumor, according to Billboard.biz and Rolling Stone Magazine is that Adele is currently slated for two performances in 2012 and a tour, but with her recent surgery and two cancelations in 2011, I can’t be too sure. All I know is, we definitely have not heard the last of Adele.
2. LMFAO – “Party Rock Anthem”
(Billboard = 2, iTunes = 2, Rolling Stone = NR)
Although not present on iTunes or Billboard’s top albums of 2011 lists, LMFAO’s album Sorry for Party Rocking did a pretty nice job on its sales this year. Also, to be honest, Billboard’s list is a little less than trusting seeing as it has three Justin Bieber albums and two Glee soundtrack albums on it. The song had an extraordinary amount of radio airplay time, not just for a season, but also for a prolonged period of time. In addition, the memorable video was nominated for Best Choreography at the 2011 VMAs. Then, LMFAO closed the AMAs by performing this song, as well as their second single “Sexy and I Know It,” even bringing on guests such as Justin Bieber (who completely embarrassed himself) and David Haselhoff, followed by parading the stage in their underwear.
3. Katy Perry – “Firework”
(Billboard = 3, iTunes = 3, Rolling Stone = NR)
Katy Perry had a record-tying year, proving to be extremely successful overall. Teenage Dream was not a new album to the year – it was actually released in August 2010. However, “Firework” was the third single from the album to reach the number one spot on Billboard’s Hot 100, preceded by “California Gurls” and “Teenage Dream.” Katy did not stop at “Firework,” however, as she followed up with two more number one singles from the same album, “E.T.” and “Last Friday Night,” allowing her to tie Michael Jackson’s Billboard record. This accomplishment didn’t go unnoticed since Katy Perry was awarded with an achievement award at the 2011 American Music Awards after giving an acoustic performance of her current sixth single, “The One That Got Away,” which is currently sitting at number three on the Hot 100 chart. Currently, “Firework” is also nominated for the Record of the Year Grammy, along with Best Pop Solo Performance. At the VMAs, it took Video of the Year, but Katy Perry was nominated for a total of 10 awards. Finally, Katy Perry wrapped up her California Dreams Tour this year after visiting 94 cities and performing 122 times. Billboard rated it the number 13 tour of 2011.
4. Bruno Mars – “Grenade”
(Billboard = 6, iTunes = 4, Rolling Stone = NR)
I genuinely did not think this song did as well as it did, and was extremely shocked when I saw it rated so high on the end-of-the-year charts. The only real thing I remember about this song is all the comments mocking the lyrics of the song, including ones like, “Why would someone be throwing a grenade at a woman?” Regardless, it was a good song. “Grenade” is up for Record of the Year in the Grammys this upcoming February. The album which the song is off of, Doo-Wops & Hooligans, is nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album in the 2012 Grammys. For Bruno Mars himself in 2011, he performed a tribute to Amy Winehouse and proceeded to pick up his first AMA, winning Favorite Pop/Rock Male.
5. Pitbull – “Give Me Everything”
(Billboard = 5, iTunes = 6, Rolling Stone = NR)
The most overplayed song… ever. To me, it was really catchy at first and I listened to it all the time, then the radio caught on, and I listened to it a lot less. The song did really well though. Pitbull performed this song at the 2011 VMAs, though it was not nominated for any awards. In addition, “Give Me Everything” peaked at number one on Billboard’s Hot 100; the song is now falling off the chart, but has been on it for 39-running weeks. However, the song’s reign did not end in the US, as it also reached number one on the U.K. Singles Chart. However, the song also got some negative PR this year when Lindsay Lohan sued Pitbull for referencing her in the song… really, Linds, get over it.
6. Katy Perry feat Kanye West – “E.T.”
(Billboard = 4, iTunes = 7, Rolling Stone = NR)
See Katy Perry “Firework”
7. Cee Lo Green – “Forget You”
(Billboard = 7, iTunes = 5, Rolling Stone = NR)
I remember driving around to this song this past spring, but after a while, it became one of the many songs archived on my iPod never to be played again. It was not a bad song; I just don’t necessarily see what was so great about it to make it to an average of number seven on this list for 2011. In fact, its presence was most prominent in 2010, when it released in August, and was nominated for multiple Grammys (Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Short Form Music Video), as well as won Best Urban/Alternative Performance. It did have presence in 2011 though, when, in March, it became the best-selling song in the USA in 2011, selling 1,865,000 times.
8. Maroon 5 feat Christina Aguilera – “Moves Like Jagger”
(Billboard = 9, iTunes = 8, Rolling Stone = NR)
This song, as well as Adam Levine’s appearance on Christina Aguilera’s “The Voice,” really helped boost both Aguilera’s and Maroon5’s success this year. “Moves Like Jagger” reached number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 the week of September 10. This song has also been nominated for a 2012 Grammy: Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. The song has been listed for a total of 453 weeks in 21 different charts, which according to acharts.us, is more than any other Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera song.
9. Nicki Minaj – “Super Bass”
(Billboard = 8, iTunes = 10, Rolling Stone = NR)
Along with Adele and Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj owned 2011. Currently, she is nominated for Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance (for “Moment 4 Life”), and Best Rap Album (for Pink Friday) in the 2012 Grammys. In addition, “Moment 4 Life” was nominated for Best Collaboration in the 2011 VMAs. Specifically, “Super Bass” won the VMA for Best Hip-Hop Video and was also nominated for Best Female Video. There was also the YouTube sensation Sophia Grace that grew famous from their cover of “Super Bass.” This song has been on Billboard’s Hot 100 for a total of 20 weeks, peaking at number one. Also, look out for Nicki Minaj’s one-of-a-kind Barbie doll in 2012… uh, enough said.
