The Best Songs Of 2011 (According To Your Friendly Neighborhood VH1 Staffers)

by (@kat_george)

When we began compiling our Best Songs of 2011 list, there were many differing opinions, and after briefly toying with the idea of pitting all our staff against one another in a Hunger Games fight-to-the-death scenario against the backdrop of Times Square, we conceded that the most diplomatic and least murderous thing to do would be to each submit our own list. You know, in the name of preserving a civil work environment and whatnot (not to mention our longstanding policy of avoiding contact with the human resources department). So while we didn’t battle it out in a conference room or some such nonsense, each one of us faced an internal battle — choosing our favorite songs of the year. As you can see, it wasn’t easy (some of us got a little greedy with 20 strong lists), and while the usual suspects like “Rolling In The Deep” and “Holocene” made appearances, there were a few surprises in the music tastes of the VH1 office folk…

(Btw, before we get into this, we’d like to note that we put together the following Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure: VH1 Staffers Pick Their Favorite Songs Of 2011. It’s sequenced in alpha order by artist first name, so we wholeheartedly recommend you hit Shuffle while listening to this 120 track playlist. Now, on with the show…)

Mark Graham, Managing Editor, VH1 Tuner (@unclegrambo)
1. Lady Gaga, “The Edge Of Glory”
Born This Way is chock full of good to great songs ruined by garish production. “The Edge Of Glory,” however, is completely majestic, triumphant and awe-inspiring in a way that none of the other songs on Gaga’s sophomore LP can come close to matching, let alone any other song released by any other artist this year. I’M ON THE EDGE WITH YOU!
2. Kanye West, “All Of The Lights”
The last song of Yeezy’s Lights Trilogy (which also includes Graduation‘s “Flashing Lights” and 808s And Heartbreak‘s “Street Lights”) is one of this century’s most musically ambitious epics. WE GOIN’ ALL THE WAY THIS TIME!
3. Robyn, “Call Your Girlfriend”
I don’t know a single person in my entire circle of friends who isn’t compelled to start dancing when this song comes on. It’s a lyrically layered song, too, one that Crushable’s Meghan Keane posits is about an imaginary affair. I GIVE YOU SOMETHIN’ THAT YOU NEVER EVEN KNEW YOU MISSED!
4. Frank Ocean, “Thinking About You”
This song was self-released by Ocean on his Tumblr one night back in late July, but then promptly taken down just hours later. Thanks to the Internet, though, the song was captured and uploaded to YouTube, where it has been streamed over 9 million times since. Not bad for a song that was never really meant to be released, eh? ‘CAUSE I BEEN THINKIN’ ‘BOUT FOREVER! [LISTEN]
5. Lana del Rey, “Video Games”
LDR is the most polarizing figure in the music industry today despite the fact that she hasn’t even put an album out. Love her (lips) or hate ‘em, her self-described brand of Hollywood sadcore is sweeping, ethereal and emotionally affecting. PLAYIN’ POOL AND WILD DARTS!
6. Rihanna, “We Found Love (feat. Calvin Harris)”
RiRi is the hardest working woman in the business these days, globetrotting the world over. Hot on the heels of Loud, the lead single off Talk That Talk might just end up alongside “Umbrella” as the biggest hit of her career. YELLOW DIAMONDS IN THE LIGHT!
7. Jay-Z and Kanye West, “Made In America (feat. Frank Ocean)”
Critics lambasted Watch The Throne as being ostentatious and wealth-obsessed, but they conveniently ignored emotionally resonant tracks like this that documented Hov and Ye’s struggle to make it in America. WHAT’S UP YIA YIA!
8. Pitbull, “Give Me Everything (feat. Ne-Yo, Afrojack & Nayer)”
The most ebullient of all the apocalypse-obsessed songs that ruled the airwaves in 2011. GRAB SOMEBODY SEXY!
9. Robin Thicke, “Pretty Lil Heart (feat. Lil Wayne)”
Turn the lights down, pop that bottle of bubbly, throw on this track and babies will practically make themselves. (Also: It’s so refreshing to hear a song that wasn’t produced on a laptop!) TELL ME SOMETHIN’ SWEET, TELL ME SOMETHIN’ NICE!
10. Sara Bareilles, “Uncharted”
One of the best songs I’ve ever heard about the struggles, both internal and external, of an artist trying to live up to past successes. STUCK UNDER THE CEILING I MADE, I CAN’T HELP BUT FEEL LIKE I’M GOING DOWN.
11. M83, “Midnight City” – The city is my church.
12. Death Cab For Cutie, “You Are A Tourist” – My favorite guitar lick of the year, hands down.
13. Britney Spears, “How I Roll” – Bloodshy & Avant’s production work on this song is enjoyably bonkers. Also, I love when Britney enunciates the word “thug” so it sounds like “f*ck.”
14. Pete And The Pirates, “Come To The Bar” – Fans of Parkife era Blur will really enjoy this cut.
15. Lady Gaga, “Hair (Live On Howard Stern)” – Remember what I said at the top about the production on Born This Way? I never fail to get chills when I listen to this stripped-down version of the song featuring only Gaga and her piano. [LISTEN]
16. Foster The People, “Pumped Up Kicks” – The only song of the year that was possibly too catchy; by the time July rolled around, I had to retire this song from my iPod.
17. Nicki Minaj, “Super Bass” – Wooing a cocaine dealer has never sounded so joyous.
18. Beyonce, “Countdown” – BOOF BOOF!
19. The Prime Ministers, “True Believer” – This New Wave-y song by the Detroit-based power trio features of the slinkiest call-and-responses between a bassline and a guitar lick that I’ve heard in a long, long while. [LISTEN]
20. Eric Church, “Springsteen” – Nostalgia, ultra (with a side of torch and twang).

