Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Top 100 Songs of 2011 - An Intro

2011 will go down in musical history as meaning a lot of things to many different people.

Most prevalently, we saw a continuation of the long-subdued house music trend that not only popped up but also took a firm hold of American pop music. Artists such as Lady Gaga, Rihanna and more dove face first into a style of music that had been popular in Europe for over a decade before, while LMFAO and Pitbull found it a prime time to take a stab at international superstardom -- and succeeded, for better or for worse.

With the exception of a few artists, 2011 was also a year of change for the rap artist community. We've seen a rise of the underground/DIY movement in the genre, with the Tyler, the Creator-led Odd Future at its forefront. Many rappers rode the momentum established by such 'new guard' emcees as B.o.B. and Drake, rising stars such as J. Cole and Big Sean were introduced, and Jay-Z and Kanye West released perhaps one of the most important and telling records of the genre in years, Watch the Throne. Oh, and Detox didn't come out. Again.

In a bit more negative light was the year rock music had. Commercially and critically, the genre is at one of its lowest lows, with few rock songs breaking out on Top 40 radio in 2011. The Foo Fighters, always a force to be reckoned with, snagged a nomination for Album of the Year at next year's GRAMMYs, but the field has been decidedly bare otherwise. The other big rock act of 2011? Foster the People, an indie rock act that scored big with the old time-y "Pumped Up Kicks" and MGMT-esque "Helena Beat." And if rock music in 2011 is to be defined based on Foster the People's fairly subdued sound, we may be in trouble.

Still, Foos frontman Dave Grohl had words to say to those who doubt the genre's lifeblood. "Never lose faith in real rock and roll music, you know what I mean?" he stated at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. "Never lose faith in that. You might have to look a little harder, but it's always going to be there."

In a way, he was right. Despite rock's struggle with attaining mainstream allure, a few bands still had a respectable 2011, including indie outfits Girls and Yuck, Pacific Northwest folk band Fleet Foxes, rising stars Cage the Elephant, and Portland's The Decemberists, who scored their very first No. 1 on Billboard's Billboard 200 albums chart. And there's hope on the horizon -- Ohio's The Black Keys release El Camino in just a few days, and lead single "El Camino" is already making waves on rock radio.

While it was a relatively quiet year for country music, an occasional tune broke into the public conscious. Most notable was The Band Perry's "If I Die Young," a moderate-tempo reflection on life and death in the vein of Taylor Swift and her modern-day empire. Jason Aldean hit it big with "Dirt Road Anthem" and his "Don't You Wanna Stay" duet with Kelly Clarkson, and Blake Shelton's star, heightened already from a judge spot on NBC's The Voice, grew with big tracks such as "Honey Bee" and "God Gave Me You."

Having said all this, until the GRAMMYs hit in February, one question remains -- what are the best songs of 2011? What songs are most suitable to be considered the hallmarks of 2011, the music that we'll remember most prevalently when looking back on the year?

This isn't exactly one of those countdowns. One could go over the songs that will be most remembered and loved, but frankly, I don't want to do that. I could spend time trying to tell you why anything off Radiohead's The King of Limbs deserves recognition, or I could talk to you about the music I enjoyed the most in 2011, and leave that talk to SPIN or Rolling Stone (because you know it's coming [and apologies to Radiohead fans everywhere, but my god that record was boring]).

So, I present to you my top 100 songs of 2011. These are the songs I'll still be listening to years from now. Some of them are obvious, some not so much. The goal here is to provide recognition to those who deserve it in the highly public sphere, while also shining a light on a few artists and songs that might get overlooked in the hustle and bustle of end-of-the-year best-of lists.

Starting today, and until Christmas Day, I'll be posting four songs a day, starting with No. 100 and moving to our all-important No. 1. Along the way, I'll give my commentary on each song -- why I find it important, exemplary, or just damn-good fun. I will also do my best to provide an embed or link to the music, either in video or mp3 format.

A ground rule to consider -- once you see one song by an artist, that may be it. I only wanted to consider one song per artist, so that I wasn't tempted to include multiple songs from just one album. I could keep explaining to you over and over why I love Fleet Foxes' 2011 release, or I could just do it once and with one song. As such, this means that this won't be a perfect list, but this was the best way I saw fit. There are exceptions -- for example, one could include a song from Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a track from his Watch the Throne collab with Jay-Z, AND his guest spot on Katy Perry's "E.T." Basically, I don't want to exclude certain artists because artists with which they're collaborating on a given song have already been mentioned.

I hope that makes sense.

If you're looking for an example of what I'll be doing with this list, I invite you to check out this link. This is my personal Tumblr, on which I posted a top 30 list last year. Click the 'previous' button at the bottom of the page to find the songs in succession.

Thank you for reading. I hope you're both entertained and informed. By doing this, I'm not trying to form your opinions about music and trying to tell you what was good and what was bad. I'm merely attempting to show you what I enjoyed the most in 2011, and will attempt to be a Tastemaker for those who may be less informed on some of the lesser-known artists in music today.

Numbers 100-96 are forthcoming!

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