Thursday, July 14, 2011

Top 50 Songs of 2011

So earlier this week we delivered the Top 10 albums released in now we wanted to treat you ADD chil'ren with the Top 50 songs RELEASED in 2011. Meaning, a song like E.T. that was released on Teenage Dream last year is no eligible for this list. There might be a couple songs which were technically released as a single in December, but if it is on an album released this year, we still counted it. Also, this is not a singles list, so there are album tracks on here as well as singles. I hope you enjoy, and look forward to hearing what you all think of our list!

1) Lady GaGa – The Edge of Glory

An audio parade, no song hit me this year so far the way EOG did. It is a joyful anthem complete with saxophone solos, elevated vocals from GaGa, and is one of the best songs we have heard from the Lady ever. Sure, the video sucked, but that doesn’t stop me from screaming like a 14 year old stan when it comes on in a club!

2) Adele – Someone Like You

Where EOG grabbed me with elation on first listen, I remember when Adele premiered this song on the Jools Holland show late last year and it put me on the opposite spectrum of emotions. I didn’t even have anyone to relate the lyrics to as many do, but I was immediately emotional. I watched it for hours that night, just watching her sing and mean every single syllable of the song, and even get a bit misty near the end. It was a small sample of what was to come with 21, but remains Adele’s finest moment of what will be a long and stunning career.

3) Britney Spears – Hold It Against Me

As I mentioned in my albums post, I am not Britney fan. But when this demo popped up, I played it out like it was the first dance song I had ever heard. And then came the final product. I played it over 100 times in just one day, and to this day it is the best dance song made this year. Britney hasn’t sounded so natural, sexy, and confident in a while without the help of auto-tune, and the dubstep breakdown is enough to be using the trend without being drowned out by it. One of Britney’s best songs in years, and definitely the best off of her sub-par album. But with singles like this, how could I hold it against her?

4) Jennifer Lopez – On The Floor feat Pitbull

One of the most surprising and undeniable hits of the year is JLo’s Stereo Love rip-off. She came back hard with a stunning video, a hot dance routine, and live singing during her performances. Oh, and that chorus. THAT CHORUS. I swear I can’t get my speakers loud enough when the chanting begins. Months and months after the fact, it is still exciting to hear in a club and while her 2nd single and album aren’t doing the numbers I am sure Miss Jenny would like, she can be happy that she has made one of the finest club songs of this entire EuroPop era.

5) Beyonce – Run The World (Girls)

This song being so high on the list might surprise people. The song flopped! The sample is nowhere near subtle! I don’t care. If I didn’t love it when it premiered (I did), and the video wasn’t undeniably flawless (it is), and her performances hadn’t been anything short of career defining (they are)…at the heart is still a drag queenly, hair flipping, dancing, good ass time. Pon de Floor and all of the Major Lazer brand of dance music has been on my iPod for a couple years now, and I don’t mind hearing Beyonce growl and yelp all over it. It was a perfect pairing, and all of the visuals that go along with it were just amazing bonuses.

6) Emmylou Harris- The Road

Emmylou is like a successful Stevie Nicks (I KID!). But, their earthy, folky auras have always reminded me of each other. But whereas the First Lady of Fleetwood Mac went the way of a mystical witch, Emmylou has resigned herself to become this musical fairy figure in the country and folk world. She is at any festival she can find in the country, she is singing light backing vocals on any numbers of artists’ songs, all the while using her flawlessly light and aged soprano voice to put out her own wistful music. The Road is one of her finest moments in years, and also one of her weariest. “So I carried on, you can’t be haunted by the past. People come, people go, and nothing ever lasts,” Harris sings on this track with the type of authority that only comes with the wisdom of old age. Please Emmylou…keep it coming.

7) Adele – Rolling in the Deep

If Someone Like You is the primary song choice for Adele when she is wistfully mourning the end of her relationship, Rolling in the Deep is one of the fiercest and most knocking break-up jams post-Since U Been Gone. “See how I’ll leave with every piece of you, don’t underestimate the things that I will do,” she threatens to her ex, making it clear that her broken heart will not go unavenged. It is the perfect album opener, and the biggest song of 2011 so far. I dare you to not tap your foot along to it.

