by Drake featuring Rihanna
"If you let me, here's what I'll do: I'll take care of you"
In the silence of this song, two artists portray a drunken sadness that has not been heard before. Perhaps it is only fitting, since it's about time that Rihanna finally exorcised the Chris Brown demon and Drake his bends of pop stardom. But perhaps, the winning aspect is the involvement of Jamie xx. Earlier, Jamie xx remixed Gil Scott-Heron's "I'll Take Care of You" with his own minimalist style. The result was raw and rough tribute. When Drake approached him for his new James Blake-inspired album, xx combined just the right ingredients for arguably the best song of the year.
The sexy, drunken vocals of the Barbadian star tops her recent trippings with Kanye West and Eminem. She's the rightful muse to Drake's successful but lonely lover because she herself is just the same. The restrain she puts in words like "I've loved and I've lost" makes you wonder if she's responding to Drake's sympathetic lyrics or she just had a night out and went home to talk to her mirror. It's the most heartwrenching moment in the year's pop next to 'Someone Like You' and 'Marvins Room'.
SOMEONE LIKE YOU
After her fierce and successful delivery of ' Rolling in the Deep', Adele gives us a lonely ballad about losing the guy she loved, with nobody to comfort her except a mic and a piano. It seemed strange to love such a song about loss and sadness, but Adele delivers it from the bottom of a severely broken heart. It's a rare moment of honesty, where most of us would just choose the bitterness over accepting the truth that we had lost the battle. As Madonna said in her own ballads album 'Something to Remember', "It takes more strength to cry, admit defeat", I can see clearly why 'Someone Like You' is a gem of 2011. In the digital age, it's proof of our hunger for honesty, since the concept of love has become something more complicated than what we initially thought.
And also, amid the the dominance of house and dubstep, 'Someone Like You' is a farewell anthem to a distant genre. A genre that served well the likes of Amy Winehouse and Adele herself. And its our decision if we will let that go away. But thank goodness 'Someone Like You' was a success! It's a heartbreak song to end all heartbreak songs. And it will no doubt be an unforgettable one, not because it is bitter, but because it's real.
2011 was all about girls lookin' so crazy in love. There's Nicki Minaj and her 'Super Bass', Britney Spears and her 'Criminal', Lady Gaga's own 'Judas' of a boyfriend, even Katy Perry who imagined Russell Brand as an alien, a zookeeper and someone as gorgeous as Diego Luna. But who'd do a better (crazy in) love song than destiny's child herself?
'4' delivers so many emotions towards love. But they can be categorized into two: so-in-love-I-just-cry ballads and so-crazy-in-love-I-dance icebreakers. Those dance songs in that album exhibit her full diva potential without restrain. So if '1+1' was one hellufa weepy, 'Countdown' is the euphoric opposite. It's the mix of all Beyonce's craziness since she first shook her hips to the horns of her first solo single. But while it's all about her present love, she incorporated portions of her past to express it.
First of course is the notable sample. The titular countdown was taken from Boys II Men's song 'Uuh Ahh'. The 90s generation was all head over heels for the musical balladry of Boys II Men, and of course, as a 90s kid herself, Mrs. Carter loved them. But who would've thought that she could get back at the band's slow sexy jam and use it to new dizzying heights? And if you look at that video, it's a montage of dance's different eras with Beyonce lookin' good and fierce in the front. While 'Countdown' is the creative highlight of Beyonce's latest album, you can't deny that inspiration is wrapped all around that album.
Actually, I just can't describe the Beyonce present in this song. She's in love, she's all deranged about it, and she wants to make them three... all in a countdown of 10 to 1! It's her most exciting performance yet, and it was something you probably didn't expect from her material-girl-slash-R&B-soul-sister schizophrenia. If all this was because of monogamous love and that alone, wouldn't it be nice to have your own Jay-Z at this very moment?
Remember Sasha Fierce? Forget her. The real Queen B has stood up.
by Nicki Minaj
The euphoria you feel with love, translated into the boom ba doom boom bass of a speaker.
