The Ten Best Fucking Pop Singles Of 2011*

*based on absolutely no criteria whatsoeverThere are a lot of year-end lists claiming that so-and-so songs are the “ten best.” Isn’t that ridiculous? Music is subjective, and who was able to listen to every single song released in 2011 in order to be qualified to decide which are the best?

Clearly none of these lists can ever be “right,” because none of them are 100% identical to the one below.

Here are the actual 10 best fucking pop singles of 2011. Sorry you had to wade through so many other, less valid opinions just to get here!

The true test of a strong pop single, I think, is the kind of song that can be played on repeat over and over and over and over again without you searching for the nearest sharp instrument to off yourself with. Some singles are initially fun and then played to death to the point where you never want to hear them again, while others are growers.

Here are some very good songs I have heard often and would listen to again willingly:

10. “We Found Love” // Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris

I was really not a fan of 2010’s Grammy-nominated Loud. The first few singles were fine — I never flipped for “Only Girl (In the World),” but it’s fine, I guess. The singles peaked for me at the third, “S&M,” and then went rapidly down hill with “California King Bed,” “Man Down,” and “Cheers,” all of which got old fast and had snooze-tastic music videos. I’m more of a dark and moody still-dealing-with-ex-hitting-me Rated R kind of guy. So when I learned that Rihanna was all of a sudden releasing her third disc in as many years, my expectations were low. Imagine my surprise, then, when Talk That Talk‘s lead single turned out to be one of her best to date, with a reasonably gritty/grungy Trainspotting-esque video to boot. Yum! Alas, the rest of Talk That Talk is hit or miss and mostly forgettable, but at least I found one thing to love in an otherwise hopeless place.

9. “Bounce” // Calvin Harris featuring Kelis

Hey, it’s Calvin Harris again! I’m not president of the Calvin Harris fan club or anything, but “Bounce” recently bounced back into my memory after a long hiatus during which I totally forgot about it. Still, the, uh, bouncy synth hook is totally catchy even without any vocals, but luckily Kelis — who was otherwise unfortunately quiet in 2011 — is on hand to deliver some anyway. The track is pretty simple and not overproduced, for what it is. “Bounce” is the sort of song you might hear in five or ten years and it’ll sound just as fresh as ever (not so, with many singles). Consider this a taste until Kelis drops her new album next year.

8. “Free” // Natalia Kills featuring will.i.am

Okay, ignore the will.i.am part for a minute. I am obligated to include him because he was featured on the single in the U.S., even though “Free” was a perfectly wonderful song long before his intrusive inclusion. But whatever gets you onto the Top 40, right, Natalia? (This song did not actually make the Top 40.) “Free” is probably my favorite song off Natalia Kills’ near-perfect Perfectionist, so never mind a certain Black Eyed Pea’s contribution, which sounds like it was written by a third grader in about six minutes (as do most Black Eyed Pea offerings) and sticks out like a sore thumb amidst Natalia’s much more clever word play. (Also, he apparently missed the entire point of the song, which is about being broke, not an excessive shopping spree). Dammit, will.i.am! Now I have spent almost this entire paragraph slamming you instead of praising Natalia Kills. Harrumph.

7. “Pumped Up Kicks” // Foster The People

I had a difficult time with this one, because is “Pumped Up Kicks” actually a pop song? It got major Top 40 radio play, so why not? But if I include Foster The People here, does that mean I also have to take not-so-poppy bands into consideration for this list — The Naked And Famous, maybe M83? Where does it stop? Ultimately, though, I decided this track’s ubiquity ensured that it belong in contention here. And sure, its popularity is a little annoying, especially since 90% of the people whistling along to it on the radio are probably unaware that it’s about a school shooting (even though the words “gun” and “bullet” are prominently featured about 80 times). But you can’t really blame Foster The People for that, and there’s something kind of genius about the cheery poppiness of song’s sound versus the darkness displayed in the lyrics — it gives me a Doors vibe, and who doesn’t love The Doors? That juxtaposition is actually saying something. What, exactly — I’ll leave up to you.

6. “Someone Like You” // Adele

Oh, Adele. You just had to be on this list, didn’t you? 2011’s hands-down breakout artist is hard not to respect. She’s no size 0 pop princess — she can actually sing, for starters — but she’s held her own and then some, earning kudos from just about every demographic there is. (She’s this year’s Amy Winehouse, which hopefully doesn’t mean she’ll be 2017’s casualty.) Now Adele’s in danger of overexposure, but (see above, re: Foster The People) let’s not hold her accountable for that. Good for Adele! “Rolling In The Deep” was never totally my bag, though I liked it fine the first three million times I heard it, as did we all.But “Someone Like You” is even more raw and earnest, but much more understated, which makes it less annoying when played over and over and over and over again. Is the 21 songstress overpraised? I don’t think so. I am one of six people in America who does not own her album or any of her songs, but I totally respect her. It’s nice to be able to actually root for the popular choice once in awhile, after all.

5. “Till The World Ends” + “I Wanna Go” (+ “How I Roll”) // Britney Spears

In one of 2011’s biggest shockers, Britney Spears released an album that was actually good. Not monumentally good, mind you — this is Britney Spears we’re talking about — but good by pop standards. (Up there with her best discs, In The Zone and Blackout.) Especially good from someone as revered as Britney Spears, who has proven that she can literally exert almost no effort and still churn out a decent-sized hit (ahem, Circus). Femme Fatale is a surprisingly well-written and cohesive record, without any total duds (one or two near-misses, though — thanks to will.i.am, again). Even the bonus tracks are good!