8) Lady GaGa – You & I

I surprised even myself when I put this song so far up on the list. We have been hearing this song from GaGa’s tour for about a year now, and while the tour version sounded like another rehash of Speechless which was a rehash of Brown Eyes, the heavily produced version on the album is far different. It is a Southern rock anthem that has a direction that I could see GaGa going in and being quite successful. It is a well-written song, sung to perfection, and has an authentic pub sing-a-long feel to it. Is it as good as Speechless is in terms of GaGa ballads? No. But it is far and above most of the songs on the album, and one of the best songs of the year.

9) Beyonce – Schoolin’ Life

I knew another Bey song had to make my top 10. Was it going to be the gleeful 90s throwback Love On Top? The dramatic and sung-for-filth Best Thing I Never Had? No. It had to be this one. I like when Beyonce gets ghetto, and I LOVE it when she brings sassy Sasha to the table. This track oozes in spunkiness, and is one of the instant classics of this era. Who needs a degree when Beyonce schools us in life?

10) The Saturdays – Notorious

My favorite girl group around right now has unleashed their lead single for their upcoming single, and it is quite the choon. More attitude and bumpin beats than one track ever deserves to have, these chicks DELIVERED on this one, stating in no uncertain terms that they are the baddest bitches around. And I am inclined to believe.

11) Explosions in the Sky - Human Qualities

12) Nicole Scherzinger - Poison

13) Wynter Gordon - Still Getting Younger

14) Alison Krauss & Union Station - Dimming of the Day

15) Beyonce - Love On Top

16) Kreayshawn - Gucci Gucci

17) Beth Ditto - Open Heart Surgery

18) Dr Dre ft Skylar Grey & Eminem - I Need a Doctor

19) Dev - In The Dark

20) Kelly Rowland ft. Lil Wayne - Motivation

21) Natalia Kills - Mirrors

22) Blake Shelton - Honey Bee

23) Beyonce - Best Thing I Never Had

24) Lady GaGa - Schiße

25) Adele - Set Fire to the Rain

26) Wynter Gordon - Til Death

27) The Low Anthem - I'll Take Out Your Ashes

28) Chris Brown ft. Justin Bieber - Next 2 You

29) Katy B ft. Ms Dynamite - Lights On

30) Lady GaGa - Born This Way

31) Nicole Scherzinger - Don't Hold Your Breath

32) Adele - Take It All

33) Clare Maguire - Last Dance

34) Swizz Beatz ft Eve - Everyday (Coolin')

35) Lissie - Oh Mississippi

36) Bright Eyes - Ladder Song

37) Lupe Fiasco ft. Skylar Grey - Words I Never Said

38) Britney Spears - How I Roll

39) Alex Gaudino ft. Kelly Rowland - What A Feeling

40) Jennifer Hudson - I Remember Me

41) Trina ft. T-Pain - Ghetto

42) Alison Krauss & Union Station - Paper Airplane

43) Mohombi ft. Nicole Scherzinger - Coconut Tree

44) Jordin Sparks - I Am Woman

45) Coldplay - Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall

46) Dierks Bentley - Rovin' Gambler (with the Punch Brothers)

47) Clare Maguire - This Is Not The End

48) Adam Tyler - I Won't Let You Go

49) Natalia Kills - Wonderland

50) Pitbull ft. Chris Brown - International Love

Monday, July 11, 2011

Best Albums of 2011 (So Far!)

So, over here on Better Than Ya Faves, we listen to a lot of new music every day. 2011 has been a particularly music heavy year in every genre of music, and it has been hard to sift through the good vs the bad. But now that we are officially halfway through the year, we decided to put together a list of the best albums that have come so far. It was tough especially because how do you compare a dance heavy album like Britney Spear's Femme Fatale against an acoustic folk album like Gillian Welch's The Harrow and the Harvest? Well, there is no real science. So obviously people will disagree with the order of some of this (Court disagrees on most of this post, in fact), but after much deliberation, this is what I have come up with. Please leave your comments and thoughts on what you think of my list!