It's quite possibly the most popular song of the year, with rap verses a whole generation memorized by heart. And there's the chorus that made us all fall in love with how Nicki Minaj fell in love. It found Nicki balancing the schmaltz with her angst. Yes, she's head over heels in love but it's obvious that she isn't one who's falling fast and vulnerable. She's still her badass self. "I am Nicki Minaj, I mack 'em dudes up/ Back coups up and chuck the deuce up" And she falls for a guy who's not so macho like the stereotypical boyfriend, but is shy and gentle to her. "I can tell that you're in touch with your feminine side" Plus a guy who's like Pelican fly? It's true that the guy being described here is someone rare, a guy so gentle and loving without being gay. Now girls, check your boyfriends. If he's an asshole, leave him. Listen to 'Super Bass' and follow Nicki's example.
In the end, that's just Nicki Minaj's version of love. And how happy this love has made us.
CALL YOUR GIRLFRIEND
How about a guide to breaking up with your girlfriend?
Robyn's musical history has always placed her in the shoes of the other girl. Now, she isn't buying it anymore.
"Call you girlfriend, it's time you had the talk/ Give your reasons, say it's not her fault/
But you just met somebody new"
It's a confidence that you won't find in the schmaltzy wounded puppy shit of ballads straight out of Celine Dion, or any other stuff like that. She must be crowned for being the first other girl to rebel against her condition, and inspiring us all to realize it, finally.
ALL OF THE LIGHTS
by Kanye West
featuring Alicia Keys, John Legend, The-Dream, Drake, Fergie, Kid Cudi, Elton John, Ryan Leslie, Charlie Wilson, Tony Williams, Elly Jackson, Alvin Fields, Ken Lewis, and Rihanna
It’s Kanye West’s latest opus, so why not combine the forces of several powers of the industry and make one hellufa record? ‘All of The Lights’ is Kanye’s share of the limelight, of the riches and of the fame to the next generation. But even though ‘All of the Lights’ is a beautiful place to be, Kanye and all his performers here know that it can be such a ‘ghetto university’. The sexy devilish croon of Rihanna everywhere in the song (exhibit A: “Turn up the lights in here baby”, exhibit B: “We’re goin’ all the way this time”) is the tour guide to one whole roller coaster of the Hollywood life. It’s both a blessing and a curse. “I tried to tell ya but all I could say is oohh” warned at the end by perhaps the most experienced artist of the lights, Elton John.
In terms of the music, the whole orchestration is a reminder of Kanye West’s unpredictability and superstardom. After going through the rap geniuses of ‘The College Dropout’ through ‘808s and Heartbreak’, the song’s structure shows Mr. West’s maturity into one accomplished artist. One whose ideologies also developed along the process. And ‘All of the Lights’ is that part of his beautiful dark twisted fantasy that is a shaking reminder that on earth, life can be a series of critical darling ups and self-embarrassment downs.
‘All of the Lights’ is perhaps an unforgettable song about Kanye’s life and career nonetheless, and we can share and relate from his experiences because we also want ‘All of the Lights’. And after all the sins he’s committed (and ones he thinks he committed), he gets back to us with a musical creativity like no other.
SOMEBODY THAT I USED TO KNOW
by Gotye (feat. Kimbra)
A heartbreak song disguised in an 80s pop package...
but the bittersweet taste remains in the buds long after the song concludes.
FIREBALL by Willow Smith (feat. Nicki Minaj)
You asked for a fireball, you get a f*ckin' fireball!
Just strange that we're getting all this hotness from Will Smith's baby girl. Alright, the girl's 10 years old. But she's got more charisma than the Disney pop princesses combined. Plus Nicki Minaj up there, it seems Pitchfork was right in claiming that the female rapper is the secret ingredient to a good hit these days. Age ain't nothin' but a number, and my love for this dance hit is just inescapable.
If Bjork's themes are getting tired, her music is always fresh. Possibly because she's one of the most resourceful artists around, using the sounds of live nature to punctuate her eclectic vocals. An experimental showcase of percussions, the surprise of 'Crystalline', aside from its striking criticism of commercialism, is the drum-'n-bass ending that gives the entire song a menacing final exclamation. She's still an exciting artist, that Bjork.
by Tyler, the Creator
A haunting rap track by a man who's "not gay, just wanted to boogie to some Marvin".
Yet, he's on therapy and imagines B.o.B. dead in a plane crash and Bruno Mars stabbed to the back.
And here's an even grimmer music video to make it worse.
Okay, Tyler. Run along. Go ahead and find yourself. I'll just cure the stabs you've done to Bruno Mars.
by St. Vincent
"How can they be casually cruel?"