Kat George, VH1 Tuner Writer & Jr Rockstar (@kat_george)
Making end of year lists is one of the hardest things a girl can do — and I should know, I had to whittle 143 songs down to 10. Which was so impossible I could only get to down to 20, although I still had to make some devastating sacrifices to get there (apologies to Holy Ghost!, Beat Connection, Blood Orange, Lykke Li and Katy Perry, amongst others). My dilemas in compiling this list come from but one factor — I’m spoiled for choice. I’ve fully embraced Turntable and Spotify this year, so the absolute wealth of music, and the ease with which I can now discover new music, has led to a sensory overload. Genre means so little — as you can see my choices span from the most faithfully pop-driven, to what my ex-boyfriend calls “inoffensive, cutesy, girlie, indie-electro-band stuff,” to my favourite Beyonce, to the slightly more under the radar r’n’b redux that’s so of the moment (again, apologies to How To Dress Well and Drake).

Frank Ocean – “Songs For Women”
Theophilus London – “Flying Overseas”
Youth Lagoon – “Cannons”
TV On The Radio – “Will Do”
Feist – “How Come You Never Go There?”
Beyonce – “Party”
Atlas Sound – “Te Amo”
Twin Sister – “Stop”
Real Estate – “It’s Real”
Phantogram – “Night Life”
Is Tropical – “Lies”
Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera – “Moves Like Jagger”
The Middle East – “Jesus Came To My Birthday Party”
Miami Horror featuring Alan Palomo – “Holidays”
Metronomy – “The Look”
The Horrors – “Still Life”
The Drums – “Book Of Revalations”
Cults – “Abducted”
Bibo – “Take Off Your Shirt”
Britney Spears – “Til The World Ends”