1) Beyonce – 4

Most of us Beyonce stans assumed that she would come in and dominate a large part of the year…but I don’t think any of us expected what was to come. 2 flop singles, 3 week early album leaks, and an album of lower tempo, non-commercial song choices. The most unexpected part, however, is how perfectly it works. After I personally nixed a couple of the ballads after adding in the spectacular deluxe tracks, 4 has become the sleeper album of the year so far, encompassing a whole range of emotions and sounds while Beyonce shows off vocals better than she has in her entire illustrious career. All hail, King B.

2) Adele – 21

What else is there to say about the most successful album of this year? Adele not only avoided the sophomore slump coming off of her Grammy winning debut album, she emerged from the neo-soul British revolution from a few years ago as the leader. On 21, Adele took her first life-changing relationship’s end and channeled it into one of the most poignant, heartbreaking, and relatable break-up album we have seen for some time. Hearts across the world have connected to this near perfect album, and trust me when I say that Adele is just getting started.

3) Wynter Gordon - With the Music I Die

Having just finished my review for this album, I don’t want to retread too much. I will just point out that this is the best dance album to come out this year, absolutely perfect in its compact tracklist. Wynter’s debut shows an abundance of intelligence, spunk, and soul all while keeping us moving on the dancefloor. A rare accomplishment by any pop artist, much less a newcomer like Ms Gordon…but impeccably done regardless.

4) Lady GaGa - Born This Way

The most talked about, most hyped album of the year with the biggest promo campaign by the biggest popstar on the planet right now. Born This Way was always going to be an event from the moment GaGa began foolishly bragging about it over a year ago. Does it live up to its reputation? No. It is a scattered, schizophrenic collection of songs more than it is a cohesive album, and much of the 17 tracks are either filler or simply don’t belong with the other tracks. However, there are enough brilliant moments that either harken back to the GaGa we used to love or show a glimmer of the GaGa that this album COULD have introduced to make it still one of the year’s best releases.

5) Gillian Welch - The Harrow & The Harvest

My favorite folk artist is finally back on track! With 2 flawlessly haunting, Appalachian roots albums to start her career, her albums since then have come up a little flat. Harrow & the Harvest is the one that can measure up to her earlier work, and even has the potential to best them. Written with the usual talent of conjuring the dustbowls of America to the listener’s mind, Gillian serenades us with a series of songs that any folk listener can appreciate over and over.

6) Nicole Scherzinger - Killer Love

Maybe I am biased. Maybe I was rooting for Nicole so hard for so long that this album isn’t as good as I think it is. But her success in the UK show that maybe it is not the case. Nicole picks a roster of mostly Red One tracks to serve as her first official debut album post Pussycat Dolls. It is a loud, boisterous dancefloor-filler type of album, with smart lyrics and absolutely killer vocal delivery. Nicole has one of the most powerful and distinctive voices in pop, and boy can she wail on a big dance track. And yet it is on the softer songs like the gorgeous Amenjena that the listener is able to hear exactly what Nicole is capable of, and it is those moments that snagged her this spot on my Top 10.

7) Britney Spears - Femme Fatale

A Britney fan, I AIN’T. I maintain that she has always been one of the most overhyped, over produced, and overrated pop females of all time. Sure I love a lot of her music, but not only does that have very little to do with her, but it is often in SPITE of her that I like it. This set of songs is no different. Certain songs such as Hold It Against Me, How I Roll, and Gasoline are brilliant, others like Inside Out and Big Fat Bass make for the most derivative and boring dance songs this side of LMFAO. However, enough moments shine to make this album a Top 10 Album contender and even if she has been delegated to not much more than a Singles Artist at this point, there are enough singles to keep this album afloat for quite a few months to come.

8) Explosions in the Sky - Take Care Take Care Take Care

The world’s most successful post-rock band presented their first album since they hit it big with the Friday Night Lights theme song and really being one of the only bands of the genre to break out. Accordingly, it is their most mainstream album with more heart in it than their usual shadow casting and dark sounding sounds. Of course, even at their most mainstream they remain a relatively niche band. No vocals, 8-10 min long songs…but one listen to the stand-out “Human Qualities” should leave any doubters wondering if perhaps EITS are on to something. And that thing is that no singer is needed to make one of the most humanizing albums of the year.

