Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 In Music

  1. Adele - Someone Like You
  2. Beyonce - Love On Top
  3. Chris Brown - Yeah 3x
  4. Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris - We Found Love
  5. Katy Perry - Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)
  6. Foo Fighters - Rope
  7. Adele - Rolling In The Deep
  8. Lady Gaga - The Edge Of Glory
  9. Bruno Mars - It Will Rain
  10. Christina Perri - A Thousand Years
  11. Katy Perry feat. Kanye West - E.T.
  12. Foster The People - Pumped Up Kicks
  13. The Band Perry - If I Die Young
  14. LMFAO feat. Lauren Bennett & Goon Rock - Party Rock Anthem
  15. Alex Gaudino feat. Kelly Rowland - What A Feeling
  16. Chris Medina - What Are Words
  17. Jessie J feat. B.o.B - Price Tag
  18. Selena Gomez & The Scene - Love You Like A Love Song
  19. Bruno Mars - The Lazy Song
  20. Britney Spears - Hold It Against Me
  21. Foo Fighters - Walk
  22. Coldplay - Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall
  23. J Lo feat. Lil Wayne - I'm Into You
  24. Charice - Before It Explodes
  25. Ed Sheeran - The A Team
  26. Cobra Starship feat. Sabi - You Make Me Feel...
  27. Enrique Iglesias feat. Ludacris & DJ Frank E - Tonight (I'm Lovin' You)
  28. Britney Spears - Till The World Ends
  29. The Wanted - Glad You Came
  30. David Guetta feat. Usher - Without You

Another year has passed and undoubtedly, this year belonged to the ladies. A powerhouse of female artists released new albums and completely ruled the charts - Adele, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Katy Perry (holdover from 2010's Teenage Dream). However, the biggest success story belongs to Adele.

To say that she dominated 2011 is an understatement - she obliterated the competition. Her sophomore album 21 was released in February and has sold 15 million copies worldwide to date, becoming the biggest-selling album in the world this year. In the US, the album has only slipped out of the Top 5 once since its release - it has spent 42 weeks to date in the Top 5. In the UK, the album topped the charts for 18 weeks (11 weeks consecutive) and with sales of 3.6 million, has become the biggest-selling album of the 21st century.

The two singles Rolling In The Deep and Someone Like You topped the US Billboard Hot 100 for seven and five weeks respectively, and of course in her domestic UK as well. The third single Set Fire To The Rain is currently climbing up the charts slowly but steadily, but has already hit #1 in Singapore. No news yet on whether there will be a music video for Fire (as Adele is currently still recovering from her recent throat surgery) but if there is one, it will definitely boost the chart performance of the song. Singapore radio has already gone with a fourth song - Rumor Has It.

Oh, and there's the matter of the Grammy Awards next February, where she has received six nominations, including the big ones for Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Song of the Year (both for Rolling In The Deep). I think she's going to win at least five of them.

The scary thing is that there are still a lot more potential singles to be released from the album. Radio has already picked up Fire and Rumor Has It. But there's still Turning Tables, I'll Be Waiting and my personal favourite, Don't You Remember. And it wouldn't be too far-fetched an idea to release Take It All and One And Only as well.

Adele is truly a breath of fresh air in the current music landscape, an artist whose focus is on the music, the songs, the voice and the emotion. She connects with people emotionally and moves you. This is evident in her BRIT Awards and MTV VMA performances of Someone Like You - just a piano and a solo spotlight on her while she sang. No need for fancy costumes, choreography or pyrotechnics. Her voice is her weapon, and she used it well.

While she recovers from throat surgery, 2012 is shaping up to be another massive year as she returns to the live circuit, starting with a performance at the Grammy Awards, followed by a tour. Hopefully she'll get to come to Singapore. In the meantime, she has just released a concert album Live At The Royal Albert Hall, available on Blu Ray/DVD + CD. So this is the closest you can get to watching her live for now.

While Adele dominated the charts, the other female artists didn't slack either. Katy Perry continued milking her 2010 Teenage Dream album by releasing a further three more singles in her bid to overtake MJ's record of five #1 singles from a single album. She's currently tied with MJ with these five #1 singles - California Gurls, Teenage Dream, Firework, E.T. (assisted by a Kanye West remix) and Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) (assisted by a remix featuring Missy Elliott).

The latest single The One That Got Away is currently at #5, and in an effort to push it to #1, the record label has discounted the digital single to 69 cents on iTunes, the only Top 75 single to be sold at this price. And in a similar strategy to Last Friday Night, she has also just released a new version of the song featuring B.o.B.

In the case of E.T., when it was released as a single it already featured Kanye West, whereas in the cases of Last Friday Night and The One That Got Away, the guest artist-assisted versions were only released long after the original version of the single was first released. So it seems like a desperate attempt. However, this is not considered cheating according to current Billboard rules. While I'm a fan of Katy and I think she deserves her five #1s, I would prefer that she didn't have to resort to such dubious methods to get her sixth #1.

Lady Gaga made a lot of waves this year with the release of her second studio album Born This Way. It was super hyped and it also received criticism for the way the full album was sold at just 99 cents on the Amazon store for the first two days. As a result of the special promotion, the album sold 1.108 million copies in its first week, becoming just the 17th album to sell more than 1 million copies in one week. Close to 40% of those sales (440,000) stemmed from the Amazon promotion.

Numerous singles were released from the album, and each accompanying music video became more and more far-fetched and self-indulgent. In my honest opinion, Lady Gaga is trying too hard. Some of those songs are good songs, like The Edge Of Glory and You And I, so there's no need to over-sex it up and create controversy for the sake of creating controversy. You can only shock an audience so many times. And there's really no need to have a complicated dance routine for every video or performance. The dance must complement the music and I think she fails to understand that.

Beyonce released her fourth album 4 and for the first time ever, it was met with underwhelming response, even though it debuted at #1. It was largely due to the first single Run The World (Girls), which failed to connect with audiences the way Single Ladies or Crazy In Love did. I admit I didn't like the song when it was first released, but listening again to it eight months later, I feel that the song was too ahead of its time back then, and should be reviewed in the context of the whole album.

4 is quite under-rated I feel, and I think it's because Beyonce was pushing the boundaries creatively and not trying to repeat what she had done before, that's why people weren't ready and didn't accept it at first. On closer inspection, the music on this album is more eclectic, with prominent marching snare drums and big horn sounds (Girls, Countdown, End Of Time). Beyonce's vocal delivery is also top notch, especially on Love On Top (how much higher can she go?), 1+1 (so much emotion) and I Care (mimicking the guitar solo).  In fact, the weakest song might be the second single Best Thing I Never Had, which honestly irritates me for no rational reason.

Rihanna has been working hard ever since her first album Music Of The Sun was released in 2005. In seven years, she has released six albums - the same output as MJ's entire 23-year solo career (from 1979's Off The Wall to 2001's Invincible). She has notched up ten US #1 singles (two of those as featured artist on T.I.'s Live Your Life and Eminem's Love The Way You Lie), but amazingly, none of her albums have reached #1.

She has been very prolific and has never really gone away. While her stats are impressive, it worries me that she is a "singles artist" and that she won't leave much of a legacy ten years from now (her Album of the Year Grammy Award nomination for Loud got quite a few people scratching their heads). Rihanna maintains her relevance by working really fast and tapping into whatever is hot at the moment, but she runs the risk of becoming a fad. We Found Love is a great dance-pop song, and one of my favourites this year, but I'm not sure I will still like it ten years from now, when the musical landscape will have changed by then.

The only male artist to make an impression this year is Bruno Mars. Like Katy, his album doo-wops & hooligans was released last year but he continued to release singles and videos and keep himself busy with side projects like guesting on Lighters with Bad Meets Evil (Eminem's side project) and Young, Wild & Free with Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa (as part of his production team The Smeezingtons). He also contributed It Will Rain for the latest Twilight soundtrack, and released the superb video for The Lazy Song, one of my favourite videos this year. Singapore radio also picked up Count On Me, Talking To The Moon and Runaway Baby, even though they were not released officially as singles. Can't wait to hear his new album, hopefully out next year.

My favourite band Foo Fighters came back in a big way this year, with the release of Wasting Light, their best album since...Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. I say it with every album, but I'm constantly amazed at how they can top the previous album each time. Wasting Light is a solid rock album with great melodies and hooks, and it's thoroughly worthy of its Album of the Year Grammy nomination, and six nominations overall. I'm really hoping they will tour Southeast Asia next year, or I'll have to make a trip to Japan to watch them in March. Foo Fighters, please come to Singapore for a full-length concert!!!

As 2011 winds down, here's hoping 2012 will be a better year for music, with more real music as opposed to manufactured pop sh*t! Cheers!


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