The desperately dub-stepping “Hold It Against Me” left me cold, but “Till The World Ends” turned out to be a grower. Initially, I bitched that the hook is the part Britney isn’t even singing (or at least, not without some serious computer enhancement). I’m of course referring to “oh oh oh oh oh oh OH oh, oh oh oh oh oh oh OH oh.” Still, the Ke$ha-penned track exudes something appropriately epic for a track that name-checks the apocalypse. And “I Wanna Go” is just as good, with it’s naughty-minx come-ons (“shame on me”), subtly filthy lyrics (“keep both my hands above the bla-blanket”), and infectious whistle hook.

But it’s the non-single “How I Roll” that is Femme Fatale‘s true standout, a tongue-in-cheek ditty in which “posse” sounds like “pussy” and “thug” sounds like “fuck” and Britney’s voice is computerized within an inch of its life. (Just try singing this one live, Brit Brit. Just try.) And since we all know Britney is half-woman, half-robot anyway, it’s a playful, self-knowing wink to fans who know that and like her anyway, and it sounds nothing like any song I’ve ever heard before. Frankly, I wish Britney’s producers had been more experimental with the rest of the album. Maybe next time? Had “How I Roll” been a single, Britney might’ve made my #1 slot on this list. As is, she’s still in the Top 5. Not too shabby for a woman who was a bald sobbing mess just a few years back.

4. “Call Your Girlfriend” // Robyn

Is “Call Your Girlfriend” my favorite song from Robyn’s three-disc Body Talk? Not even close. Probably not even in the top 10. But my least favorite Robyn song is still better than my favorite song from most other artists, and this was her only 2011 single, so here she is at #4. Usually the heartbreakee, Robyn takes on the persona of the homewrecker in this track, asking some dude to dump his girlfriend and choose her instead, even though they apparently just met. As always with Robyn, the writing and production are completely flawless, and the one-take video is a wonder to behold. But for the record, I recommend Body Talk tracks “Fembot,” “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do,” “Cry When You Get Older,” “Love Kills,” “Criminal Intent,” and “Time Machine” just a little bit more.

3. “All Of The Lights” // Kanye West featuring Rihanna & Kid Cudi (plus many other artists you can’t actually hear including Alicia Keys, Elton John, and Fergie)

Welcome back to this list, Rihanna. Wow, that red hair already seems like it’s from years ago, doesn’t it? I will again begin praising one of my picks by saying that there’s a better single from the album — in this case, “Monster” — which never really saw the light of day. (It technically was a single in 2010, but it kinda came and went.) The masterful My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy‘s fourth single (and first of 2011) is about as good as most other songs on the album, and I’m at a loss to explain what’s so good about it. First of all, I fucking love the video, even if it does blatantly rip off Gaspar Noe’s Enter The Void. I’m a sucker for pretty colors and cool fonts, that’s all. Unfortunately, the much-heralded Watch The Throne didn’t do much for me. I’m a purist, and I will take my Kanye West and Jay-Z unadulterated by each other, thank you. (P.S. I love that this video causes epilepsy!)

2. “Super Bass” // Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj was everywhere in 2011 — it’s kind of astounding that we didn’t get sick of her. But we haven’t, have we? Quite likely the catchiest song of the year, “Super Bass” gets it exactly right, mixing Nicki Minaj’s bad bitch rap stylings with a chorus your grandma might tap her toes to. That’s the genius of Nicki Minaj — she’s hard and soft, edgy and radio-friendly, all at the same time. Plus, better than never being boring, she herself never seems bored — if anything, she seems constantly amused by her own lyrics. And that’s fine, because so are we. Nicki’s next album will be released on February 14 — more like this, please.

1. “‘Til Death” // Wynter Gordon

With a couple of exceptions, I tried to stick with songs that got major Top 40 radio play this year — because isn’t that kind of what defines a pop single? But with #1, I had to go with my gut. And since my gut was confused, it asked iTunes which song I played most in 2011. And iTunes said: “Why, Wynter Gordon’s ”Til Death,’ of course!” And my gut relayed the message. (Note: this is only partially because I fell asleep on the subway with it playing on repeat once, until I woke up deep in the Bronx.) “‘Til Death” is exactly the kind of song I want playing when I get ready to go out, and when I am out, and when I’m on my way home. It’s upbeat, an anytime pick-me-up, and yet the lyrics are slyly dark (just a little bit). Consider it the flip-side of Britney Spears’ “Till The World Ends.” And FYI, Wynter’s EP With The Music I Die has a couple other almost-as-fantastic songs on it, too: “Buy My Love” and “Still Getting Younger.”

Honorable mentions:

None of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way singles totally did it for me, as much as I enjoy the album as a bombastic whole (particularly “Heavy Metal Lover,” “Bad Kids”, and “Scheiße.”) I preferred Katy Perry’s 2010 singles to 2011’s, though I like “E.T.” a lot (minus Kanye West’s will.i.am-like intrusion). David Guetta did some good work this year, but which single stands out? I’d be lying if I said LMFAO’s “Sexy And I Know It” didn’t bring a smile to my face more often than I care to admit (though I must never, ever, under any circumstances hear “Party Rock Anthem” again). Do I like Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling” or do I just like the song it’s sampling? The latter, I am relieved to suspect. (Phew!) And my slight affinity for Hot Chelle Rae’s “Tonight, Tonight” and “I Like It Like That” makes me concerned that I have the musical tastes of a 15-year-old girl with “rebellious” pink streaks in her hair, but it is what it is.

And for fun, here’s my favorite music video of the year (and probably my #11 pop single — see what I did there?). Ke$ha the Unicorn Slayer would probably be enough to win me over, but the appearance of James van der Beek seals the deal completely.

So, okay. Let’s hear it. What’d I miss?

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