Ok, after the dealing with the bad, the worse, and the Enrique yesterday, let’s kick today off with the top ten good hit songs of 2011. Again, for it to be on the list, it had to make this list. Maybe it was the gluttony of club pop, or that I was still fairly new to doing reviews, but last year, I had to really stretch to find ten songs for a list. This year, I had more trouble parring down and ranking the best list than the worst list, and I’m grateful for that. So, let’s get started.
10. Mike Posner – Please Don’t Go
Redeeming himself from last year’s worst list, we have one of 2010’s most unlikely pop successes in Duke graduate, Justin Timberlake lookalike, and awkward human being Mike Posner. He was mostly quiet during 2011, aside from a song so bad that I considered booting him from this list for it, but aside from that, he’s been mercifully lowkey. But, before fading away, he released “Please Don’t Go” as a plea to not just be a one-hit wonder (dream on).
I don’t think he’ll get remembered for it, but I still think “Please Don’t Go” is as fine a song as Posner’s ever going to make. I’m kind of a sucker for vulnerable guy songs that don’t sound simpering, and while Posner’s lyrics aren’t the sharpest, the simple chorus of “Please don’t go” works. And, while Posner’s voice isn’t suited for much, this trancey, kind of chiptune production fits him much better than “Cooler Than Me”‘s ever did. That fuzzy bass/twinkling upper synth combo on the chorus is really pretty. And the bridge, too, is something different, unexpected, and surprisingly successful. See ya, Posner. Have fun with that second album.
9. Drake – Headlines
When all’s said and done, 2011 is going to go down as the year where Drake officially overtook Lil Wayne. Not commercially, as Wayne still has a big enough fanbase to put a subpar album like Tha Carter IV atop the charts, but I’ve seen Take Care on year-end lists while Carter is a no-show.
“Headlines” shows why Drake is more interesting than his mentor. Left to his own devices, Lil Wayne seems more content to spend a couple verses just throwing punchlines together, while Drake’s verses are a mix of stream-of-conscious and reflection. “I guess it really is just me, myself, and all my millions” might be the most first world problem line ever, but Drake shows a new sort of rap star: dude might have more money than we can comprehend, but he grapples with issues of self-worth and image, and we can somehow relate to that. Of course, 40 and Boi-1da’s wobbly production and Drake’s improved flow, singing, and general stage presence all help out, too.
8. Adele – Someone Like You
Seeing how this is a top ten hits of 2011 list, it was never a question of if Adele was going to appear as much as a matter of when. And she appears here with the biggest heartbreaker of the year; it might not be as edgy or bold as some of the other songs on this list, but damn if it isn’t the most affecting. Where I think a lot of the song’s emotional oomph comes from is that it hits on what’s possibly the worst part of a break-up: that moment when the other person has moved on, and you fucking haven’t. And instead of letting the guy have it, Adele just shrugs her shoulders and moves on in spite of herself. The first “Never mind, I’ll find someone like you” after the chorus just rips my heart out every time. Sniff.
7. Rihanna – We Found Love
There’s something inherently weird at putting a current hit on the year-end list, like now I really, really hope this song make it or something, but screw it. Hell, the first entry on this list is Mike Posner of all people, so if you made it this far, thanks. Anyway, “We Found Love”‘s success owes just as much to producer Calvin Harris as it does to Rihanna. The main hook manages to sound happy but wistful at the same time, and there’s something about the breakdown that just sounds ruined (and, of course, works as a break build up). Lyrically, a little vague and repetitive, but “We found love in a hopeless place” is a fine lyric to repeat.
And Rihanna seems to have finally realized she can sing about more than sex. Yeah, “Rude Boy” was good, but “S&M” was just too blunt and trying way too hard. “We Found Love”? Not so much. And while sometimes her vocals feel like they’re pushed into the song, the melody to “We Found Love” fits right with the music behind it. Huh, maybe Talk That Talk would be a good album to review.
6. David Guetta ft. Usher – Without You
You know what’s even weirder than writing about the main hit right now? Writing about the same song you wrote about 2 weeks ago.
It’s refreshing to hear a song like “Without You”. Greatness of the song aside, it’s also nice to know that even though they mess up (D.Guetta’s “Where Them Girls At” made its way onto my Worst of the Year list the other day), guys like Guetta and Usher who know the game this well can still make a knockout tune. The production just swells and swells to the point of euphoria, and Usher rises to match it. “Without You”‘s an interesting song structurally with how many synths and instruments Guetta can throw in the mix, and never relies on any of the modern pop hit tricks (featured rapper, breakdown, repetitive hook). Aside from that, I don’t have much to say except this is just a great pop song.
Tune in tomorrow (can you “tune in” to a website?) for the top five best pop hits of 2011!