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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Wildflower (Album Review) – Lauren Alaina

Lauren Alaina’s greatest challenge with her debut album was to deliver something that represented both her young age, appealing to listeners her age, and to which older listeners could also relate.

With the release of her first album, Wildflower, she does just that. Showcasing her young, vibrant personality, she doesn’t shy away from discussing complex themes. Her approach to the love theme is not just fairytales and princes à la Taylor Swift, the soulfulness of her voice adds depth to all her songs.

The album opens up with a highly catchy uptempo and Lauren’s second single “Georgia Peaches,” her ode to her home state’s girls. “Well, our shorts a little shorter,” she sings, “’cause the sun’s a little hotter, sippin’ lemonade while we’re playing in the water. Ain’t nothing sweeter than us Georgia peaches.”

She proceeds with the midtempo “Growing Out Her Wings,” where she sings playfully about growing up in the shade of overprotective parents, without being overly critical about it. In fact, she doesn’t criticize. She sings how they got “her whole life on lockdown, doing time behind her bedroom door… dreaming ’bout the girl she’s gonna be, growing her wings.”

The third song is “Tupelo,” a well written remembrance to a summer road trip with a loved one, all the way down to Tupelo. While Lauren needs a few years to nail the sultriness of the chorus, she will definitely get there. And “Tupelo” remains a very enjoyable song.

The album then proceeds to a a very inspirational ballad called “The Middle” about making the best of the time you have. It is the album’s first track where Lauren Alaina’s emotions shine as she tries to convey the message she’s beginning to learn herself. And she does convey the message at hand, which makes the overall feat even more impressive. “The day you’re born is a start,” she sings, “your last breath is a question mark. The story of your life is in the in between.”

Like My Mother Does” is the album’s first single, released soon after the American Idol finale and it is about a girl being thankful to her mother. It is a highly emotional song that is bound to get anyone smiling, with their mother’s face flashing before their eyes. “When I love, I give it all I’ve got like my mother does. When I’m scared, I bow my head and pray like my mother does. When I’m weak and unpretty, I know I’m beautiful and strong because I see myself like my mother does.”

The album’s title is based on the song “She’s a Wildflower,” an uptempo about a girl that did not fit in, dreading going on with her life because of the taunting, not knowing that “she’s a wildflower, just waitin’ on the winds of change to blow.”

On the uptempo “I’m Not One Of Them,” Lauren Alaina is telling the boy she wants to date that many girls “might fall for what you got but I’m not one of them.”

And then comes one of the album’s true highlights and a song that will leave you mesmerized: “The Locket.” “Back in ’41, you met a brown-eyed boy, who called you pretty,” she sings. “He’d walk every day, couple miles out of his way to hold your hand and keep you company… he gave you his picture in a locket that you wore around your neck. Left it right beside your heart so you would not forget the way it felt when he held your hand.” The song then proceeds, two years later, and the boy left for war, swearing he’d marry the girl and as she cried while he rode away, she clutched the picture in her locket so she wouldn’t forget how he kissed her, how he spent time with her. 60 years later, the girl is struggling to remember. She’s a grandmother now, her granddaughter by her side writing down her memories of the man she spent 60 years with and who left her two month prior. “And it breaks my heart to see you struggle to remember. I’ve been writing your memories down and I stopped by today to read a couple pages. Grandma, you sure look pretty. And you smiled that smile, the one I haven’t seen in a quite a while. And you said to me I want you to keep his picture in the locket that I wore around my neck, the one I left beside my heart so I wouldn’t forget…”

Following up “The Locket” is the album’s second highlight, the Carrie Underwood co-written midtempo: Eighteen Inches,” about a young couple who elopes to California. “Eighteen Inches” delivers the album’s strongest hook in the form of the chorus: “Cause 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.” The song features Carrie Underwood’s preferred narrative style of having three parts to the story in three different verses. And while the song wouldn’t have worked for Carrie’s albums, it sure works for Lauren. She doesn’t romanticize their decision. She doesn’t judge them either, which is surely helped by the lyrics. But Lauren’s delivery helps as well. It is Lauren’s youthful innocence that colors this song.