Ambika Muttoo, Writer, TheFABLife.com (@missmuttoo)
1. Nicolas Jaar feat. Dave Harrington – Darkside EP
This EP has three tracks, simply titled A1, A2 and A3 and to choose a favorite between them is a Herculean task. His new collaboration with guitarist Dave Harrington, which resulted in Darkside, is a meeting of the blues and electronica. But not your regular sounds, at all. Jaar slows the pace down layering texture, space, austerity and touches of melancholy into breathtakingly beautiful melody. There’s really no one like Jaar at the moment, and if there’s any definition that could come close to what he has created, it’s Ali Farka Toure meets downtempo.
2. Radiohead – “Lotus Flower”
When I first heard “Lotus Flower,” the words from the poem The Lotus Eaters immediately popped into my head. “His voice was thin, as voices from the grave; and deep-asleep he seem’d, yet all awake, and music in his ears his beating heart did make.” That’s Thom Yorke in a nutshell, blocking the real world out as his sings on arguably, the best track of their album The King of Limbs. I don’t care whether he danced in the video or not — this song is beyond any of that kvetching.
3. The Black Keys – “Gold on the Ceiling”
I have had The Black Keys album El Camino on repeat as soon as it released. It was co-produced by the band as well as Danger Mouse, whose side project, Broken Bells, is also on this list. Why “Gold On The Ceiling” is my favorite, is because it’s borderline psychedelic rock, the elements of which creep up on you through the growl of the keyboards and electric guitar riffs. It’s perfect to rock out to without dislocating your neck.
4. Ambivalent – Jackson EP
Ambivalent is one of my favorite electronic artists whose home is Richie Hawtin’s iconic M-nus label. The very technically sound Jackson released on M-nus’ more high-octane sibling, Plus 8, earlier this year. The EP has six tracks — the original “Jackson” and two thoughtful mixes of it, as well as “Train To Brooklyn,” “Lear” and “Ghost Note.” Each left me hooked, especially “Jackson,” which has the perfect balance of soul and tech and allows you to really listen and dance at the same time. That for me, is the Holy Grail for a techno track.
5. Gaiser – “Some Slip”
Jon Gaiser is also on Richie Hawtin’s M-nus imprint, as is the aforementioned Ambivalent. His very particular brand of minimal techno is something I’m a big fan of. Of late he’s been making some incredible, all-out techno monsters. That’s not to say the BPM (beats per minute) is particularly high, or that the sounds are predictably repetitive. Because throwing in the unexpected is what Gaiser does best. “Some Slip” is a rabbit hole of a track. You fall straight into it and let the twisted turns take you to wonderland.
6. Apparat – “Ash/Black Veil”
Apparat, or Sascha Ring, is a Berlin based musician, who a very trusted friend and DJ introduced me to this year. There was an instant connection with his dreamy, atmospheric soundscapes. “Ash/Black Veil” soars into haunting vocals and instruments like wandering guitar riffs and broken piano melodies wrapped around an electronic fulcrum. It’s a big, majestic track and as the cymbals clash into lyrics like, “Today time froze, and I will need a cause, to carry on, on my own…” you’ll find your heart breaking just a little.
7. James Blake – “The Wihelm Scream”
This man’s voice reduces me to a puddle, as does this song. The British electronic music producer and singer-songwriter had a big year and for good reason — his self-titled debut album released in February. Everyone’s probably heard of “Limit To Your Love,” but the other tracks on the list are real gems too. “The Wilhem Scream” is a hazy, haunting tune that has elements of R’n’B melded into electronica. He alternates between that richly tonal quality his voice is known for, with a touch of falsetto that fits somewhere between a heartbeat of synths and a kickdrum. It’s beautiful in its sparseness. Marry me, James.
8. Broken Bells – “An Easy Life”
The first track I ever heard of the Broken Bells was “The Ghost Inside,” whose grim video has Christina Hendricks in. I vowed to track down everything they made after that. Broken Bells comprises Danger Mouse and James Mercer, the lead vocalist of The Shins and “An Easy Life” is off their latest album, Meyrin Fields. It stands out from the rest, for me, with it’s loping rhythm, scratchy backplate and Mercer’s keening vocals. It has a bit of an island feel to it, with a nod to the title, but the lyrics drag you in a completely different direction. It opens with, “So tell me where it hurts? Do those stunts prove anything? I doubt that I believe that anyone is doing it…” reminding you that it often isn’t an easy life.
9. Coldplay – “Us Against The World”
Oh, Mylo Xyloto, you beauty of an album, you! It may have received mixed reviews from critics, but I know they all went out in droves to buy it as soon as it released. I love most of the album, but this quiet, sweet, acoustic ballad is the one that stole my heart. I can’t help but feel a sense of community with Coldplay, especially when Chris Martin sings, “Through chaos as it swirls. It’s just us against the world…” Maybe I’m just a sap, but the fact of the matter is that when a song rends such an emotional response from you, it’s a keeper.
10. Cirez D – “Mokba”
Cirez D is the alias of the Swedish DJ, Eric Prydz and his track Mokba is my guilty pleasure. Whether I’m driving, or running on the treadmill or just dancing around my room, I never fail to put this track on very, very loud. It’s a full-on, feel good, tech-house tune with a relentless kick which you can expect to hear right at the end of a manic night out dancing. It may not have much musicality, but it gets you pumped and happy, and you just can’t help moving to it.

