5. Lady Gaga – The Edge of Glory
For a career marked by big singles, Lady Gaga’s had a flustered year with Born This Way. The title single took off like a rocket, but critical reaction ranged from mild excitement to mild disappointment, and “Judas” (a very likeable song, IMO) was her first flop. Then came “The Edge of Glory”.
“The Edge of Glory” was a turning point for Gaga. A lot of people didn’t immediately jump for “Born This Way” and “Judas” because they were just louder, bigger retreads of what she’d done before, but “Glory” strays from the normal club pop routine for pop charged with 80’s arena-rock energy. The reverb might be just a little much, but the desired effect is achieved; Gaga sounds like she’s effortlessly singing out to millions. And in terms of sounding triumphant and jubilant, the chorus for “Edge of Glory” runs circles around “Born This Way”; the music pushes out in all directions, and Gaga throws herself at the song. And, of course, the bridge completely abandons the usual Lady Gaga Sing-Speak Bridge for a synth and sax (by the late Clarence Clemons of the EStreet band) jam/solo, which just adds to the song’s over the top awesomeness. Fun fact, the only reason this song became an official single was that the fans pushed for it, and I have to say, good work, Little Monsters.
4. Adele – Rolling in the Deep
Perched right atop the year’s Hot 100 is Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”. And I knew as soon as I saw that Billboard put the list up that this was going to be number one, hell, I could have told you that last month. But that’s not impressive considering that anyone with the slightest idea of how a song gets on the Hot 100 could have told you that yes, “Rolling in the Deep” was going to nab the number one. Not since Usher’s “Yeah!” has a song managed to be this inescapable.
In fact, “Rolling in the Deep” was so inescapable this year that I honestly considered leaving it off the list because I got so damn tired of it. But, upon repeated listens, I just couldn’t; this song’s great, no matter how much it gets played. Adele’s break-up-palooza 21 got wearing eventually, but she sounds truly scorned on “Rolling in the Deep”, and those soulful vocals are fresh every time. And while Adele sound great, the music behind has some pretty damn strong kick to it as well. The ramshackle drumbeat, disco piano at the chorus, and the expertly deployed backing vocals gave the song enough edge to push it above the competition, and the clapping backbeat on the chorus is absolutely kickass. Way to pick a good one, America.
3. Nicki Minaj – Super Bass
It’s been a weird two years for Nicki Minaj. Her quick delivery and tenacious personality made her the queen of guest verses in 2010, but her own singles never really had the same…bite to them. You’d see her stomp Jay-Z and Kanye on “Monster”, then meander through a snoozefest like “Your Love”.
So thank God for “Super Bass”, which blows any of her other singles out of the water. One of Nicki’s poppiest singles? Probably. But listen to her on the verses, and it’s clear that “pop” isn’t synonymous with “soft”, at least not in the case. In addition to her tight, rapid fire flow, the lyrics border inane in the best possible way: this guy might sell coke, have a boomin’ system, got the right kind of belt, and Nicki’s in love with his tie. It encapsulates that same dizzy “Love the dumb, weird shit you do” vibe that comes with being absolutely into someone. And, of course, there’s no way to resist the head over heels happiness of the chorus with backing vocals from Esther Dean. Sprinkle a distinctly Nicki production behind it, and you have a hit that finally fits her: off-kilter, but deadly.
2. Cee-Lo Green – Fuck You
Fucking FINALLY. Despite being released in August of 2010, “Fuck You” had to fight a long up and down road to finding success on the charts. Some five months after being released, the song finally peaked at number 2 on the Hot 100 thanks to being butchered by Glee, a slew of Grammy nominations, and an utterly hilarious Grammy performance, and it finally had enough momentum to land at number 7 on the year end charts for this year.
Frankly, this song’s hilarious. Oh, don’t get me wrong, the Smeezingtons’ vibrant, old R&B/soul/gospel production kicks ass, and Cee-Lo’s all over this song vocally, but the real reason “Fuck You” took off is because it’s damn funny. Verse lines like “I guess she’s an X-Box/And I’m more an Atari” and “Being in love with your ass ain’t cheap” put a smile on my face, but the real winner’s the chorus. Putting the F-Bomb front and center like that is shocking when you first hear the song’s pitch, but it’s too silly to be taken seriously in context. The song’s just too damn shiny and happy sounding to match the raging bitterness in the lyrics, and hell, who hasn’t imagined telling an ex off like this (and to such a catchy tune!)? I’m glad the dude finally got his recognition.
And now, here it is, my pick for the number one hit of the year…
1. Kanye West – All of the Lights
Guys, you know me. I’m an internet blogger and a college student; I have no idea what being famous actually feels like.
But if I had to guess, it’d be the way “All of the Lights” sounds.
The production values on “All of the Lights” are through the roof. The leading horn part sounds downright regal, and the martial, manic drumbeat gives the song tons of running forward momentum, not to mention putting a new spin on an old sound. Rihanna’s as good a choice as any for the chorus, and the choir of backing guest stars adds to the song’s size, even if you can’t hear anyone especially stand out. Cudi’s part is great since the dude sounds coherent for once, and the music behind him’s going nuts, and the Alica Keys/Elton John fade out ends the song in just as awesome a fashion as it started.
And that’s not to leave Kanye out, because his verses are stellar, even if the subject matter is a little…obtuse. We get an MJ shoutout before going into custody battles and family troubles, but regardless of what he’s saying, Kanye sounds full immersed in “All of the Lights”, especially during his part of the chorus. In a year that was tough on almost everyone, it’s good to just take a few minutes out to listen to an absolutely awesome song.
Aaaand that’s it! Later this week, I’ll have my top albums of the year, as well as an odds and ends writeup on my favorite non-hits. See you then!