Ask me anything
Since, this is my first year doing a top songs list I kind of wanted to set some ground rules for myself to make things easier (or harder depending on how you look at it). There were so many amazing tracks by so many different artists created this year that it was hard to sum my favorites into a list of only 50, much less ranking them within that list. So, to make sure I mention as many artists as possible, I tried to limit the number of tracks from each artist to one, an extremely difficult task considering the number of excellent albums that were also produced in 2011 (I might consider expanding the list to 75 if I decide to repeat artists). Here’s my crack at it though, so take a look:
It was tough putting this above Kanye & Jay, but this song still has me singing “They Know” in the car every time it comes up on shuffle. It may not be the most “artistic” song of 2011, but it definitely is the one that sticks with you the longest.
Personally, “Niggas In Paris” isn’t even my favorite song off of Watch The Thrown. That title goes to “Gotta Have It.” However, “Niggas In Paris” has definitely had the largest impact. What other song could you play 11 times at a concert without people getting sick and tired of it? You have to admit, “it gets the people going!”
I’ve had a few midnights in the city in my day, and let’s just say I wish mine were nearly as exciting as this song. Gonzalez has all the right elements in this, from the catchy synths to the mellow saxophone at the end. It all somehow tells a story of an inspiring outing in the city, and this is all accomplished before even tuning into the lyrics. While the song sounds like it could’ve been pulled straight out of the 80’s, it feels right at home in 2011.
Bon Iver’s self-titled album was a tough one to pick a standout track from. Both “Holocene” and “Calgary” are equally amazing in my book, but “Holocene” definitely seems to have a much more inspiring tale hidden behind it. Vernon’s lyrics are as difficult to interpret as usual, but you almost don’t need them to get the full effect of the track. You really just need to sit back, close your eyes and let the music lead your imagination. If that’s too difficult for you, there’s always the excellent music video for you to use above.
I don’t care if this was written for Ms.
whats her name Bridget Kelly on RocNation, because nothing can beat the original by Frank Ocean himself. This is certainly one of the tracks that truly showed the world what separates him from his Odd Future counterparts, as well as the competition as a whole.
While Donald Glover had already established himself as a pretty legitimate rapper by the start of 2011, it was this song really put him over the edge and help him breakthrough into the mainstream. Anytime your song is being used in an Adidas commercial, you know you’re doing something right. And while some may argue that it’s Glover’s fame that’s helped his rap career out, you can’t tell me you didn’t try to memorize every single punchline packed in this little gem.
While The Weeknd’s entire House of Balloons project was an absolute masterpiece, I have to say “Wicked Games” is the track that stood out to me the most (although you could make an argument for nearly every track on the mixtape). It stood out enough sonically to be noticeably different, but still fit in perfectly with the content of the rest of the mixtape quite nicely. The song shows Abel at his most vulnerable point, lonely and desperate at a strip club, trying to find solace in company the only way he knows how.
This track was already
(wild)fire before they added Drake to it. Then it just became an inferno (that’s the next level after wildfire right?) Seriously though, in a year when dubstep seemingly became the dominant (or at least increasingly prominent) genre, SBTRKT showed that there’s still alternative ways to get the people moving.
"Sandwitches" was definitely the grittier, more energetic Odd Future track that may have put the group on the radar, but "Yonkers" is what arguably first put Tyler, The Creator on the map in the first place (the Late Night With Jimmy Fallon appearance definitely didn’t hurt either). Although it may have been the video that initially piqued people’s interests, the music definitely intrigued people enough to keep listening (and then subsequently stop when they got offended/scared away).
Every time I listen to this song, I feel like I’m floating. Its light, airy sound simply helps melt all your worries away.
With a name like “Cruel,” you would think this would sound much more like a breakup song. Instead, we get the quirky little piece of poppy perfection courtesy of Annie Clark with her breathtaking vocals and astonishing guitar skills.
"Video Games" has to be one of the most simply beautiful tracks of 2011. Lana Del Rey’s vocal prowess dominates the light harps and piano, but her lyrics are really what take the cake here. The entire song is basically a comparison between reality and fantasy, hence the title, "Video Games."
I like Neon Indian’s “Polish Girl” for nearly all the same reasons I like M83’s “Midnight City,” except I view “Polish Girl” as the song I’d use to start the night off instead, while “Midnight City” is me bringing the night to a close. Also, both sound like the soundtrack to an 80’s futuristic sci-fi thriller (the music videos don’t help to quell this theory at all). It’s a strange through process, I know, but in my mind it makes sense.
You know you loved this one the instant you heard it this summer. It’s got all you need for a certified hit: infectious Drake hook, token verse from Lil Wayne/Rick Ross, and minimal amounts of DJ Khaled (optional, but personally preferred).
I don’t think there was any other song released in 2011 that was quite as energetic and happy-go-lucky as “Le7els.” The song made you want to break out into dance the instant it started (kind of like the people in this video). And without many lyrics (aside from a simple sample), you could really appreciate what Avicii was able to accomplish with the beat alone.
Although Mylo Xyloto was somewhat of a disappointment, “Charlie Brown’ has to be one of the best Coldplay songs released in awhile. ”Charlie Brown” captures the band at its best, with booming drums and eccentric guitar lines, coupled with a vivid story described by Chris Martin through his ever addicting vocals. Even if you didn’t like the album, you couldn’t help but enjoy this song.
It may just be an instrumental, but Clams Casino sampling of Imogen Heap’s “Just For Now” took on a life of its own. Sorry Lil B, but you could not do this beat justice.
Adele shows exactly why she’s the queen of breakup songs not just on this track, but throughout all of “21.” Really, I could’ve put any of her excellent singles right here, however, this one stood out to me as the most profound of the bunch because she seems real and actually vulnerable on this track.
"Bass" and "Palace" are easily my two favorite tracks production wise off of Live.Love.A$AP, but “Peso” is definitely the catchiest and most addicting song off of the project. The second single to be released by the young rapper this year, “Peso” really helped turn some heads and get the attention of quite a few people this year as a follow up to “Purple Swag.” ”Purple Swag” had people prematurely labeling A$AP Rocky as a one-hit wonder, but “Peso” helped make those assumptions illegitimate.
"It’s Real" was surely a perfect way to end the summer. It just has that light/cheery, nostalgic feeling that causes you to reflect on the past few months and appreciate not only what you’ve been able to do, but what time you still have left.
Don’t get me wrong here. The original track is excellent, but the Bassnectar Remix took it to a whole different level. I can’t even listen to the original now without thinking it’s too slow or expecting a dubstep drop.
"Nostalgia" seemed to be the key word of 2011, as this track was another one focused on memories, wasting your time, and certain things that have since gone, well, "kaputt." The jazz elements are really what complete this track for me, but it still has that airy, atmospheric feeling that goes along with reminiscing.
Being such a quirky track, it was hard for me to place this one, but it eventually found a home at number 24. This is easily one of the more fun, yet triumphant tracks produced in 2011.
"Punjabi Song" combines the best elements of bhangra and Das Racist’s wacky boom bap rap style into one track. It makes for a pretty crazy combination, but somehow it all works together.
(See the remaining 25 songs below. Kinks still being worked out with the order)