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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Yoü and I (Single Review) – Lady Gaga


Yoü and I was just announced as the upcoming fourth single off Lady Gaga’s newest album “Born This Way.”

The song continues in the sound departure Lady Gaga has set for herself this era: more Edge of Glory than Judas, if you want – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The soulful, piano-driven, 80’s rock-influenced ballad is about going back to see an old love and not wanting to let that love go. It starts: “It’s been a long time since I came around. It’s been a long time but I’m back in town and this time I’m not leaving without you.”

The lyrics leave nothing to the imagination. It is a highly personal song. Lady Gaga’s fans can easily name the person to whom this song is dedicated: her nebraska guy, who has a bar in New York. “Something, something about this place. Something about lonely nights, and my lipstick on your face. Something, something about my cool Nebraska guy.”

The song is the story of a relationship that started with a long chase: “Something, something about the chase
(Six whole years).” And ended with Lady Gaga not wanting to let him go but had to. Now, two years later, she’s back to her hometown and she’s not leaving without him, despite the relationship being tumultuous. However, she can’t get over the small gestures she loved: “On my birthday you sang me a heart of gold with a guitar humming and no clothes.”

Lady Gaga’s vocal performance on this song is one of her best. She injects the lyrics and melody with energy that takes the whole song to another level. The song could have easily been monotonous, but her nuances and injections here and there elevate it into a breathy and easy-to-listen to track.

The interesting thing about the choice of Yoü and I as a single is that, even though the album has other electropop songs that would become faster and surer hits on radio, Lady Gaga chose this “unconventional” song for pop radio. It could be that seeing the runaway success Adele is currently having, Lady Gaga has realized the electropop age is fading and is slowly trying to get listeners to get accustomed to her new intended sound. If that’s the case, I have hope her upcoming music releases would be even better and show true artistry, not just flashy gimmicks to grab attention.

Deviating away from trends is Lady Gaga’s niche. Yoü and I continues this trend and this time, it just works. The song is great. Whether radio embraces it and turns it into a big hit is another matter entirely. But it’s Lady Gaga so you know the hype will be big. And at the end of the day, a true artist knows they have a clear path to self-expression. I’m glad Lady Gaga is not worried about the risks that her path involves. But the fact of the matter is, Yoü and I wasn’t the only song off Born This Way to go top 10 on iTunes without being a single for no reason. There’s a lot of appeal behind it. Hopefully it will translate into a successful single that will continue in steering Lady Gaga in this direction.

Listen to Yoü and I:

Scorpions Concert In Byblos (Jbeil), Lebanon – Part 2

The original dates for the two Scorpions concerts in Lebanon took place over the past 2 days, on July 6th and 7th, whilst a third one was added on a prior date on July 4th, the overview of which you can see here.

While I wasn’t lucky enough to be able to attend either of the three concerts, I’ve had relatives attend both concerts.

My cousin attended the July 6th one. He’s a die hard Scorpions fan and even taught himself how to play the electric guitar to their songs. His SMS ringtone is their lead guitarist Matthias Jabs playing a riff and his usual ringtone is for their hit: Wind of Change.

He reported that it was the wildest and most astonishing concert of his life. While he might be biased, that was the sentiment that most people attending the concert came out with. Drumsticks thrown by drummer James Kottak were picked up by the lucky few who were close enough to catch them, as well as lots of guitar picks thrown by Rudolf Schenker.

Their setlist was comprised of the same songs as their July 4th concert, although they replaced their song Dynamite by their hit “You and I” to the joy of many.

Meanwhile, my brother attended the July 7th concert and while he is a big fan, I can’t say he matches up with July 6th cousin. He said they had a blast at the concert and while some of the songs were unfamiliar to him (he’s more familiar with their classics than with their newer hits), he was still able to have a good time. He said the ambiance was electric with the heavy music that was playing and he said that even twenty years later, Scorpions are better able to entertain a crowd than many common bands today.

The setlist for July 7th was similar to the July 4th concert except “Dynamite” was replaced by “Always Somewhere.”

Here are pictures taken by both my brother and cousin of their concerts. I will update this post with video when they’re done uploading. More pictures will be posted as well.

Born This Way (Album Review) – Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga’s much anticipated sophomore release (or third album if you count The Fame Monster as her second) will be released on Monday, May 23rd.

