Pop Music in 2011: The Full-on Favorites

I end my two-week journey into 2011’s pop music with, yep, a friggin’ list. Here are the albums I listened to the most this year, starting with No. 1 (hey, at least I’m not a click-count whore who insists on doing a slideshow countdown). How’d I come up with the list? Pretty simple. I just looked at the play counts in my iTunes. R.I.P., Steve Jobs.

1. Jay-Z and Kanye West, ‘Watch the Throne’ – Said everything I needed to say regarding my favorite album of the year a few days ago. Wait, I do have one more thing … DON’T LET ME GET IN MAH ZONE. OK, that’s all.

2. Lady Gaga, ‘Born This Way’ – I had a little fun at the Lady’s expense the other day but, truth be told, her latest album became an unhealthy addiction for me. Can’t help myself, there. I grew up on big, ridiculous, overproduced pop albums, and Gaga’s one of the few glory hounds still making them with no apologies. I don’t really need the videos, the awards-show performances or the constant honoring of her fans. I just need her to keep standing over expensive producers, feeding them ideas that are weirder than their own.

3. Bon Iver, ‘Bon Iver’ – Remember when Katy Perry made her CD cover smell like cotton candy? Bon Iver should have looked into a Werther’s Original essence for this one. More here.

4. Little Dragon, ‘Ritual Union’ – Little Dragon is one of those bands I’m quick to shove down the throat of any innocent bystander, whether he or she asks for a recommendation or not. (Here, TAKE IT!) I’m swept away every time by the heady mix of electro, soul and pop coming from these Swedes. “Little Man” is my favorite song of the year, period.

5. Beyonce, ‘4’ – I love Beyonce Knowles unconditionally, but was thankful I didn’t have to cringe at every mention of her new album and say things like, “well, at least she’s trying something new?” She didn’t try a weird alter-ego, and the only concept at play was her own marriage and its complexities. She finally put together an album that – with the exception of one treacly Diane Warren ballad – was worthy of her immense talent and work ethic.

6. The Black Keys, ‘El Camino’ – I only started listening to this a couple of weeks ago when it was released, but it’s already near the top of my list. That speaks to the Keys’ and producer Danger Mouse’s commitment to making every tune satisfying and sing-along-ready. Effortless don’t come easy.

7. Adele, ‘21’ – I rolled in the deep enough last week. I think I’ve still got some deep on me.

8. St. Vincent, ‘Strange Mercy’ – Made in Oak Cliff with John Congleton, Annie Clark’s third St. Vincent record accentuates her uniqueness as an artist, from the slightly unsettling “bom bom bom” chorus at the end of “Surgeon” to the proggy solos that pop up, oh, everywhere. Her voice is certainly a beaut, but the music’s more informed by the axes she wields.

9. Bad Sports, ‘Kings of the Weekend’ – Another local-ish record on my list, this one features a traditional punk trio that’s made as much hay in Denton’s scene as it has in Austin’s. Nothin’ but a good time. Two of Bad Sports’ members are in Mark Ryan’s new group Mind Spiders, which also released a great record on the Dirtnap label.

10. Pitbull, ‘Planet Pit’ – Probably the most workshopped dance-pop album of the year, and that’s saying a lot, considering the other releases of that genre. The tight-trousered Cuban rapper growled and seduced over tracks by all the top producers in the biz, and stepped back to let some of the most appealing singers take the choruses higher. But make no mistake: Pitbull wasn’t overshadowed. The party moves with him. … I don’t care what you think. Let the snotty insults rain over me. (Aye aye aye!)

Honorable mentions: Neon Indian’s ‘Era Extrana,’ Robin Thicke’s ‘Love After War’, Florence + the Machine’s ‘Ceremonials’, Britney Spears’ ‘Femme Fatale’, Washed Out’s ‘Within and Without’, Pistol Annies’ ‘Hell on Heels.’

Happy holidaze, y’all, and find more year-end stuff here.

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