With 2011 a little more than halfway over, everyone’s coming out with their opinions/thoughts/lists from the first half of the year, so I thought why not give it a shot myself?
Right off the bat, 2011’s been a strong year so far. Pop’s done an upswing from last year, indie is continuing to expand, and we’ve had a surprising number of decent rock albums this year. So let’s look at my top picks for 2011 so far, in no special order.
Raphael Saadiq – Stone Rollin’: This is how you do a retro record. Saadiq takes Motown/70’s soul and gives it a modern bump and bounce, and he does this on top of some absolutely wonderfully crafted songs. A must have.
Arctic Monkeys – Suck It And See: Arctic Monkeys haven’t released a bad album yet, and Suck It and See blends their frenzied early days with the more mellow experimentation of Humbug. Definitely a grower.
Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts: A gorgeous acoustic album, Thurston Moore expands the rustic overtones of his previous solo album, and Demolished Thoughts flourishes under it’s full ensemble approach with Beck in the producer’s chair.
Other highlights have been tUnE-YaRds with who kill, PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake, The King is Dead by The Decemberists, and Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light.
While I’m talking about albums, Radiohead’s King of Limbs deserves a mention for the sheer mania when it was announced/released. Unfortunately, at least for me, it’s been the album with the least amount of replay this year. It’s not a bad album, it’s just not an interesting one, and frankly, I think it got a lot of good press just because it’s Radiohead (I know I was guilty of this). Here’s hoping Thom and the gang can do better.
With the year half over, we’ve already seen a slew of big releases, but there’s still more to come. August sees new albums from long-silent artists such as Red Hot Chili Peppers (with new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer in for fan favorite John Frusciante) and Lil Wayne, as well as a double album from French DJ David Guetta. September gives us new Dream Theater, Tori Amos, and (finally) the new blink-182 album. From there, the only major release with a release date seems to be Drake in October.
So far, the three stars pulling ahead in the pop realm this year are Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Adele. Perry rang in the new year with “Firework” still in number one, and traded off almost weekly with Bruno Mars for the number one spot. After that, “E.T.” snagged the number one spot for a week or two, and now “Last Friday Night” is holding steady in the Top 5. Will it be her first Teenage Dream single not to hit #1?
One of the songs that’s held Perry back from a prolonged stay at the top of the charts is Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”. Both that song and Adele’s 21 album have sold surprisingly well for an artist who had trouble landing stateside before now; “Rolling in the Deep” currently has the year’s longest streak for weeks at number 1, and the same can be said for 21 on the Billboard 200. Adele’s commercial success has been jaw-dropping, and it will be interesting to see if she can keep her momentum up.
Adele’s left-field success combines interestingly with Lady Gaga’s scattered first half of ’11. While “Born This Way” had a death grip on the #1 spot for five weeks when it was first released, she’s had some slip-ups on the followup. “Judas” debuted in the Top 10, but fell off the chart after six weeks, and “Hair” couldn’t even hold on for that long. “The Edge of Glory” (which might be one of Gaga’s best songs) is holding in the top 10, but can’t edge past the competition. Born This Way is still doing well in the Billboard 200, but was only able to hold the top spot for two weeks while selling over a million copies in a week. But a large chunk of that success is attributed to Amazon’s firesale the day the album came out. While still rich and successful, 2011 Lady Gaga seems to be less invincible and more defensive than any of her previous incarnations.
The pop realm has been pretty busy outside of those three. Lunkheads LMFAO scored a hit with “Party Rock Anthem” (blind squirrels, nuts, etc). Bruno Mars managed to hit number 1 with “Grenade”, and is currently in the Top 5 Dead Heat, and he is starting to expand to other projects. Britney Spears has had two and now three hits to her name, and Nicki Minaj has been able to hold down a single all by herself. Hell, even the Black Eyed Peas had a decent single.
It’s not all great news, though. Rihanna began the year strong, and even scoring a number one with “S&M” before “California King Bed” crushed her momentum, and the rush-released “Man Down” slowed her to a crawl. Despite a good start with “Six Foot Seven Foot”, Lil Wayne lost steam between album delays, and a so-so single, but “How to Love”‘s chart success might give him an edge. Enrique Iglesias might not be doing poorly, but I’m wondering how much longer he can play the “It’s not sexual harassment if I’m really good looking, right?” card and get away with it.
On the whole, though, 2011’s been a fun year so far, and I can’t wait for what the coming months will bring!