Bernie Kaminski, Executive Producer, VH1 Shows (@berniekaminski)
1. Mikal Cronin, “Apathy”
2. Jay-Z & Kanye West, “Otis”
3. Friends, “I’m His Girl”
4. Smith Westerns, “End of the Night”
5. Beyonce, “Countdown”
6. Girls, “Honey Bunny”
7. Cass McCombs, “County Line”
8. Drive-By-Truckers, “Everybody Needs Love”
9. The Baseball Project, “1976″
10. Low Cut Connie, “Big Thighs NJ”

Crystal Puccio, VH1 Digital Producer (@seapeaz)
I was into dance music in a big way in 2011. There was no shortage of danceable jams this year as this list proves!
1. Rihanna – “We Found Love”
2. Lady Gaga – “The Edge Of Glory”
3. Ellie Goulding – “Lights”
4. Robyn – “Call Your Girlfriend”
5. Britney Spears – “Till The World Ends”
6. Martin Solveig & Dragonette – “Hello”
7. Nicki Minaj – “Super Bass”
8. Beyonce – “Countdown”
9. Katy Perry – “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”
10. Chase & Status – “Blind Faith”

Dan Sacher, VP VH1 & LOGO Digital (@dansacher)
Overall, it was one of the weakest years for singles in a while. Katy Perry’s six singles took up a lot of shelf space (as did a handful of middling Britney and Beyonce tracks). But thanks to Spotify — the most interesting development in music in over a decade — there were a lot of incredible back catalogs, random friends’ playlists, and old faves to enjoy this year. Those aside….
1. Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris – “We Found Love”
The jaw-dropping video gets at least 25% of the credit here, but there’s no arguing that Rihanna brought the pop music this year like no one else. Her reign as our top pop princess was solidified and sealed in 2012.
2. The Joy Formidable – “Cradle”
My favorite new band of the year. And a classic power trio at that. How can you resist?
3. Beth Ditto – “I Wrote the Book”
Her EP, produced by Simian Mobile Disco, sounded like a bunch of unrecorded Madonna demo tracks circa 1983. If only there were more than four of them.
4. LMFAO – “Party Rock Anthem”
In a word, irresistable. Or put another way, op-a-doe.
5. Foster the People – “Helena Beat”
They made this one a tough choice given all the great singles they released this year.
6. Pistol Annies – “Hell on Heels”
A sly, charming little gem of a song.
7 & 8. Will Young – “Jealousy” and Graffiti6 – “Stare Into the Sun”
These two fill the critical Brit-pop quotient of the list, and quite handsomely at that.
9. Fitz and the Tantrums – “Money Grabber”
Fitz was my favorite You Oughta Know artist of the year; the whole album was a rollicking, throwback good time.
10. Adele – “Someone Like You”
Yes, it was the year of Adele, and her slightly shaky, incredibly vulnerable VMAs performance was her most indelible moment.
Honorable Mentions: Cage the Elephant – “Aberdeen”; Lady Gaga – “Marry The Night”; Neon Indian – “Polish Girl”; Kelly Clarkson – “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)”; Chromeo – “Hot Mess” and Nas – “Nasty”
Most Under-appreciated Album (which, by the way, puts Bruno Mars to shame): Plan B – “The Defamation of Strickland Banks”

Elizabeth Black, Sr. Editor, VH1 Blog (@lizburrito)
I’m proof that when you get older, you’re slower to get on the cool bandwagon — almost none of the music I listened to this year was from this year, and any music that is from this year that I like is like, jokey or dorky: I loved the Muppets soundtrack, so that will pretty much tell you what you need to know about me. But I’m still a nerd for a great pop song so, thanks, Robyn for making me slightly relevant. Here are my five favorite songs from this year including, yes, a song from the Muppets Green Album — I dare you not to get a little lip quiver at My Morning Jacket’s cover of Emmet Otter’s “Jug Band Christmas.” I would have picked ten songs but seriously, my favorite things from this year are actually from two years ago.

