Top 13 Songs of 2011

Since this is the last day of 2011, I figured I’d save all my “Top of 2011” posts to it. First post to go public – songs:

Note: the top 5 songs can easily be rearranged as you see fit. I have personally classed them as such based on how often I listened to them according to their iTunes play count.

13 – We Are Young – Fun.

This indie band released this song back in September but never got into it until very recently. It’s quirky, exciting and, well, fun. “Tonight, we are young. So let’s set the world on fire, we can burn brighter than the sun.”

12 – You and I  – Lady Gaga

One of the few Lady Gaga songs I can stand and my favorite of hers by far. It could be that there’s nothing “Gaga” about it. It could be that it might as well be played on country radio but You and I is definitely the best song on her otherwise disappointing new album: Born This Way. (My review of You and I)

11 – We Owned The Night – Lady Antebellum 

My favorite song off their new album, Own the Night. The lyrics are smooth, fresh and lively. The music is happy, effervescent. The chorus is one line that will get stuck in your head. “Yeah we owned the night!” (My review of We Owned The Night).

10 – Safe & Sound (Feat. The Civil Wars) – Taylor Swift

This newly released song is easily one of my favorites of 2011 as well simply because it is a greatly written somber song, perfectly befitting the mood of the movie it will be part of. It is among Swift’s best works and can be one of the few songs she has written that would please a wider fanbase than the teenagers she normally targets. “Just close your eyes, the sun is going down. You’ll be alright, no one can hurt you now. Come morning light you and I’ll be safe and sound.” (My review of Safe & Sound).

9 – Eighteen Inches – Lauren Alaina

My favorite song off Lauren Alaina’s great debut album, Wildflower. It is a sweet song about young lovers who elope to start a new life. “When you’re young and in love you might do some things that don’t seem all that smart. Cause there ain’t no greater distance than the eighteen inches from your head to your heart.”

8 – 20 Years – The Civil Wars 

Absolutely one of the most stunning songs I recently heard. There’s no clear chorus, there’s no clear bridge – it’s nowhere near a typical song you’d hear anywhere. And it’s simply breathtaking. “In the meantime I’ll be waiting for twenty years and twenty more. I’ll be praying for redemption and your note underneath my door and your note underneath my door…”

7 – Skinny Love – Birdy

Released early in 2011, this is a Bon Iver cover. Well, forgive me Bon Iver but your song about heartbreak is conveyed in a way more heartbreaking way by this fifteen year old singer. “Come on skinny love, just last the year. Pour a little salt, you were never here…”

6 – Pumped Up Kicks – Foster The People

This alternative hit came out of nowhere and took everyone by surprise. It is a very dark song – even darker than many people think it is. And yet, it comes off as a very smooth listen. “All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,You better run, better run, outrun my gun.All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,You better run, better run, faster than my bullet.”

5 – Rolling In The Deep – Adele

Let the Adele domination of whatever remains of this list begin. Her first single of her smash of an album (or whatever you call selling over 15 million copies worldwide of an album in one year nowadays) is also one of the year’s biggest hits everywhere. “There’s a fire starting in my heart reaching a fever pitch and it’s bringing me out the dark.”

4 – Someone Like You – Adele 

Because no other breakup song can be this good. Someone Like You is chilling. Someone Like You is captivating. Someone Like You is a song almost every other artist out there wishes they had written. “Nothing compares, no worries or cares. Regrets and mistakes, they’re memories made. Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?” (My review of Someone Like You).

3 – If I Die Young – The Band Perry

Although released to country radio back in 2010, I’ve decided to include this song in this list because 1. I didn’t have a blog in 2010 and 2. It was released to other radio formats in the US in 2011. There’s just so much I can say about this song and I would still be able to say more. You only need to look at how many people were affected by this song to know exactly the magnitude of its reach. It may not have become the smash hit that Someone Like You or Rolling In The Deep became but it is a song equally worthy, if not more. What song can get a sixty year old woman to stand in a concert in the scorching sun and hold a banner saying: “She died young.” You can’t listen to If I Die Young without being contemplative. “If I die young, bury me in satin. Lay me down on a bed of roses, sink me in the river at dawn, send me away with the words of a love song.”  (My review of If I Die Young).

2 – Set Fire To The Rain – Adele

My favorite song off Adele’s 21. This song is about her breakup – as is all her album, obviously – but this song treats that breakup in a very different light than the other songs. It’s a confusing song in the sense that the beat is there so you’d expect the song to be happy and yet the lyrics are devastating. “My hands, they were strong. But my knees were far too weak to stand in your arms without falling to your feet. But there’s a side to you that I never knew. All the things you’d say, they were never true. All the games you’d play, you would always win.”

1 – Remind Me (feat. Carrie Underwood) – Brad Paisley

The bonafide country hit of the year. Remind Me, the fourth single off Brad Paisley’s new album, is a song about a couple wanting to rekindle their dying romance and it resonates with almost all couples who have been together up to a point where they’ve become so used to each other they take their significant other for granted. The song beholds a stunning vocal performance by Carrie Underwood who’s set to release her fourth album sometime in 2012. “Do you remember how it used to be, we’d turn out the lights and we didn’t just sleep? Remind me, baby remind me.” (My review of Remind Me).

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If I Die Young (Single Review) – The Band Perry

 

Newly released to American pop radio after dominating the country charts last year, If I Die Young is the second single by country newcomers: The Band Perry.