9) Chris Brown – FAME

It’s been a long road for my man Breezy. We all know it happened. We all know it is not to be forgiven or forgotten. But perhaps it is time to let him get on with his life…he has done his time and has worked ceaselessly with mixtapes and features to get back in the public’s good graces. All of it leading up to FAME…possibly his most urban outing yet. This time around, Chris is rapping. Chris is singing. Chris is clubbing. It is a bit all over the place for me, and yet still manages to stay low energy for the most part. He is reported to be following this up with his Fortune LP later this year…if it can fix the problems with FAME, this just might be Breezy’s biggest year yet.

10)Alison Krauss & Union Station - Paper Airplane

The lady with the most Grammy’s in history has left her solo outings behind and returned to her band, Union Station. While I maintain that her male counterpart should let Alison take care of the singing on all of the songs because her voice is LITERALLY that of an angel’s, this is a mostly delicate, fragile, and masterful folk album that breaks your heart over and over again. It may not have the full heft or heart of the other heartbreak queen of the year, but it certainly has more poise. I wouldn’t be surprised or upset if this album snatched Grammy for Album of the Year in 2012, even if it only makes #10 on this list.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pia Toscano. She's Coming. Prepare Your Wigs!

 The real winner of this past season of American Idol, Pia Toscano, is ready to come show the vocal lessers like Adele and Celine Dion how to knock a song out of the park! It has been confirmed that she has been signed to Interscope and her first single will drop next week. It's called This Time, and is written by one of the most flawless writers in the industry: Ester Dean. Known for smashes like S&M, What's My Name and Super Bass, as well album tracks like Xtina's Vanity, Ester is best when writing sassy and sexy radio fodder.

This is great news because the only valid complaint about Pia during Idol was that she was slightly with the right spunky song she can finally smash the way she is supposed to! I am rooting for ya Piamazing!

Kelly Rowland's Album Snippets Available on Amazon

 The album that perhaps never looked like it would happen is coming after dozens of pushbacks and directions changes. Here I Am by Kelly Rowland is scheduled for a July 26 release date off the strength of her sleeper hit Motivation. I have been a huge fan of all of Kelly's work since When Love Takes Over, especially the dance material. So, it is with a little bit of trepidation that I report that the snippets of the album are finally available on German Amazon here:

Amazon am a huge fan of R&B music, especially R&B Kelly Rowland. And I get that she is finally getting the success in the US she has been seeking with an R&B slow jam. But I am disappointed that her dance side has kept her relevant in Europe (and the US gays) for the last couple of years. Sure she tacked on Commander. Yes she enlisted producer of the moment Red One for Down for Whatever. But for the most part, this is a slow rhythmic album appealing only to her urban audience, which is the same audience that has left her in the dust so many times before for her more successful "sister", Beyonce. If she can get success from it, then good for her. I am just nervous that although I think I will very much enjoy this album...the mainstream consumer isn't going to bite.

Beyonce Tops the Billboard 200, LMFAO's Shit Song Parties to the top of Hot 100

Sort of an exciting week over on the Billboard charts, kids!

After 2 flop singles, minimal promotion, and a 3 week pre-release leak, Beyonce's 4 tops the Billboard 200 chart with impressive sales of about 315,000. While this may not seem like a triumph compared to I Am...Sasha Fierce's debut of 481,000. However, not only was that during the holiday season, but it was coming off of the success of her international smash Single Ladies. More importantly, only 2 other artists have sold more in their first week this year, Adele and Lady GaGa. So I think it is quite an accomplishment, especially when Bey is known for having sales longevity, not front-loaded sales. Other good showings this week were the debuts of Big Sean and Selena Gomez both getting about 100,000 sold, and both being received relatively well by the critics.