My Morning Jacket – “Our World”
I am weeping as I type this, this song is so lovely and everyone should go watch Emmet Otter right now to have some faith restored in humanity.
Robyn – “Call Your Girlfriend”
Most of the music I like could be classified as “alternative” or “new wave” or also “depressing,” and the fact that I love all Robyn songs defies all logic. She is the best.
Foster The People – “Pumped Up Kicks”
I didn’t know I liked this song so much until it kept getting stuck in my head and I had to play it around the house to get the earworm out.
Best Coast – “Our Deal”
I have a fascination with Chloe Moretz, so I loved the video for this song.
James Blake – “The Wilhelm Scream”
This is a cop-out because technically it’s one of my husband’s favorites, but hearing it reminds me of him and so by the transitive property (or maybe by osmosis? Math and science weren’t my strong suits) I also love it.

Isaac Ayers, Music Supervisor (@isaacayers)
1. Adele – “Rolling In The Deep”
2. Foster The People – “Call It What You Want”
3. Bon Iver – “Beth/Rest”
4. Avicii – “Levels”
5. Alexander – “Truth”
6. Lana Del Rey – “Born To Die”
7. Civil Twilight – “Fire Escape”
8. Miike Snow – “Devil’s Work”
9. The Weeknd – “Wicked Games”
10. Coldplay – “Charlie Brown”
11. The Script – “For The First Time”
12. Calvin Harris – “Feel So Close”
13. Florence + The Machine – “Only If For A Night”
14. Adele – “Rolling In The Deep” (Jamie XX Remix)

Jeremiah Silva, Mgr. Music Talent (@JeremiahSilva13)
1. Adele – “Rolling In The Deep”
No explanation necessary. Adele is a genius.
2. The Band Perry – “If I Die Young”
Country music with mass appeal.
3. Beyonce – “Love On Top”
Baby bump!
4. Britney Spears – “Till The World Ends”
Welcome back Britney b***h.
5. Pitbull – “Give Me Everything Tonight”
Most sing-a-longiest group sing-a-long song of the year.
6. Lady Gaga – “Born This Way”
Because it doesn’t matter if you love him or HIM.
7. Rihanna – “We Found Love”
Perhaps the most amazing song EVER.
8. Nicki Minaj – “Super Bass”
Insert ass dropping dance move here.
9. Miranda Lambert – “Baggage Claim”
Thank GOD for Country Music.
10. Mariah Carey feat. Justin Bieber – “All I Want For Christmas Is You”
SuperFestive! A year can’t end without Mariah, this holiday classic — THE best Christmas song of ALL TIME.

Jim Shearer, Host, VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown (@jimshearer)
1.) “Shake Me Down,” Cage The Elephant
For those of you who love ‘90s music and can’t stop listening to the anniversary additions of Pearl Jam’s Ten and Nirvana’s Nevermind, may I suggest Cage The Elephant? Influences from the aforementioned decade are obvious, but this Kentucky-bred band has also done an excellent job of creating their own blue-collar-rock sound with a near perfect sophomore album.
2.) “Make Some Noise,” Beastie Boys
Squeezed from the finest organic fruits of the Beastie Boys’ orchard, they craft one of the juiciest hip-hop tracks of the year, which features Adrock shouting out his softball team; Mike D opening a restaurant with Ted Danson, and MCA performing brain surgery.
3.) “Hello,” Martin Solveig & Dragonette
If the Ramones were a dance act, I think this is probably how they would sound, sans the female vocals, of course. What a simple (just three chords) yet deliciously sounding pop song.
4.) “Rolling In The Deep,” Adele
Because this song is going to top everyone else’s year-end list, I don’t feel guilty for ranking it fourth. However, it wouldn’t take much arm-twisting for me to move this up a couple spots.
5.) “What The Hell,” Avril Lavigne
A pop hit from the first half of 2011 that I haven’t been able to resist. That organ loop is so damn catchy!
6.) “Edge of Glory,” Lady Gaga
Plays out like an exclamation point on the late-great Clarence Clemons’ career, who delivered the saxophone solo. Also, during the 2011 Women’s World Cup, ESPN seemed to play this song on a continual loop. Can’t blame them though, because it is a montage-worthy anthem.
7.) “Children,” V.V. Brown feat. Chiddy
One of the most fun songs of the year, featuring a sample of an ice cream truck’s jingle; a group of children belting out the chorus; and some slick rhymes from Chiddy (of Chiddy Bang).
8.) “Lonely Boy,” The Black Keys
Dan and Pat of The Black Keys add bass and keys to their two-man sound, creating one of the most fun rock tracks of the year (which will surely still be in heavy rotation come 2012).
9.) “Michael Jackson,” Das Racist
For some reason, underground/indie-minded hip-hoppers tend to shy away from slick production and repetitive hooks, but on “Michael Jackson” Das Racist embrace these elements with fantastic results.
10.) “Blow,” Ke$ha
Yes, this single was featured on Ke$ha’s 2010 mini-LP, Cannibal, but the track didn’t fully explode (or blow-ow-ow) until the beginning of this year. Because “Blow” stayed away from Ke$ha’s polarizing sing-annunciate-rap formula, it became her first single that I couldn’t stop listening to.

