2011 Music: Song List

In keeping with my tradition of only managing to say anything about a year’s worth of music once the year in question is already over, here are my songs of note from 2011. As usual, a song doesn’t have to have been released as a single in order to get into this list, and I only feature a song in this list if it isn’t already from one of my favourite albums of the year.

In last year’s list I included some honourable mentions, which were songs that stood out to me but didn’t quite merit being described as my “best of” the year for various reasons. I like the idea so will continue it this year, with:

  • Look At Me Now (Chris Brown feat. Busta Rhymes and Lil’ Wayne): A lot of this song is a frustrating waste of a great beat, but Busta’s verse (starting 1.30) is one of those glorious virtuoso performances which you enjoy first for itself and then for the entertainment value of the million Youtube cover attempts it launched, such as Mac Lethal’s Cook With Me Now "pancakes” version.

  • I Will (Danny Brown): I don’t want to spoil it. Just listen to it. But not out loud unless you are in a rather permissive environment.

  • Edge Of Glory (Lady Gaga): There’s no way of explaining how I ended up following Lady Gaga’s career because I’m madly in love with her gay backup dancer without coming off as insane, is there? Perhaps in some other post. For present purposes, just believe me when I say I’m totally emotionally invested in the career of Mark Kanemura, former So You Think You Can Dance contestant, current Lady Gaga principal dancer, FOREVAH HOTTIE. He’s gone from “normal” backup dancer to someone Gaga obviously favours, and when she premiered the single on the American Idol finale featuring him prominently as the only dancer to appear and dance with her my heart nearly BURST WITH JOY, although I will admit that his lack of clothing might also have contributed to that feeling of imminent pulmonary failure. Every subsequent live performance of the song has also featured him dirty dancing with Gaga in various states of undress, which is why I have 19 Edge Of Glory performance videos saved on my hard drive. The earlier link is to the American Idol performance for sentimentality’s sake (skip to 2:40 to see Mark), but to get a better idea of why I am insane I recommend you watch this lovely compilation instead.

And now the songs proper:

  • Do It Like A Dude (Jessie J): If you commanded me to dissolve and reconstruct myself as a pop star, and gave me the requisite magical powers with which to do so, this would be my debut single and video. (I know the song is borderline 2010/2011 but I only heard it in 2011 and love it too much not to feature it here somewhere.)


  • Try To Sleep (Low): The album this came from felt like a retread of the most accessible bits of Low’s past work, which I found disappointing after the curveball of righteous electronic anger that was Drums And Guns (my favourite Low album, which would also have been featured here as my favourite album of 2007 if I’d ever got round to writing that list). But at least when a band like Low decides to do "accessible", they sometimes end up giving you the prettiest little bit of twinkly harmonized accessibility you could ever imagine.

  • The Other Shoe (Fucked Up): You don’t really expect an established hardcore punk band to decide all of a sudden to feature pretty girly harmonies in their songs, or for a song with chief lyrical takeaway of "DYING ON THE INSIDE! DYING ON THE INSIDE!" to be so damn catchy, but Fucked Up is kinda special that way. (The album this is from is hands-down the best guitar album of the year but it’s so intense that I can’t actually handle listening to it all in one go, so it won’t feature on my album list.)

  • Lose Yourself (Astro): Far and away the best contestant from the inaugural season of X-Factor USA, 15 year old rapper Astro first caught my attention with his ballsy audition but truly gained my admiration once the live rounds started by using each song he was supposed to "cover" as little more than a sonic template upon which to perform his own rap verses – essentially writing his own new material each week. America likes its reality show hamsters meek, humble and preferably with a sob story, so I suppose this swaggerific performance (my favourite of the whole season) explains why he didn’t make it as far as he deserved in the competition.

  • Love Out Of Lust (Lykke Li): I agonized over whether to feature this or the near-perfect Ronettes revivalism of Sadness Is A Blessing, but in the end my choice was emotional – Russ introduced Love Out Of Lust to me on our roadtrip through New England, I loved it immediately, and I love the memory of listening to it in the rental car, our little space of moody poignant beauty racing forward on a vast sunny American highway.

  • No Church In The Wild (Kanye West & Jay-Z): In the same strange way that last year’s Kanye album went from underwhelming me to blindsiding me as my favourite album of the year, I found this unremarkable until I suddenly found its propulsive beat and enigmatic lyrics utterly compelling. The production is reminiscent of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, especially in the use of the vocal samples, which is to say it is distinctive and unexpected in a way no one else is doing quite as well as Kanye.

  • A Thousand Years (Christina Perri): Yes, I seriously like this. No, I’m not into Twilight. What can I say, I enjoy West Coast Swinging to this song and find its lyrics rather romantic. I suppose I am a bit of a sap for this idea of love that makes the passage of time feel like an afterthought – I did start welling up on the bus the first time I heard Magnetic Fields’ It’s Only Time, which had a somewhat similar idea.

  • Skyscraper (Demi Lovato): Yes, I seriously like this. No, I haven’t lost my edge. Yes, I’ve totally lost my edge. Let’s move on.

  • Snowflake (Kate Bush): Kate took over a decade’s break from music to raise her son Bertie, and he duets with her here at age 13. It was worth the wait. Bertie’s lines are those of the titular snowflake falling from the sky, his unbroken voice taking on the high, pure notes we might have expected to hear issuing from his mother years ago. Meanwhile, Kate whispers and wheedles from the waiting earth: "The world is so loud / Keep falling / I’ll find you". Perhaps this sounds twee. It is not. It is bloody beautiful, and like nothing you would ever hear from anyone that wasn’t Kate Bush.

  • Marka (Dub Phizix and Skeptical feat. Strategy): This song is what you would get if you analyzed my brain and wrote an instruction manual for how to press every single one of my dance music buttons. Also, I rarely bother watching music videos but with this one I’m transfixed every time.