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Top 10 Top 40 Songs of 2011

10. Adele - "Someone Like You" 
Hey, remember when Adele was just that British lady who sang that “Chasing Pavement” song that they used in all those Lifetime Original Movies? The unanimously-adored 21 changed all that. I was recently in a hunting bar in rural Wisconsin that had been somewhat overrun by city-folk visiting for the holidays, and when “Someone Like You” came on, all the women threw their arms around each other and started belting along. Everyone knows and loves this song. “Someone Like You” is the ultimate torch song because it so effectively masks its vulnerability as bravery. She’s totally keeping it together enough to have faith that she’ll find love despite being devastatingly hurt, but still gives into her overwhelming pain to deliver this soul-crushing gem: “’Don’t forget me,’ I beg/ ‘I’ll remember,’ you say / sometimes it lasts in love / sometimes it hurts instead.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? SO TRAGIC. SO BRAVE. [Sam]
 
9. Lupe Fiasco - "The Show Goes On"
It always warms my heart a little when a socially conscientious musician can also make it rain on the mainstream charts (no, I'm not talking about Bono.) Lupe Fiasco's stellar "The Show Goes On" is at once hipster-baiting (y'know, cuz of the Modest Mouse sample), a solid "message" song, and catchy-as-all-get-out. The catchy-as-all-get-out part is probably what wins everybody over the most, and it is definitely catchy the way Mouse's "Float On" was an earworm for the masses. It's good trickery, because the track works both as an offshoot of post-pop with its mash-up roots, and a subtle positive message for the masses, while still allowing the masses to raise their hands in the air. [Qualler]

 
8. DEV - "In the Dark" 
"In the Dark" does reek of sex in a number of overt and obvious ways, but somehow manages to still be sexy. I don't even find Dev particularly attractive, and in fact I prefer just listening to this song in my car to watching the video on a computer (the venues of consumption may have something to do with it), but damn if I don't get kind of bothered whenever I hear that saxophone riff. By now I think we can all agree that Kenny G's instrument of choice became overused in 2011, to the point where the man himself even guested on a Katy Perry bridge to complete the ouroboros, but it's pretty tough to argue that it doesn't hit hard when it's used correctly. And here it's all smoke and shadows, complementing the vocals as much as it enhances them, but in such a way that it never feels like the usual Top 40 calculated balance of computerized effects and sugary melodies. It may not be gritty like a lo-fi dubstep dance floor banger, but it still bangs; it's just that it slithers on the off-beats. [Chris]

 
7. Beyoncé - "Love on Top" 
After separating professionally from her manager/father at the beginning of this year, Beyoncé released 4, which, although not a fan favorite, is where we see Beyoncé shucking the pop princess persona and really being Beyoncé. While none of the songs on the album are ever going to be top-charting radio singles (besides “Run the World (Girls)”, which I like to pretend just never happened), Beyoncé exhibits maturity, variety of sound, and one of the greatest singing voices around. And nowhere is this more evident that in “Love on Top”. This song is not about sellability or pop music or about making vocals subservient to a dance-able beat; everything about this song, including the four key-changes and the amazing music video, is about Beyoncé singing, loudly and strongly, and not because a man broke her heart, but because she’s so impossibly happy. In a year dominated by the powerful tragedy of Adele, the weird angst of Rihanna, and the synth-dance of everyone else, this song stands out like as a reminder that things really do get better. Plus, listening to it when you get ready in the morning is pretty life-affirming. [Sam]
 
6. Lady Gaga - "The Edge of Glory"
The Gagster has had an up-and-down relationship with The Blogulator (cuz, obviously she is a big time reader) and, while I have been on the mostly-positive liking-most-everything-she-does side of things (except for that horrible album cover for Born This Way and the fact that every one of her videos is like a million effin' minutes long, and, as I told somebody in a convoluted way recently, "if they're all long, then none of them are long"), she really hit her stride with "The Edge of Glory". In my eternal search for The Perfect Song To Cross A Marathon Finish Line To (hey, new Blog feature in 2012? Mayhaps!), The Good Lady of Gaga  crafted a perfect upbeat, positive, emotional song about, well, big themes like being on "the edge of glory" and "hanging on a moment with you" (the best use of that phrase since Lifehouse used it?). And while I agree with Chris that the saxophone was an overused element of pop music in 2011, none of the other pop songs featuring sax had Clarence Effin' Clemons (rest in peace) playing their songs home. So when that final blast of the final run through the chorus, plus the soulful sounds of Clemons' sax bursts through your speakers/headphones, it's truly glorious. [Qualler]