Jonathan Mallow, Executive Producer, VH1.com (@jonmallow)
1. Jill Scott featuring Paul Wall – “So Gone”
Jill Scott is the kind of timeless artist everyone should aspire to be. The voice, the lyrics, the soul, the sexuality… everything. If this doesn’t get you in the mood then nothing will, even if it is sort of about trying to get OUT of a relationship.
2. Foster The People – “Pumped Up Kicks”
Pretty dark lyrics and a kinda psychedelic electronic surf sound that’s totally danceable — the perfect summer jam to listen to all year. Plus they’re all adorable.
3. Beyonce – “Love on Top”
Did you see the VMAs? Enough said. Beyonce is superhuman.
4. Adele – “Set Fire To The Rain”
Adele was EVERYWHERE this year. I might have picked “Someone Like You” (if you didn’t almost cry the first time you heard that then you may have no heart) but “Set Fire To The Rain” combines her gorgeous vocal with a more powerful beat… So it makes my list.
5. Katy B – “Movement”
The British dubstep singer gives us a smooth soulful housey jam that is the perfect antidote to the club banger sound that took over R&B this year (which I also dig… see number 11).
6. The Weeknd – “Wicked Games”
The Weeknd mystified the world with his unique approach to publicity and his smooth dark sound — and when he hits it right it’s oh so right. It’s art R&B for hipsters and hip hoppers alike. Make sure to check out the “unofficial” video for this one as it’s one of the hottest things I have ever seen.
7. The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy”
Rock is eternal and this band rocks. We’re all lonely boys in the end, right?
8. Katy Perry featuring Kanye West – “E.T.”
Katy took it to a new level on this one with Kanye’s help. Love Katy’s vocal style and the pretty challenging lyrics (“infect me with your love / fill me with your poison”). Bring on the aliens. I’m ready for abduction too!
9. Lady Gaga – “Edge of Glory”
Hello saxophones. Glad to have you back in my life. This is power pop at its best in the tradition of Cher and late Tina Turner. If I could turn back time I’d tell you that this Gaga album is simply the best.
10. Ke$ha – “Blow”
This song really won me over with its amazingly styled video (Van Der Beek AND unicorns AND rainbows, I mean really). Also Ke$ha proved she can write a serious “oh-oh-oh-oh-oh” hook like no other (see this song and “Til The World Ends” by Britney).
11. Rihanna – “We Found Love”
OK I’ll admit that I maybe thought she was saying, “We found love in a homeless place,” but actually it’s “hopeless” place. Either way the song just pumps. If mainstream R&B has become dance music like this then I’m ready to dance.

Jordan R Runtagh, Writer, TheFABLife.com
1. Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris – “We Found Love”
2. Nicki Minaj – “Super Bass”
3. Beyonce – “Love On Top”
4. Lady Gaga – “The Edge of Glory”
5. The Beach Boys (off ‘The SMiLE Sessions’) – “Surf’s Up”
6. Drake featuring Rihanna – “Take Care”
7. Jay-Z & Kanye West – “No Church In The Wild”
8. Foster The People – “Pumped Up Kicks”
9. Adele – “Rolling In The Deep”
10. Dr. Dre/Eminem – “I Need A Doctor”

