We always have memories and moments to define our years—and we also always have music. In 2011, Adele steamrolled with one of the most acclaimed and successful albums of the year. Lady Gaga taught us all that we’re beautiful in our own ways, and Demi Lovato rose back from the ground like a skyscraper. We party rocked with LMFAO and we danced with Britney Spears till the world was supposed to end, like, two times.
This list in no way reflects statistics or what was successful or the “best” in music this year: While I factor those things in somewhat, this is merely a list of personal favorites of songs that were released and/or became huge in 2011. These are songs that I’ll associate with the triumphs, heartbreaks, and good times of what is progressively becoming the year past. We all have them! Check out what’s on my year-end playlist and share what’s on yours!
“Party Rock Anthem” – LMFAO (feat. Lauren Bennett and GoonRock)
Every playlist needs a “freebie” — a song that you know in your heart is stupid, but it just gets the party started. Arguably, “Party Rock Anthem” is that freebie for me.
“Super Bass” – Nicki Minaj (feat. Ester Dean)
Nicki Minaj has really come into her own this year, and this super catchy tune represents that. It’s fun, flirty, and fast-paced. It’s one of those songs that you want to hate but then you won’t be able to get it out of your head and you’ll end up loving it instead.
“Without You” – David Guetta (feat. Usher)
I first heard this song in this montage that I saw on TV, and now I can’t think of anything else other than my favorite baseball team when I listen to it.
“The Harold Song” – Ke$ha
The notoriously crazy Ke$ha softened up with this heartbreaking midtempo about a lost love. Despite the simplistic song title, there’s nothing simple about expressing despair in a style that’s still true to yourself, yet at the same time displaying sensitivity.
“Sparks Fly” – Taylor Swift
The country-pop princess embarked on a sold-out international tour in support of her latest album Speak Now and opened her shows with this spirited love song. I know I see the sparks fly when I listen and sing along to this friendly tune, and when I think about how awesome Swift’s hair looks when she whips it back and forth.
“Skyscraper” – Demi Lovato
After spending time in rehab to deal with personal issues, Demi Lovato returned to the spotlight in a big way with this moving, inspirational ballad—the debut single off her latest studio effort Unbroken. Full of raw honesty and hope, Lovato showcased growth and maturity through this musical piece.
“Poison and Wine” – The Civil Wars
Though released in 2009, this gorgeous and deeply felt ballad contributed hugely to the year of The Civil Wars, the indie folk duo consisted of Joy Williams and John Paul White. The musicians captured hearts and fed souls with the release of their full-length album Barton Hollow and through live tours, leading to a couple of Grammy nominations and recently, a coveted spot on The Hunger Games soundtrack on a song with Taylor Swift.
“Paper Heart” – David Cook
American Idol‘s original (And the best, TBH) White Guy With a Guitar winner followed up with his 2008 release with the carefully-crafted and mesmerizing This Loud Morning, which included this gem amongst others. It’s soaring medium-rock at its most ear-gratifying.
“Rolling in the Deep” – Adele
No one dominated 2011 quite like Adele. Since her sophomore album 21 was released in January, the hits and the acclaim just kept rolling in, and you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing this pulse-pounding song of un-forgiveness. Bold lyrics, a style echoing the roots of early American music, and the songstress’ phenomenal pipes give “Rolling in the Deep” its winning formula, which could also be said for the rest of the album.
“Raise Your Glass” – P!nk
Released late in 2010 as the lead-off single for P!nk’s Greatest Hits…So Far!, “Raise Your Glass” continued to serve a poppy celebratory anthem for outcasts everywhere. It was also in every movie trailer for all buddy and romantic comedies released in 2011, which as we all know signifies the huge cultural impact of any song.
“E.T.” – Katy Perry (feat. Kanye West)
Katy Perry had quite a remarkable year coming off the release of 2010′s Teenage Dream, but it was this unlikely collaboration with Kanye West that reflected a new kind of power for the pop star. This techno-infused track was definitely out-of-this world.
“What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)” – Kelly Clarkson
Obviously, I love my American Idols, especially the queen of all Idols, Kelly Clarkson. She’s known for her high-powered pop anthems of strength, and the title track off her latest album doesn’t disappoint. The message is familiar, but the disco-ish sound separates it from the others. Yet, it’s making its mark as another signature tune of empowerment from an incredible woman who’s been there, done that.
“The Edge of Glory” – Lady Gaga
With the release of her much-anticipated third album Born This Way, Gaga continued to be nothing short of a contemporary pop culture icon. The closing track/single number three somehow makes the end of someone’s life (She wrote it in memory of her grandfather) what only the most extreme optimists view death as—a new beginning. This rock-influenced dance track—which includes a saxophone solo by the late Clarence Clemons—feels so final, but it isn’t. Rather, the upbeat nature and being disguised as more of a love song makes it more about reaching some other general climax.
“Till the World Ends” – Britney Spears
The release of Femme Fatale and her coinciding world tour was a continued show of dominance in mainstream music for Miss Spears, who recently reached a life milestone by celebrating her 30th birthday. With the album brimming full of club hits, the message of “Till the World Ends” epitomizes the laughable hypothetical disasters (Talking to you, crazy guy who kept on spreading BS about the rapture) of 2011. But it’s also a song for all the good times where nothing else mattered. And with impending Doomsday coming in 2012, there’s no better song to ring in the new year with. Here’s to the apocalypse!