Over on the Hot 100, on the other hand, the audio miscarriage Give Me Everything by Pitbull has been replaced by the sonic abortion that is Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO. Both generic, shit songs. Neither deserve to be charting anywhere, much less in the #1 spot. Unfortunately, not all singles can be Rolling in the Deep. Hopefully Katy Perry or GaGa will snatch the spot next week and banish LMFAO/Pitbull back from whence they came!

In other news, Nicki Minaj stays solid at #5 with Super Bass (which deserves all the success it has), and I Wanna Go by Britney also is making moves. I don't imagine the charts will be very eventful for a while now that the big girls all have their songs out...let the domination begin.


The original American Idol and one of the most versatile vocalists in the industry, Kelly Clarkson, has finally returned. Well, sort of. Early this morning, the demo for Kelegend's rumored first single Let Me Down was leaked. It is standard first single Kelly fare, but much like her pop-rock peer P!nk, this is never a bad thing. The demo is medium quality and you can definitely hear where the vocals and instrumentation can be polished and amped up, something I have no doubt will happen when we finally receive the song.

It is a good first single because it is vocally stunning and stays in Kelly's lane. With a rumored album release in October, however, this would be best served as a good lead/buzz single, with a bigger and better second single to be released right before the October album release. Check out the demo below, and get ready for one of the best releases of 2011.

Adele Bounces Back Ready To Continue Domination

 Lady of the Year, Adele, is finally ready to come back from her bout of laryngitis that forced her to cancel US tour dates, any public appearances and promo, and maybe even a rumored (but probably untrue) duet with Beyonce during her Glastonbury set. Since then she has reportedly been on complete vocal rest, as well as taking party in instructing vocal lessons that would help preserve her powerful lungs.

So now that that pesky laryngitis is out of the way, Adele is ready to take back her crown for the year. This past weekend she performed during London Pride at GAY club to promote her 3rd UK single and 2nd US single, "Set Fire to the Rain."

It is fantastic to see her back in good form vocally! I think this song should smash just as hard as Rolling in the Deep and with the added promo of her rescheduled US tour dates, I think it is safe to say that Adele will be ruling the second half of 2011 in the same way she did the first half.

With Wynter's Music...We All Die

 Wynter Gordon has finally arrived. The debut of this pop starlet has been a long time coming. She has had featured performances on singles by Flo Rida (Sugar), David Guetta (Toyfriend) and Freemasons (Believer). She has writing credits for Mary J Blige and Jennifer Lopez. She has had a global smash hit with the sexy Dirty Talk that has been blowing up clubs for over a year. Not to mention a whole host of leaks and demos that could have been their own album…and a quality one at that. With songs that ranged from R&B to pop to dance, it was not certain what direction the vixen would be taking. But finally we have her debut album With The Music I Die where Wynter joins the ranks of Robyn and Kelis in their records of making a flawless, smart and ceaselessly interesting dance albums.

Dance has been made out to be clattery, brainless slut jams over the last few years with clattery, brainless sluts like Britney and Ke$ha making exactly that. People hear generic beats and drivel about drinking and automatically label it a “banger” or a “hot club track.” But many of us are not fooled. We are not fooled because we know that there are artists like Wynter Gordon. She has made such a stellar collection of dance jams that have intelligent lyrics, interesting production, and vocals with a heart and soul in every second. You won’t find an autotuned robot telling you to party rock and do shot shot shots til the world ends on this album. Yes, I enjoy a nice ho song as much as the next gay…but sometimes you wanna hear something real that doesn’t involved an acoustic guitar and an “indie” artist singing!

 The album kicks off with her 2nd single off of the album, the anthemic party jam Til Death. OK. So this song IS about partying set to dance music, but it is at least vocally stunning and entertaining as Wynter sexily sings “Let’s get loud as we celebrate life, til death do we party: WITH THE MUSIC I DIE!” This is the type of dance jam that needs no remix to fill floors, and with the proper promotion will be just as successful as her first single, Dirty Talk, which is the second track on the album. Just as strong as when it first came out, it is a nice early reminder of how she got to where she is.