Kate Spencer, Sr. Editor, TheFABLife.com and VH1 News (@katespencer)
I know next to nothing about music other than I like things that I can listen to while narrating a movie in my head of which I am the star. With that, here are the Ten Songs I Loved in 2011 (plus a bonus jam!), in order of their position in the Spotify playlist I created.
1. Beyonce – “Countdown”
Queen Bey at her fiercest. The women of America spent 2011 lip-syncing to this song furiously while plodding on treadmills (just me?) and spending too much time wondering what a “boof boof” is.
2. Drake – “Over My Dead Body”
“Emo-hop” is something I just made up right now to describe the awesomeness of this single and Drake’s new album Take Care. There’s just something so sexy about they way this dude says “yeeeah.” Yeah?
3. Cults – “Oh My God”
Brooklyn is the go-to for good music these days, and with good reason. Don’t you just want to listen to this over and over again as you wait those painfully long twelve minutes for the L train to come?
4. Lady Gaga – “Edge of Glory” (Live)
The best version I heard of this all year was the one Gaga performed live on the Howard Stern Show. It’s bone-chilling and beautiful. I’d take the live, “acoustic” version of this song over the studio single any day. RIP, Gaga’s grandpa.
5. Sleeping At Last – “Turning Page”
Maybe it’s because this song is played TWICE in Breaking Dawn, during the most pivotal scenes (wedding and sex, duhz), but I get the chills with every listen. Perfect listening for a good journaling sesh or a long cry in the shower.
6. Bon Iver – “Holocene”
This is the most beautiful song every created, even if NPR did kinda ruin it for me by playing it during their “What music should we play on September 11th” commercial.
7. Desire – “Under Your Spell”
Go rent a car and drive around at night with this song blasting and then come back and try to tell me it’s not one of the best of the year. That’s also the general plot line of Drive, in which you can find this song enhancing the general sexiness of Ryan Gosling’s gentle laugh lines.
8. Washed Out – “Amor Fati”
Hey dudes and bros! Let’s be chill and drive to the beach while eating avocado sandwiches and smoking a phat bowl! I’ve never done any of that, but this song sure does make me want to.
9. Rihanna featuring Jay-Z – “Talk That Talk”
Let me be very honest. “Talk That Talk” is one thing to me and one thing only: the song my instructor at Pop Physique in Silverlake, Los Angeles, leads ab work to. I seriously do a gajillion sit ups to the beat of this song three times a week, and I still f*cking love it so hard. Now that’s saying something, right?
10. Childish Gambino – “Sunrise”
This song pumps me up so much that I just actually used the term “pumps me up.” I find the message of this song and Donald Glover’s work ethic, talent and creativity deeply inspiring and motivating, so much so that I just opening up my manuscript, stared at it for a few minutes, and saved it. That counts as being “onto that new shit,” right?
Bonus Jam!!! Hot Chelle Rae- “Tonight Tonight”
I hated this song before I loved it, but it eventually won me over with its cheesy, hacky lyrics, simple hook and cheap use of repetition. In other words it’s the perfect pop song. Damn you, Hot Chelle Rae!

Lacey Rutter, Production Assistant, VH1 Creative Music Integration Team (@laceamaru)
(but not necessarily in this order..)
1. M83 – “Midnight City”
2. Gotye featuring Kimbra – “Somebody That I Used To Know”
3. Gary Clark Jr – “Bright Lights”
4. James Blake – “The Wilhelm Scream”
5. Adele – “Rolling In The Deep”
6. Radiohead – “Codex”
7. My Morning Jacket – “Circuital”
8. Miike Snow – “Devil’s Work”
9. Alexander – “Truth”
10. Bon Iver – “Minnesota, WI”

Lauren Deiman, VH1 Digital Producer (@dizzlecakes)
Top 10 Songs To Jumpstart Your Day in 2011!
1. Florence & the Machine – “Shake It Out”
2. Adele – “Rumour Has It”
3. The Black Keys – “Gold on the Ceiling”
4. Foster The People – “Houdini”
5. Ellie Goulding – “Lights”
6. Beyonce – “Love on Top”
7. Rihanna – “We Found Love”
8. Kanye West – “All of the Lights”
9. Lykke Li – “Get Some”
10. Robyn – “Dancing on my Own”

