Here are my favorite songs of 2011. These are not the best or the most critically acclaimed tracks of 2011. My criteria is simple: does the song instantly make me want to dance/nod my head/smile, is the track musically and/or lyrically interesting, and how much staying power did the record have throughout the year. Now, according to my iTunes, “Airplanes” by B.o.B. and Hayley Williams was the most my most played track of the year (thanks to Mrs. Diesel), but it wouldn’t even crack my top 30. The ten songs below are a pretty accurate representation of my listening patterns throughout the year. There may be some surprises and even some questionable choices. I’d love to read your lists in the comments.
10. “Jet Lag” – Simple Plan ft. Natasha Bedingfield
Classic call and response duet. Simple Plan just know how to write a great pop song.
9. “Cockiness” / “You Da One” – Rihanna
Unlike Katy Perry, Rihanna owns and flaunts her sexuality. “Cockiness” is a hilariously raunchy romp. No, “I love it when you eat it” does not contain any swears, but it might be the most vulgar thing that makes it on the radio this year. “You Da One” is island swag. Grind away.
8. “Daybreak” – Saves the Day
Look, it’s ten minutes long. Not too shabby.
7. “John” / “I Love My Bitches” – Rick Ross (and Lil Wayne)
My two favorite rap songs of the year. Great beats, tons of cursing and enough posturing to make me believe Ricky Rozay still slings coke and stays strapped. You had me at “lobster bisque.”
6. “Countdown” – Beyonce
When has Beyonce release a bad song? Pure fun. The gold standard of modern divas.
5. “No Over You” – Gavin DeGraw
Call me a pussy, but this is a great song with a heart-on-sleeve chorus, begging for a Katherine Heigl movie break-up montage.
4. “Carousel” – Vanessa Carlton
After hearing this song, I had huge expectations for Vanessa’s comeback album Rabbits on the Run. While the rest of the album didn’t deliver, this track still proves that musical talent will never be her problem.
3. “Count on Me” – Paranoid Social Club
Easily my favorite rock song of the year. A must listen for the recorded performance behind the kit by Tony McNaboe, who is sadly no longer with the group.
2. “N****s in Paris” – The Throne
Watch the Throne was a disappointing record for me, but in fairness my expectations were probably too high. The Watch the Throne tour though? Gorrillas! Hearing this song six times in a row as a set closer and encore was absurd, hilarious and pretty fitting for the two most ballin rappers alive. Besides the great Will Farrell samples, it’s got the best punchline of the year (“Prince William ain’t do it right if you ask me…”) and single-handedly made the fish fillet relevant again.
1. “Surf’s Up 1967 (Solo Version)” – Beach Boys/Brian Wilson
Pure genius. This one-take solo masterpiece is why Brian Wilson is the greatest American songwriter of his generation. Complex lyrics from Van Dyke Parks, an envious falsetto and then the track just ends; Wilson stops playing and nonchalantly gets up from behind the piano, totally unaware of what he just laid down. The Smile project took over 40 years to finally see the light of day, and this track alone has made the wait well worth it.