The album opens up with “Marry The Night”, a song about Lady Gaga’s love for her native New York. Fusing electronic beats with interesting lyrics about belonging, her vocals are not drowned out and the production is quite good on this, especially after the bridge.

“Marry The Night” is a decent album opener, followed by her mega-hit “Born This Way”. And while I believe the song itself was driven more by hype than quality (It has become Lady Gaga’s biggest hit but I don’t think it’s her best song), it sets the tone for the message Lady Gaga wants to get across with this album: embrace who you are, regardless of who that might be.

“Born This Way” is followed by “Government Hooker”, arguably one of the most hyped about tracks of the album. Starting off with a very interesting beat, Government Hooker has a brilliant line on the bridge: “put your hands on me John F. Kennedy.” But is this the monster song of the album? No. It is not something I can find myself repeating on end although I can definitely see it being played at some night clubs courtesy of its stunning beat.

And then comes “Judas”, probably the most controversial song on the album. Discussing the struggle between love and sin with a religious twist, “Judas” was the album’s second single but failed to become a mega-hit on pop radio, even though it follows the “Bad Romance” style closely. What “Judas” and “Government Hooker” have in common is their similarity is their euro-pop roots.

“Americano” is a song that fuses latin beats. It is the “Alejandro” of the album, but unlike “Alejandro”, “Americano” doesn’t pack an extra-punch that would make it a viable radio single. “Americano” is a song about a lesbian romance in L.A. This is followed by “Hair”, a song that I feel belongs on the album of a much younger artist than Lady Gaga. The lyrics on it are corny and sometimes ridiculous. Some are saying this is her song for the tween audience, but I think it could have been so much better. For my full review of Hair, go here.

“Schiße” is a track incorporating German lyrics that I don’t understand. The beat is interesting, however. “Bloody Mary” is another song with religious inferences but it is a very interesting song. Do not be fooled by the song starting off with music reminiscent of Broadway musicals, the beat that comes later on is as grinding as the other songs on the album.

“Bad Kids” is the anthem to anyone who hasn’t grown out of misbehaving. It is her homage to the NYC Club Kids era. “Highway Unicorn” is a song about driving down on the highway in a convertible, another song about freedom and being born to be wild.

“Heavy Metal Lover” is Lady Gaga’s take on fetishes and it is more hardcore than Rihanna’s S&M. While I’m definitely not in this song’s target audience (the genre referenced in the title isn’t something I normally listen to as well), some people will like it. Different strokes, I guess. The song has, however, very cool vocalizations in the background.

“Electric Chapel” is an over the top song, driven by electronic beats where she tells the guy not to be a “holy fool”, a lyric also used in “Judas”, and meet her at the electric chapel. The song, like the many songs before it, also incorporates elements from 1980s music, albeit fusing them with sci-fi elements that lack in other songs.

“You and I” is the first track off the album that people heard when it was performed live last year. This is a piano-driven ballad with electronic beats as well, making for a rather unique sound. The album concludes with Lady Gaga’s current single, “The Edge of Glory”, about being on the edge of something great, be it love, life… the lyrics to this are good, as well as a brilliant saxophone breakdown. However, as I said before, I would have liked it to be slower.

“Born This Way” is an album that can’t be separated from hype because hype existed before the album was even conceived. Prior to its release, Lady Gaga had declared that this album would be the “greatest album of the decade”. I’m sorry, Lady Gaga. While this is a good album, it is not a classic that will go down in the books as the best album of the 2010s. Sure, it is different from most of the mainstream music currently being played, but it doesn’t stray far from that. After all, there isn’t a song on this that doesn’t have an electric beat, even the one that was labeled as a ballad.

So overall, horrible cover and Madonna-comparisons aside, this is an album that holds its own in a music climate where doing so isn’t enough. Yes, it will sell millions of copies and bring in millions for Lady Gaga and her label, but will it be enough to take award-gold? Some award shows will honor it. Others won’t. This is will be far from a clean sweep. But kudos for Lady Gaga on making a record expressing what she believes in, regardless of how radio-friendly it may sound (and on most songs, it actually is radio friendly). However, will this the coveted Album Of The Year at the Grammys? I’m going with no.