 
5. Wiz Khalifa - "Roll Up" 
"Roll Up" does so much to convince the "Black & Yellow" naysayers (and I like to think there are many of us) with seemingly so little. Khalifa worked so hard to annoy millions with that oppressive synthetic xylophone (or whatever it was) and yet it sounds like he's barely putting in any effort to write about an otherwise self-aggrandizing subject here: the significance of self-arrival. It should be skeezy, it should be smarmy, and it should definitely be arrogant, but he manages to eschew all of these negative stereotypes of the rapper that just wants his girl to know how great it will be once he shows up in his expensive car. Speaking of his rapping, the man's downright charming in his laid back and yet playful delivery, suggesting that not only is he just doing this for kicks, but it's also some kind of grand stress reliever rather than heavy emotion conduit. Whodathunk - effortless pop music that doesn't smack of slackerism. [Chris]

 
4. Britney Spears - "Til the World Ends"
Alright, Britney, here I thought that you were being metaphorical when you sung about dancing until the world ends, but your video proves me wrong. You LITERALLY want us to continue to dance UNTIL the WORLD actually ENDS. Which, according to your video, will happen on December 21, 2012. (Very specific.) Well, the good news is, after a few years of blah music from the Britster, her 2011 record Femme Fatale was a step in the right direction in forward-thinking pop music, while bringing back a little "classic Britney" sound from the late 90s / early 00s. Something about the way the main drum beat keeps the sixteenth-notes humming and building while the synth wobbles around and Britney sings with so many vocal tracks until it builds to that great conclusion where everything's just going nuts makes this song special. It's another entry in my "Perfect Song To Cross A Marathon Finish Line To" feature that I'm now developing even more in my head. ("Maybe work on the title a little, ya jerk?" say the masses. The masses are really mean in my head.) And don't you feel like, after all Britney's been through in the past decade, and all the growing up she (and in turn, we) have done, she deserves to have a little bit of happiness? Anyway, Britney Spears, so glad you're back making interesting-but-not-too-adventurous-but-just-adventurous-enough pop music. [Qualler]

 
3. LMFAO feat. Lauren Bennett, GoonRock - "Party Rock Anthem"
I honestly don’t think I’ve gone to a party or bar this year without hearing “Party Rock Anthem”; I even have a coworker who greets the office every morning by walking in and saying, “Everyday we shuffling.” (He’s referring to paper. That’s why it’s funny, I guess.) When VH1 produces I Love the Teens, they will talk about this song as being quintessentially 2011. You see, LMFAO is embodying this weird sort of totally 2011 meta-irony, where their hipstery self-mockery is actually just a ruse for post-hipster self-mockery mockery. At least that’s how a Cultural Studies minor looks at it. In any case, Party Rock Anthem is exactly what it says it is: an anthem for party rocking, whether at a club, at a party, at home, or in your car. Like the zombified dancers in their music video, just hearing “Party Rock Anthem” makes us all want to dance in an unflattering hipster ironic way with lots of little jumps and fist pumping. That weird synthesized chorus line triggers some weird fluke in our physiology, and we just can’t help but party rock. [Sam]

 
2. Nicki Minaj - "Super Bass"
I admit that I'm somewhat of a Nicki Minaj hater, so it pains me somewhat to say that "Super Bass" is just an unbelievably catchy, clever song. Her fast-pace rapping, which, I also admit, sounds very good, works really well with the slow-ish backing synths and driving beats. COMPLAINT TIME! (And if you don't come to The Blogulator at least partially for allowing us to validate our opinions, then you're not here for the right reason.) Why does Nicki, whose "real life" persona exhibits a predilection toward at least bisexuality, have to be rapping about how much this one dude is really handsome and how she wants to do it with the dude? Okay, that's not really a fair complaint to lob her direction, because, the fact is that a song this catchy wouldn't be as popular if it had a less hetero-normative core to it, and pop stars gotta get paid. Regardless of all that, there's no doubt "I mean, you're so shy and I'm loving your tie / you're like, slicker than the guy with the thing on his eye" is one of my favorite lyric lines of 2011. So, Nicki, don't be afraid to bust out of the misogynistic Young Money label you're tied to and say something that's true to you, please, and maybe then I won't be a Nicki Minaj hater anymore. [Qualler]

 
1. T-Pain feat. Chris Brown - "Best Love Song"
"Best Love Song" is so anthemic it hurts. T-Pain takes adoration to a level potentially not yet seen in pop music until now, imbuing his usual wacky mentality into a topic that nevertheless feels 100% serious and universal, thus making it wholly original all over again. It's a magnanimous feat, yet because he goes all out without reserve or embarrassment, he nails it. Chris Brown's presence may mar this effect on the surface, but ultimately he's just a pawn in T-Pain's game, playing the side character for a maximum arena-level battle scene in which the winner is not a persona nor a celebrity but rather the listener's hands, which invariably raise involuntarily into the air, conveying their agreement in the notion that yes, they could hypothetically hold a pen that could write the best love song she has ever heard in her life. [Chris]

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