How can they be, when your whole song is a series of quotable Facebook statuses compiled into one cohesive weave and delivered with dead-pan quirkiness and a catchy backtrack?
This one's a find.
CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT
by Foster The People
I learned in art class that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Therefore, all the things I consider beautiful is all because of my perception of beauty. Then later, I learned the theories of Hegel and Marx about things like the "ruling ideology". Looking back at history and tracing towards the present, we get bullying, labels and all those cruel names. In response to this, we get songs titled 'Born This Way' and 'Call It What You Want'.
"Yeah we're locked up in ideas/ We like to label everything/
Well I'm just gonna do here what I gotta do here/ 'Cause I gotta keep myself free"
I don't know what Foster the People want to bring up from their debut album 'Torches' but to me, the whole thing is summed up in this song, to which you can say they're playing it safe. But upon listening to the song, the anthemic declarations of "CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT!" forces your own judgments to be erased and just sing along. Call it what you want, Foster the People pays no attention to what you think. Like Lady Gaga's own erase-hate statement, in its own light, "Call It What You Want" may be the year's biggest self-empowerment theme song.
Just call it what you want? Hell, it's beautiful.
ROLLING IN THE DEEP (JAMIE XX REMIX)
by Adele featuring Jamie xx)
Much of Adele's performances are so beautiful and so powerful that they get a bit campy. And her admirers can't help but make fun out of it, producing GIFs and funny sketches revolving her talent. And Jamie xx, well aware of the happenings in music right now, took that idea and blended it with his own style.
This Jamie xx remix of the inescapable 'Rolling in the Deep' replaces her anger with a playful I-don't-care-if-you-care manner, backed up by a track of continuous percussion. The vocals suddenly changes pitch and the whole first and final choruses sound like scenes from 'The Exorcist'. And he let Adele interrupt his game. A seemingly endless run of "You played it. You played it. You played it. To the beat." finishes the remix, giving her an obvious reason to rant. In other words, Jamie xx turned Adele's song against herself. The irony gives the song a whole new catchiness, and it's so not Adele.
TILL THE WORLD ENDS (THE FEMME FATALE REMIX)
By Britney Spears (featuring Nicki Minaj and Ke$ha)
The single itself was already a humongous earworm. Like the luscious strings of 'Toxic' and the three-note piano intro of '...Baby One More Time', the gigantic oh ohs of that chorus are forever stamped in my brain. And did I mention that on paper, it was only about a night out in the club?
Enter the dragons. In a brilliant move, Brit allowed the (wittily titled) Femme Fatale Remix of the song to be done. Not only was it remixed to heavier dubstep, she let the new pop stars Nicki Minaj and Ke$ha unleash their talents in one of her many comeback singles. While half the song can be attributed to Ms. Sebert for co-writing (notice the resemblance to 'Blow'?), Ms. Maraj colors it pink. Her rap before the actual song is proof of her mastery, and the playfulness was unexpected. Who else could just blurt out fried chicken in a club pop song and get away with it? And in the now famous role call ("It's Britney biiiiiiiiitch! I'm Nicki Minaj and that's Ke$ha!"), the femme fatales combine in a three-headed monster and kill it like pros.
I can't take it, take it, take no more! It's just one hellufa brilliant idea.
SHAKE IT OUT
by Florence and The Machine
A celebration of freedom and confidence, complete with arena-sized declarations and Luis Bunuel references. So much soul, it’ll make you want to pray.
In one silly YouTube comment, a playful switch of lyrics say "Oh mama, mama, mama, I just shot a Chris Brown." The whole Chris Brown issue has always been associated with Rihanna. But she used this to her benefit. Her fifth album 'Rated R' (plus a featured song with Eminem) was dark and the songs presented mostly chaotic love and domestic abuse. In her successful album 'Loud' and its corresponding videos, she finally exorcised the demon.
And speaking of the songs, no other song reflected the state of Rihanna than in 'Man Down'. 'Man Down' is the quintessential Rihanna song. It is notable in that collection because of its unique structure and delivery. It's reggae, that one song in every Rihanna record that would reveal the Barbadian within all the American pop fluff. But what really kills in her fifth single is the lyrics twisted to the music. She sings about the murder of a man, and how she regrets it. Yet the way she sings this tale is vague and undisturbed, as if she's just saying that she didn't mean to do it but she knew it was coming. As with Foster the People's 'Pumped Up Kicks', Rihanna can't help it if she's a criminal. The man deserves it. And she deserves the relief.