“Eighteen Inches” is followed up by the uptempo “One of the Boys” where Lauren Alaina lays our her preference: “he ain’t too pretty, he ain’t too sweet. A little rough around the edges, cute and country just like me. One of those t-shirt, blue jean wearin’, riverside Saturday night and Sunday mornin’ church kinda goin’ boys.”

“Funny Thing About Love” is a song co-written by Lauren Alaina. Co-writer Luke Laird and Brett James said how she came to them and wanted to write a song about how complicated love can be for her age: “you used to want me but I didn’t want you. Now I want you but you don’t want me. Why can’t our two hearts just make up their minds and want the same thing at the same time.” What’s interesting about this song is Lauren Alaina’s candid approach to the topic at hand. At one point, she sings: “we were best friends until I kissed you. You know you liked it and I did too. As soon as you admit you’re crazy about me, I’m off and running…” While the first verse is the weakest part of the song, Lauren’s conviction while singing it is enough to deliver this song.

And the album concludes with “Dirt Road Prayer,” a prayer to a girl’s family members: her mother, father, brother, grandfather… There’s an element of vulnerability to this that makes it a highlight. It’s a reach out to those family members to feel close again. It’s a reach out to God so He protect them.

Wildflower” is a very strong album. Debut or no debut. Many country artists, regardless of age, would readily give an arm or a leg to have the caliber of songwriters and artists that worked on Lauren Alaina’s album. Her talent shines through on each track and gives the listener – regardless of age – a highly joyful experience that will fluctuate between getting you emotional to making you smile. The album is safely country-pop. It has a healthy dose of both. Those who watched American Idol will recognize Lauren Alaina’s personality on the album. Those who have not will hear a strong young lady, who knows what she wants and who knows exactly where she wants her career to go. Her songs are rooted in reality. They revolve around friend, family, heartache.

If this is an indication of how Lauren Alaina’s career will unfold, I think country music listeners are in for a treat.

Eighteen Inches (Lyrics) – Lauren Alaina [Written by Carrie Underwood]

These are the lyrics for the song Eigtheen Inches, written by Carrie Underwood, and featuring on Lauren Alaina’s upcoming debut album: Wildflower. For the album’s review, click here.

It’s about fifteen hundred miles to California,
they’ll get there Friday if they leave tonight,
she sneaks out at three thirty in the morning,
leaves a note so she won’t see her daddy cry.

He cuts the engine when he coasts in the driveway,
she slides in and gives him one kiss for the road,
no friends and no family, no job out there waiting,
the whole town will call them crazy but they gotta go.

‘Cause when you’re young and in love, yeah,
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, yeah.

They can barely make rent on a rundown apartment,
she’s waiting tables and he’s a valet,
they’re behind on the bills and the car’s barely running,
but he buys a ring with the tips that he’s saved.

When you’re young and in love, yeah,
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.

Last thing they need is another mouth to feed, but they want one,
just kids themselves but that’s all to change in nine more months,

she wakes him up at three thirty in the morning,
ready or not their new life’s going to start,
seven pounds and eighteen inches,
the doctor lays that new baby’s head right on her heart.

When you’re young and in love, yeah,
you might do some things that don’t seem all that smart,
but thank God for those eighteen inches,
the distance it is from your head to your heart, yeah, yeah, yeah.

I have to say I’m very impressed. Carrie is telling a story here without taking sides: she doesn’t showcase the pregnancy in a positive light, which would have turned this song into a saccharine love song and she doesn’t condemn it, making it preachy. On the contrary, she’s simply narrating a segment of someone’s life and uses beautiful imagery to do so, mostly revolving around the double meaning of eigtheen inches.

Favorite line?

“Cause there ain’t no greater distance than the eighteen inches from your head to your heart” – Lyric GOLD!

The song is not out yet but listen to a live version: