50. Lion Cub “Flora/Fauna”
Number 50 is always where the editor gets to pull rank and stick on something for personal satisfaction. This year that comes in the form of Lion Cub‘s “Flora/Fauna.” Because of personal connections to the band, I have to recuse myself from putting the song any higher in the countdown but that makes it no less deserving of being included. The track balances melancholy lyrics with fun, keyboard-driven pop to create a memorable track for those few that caught it this year.
MP3: Lion Cub “Flora/Fauna”
49. The Lonely Island featuring Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga “3-Way (The Golden Rule)”
The problem I generally have with Lonely Island is they release albums and so much of their humor is visual based. No one listened to “Shy Ronnie” and thought “this is funny” without having seen the video. But with “3-Way (The Golden Rule),” the group creates humorous audio with little need for visual representation to get it. The smooth 80s schlock beat perfectly accompanies Andy Samburg’s ridiculous attempt at Barry White-esque bass and Justin Timberlake‘s standardly wonderful tenor. Lady Gaga‘s appearance may be nothing but a bit part, but the concept holds up as one of the funnier ideas hatched by the Island.
MP3: The Lonely Island featuring Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga “3-Way (The Golden Rule)”
48. Kreayshawn “Gucci Gucci”
There were not many figures in 2011 that were as divisive as Kreayshawn. A cocky white girl with a voice like mcchris who simultaneous talks down to Arby’s workers and Gucci wearers. Despite “Gucci Gucci” not being “good” per se, there is an element to it that makes it irresistible. Its similar to that never-ending “badger” song, you can not look away.
MP3: Kreayshawn “Gucci Gucci”
47. R.E.M. “We All Go Back to Where We Belong”
For many people, 2011 will be remembered as the year R.E.M. called it quits. Their final single, “We All Go Back to Where We Belong,” is the type of majestic send off that all elder statesmen hope for. A carefully crafted acoustic pop tune with shades of Burt Bacharach that proves the band still had their faculties about them even in their last breathes.
MP3: R.E.M. “We All Go Back to Where We Belong”
46. T.I. featuring Big K.R.I.T. “I’m Flexin'”
T.I. was released from his halfway house after his stint in prison on September 29th at midnight. The next day “I’m Flexin'” dropped. After the disappointment of No Mercy, “I’m Flexin'” was a breathe of fresh air. A re-dedicated T.I. rapping about what he knows best: himself and how great he is. Big K.R.I.T. produces the dirty South beat and adds a verse of I-don’t-give-a-fuck lyrics to top it off.
MP3: T.I. featuring Big K.R.I.T. “I’m Flexin'”
45. Lady Gaga “Edge of Glory”
It would figure that pop music would rediscover the power of the saxophone the same year Clarence Clemons passes away. The E Street Bands big blower paved the way for this year’s resurgence of the brass instrument but who would have thought Clemons’ swan song would not be backing Springsteen but rather backing the year’s most epic disco track. After mastering the artsy-pop star persona, Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” is finally an all-out arena-thumping dance track that is simultaneously 80s aping and ahead of its time.
MP3: Lady Gaga “Edge of Glory”
44. Childish Gambino “Heartbeat”
Donald Glover was a bit of a lightning rod in 2011. He garnered a good amount of fan support (peaking at number 2 on US Billboard hip-hop albums and rap albums) yet he was still shun by some publications (I’m looking at you, Pitchfork). Whether you believe that Glover is a Kanye-aping false-outsider or a pop-rap genius, “Heartbeat” seems to be the peak of his accomplishments. From the track’s overly emotional piano intro to its electro-pop beat, Childish Gambino and producer Ludwig compose the perfect backdrop for Glover’s angry wordplay-packed flow. You can’t help but crack a smile with lines like “we used to hold hands like field trips” and “he just a fake nigga who blog in all caps.”
MP3: Childish Gambino “Heartbeat”
43. Peter Bjorn and John “Second Chance”
When Peter Bjorn and John hit with their breakthrough single “Young Folks” it seemed like they were destined to be one-hit wonders. Yet, five years later, Peter Bjorn and John are still cranking out pop tunes that are making an impact. Take “Second Chance” for example: it crept into collective consciousness being used in Bud Light commercials, in Grey’s Anatomy episodes, and as the theme song to 2 Broke Girls.
MP3: Peter Bjorn and John “Second Chance”
42. Young Jeezy featuring Jay-Z and Andre 3000 “I Do”
When T.I. released “Swagger Like Us” in 2008, rumors swirled about a track called “Swagger Like Us Pt 2” which was to be released on Jay-Z‘s Blueprint 3. The track was supposed to feature Jay-Z, Andre 3000, Young Jeezy, and T.I. After some delays on Jay-Z’s album, when the tracklisting finally did appear, “Swagger Like Us Pt. 2” appeared to be just a mirage. Three years later, three of the four superstars gather on “I Do.” While the track is not as hard hitting as “Swagger Like Us,” it allows the three to give their best “ladies, come and get it” flows. Especially note the closing verse from Andre 3000 over the sped-up soul-sample breakdown.
MP3: Young Jeezy featuring Jay-Z and Andre 3000 “I Do”
41. Hayes Carll “KMAG YOYO”
If you are going to blatantly rip off Bob Dylan‘s classic “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” you really have to commit to it. Hayes Carll, not only committed to it, but may have bested it. Creating a Slaughterhouse 5-esque story that begins with working at Dairy Queen has the hero fighting Al Qaeda in the middle and on an alien spaceship by the end. It is a trip that can only be accomplished a four-minute high-energy country-folk song or a 300 page novel.
MP3: Hayes Carll “KMAG YOYO”