Tuesday, 2 December 2014

The Best Of 2011 - part 2

JUMP TO: 100-76 II 75-51 II 50-26 II 25-1

I've always been partial to pop music from Scandinavia - Roxette, Ace Of Base, ABBA, Alcazar, Robyn... and that's just the well-known artists from Sweden. But Denmark (Aqua, Alphabeat) and Norway (a-ha, M2M) have also had their fair share of hitmakers over the decades. And then there's the songwriting teams from that region of the world that have been providing UK and US artists with hits for years now. Turns out, that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Donkeyboy: Bad suits, questionable band name, great Scandipop

By 2011, artists from Scandinavia didn't need to rely on a major label release in the UK, the US or Australia for their music to be heard around the world, and I was happy to discover a number of songs and acts I never would've come across before thanks to websites and blogs maintained by people as enamoured with Scandipop as I am. As we continue my countdown of my favourite songs from that year, we'll see a number of songs from the busiest three countries in pop.

Number 75 "Free" by Natalia Kills featuring Will.i.am
It's always the way - once an artist is successful enough, a host of sound-alike acts spring up. In this case, Natalia Kills relaunched herself in the wake of Lady Gaga's world domination and, well, she had a couple of hits in Europe. The similarity to Gaga on songs like "Free" (which featured Will.i.am, who signed her and executive produced her album, Perfectionist) and "Mirrors" (number 96 on this list) wasn't that surprising given the fact the two singers had worked with producer and Cherrytree Records head honcho Martin "Cherry Cherry Boom Boom" Kierszenbaum.

Number 74 "Call Your Girlfriend" by Robyn
After an avalanche of releases in 2010, the only musical offering we got from Robyn in 2011 was this final single from the Body Talk project. But, as we'll see in Part 4, there was at least one Swedish synthpop singer willing to take her place.

Number 73 "Audio, Video, Disco" by Justice
French duo Justice returned in 2011 with their second album, Audio, Video, Disco, and this title track, which eschewed the cutesy vocals of previous singles like "D.A.N.C.E." and "We Are Your Friends" for a more aggressive electronic sound.

Number 72 "Genuine Only" by Ne-Yo
He released a bunch of singles from the Libra Scale album in 2010, but not this song, which was another standout track from the talented Mr Smith.

Number 71 "Girl Panic!" by Duran Duran
For a limited edition single, "Girl Panic!" received a great deal of effort, with a nine-minute star-studded music video in which supermodels stood in for members of the band. Five models portrayed the different members of Duran Duran, with Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen, Cindy Crawford and Eva Herzigova joined by singer Simon Le Bon's wife, Yasmin - although she didn't play her husband, standing in for new guitarist Dominic Brown instead.

Number 70 "How We Roll" by Loick Essien featuring Tanya Lacey
Despite the fact that this single by Loick Essien reached number 2 in the UK, the British singer's debut album never ended up being released and he was dropped by Sony Music. Guest vocalist Tanya Lacey, who co-wrote "How We Roll", hasn't had much more luck since, although she did pop up on minor UK hit "Don't Look Back" by Matrix & Futurebound earlier this year.

Number 69 "Beautiful People" by Chris Brown featuring Benny Benassi
Two years on from his assault of then-girlfriend Rihanna and Chris Brown's music career was recovering from the downturn it took in the aftermath of the shocking incident. Sales and chart positions improved, but the singer wasn't completely able to escape his past - as a violent blow-up on the set of Good Morning America proved. Like many people, I was conflicted about liking a Chris Brown song - but I figured if I could like a Milli Vanilli song and not really care that Rob and Fab didn't perform on it, I could like a Chris Brown song and not really care that he did. Besides, thanks to heavily altered vocals and production from Benny Benassi and his cousin Alle, "Beautiful People" didn't even sound like a Chris Brown song. Benny, meanwhile, had his first big solo hit in Australia in eight years with "Cinema" (number 63 on this list).