Stacey Herron, VP Digital Music & Prog (@lattistar)
Wilco – “Black Moon”
My favorite band put out their best album since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot this year. I’ve loved songs on the past few releases, but this is the first Wilco I’ve listened to front to back on repeat in years. 12 tracks with two over seven minutes to kick it off and round it out and every song in the middle clocking in at less than 4 minutes? Look at me in Wilco heaven. I was tempted to go with “Art of Almost,” but the delicate “Black Moon” is the one that gives me those happy/sad Wilco chills.
Foo Fighters – “White Limo”
Three minutes and twenty two seconds of what I love most: ROCK’N’ROLL. Man, I’m glad these guys still do what they do, and I’m pretty sure they’re having way more fun than the rest of us. This song is back-to-basics Foo Fighters and makes this 40-year-old mom want to start a band and stay out too late drinking. Preferably with Dave, Taylor and Nate.
Tyler The Creator – “Yonkers”
Say what you will about this pick: filthy, off-putting, gimmicky, whatever — I really don’t care. This feels fresh and young and gritty and makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong, but so right at the same time. Loved the Woodies Odd Future performance, too. Kids and the hip hop these days!
Nicki Minaj – “Super Bass”
I think my favorite Nicki Minaj is when she guests on Kanye’s “Monster,” but girl is getting something right. Not only is this track an infectious pop gem, my toddler demands hearing this repeatedly by screaming “BOOM BOOM BOOM” so she’s on to something.
Cults – “Go Outside”
This song makes the list simply because every time I hear it, I’m suddenly in a car, on an open road, with the windows down and sunglasses on. It’s a take-me-to-a-happy place song that could almost be considered too cute, but instead is just totally listenable.
Black Keys – “Lonely Boy”
Shout out to my home state of Ohio! I’ve loved this gritty, blues-tinged rock band for a long time, and never thought I’d be surprised by one of their albums, but El Camino just takes what is great about this band to a whole new, more interesting level. This might not end up being my favorite track, but it’s great — and the only one officially released in 2011. And what a way to kick off this album…
Kanye West & Jay-Z – “Otis”
I hated this song when I first heard it. Where’s the hook? Just didn’t get it. Now I do: this is what it feels like to party with Jay and Ye. And let me tell you, these guys know how to have a good time.
Frank Ocean – “Novacane”
A kind of hilarious, but also totally real and relatable, R&B smooth jam I find myself listening to over and over again. I’ll say no more; just listen if you haven’t heard it.
My Morning Jacket – “Circuital”
I’m cheating a little bit with this title-track pick off MMJ’s 2011 release. I was lucky enough to attend the band’s Storytellers taping this year and, wow, what a treat. According to the story told around “Circuital,” this song features “the greatest guitar solo of all time”. I’ve always known these guys are crazy talented — they can feel vintage 70s rock and of-the-moment at the same time — but I had no idea how much heart this band has, and how smart they are, until I attended Storytellers. This is just a great song that really showcases what this beautiful band does.
Smashing Pumpkins – “Silva” (Peel Session)
Does a re-mastered track from a re-release count? Sure it does. I’m rounding my list out with the Peel Session version of Silva from Gish re-mastered, released this year. Gish came out in 1991 originally, and totally and completely changed my perception of music, helped define my personal taste and more. I was OBSESSED with the band (this was before Billy got crazy of course) and listening to this track is just as exciting today as it was back then. 4:15 is still one of my favorite bits of music and it’s super-fun to hear your past all cleaned up.

Tamara Foy, Associate Producer, VH1 Digital
Adele – “Someone Like You”
Lady Gaga – “Born This Way”
Kesha – “Blow”
Lady Antebellum – “Just A Kiss”
LMFAO – “Party Rock Anthem”

Tom Calderone, President, VH1 (@tomcalderone)
1. Foster The People – “Pumped Up Kicks”
2. Florence + The Machine – “Shake it Out”
3. AWOLNATION – “Sail”
4. Adele – “Someone Like You”
5. The Band Perry – “If I Die Young”
6. Mumford and Sons – “Little Lion Man”
7. Ingrid Michelson – “Ghost”
8. ‘Lil Wayne – “She Will”
9. Bon Iver – “Holocene”
10. The Civil Wars – “Barton Hollow”
11. The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy”
12. Cage the Elephant – “Shake Me Down”
13. Jessie J – “Domino”
14. B.o.B. featuring Rivers Cuomo – “Magic”
15. Noah and the Whale – “Waiting for My Chance to Come”
16. Lykke Li – “Get Some”

Tomorrow, we’ll reveal the VH1 staff’s favorite albums of 2011. Stay tuned!

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