Already certified 2x platinum, you feel such a success is the most natural thing for a song of If I Die Young’s caliber.

“If I die young,” Kimberly Perry starts the song that she wrote by herself, “bury me in satin, lay me down in a bed of roses, sink me in a river at dawn, send me away with the words of a love song.”

The opening lyric sets the hypothetical tone of the acoustic-leaning song. And it is through that tone that the narrator, Kimberly, continues her story. “Lord, make me a rainbow, I’ll shine down on my mother. She’ll know I’m safe with you when she stands under my colors.”

The whole song is a testament to Kimberly Perry’s command of language and crafting interesting images that do not feel forced. On the contrary, the whole song, though the theme might be morbid to some, is a jubilation to life. And everything in it fits like the pieces of a puzzle. If I Die Young boasts very sharp lyrics with highly imaginative detail, building a story of a girl who’s contemplating how it would be if she were to die young.

On the second verse, the narrator laments on the fact that she never knew love. “There’s a boy here in town, says he’ll love me forever. Who would have thought forever could be severed by the sharp knife of a short life? Well, I’ve had just enough time.”

And as is natural with everyone thinking about death, the prospect of value comes up. It’s a recurrent topic how the things you own get more valuable when you pass away. And that issue is tackled in If I Die Young as well.

A penny for my thoughts, oh no, I’ll sell ’em for a dollar
They’re worth so much more after I’m a goner
And maybe then you’ll hear the words I been singing
Funny, when you’re dead how people start listening

And then the song comes full circle with the narrator singing the chorus one last time before elaborating on what the love song should be: “The ballad of a dove, go with peace and love. Gather up your tears, keep ’em in your pocket… save them for a time when you’re really gonna need them, oh”

If I Die Young might be a song with death in its title but it’s mostly about living. It’s not about the narrator inviting the listener to live to the fullest, but it’s more saying that: “even though my life was cut short, I am satisfied with the time I’ve had – I’ve had just enough time.”

Nothing is more testament to how people perceive If I Die Young than the response the three members of The Band Perry received because of that song. The most famous story regarding the song comes in the form of a letter than Kimberly received, containing a necklace with a letter from an eighteen year old girl who lost her best friend to cancer. The girl was contemplating suicide, mourning her friend, and If I Die Young came on the radio. The girl heard so much life in that song that she sent The Band Perry her most prized possession, the necklace her friend gave her before passing away.

If I Die Young is also a song that touched people from older generations. While performing the song at a concert, The Band Perry saw an older woman standing in the scorching heat with a sign on which the words: “She died young” were written, signed with her daughter’s name.

Kimberly Perry delivers the song brilliantly. She doesn’t under or over-sing. She handles the melody with restraint and impeccable nuances. Her slightly weathered voice adds magnificence to the song, as well as the subtle harmonies that her brothers deliver in the background.

You cannot listen to If I Die Young without feeling something. It is a song that crosses age boundaries and touches everyone regardless of personal background or even musical preference. We’ve all had someone who died young. It is a song that calls after you to live and enjoy life. It calls on you to love your life and to always have no regrets. It’s no wonder it stands out on pop radio among all the electronic music being played. It rises way beyond clubbing songs that you would hear before and after it, simply because this is a raw, authentic and real.

Listen to If I Die Young here:

American Idol 10 – Lauren Alaina & Scotty McCreery

I haven’t followed American Idol closely this season so I decided to sit out becoming a supporter of a candidate as long as possible. However, the finale is getting nearer and I’ve finally chosen the person I choose to support: Lauren Alaina.

With an all country music finale, I honestly couldn’t be happier. Scotty McCreery is a great performer and he has a brilliant twang to his voice. I can see him get far. But Scotty doesn’t need to win to be able to crack the country music scene.

Country music is known to be a mostly male-dominated business. People get too excited when they see two songs by females artists together in the top 10, let alone when a female artist gets a series of number one singles, something which is very natural when a male artist is involved. So Scotty, if he chooses the proper songs, will definitely be successful in the business. He’s already getting radio stations to talk about him. They’re going crazy for McCreery.

Lauren Alaina, however, needs to win if she wants to make it in that business. Sure, you have the exceptions (Kelly Pickler, anyone? though it’s not like she’s smashing records left and right) but with the hype from being the second female country artist to win American Idol, it should be enough to get her first single to do well on radio, giving her enough momentum to launch. If she becomes simply an American Idol runner up, she’d be at a serious disadvantage.

I see both of them having great careers. But in the country music scene, Scotty, at least to me, is a rehash of already present country artists. How many Josh Turners, Kenny Chesneys, Tim McGraws and Jason Aldeans do you want?

Lauren Alaina, however, is different. She has the potential to add something to the genre: another successful female to shuffle the competition. And the fact that no female has won American Idol since its seventh season is a rather daunting fact.

It’s interesting to note, however, that both of them are still very young and have plenty of room to grow. Lauren and Scotty are only 16 years old. Are they ready to enter such a brutal genre at this time? I’m not too sure about that. Let’s just wait and see.

Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with my favorite Lauren Alaina performances:

And she actually took on a Carrie Underwood song, so extra credit for her!

Scotty and Lauren have also had many great duets together, the best one being this:

At the end of the day, both of them are great and they both deserve to win. It’s simply a matter of preference and I prefer Lauren.