Number 68 "Runaway Baby" by Bruno Mars
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 67 "Dedication To My Ex (Miss That)" by Lloyd featuring Andre 3000
One of those R&B singers who'd been successful almost exclusively in the States, Lloyd Polite Jr finally broke through to the rest of the world with this retro-style single featuring OutKast's Andre 3000. Then he disappeared again.

Number 66 "Love You Like A Love Song" by Selena Gomez & The Scene
Apart from a one-off Miley Cyrus song in 2008, I'd been immune to the charms of the new wave of Disney singers, which also included Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez among its number. For a number of years, Selena had been releasing music with backing band The Scene, and finally came up with the goods with this shining pop moment from third album When The Sun Goes Down. Not long after, she ditched The Scene to do her own thing.

Number 65 "Sun Of A Gun" by Oh Land
Time for some more Scandipop, with a single by Danish singer Nanna Fabricius, whose stage name comes from her mother's maiden name: ├śland. Playful track "Sun Of A Gun" is taken from Oh Land's self-titled second album.

Number 64 "City Boy" by Donkeyboy
From Denmark to Norway and another act moving on to their second album - and making their first appearance on my year-end charts, after their song "Ambitions" featured in my top 100 for 2010 in a remake by Joe McElderry. "City Boy" was the lead single from Silver Moon, an album that also contained a lot of songs that'd stand out for me in 2012 and 2013.

Number 63 "Cinema" by Benny Benassi featuring Gary Go
Mentioned above

Number 62 "Lightning" by The Wanted
Their big international hit in 2011 was "Glad You Came", but that accordion-featuring summer hit was the only single by The Wanted released that year that didn't really do it for me. Instead, "Lightning", Comic Relief single "Gold Forever" (number 92 on this list) and "Warzone" (number 94) kept my interest in the boy band going.

Number 61 "Killer Love" by Nicole Scherzinger
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 60 "S&M" by Rihanna
Not that she needed any help maintaining interest in her career, but the controversy surrounding this latest single from Rihanna's Loud album certainly didn't hurt. From its sadomasochistic lyrics, which saw it edited in the UK and retitled "Come On", to a lawsuit filed by David LaChapelle alleging copyright infringement (since imagery in the music video was too close to photos he'd taken), the song certainly pushed people's buttons. Naturally, it was another number 1 for Rihanna in Australia and, thanks to a little help from the seemingly unnecessary remix featuring Britney Spears, in the US as well.

Number 59 "Aphrodite" by Kylie Minogue
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 58 "Angel" by Darren Hayes
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 57 "Really Want To See You Again" by Sneaky Sound System
They would have seemed like a good investment for Modular Records, who signed Sneaky Sound System in 2011 and released the dance act's third album, From Here To Anywhere. Turned out to be their least successful project, missing the Australian top 10 and yielding only one minor hit, "We Love". Even for a fan of the group like me, it took until third single "Really Want To See You Again" for me to care.

Number 56 "On My Own" by Yasmin
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 55 "Till The World Ends" by Britney Spears
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 54 "Live Those Days Tonight" by Friendly Fires
They may not be from Scandinavia, but British band Friendly Fires are another act that have been better received by critics than music buyers. The BRIT Award and Mercury Prize nominees returned in 2011 with their second album, Pala, and continued their streak of no hits with this lead single.

Number 53 "Titanium" by David Guetta featuring Sia
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 52 "Doubt" by Amanda Mair
Back to Scandinavia - I did warn you - and specifically to Sweden for the next three songs. First up, teen singer Amanda Mair, whose music (including second single "Doubt") was well received by the blogosphere, but has so far failed to make inroads into international charts.

Number 51 "Never Be The Same" by Little Majorette
Another under-the-radar Swedish act is synthpop trio Little Majorette, who released debut album Rifle Heart in 2011 - and this standout single.

In Part 3: the return of one of my favourite pop acts of all time, a sibling boy band member goes solo and dubstep goes mainstream.

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  1. I didn't know the Rihanna song was re-edited and re-titled for the UK market... are they the new US?

    1. I think it was mainly the BBC - they've always been very prudish. I definitely heard it referred to as "Come On" on Radio 1 when I was there that year and they edited out the stuff about chains and whips.