10. Foster the People – “Pumped Up Kicks”
(Billboard = 13, iTunes = 9, Rolling Stone = 11)
It’s nice to see this kind of music in the top 10 songs of the year. First, I’d like to encourage everyone to pick up the rest of Foster the People’s album, Torches, because it is exceptional. “Pumped Up Kicks” was overplayed this year, which would have killed it… if it weren’t so good. I like to call it a unique sound. The song was nominated for Best Rock Video at the VMAs, but sadly did not win. The song also never reached number one on Billboard’s Hot 100; it peaked at number three where it remained for eight weeks.
11. The Black Eyed Peas – “Just Can’t Get Enough”
(Billboard = 10, iTunes = 14, Rolling Stone = NR)
12. Jennifer Lopez – “On The Floor”
(Billboard = 11, iTunes = 15, Rolling Stone = NR)
13. Lady Gaga – “Born This Way”
(Billboard = 18, iTunes = 11, Rolling Stone = NR)
14. Britney Spears – “Til the World Ends”
(Billboard = 27, iTunes = NR, Rolling Stone = 3)
15. Enrique Iglesias – “Tonight (I’m Lovin’ You)”
(Billboard = 16, iTunes = 16, Rolling Stone = NR)
16. Chris Brown – “Look at Me Now”
(Billboard = 21, iTunes = 13, Rolling Stone = NR)
17. Adele – “Someone Like You”
(Billboard = 24, iTunes = 12, Rolling Stone = NR)
17. Rihanna – “S&M”
(Billboard = 12, iTunes = 24, Rolling Stone = NR)
17. Lady Gaga – “The Edge of Glory”
(Billboard = 29, iTunes = NR, Rolling Stone = 7)
20. P!nk – “F**kin’ Perfect”
(Billboard = 19, iTunes = 20, Rolling Stone = NR)
20. P!nk – “Raise Your Glass”
(Billboard = 17, iTunes = 22, Rolling Stone = NR)
20. Katy Perry – “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”
(Billboard = 14, iTunes = 25, Rolling Stone = NR)
23. Bruno Mars – “The Lazy Song”
(Billboard = 26, iTunes = 18, Rolling Stone = NR)
24. Wiz Khalifa – “Black and Yellow”
(Billboard = 31, iTunes = 17, Rolling Stone = NR)
25. Lupe Fiasco – “The Show Goes On”
(Billboard = 28, iTunes = 21, Rolling Stone = NR)
26. Ke$ha – “Blow”
(Billboard = 33, iTunes = 19, Rolling Stone = NR)
26. Jeremih & 50 Cent – “Down on Me”
(Billboard = 22, iTunes = 30, Rolling Stone = NR)
26. Lil Wayne – “6 Foot 7 Foot”
(Billboard = 41, iTunes = 28, Rolling Stone = 9)
29. Ke$ha – “We R Who We R”
(Billboard = 30, iTunes = 27, Rolling Stone = NR)
30. The Black Eyed Peas – “This Time (Dirty Bit)”
(Billboard = 37, iTunes = 23, Rolling Stone = NR)
Ha! You thought I was done? Never. The year still had more great music. Now, it’s obvious that the album of the year was Adele’s 21, but how about the other albums that were released in 2011 that never quite made it to the top of the charts? First, there was Wisconsin’s finest Bon Iver’s album Bon Iver. Not only did it help me focus on my studies, but the song “Holocene” received Grammy nominations for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Then, the album as a whole was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album. In addition, Bon Iver was nominated for Best New Artist himself. Bon Iver had a big impact on music in 2011: it helped bring the indie music world to big time music industry with its Grammy nominations.
Another album I must discuss is Florence + the Machine’s Ceremonials. The album, which was just released in late October/early November, depending on where you live (which we all know I lived in the UK that day), although did not sell as many copies as the group’s first album, Lungs, is sure to continue being a big hit in 2012. Already, it has had two big hits, “What the Water Gave Me” and “Shake It Out,” and the group was recently seen performing on Good Morning America’s Fall Concert Series. In addition, they have already announced a UK tour for next year, and hopefully, for my sake, will visit the US very soon.
FOR THE FINALE! Music has had a good year. Physical album sales dropped 10 percent in 2010, but with the help of Adele, rose three percent in 2011. It was also expected that in 2011, digital sales would jump 10 percent. In general, the music didn’t suck too bad either – I mean, I’m thrilled to have the Artist of the Year be Adele rather than a no-talent rap star (lots of offense should be taken there). I can’t predict where music will go in 2012, but I’m hoping it continues to improve. Adele’s reign will end and will hopefully be followed with another album (23, perhaps?). Katy Perry will either break the record or peak at number three. Indie music might continue to make its way up the popular music ladder. Radio stations might continue to replay the same ten songs on a loop. The Cloud might change music, as we know it, forever. Hey, Kelly Clarkson came back this year… maybe The Spice Girls will come back in 2012. There’s no way to really predict what will happen. The music industry always seems to surprise us. What I know is that I’ll be here to make more sarcastic comments along the way.