2011 was a year. And like years before it, people released albums. And like those other years, we ranked what we thought were the best of the respective genres we cover — Indie/Pop/Rock, Hip Hop, Pop, Metal, Punk, and Electronic.
Top 15 Pop Tracks:
Nicki Minaj – Super Bass
From Pink Friday. Producer: Kane Beatz.
|Nicki Minaj made the jump from hip-hop buzz-babe to bona fide pop Diva in 2011, and this was the song that did it for her. “This one is for the boys with the boomin’ systems,” just might be the most iconic first line from any song in 2011, and it seemed to resonate with pop radio fans, hip-hop fans, and even adorable british children. “Super Bass” is Minaj’s highest charting single to date, hitting #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.|
Demi Lovato – Skyscraper
From Take Unbroken. Producer: Toby Gad.
|This was the pop radio ballad of 2011. Demi Lovato had her fair share of personal problems in recent years, and this song seems to be a deeply personal, and emotional rise, anchored by, without a doubt, the best female vocal performance of the year. This song was written & produced by Toby Gad, who is best known for penning ballads “If I Were A Boy” (Beyonce), “Big Girls Don’t Cry (Fergie), and about a dozen other Billboard success stories. |
Drake – Headlines
From Take Care. Producer: 40.
|Take Care has quite a few candidates that I thought about including on my list, but after at least a dozen listens of this fantastic record, nothing stayed with me in 2011 more than “Headlines.” This song (or maybe just the video) made me excited about living in Toronto, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know every single word by heart. And isn’t that the measure of a good pop song? Drake & 40 found a way to make Take Care simultaneously introspective and braggadocious, and “Headlines” is the anthem. |
The-Dream – Body Work & Fuck My Brains Out
From The Love, IV (Diary of a Mad Man). Producer: The-Dream.
|There’s still no official release date for The Love, IV (Diary of a Mad Man), but The-Dream was kind enough to give us a preview in June by leaking this double-single digitally via his own website. The Radio Killa’s sexed-up falsetto is still in fine form on “Body Work,” and his unmistakable Prince influence shines brightly in the fun and filthy “Fuck My Brains Out.” Terius Nash has this unique talent of being able to write the smuttiest lyric and make it sound super sensual. The end result is a Princed-up R&B portrait of an honest and very sexual relationship, equal parts sexy and funky. Not bad for a guy who also wrote half of the new Beyonce record. |
Robyn – Call Your Girlfriend
From Body Talk. Producer: Åhlund, Billboard.
|Robyn didn’t get nearly enough radio or chart love in 2011. Since “Show Me Love” and “Do You Know What It Takes” (1997) both peaked at #7 on the Hot 100, she hasn’t had another song breach #100. Nonetheless, she has developed a devoted and diverse following over the past 14 years, becoming known for her lyrical brilliance, and her super-energetic live show. “Call Your Girlfriend” is a near-perfect pop song, and from a sales perspective, it’s baffling that Robyn hasn’t secured a place among the upper echelon of current Radio Pop Divas like Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Beyonce. |
LMFAO – Party Rock Anthem
From Sorry For Party Rocking. Producer: SkyBlu, GoonRock.
|These guys don’t get any credit, but they’re responsible for what I consider the song of the Summer. Everybody was shufflin’ thanks to Skyblu and RedFoo. They’re just a coupla harmless party rockin’ goofballs who wanna have a good time, y’know? Plus, the world will always need a soundtrack for drunken antics. |
Beyonce – Countdown
From IV. Producer: Knowles, Shea Taylor, Cainon Lamb.
|Let me count down the reasons this song made the list. |
5. It’s the best song on IV.
4. IV is one of the best pop records of 2011.
3. It’s based around a Boyz II Men sample.
2. The song has 9 credited songwriters, and more is better, right?
1. It’s a song about love, and relationship loyalty. D’aww, Jay-Z & Bey.
Lil Wayne – She Will feat. Drake
From Tha Carter IV. Producer: T-Minus.
|Tha Carter IV was, on the whole, a disappointing album for me. I was super nervous about it after the atrocity that was Rebirth, and though IV has some jams, it’s nowhere near the brilliance of III. That said, “She Will” ended up being one of my favourite rap songs of 2011. It’s well produced thanks to Toronto-producer T-Minus, and it’s got a great hook courtesy of our boy Drake. Weezy takes a break from the autotuned singing, and spits some clever lines (“Today I went shopping / and talk is still cheap“) that almost reckon back to the glory days of “Lollipop,” “A Milli,” and “Mrs. Officer.” It’s not good enough to make us forget about “Rebirth,” but I’ve still got a soft spot for the Martian. |
Pitbull – Give Me Everything feat. NeYo, Nayer, Afrojack
From Planet Pit. Producer: Afrojack.