This relief though wasn't satisfied till the video came out. The tale was visually presented and completely spelled out for the spectators. Rihanna portrayed a Barbadian lass having fun in the island until a local guy raped her. She gets back on him by shooting him dead. Alas, it was another controversial video. Catholic groups around the States deemed it too vulgar and violent. People would always rant about violence against women, but why is it that when women rise up from the violence and do something about it (say "shot a man down in central station in front of a big ol' crowd"), it is deemed inappropriate? In this light, I bet Rihanna called for the controversy herself.
Rum Pa Pum. Rum Pa Pum. Chris and Critics Down.
Not only did she exorcise her demons and made the critics scratch their heads. She managed to craft one of her best songs to date.
PUMPED UP KICKS
by Foster the People
Eerie vocals introduce us to the twisted mind of a Counter Strike-inspired killer who's half-serious in his upcoming spree. "You better run, better run or I'll run my gun." Then come the scarier whistles that you can almost feel Mr. Foster walking behind you. 'Pumped Up Kicks' is deranged alt-pop, but catchy as hell.
by Lady Gaga
Love it or loathe it, 'Judas' surely was 2011's most head-stomping, brow-raising, under-performing Lady Gaga song. It paved a larger path for the coming of more silly Illuminati accusations and made a lot of fans walk away, yet the Lady just sat calmly on her throne and awaited her biggest success yet: the album. Maybe if the subject matter was not something as Biblical as the betrayal done by Judas, it would've been a success. Unlike its mother, Madonna's 'Like a Prayer', which kept its sex-with-God backstory behind gospel choir catchiness, 'Judas' enveloped its bad romance within a conspiracy involving Mary Magdalene, Judas and Jesus Christ. The (Christian) world wasn't ready for Gaga's musical ambush, so they responded with brash criticism and a total eclipse from her artistry.
But it's clear that the song is one of her best yet. 'Judas' pushed her music further, baptizing it with heavier beats and crazier ideas - Ear condoms? Lipstick guns? Most of all, likening your bad boyfriend to Judas? - and fearlessly releasing the animal right before the Holy Week. Who would dare to do such things but the newly-crowned Queen of Pop?
UNDER COVER OF DARKNESS
by The Strokes
Like a tribute song to The Strokes by The Strokes.
Nothing new, but you can't deny it: you did miss "Someday" and "Last Nite".
If she has nothing, she's got YOOOOUU! She doesn't know much about algebra but she knows 1+1 equals TWOOOO! Yes, it's an almost campy performance from Beyonce declaring her love for Jay-Z. She delivers an amazingly matured vocal but she gets it out by way of a teenage girl much in love and is too happy that she begins to cry, or like a drag queen in a karaoke bar hitting the high notes of a Whitney Houston song. With all that restrain, it's like one of the songs of Adele's albeit one with a delivery that's more like a warm and tight embrace than a cold kissoff.
One of the strongest hits from Drake yet, once again the rapper spills his issues on celebrity in the forefront of booming beats and restless strings. Like his rise to the top, the song is a speedy reflection. And it gets better.
WHAT YOU NEED
by The Weeknd
It's like that cold post-orgasmic feeling, when you leave the scenery right after she climaxes and returns to what she wants. Yes, we've all been there, in that painful options list, and being the other boy/girl might be the real pain of Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd. But when he opened up the gates for his latest experimentation of indie and R&B, there is of course no one else in the game better than him. Even Drake took him for the rapper's latest album.
RUMOUR HAS IT
Beware of the monstrous percussions and angered vocals that are ready to crush your indecision! Bless your soul, you have made a fool out of this woman! In no more than 4 minutes, she will make you think again and run to your mommy like a silly little boy who spoiled the whole meal by eating sweet candy. And beware because there's more bashing to come!
A mystifying love song that builds up and explodes into howling gospel.
I'M THE BEST
There is no way I'm buying into this KPop craze. But if they ever managed to build-up these inescapable ra-ta-ta's and na-na-na's and get 4 confident bitches snarl all around the place, why not give in? It's 2NE1's best, and probably of the whole KPop phenomenon as well.