Wynter keeps the energy going on Don’t Stop Me on a slightly lower tempo command to her man to not rev her up and let her down, telling him “once you start me, don’t stop me!” This track was one of the first of many songs on here that gave me some recognition to other popular artists’ style without every actually jacking it. It is more of a testament to her starpower than an accusation of swagger jagger. This particular song reminds me of Rihanna sometimes, and it would have been a smash for her! The next song is a stand-out, and is one of the funnest pop songs of the year, as well as my current unemployed dream put in song form. Buy My Love is all about finding yourself a sugar daddy who will spoil you with exotic trips, jewels, shoes, and chocolates, while Wynter sassily implies that “the love you show me baby is coming back to you.” My life-long dream is to no longer need to work and just find me a sugar daddy to love up on me…ah…dreams….but anyway the song has a bouncy edge to it that makes it a candidate for one of the best summer songs of 2011.

Just as you are getting comfortable with the dancey fluff that the first few songs of the album presents, the stunning centerpiece of the album comes in: Still Getting Younger. One of her best vocals (which at times was giving me some serious 80s Madonna teas) on the album set upon a slow disco production, her voice echoes with ferocity as she declares “Don't want no other baby, I got you covered, Our love is growing and getting younger.” But it is on the middle eight that the dance gem really reaches that rare moment where you immediately picture yourself in the middle of a dance floor and losing it. The music cuts out and Wynter’s high vocals take over and she drops a love letter to her man: “I'm not lonely, I just need you, Through this empty space again. I complete you and you could never turn me away! Our love will never end!” As that last note is held over top of the beat kicking back in, I remember hopping out of my bed to start dancing. My favorite moment on the album for sure.

Drunk On Your Love is another slightly crunchier disco track that could easily sit on the tracklisting of Kylie Minogue’s X, especially at the end of every chorus. You can assume what the song subject is based on the title, and it is every bit as fun as you would assume as well. Wynter follows this with one of the more downbeat songs on the album with All My Life, which is one of the sweetest love songs I have heard outside of Robyn for a good while that I could see lighting up some empty gay dance floor at 4am when only the fiercest queens are still out (oh hey, XES dance floor, take my tip!). I remember checking the tracklisting after this song and realizing that I was almost done the album with not one bit of filler, thinking there must be one coming up…

Well it certainly isn’t Rumba, a Latin song that would have fit in on JLo or Nicole Scherzinger’s albums, but luckily the Kevin McCall assisted song found its way on here and is a stellar nighttime island song. See RedOne? This is how you do a Latin-tinged song with subtlety. Wynter keeps up the lower tempo sound in Back To You, a song that almost seemed destined to be a slinky R&B song with the way the vocals came out, but instead she used a subdued disco production and lets her voice shine over it as she admits a series of her faults and that nothing in her life matters after she let her man leave. “Now I miss your heartbeat/and I miss your face/And I miss your story following me, and I miss your space.” Wynter clearly knows how to make a killer heartbreak elegy, and you can’t help to feel her pain on this one.

Wynter ends the album on a high note in a shimmering kiss-off to the boyfriend that took her for granted. “You took a real big chance when you gave me up/I swear I was your brain, baby I was your luck” she says with so much confidence that you instantly wonder what fool would let her go. It is the type of effortless and slick production that make it feel like an absolutely timeless dance track that will no doubt be played by love scorned women for years if there is any justice in the world.

Wynter Gordon has made the most solid dance album of the year. It may not have the ambition that Robyn’s Body Talk series had last year, but it has the same flawlessly compact feel that Kelis’ Fleshtones did. Either way, there is no other girl this year who has been able to make a series of dance songs that all have a different feel, each with their own separate story and identity, while remaining cohesive and completely Wynter. The only complaint is the same one that all great albums have: I WISH THERE WAS MORE! I could have listened to the beats in Wynter’s mind for hours, so only getting a short 33 minutes was a bit of a letdown. Luckily, as I said, there are past releases and leaks that can make up for it. Below are a few recommendations if you too want to hear more of what this rising popstar can do. I am off to listen to the whole thing over again, as I imagine I will be doing all summer long!

Other Recommended Tracks: Alice in Wonderland, Got It Bad, No Sleep, Renegade, I Feel Love

5/5 Wigs Snatched