|Afrojack became a superstar producer and DJ in 2011, and now he parties with Paris Hilton. It’s been on the Hot 100 for 37 weeks (it’s still #26), and it peaked at #1. I could take or leave Pitbull, but the bouncy production and Ne-Yo’s silky smooth hook made this song a huge guilty pleasure for me in 2011. |
Chris Brown – Look At Me Now feat. Bustra Rhymes, Lil Wayne
From F.A.M.E. Producer: Diplo, Afrojack, Free School.
|Yes, he’s no angel, but this Chris Brown track is simply undeniable. The minimal beat is a Diplo/Afrojack collab, and Breezy’s rapping is surprisingly on point. Toss on features from two rap veterans, and boy oh boy, you’ve got yourself the crossover hit of the year.|
Britney Spears – Till The World Ends (Remix) feat. Nicki Minaj & Ke$ha
From Femme Fatale Producer: Dr. Luke, Max Martin, Billboard.
|Apocalyptic pop songs were not uncommon in 2011. A couple of other examples: |
“Give Me Everything tonight, ’cause we might not get tomorrow,” from the Pitbull/Afrojack/NeYo jam mentioned earlier.
“We gonna party like it’s the end of the world,” from “2012 (It Ain’t The End)” by U.K. Young Money recruit Jay Sean.
The “Till The World Ends” remix is easily the best prophetic pop song of 2011. The Nicki Minaj feature alone clinched this song a spot on my list.
Katy Perry – E.T. (Remix) feat. Kanye West
From Teenage Dream. Producer: Dr. Luke, Max Martin, Ammo, Kanye West.
|Teenage Dream has been a force in pop music over the past 2 years. Katy Perry’s 6th single from her record currently sits at #4 on the the Hot 100, and is dangerously close to breaking Michael Jackson’s record for the most #1 hits on one album. The single in question, “The One That Got Away,” is nothing to write home about, but “E.T.,” another #1 hit, is a truly bizarre pop song that could only be written in 2011, a.k.a., the actual future. Contemporary hit guru Dr. Luke crafted an ominous synthetic landscape where a vague interplanetary love story takes place. “Guess what’s next, alien sex” is one of the most laughable Kanye-isms from the year, but his guest feature elevates the song to a strange and satisfying climax. |
Rihanna – We Found Love feat. Calvin Harris
From Talk That Talk. Producer: Calvin Harris.
|Electro-house production techniques have dominated pop radio over the past few years, and if “We Found Love” is any indicator, that’s not about to change. Electro producer Calvin Harris supplies the bright and exuberant house track, and Rhi-Rhi delivers a strong and catchy lead vocal over top. Talk That Talk hasn’t gotten very many decent reviews, but this song in particular is in contention for the best female pop record of the year. |
DJ Khaled – I’m On One feat. Rick Ross, Drake, Lil Wayne
From Take Care. Producer: T-Minus, 40, Kromatik
|Maybach Music had a huge impact on pop music in 2011. “I’m On One” peaked at #10 on the Hot 100, and it’s the only Top 10 song to date for both Khaled and Rick Ross. |
It’s an unbelievable song, thanks to T-Minus, 40, Drake, Lil Wayne, and Rozay — but I’ve got to ask — why is it a DJ Khaled song?
DJ Khaled does nothing but bark over the intro. He has no part in the production, or the actual vocals of the song. He doesn’t rap, he doesn’t sing, and he doesn’t make beats. He got the name DJ Khaled, as a disc jockey for WEDR in Miami. He’s more of a producer in the sense that he brings talent together.
Kanye West & Jay Z – Niggas In Paris
From Watch The Throne. Producer: Hit-Boy, Kanye West, Mike Dean, Anthony Kilhoffer.
|I’d have to be crazy not to include a track from Watch The Throne, one of the most talked-about albums of the year. So why not “Niggas In Paris”? I mean, “that shit cray” is a thing that people say now. Starting with a Blades of Glory Sample, the song has an infectiously memorable lead riff, a booming sub bass, and what I feel is the best back and forth between ‘Ye and Jay on the entire record. Kanye’s rhymes are hit and miss these days, but he really outshines Hov on this track: “Doctors say I’m the illest because I’m suffering from realness / Got my niggas in Paris, and they going gorillas.” This song is so good, on the Watch The Throne tour they performed it as many as ELEVEN TIMES per show. One of the best of 2011, by two of the best of all time. |