My number one song from 2011 is actually a song not too many people have heard of. Earlier this year, Bravo aired Platinum Hit, the songwriting equivalent of Top Chef and Project Runway. Hosted by Jewel and co-judged by Kara Dioguardi, the show was an unexpected surprise.
Written by Sonyae Elise and Brian Judah, Stranger to Love is a beautifully crafted love song.
For whatever reason, I’ve been playing this song like it’s crack ever since I first heard it. The lyrics are stunningly simple and the beat makes me fall back in love with music again and again. This is one of those songs I can just hit repeat, sit back, close my eyes and thoroughly enjoy every second of.
I hope Sonyae and Brian enjoy huge success. They, along with fellow cast-mate, Scotty Granger, helped me grow exponentially as a songwriter.
Nostalgia, Ultra was an unexpected surprise for me this year. Frank Ocean completely blows my mind. He’s one of few people who makes surrealism work in his lyrics. He also puts Autotune to work rather than letting it dominate his sound. This man makes art out of music.
Singing about heartbreak, breaking hearts, (possibly suicide) and leaving his old self behind, this song might be semi-autobiographical for Ocean. In an interview with L’Uomo Vogue, he shares that he had his name changed to ‘Ocean’ around his 23rd Birthday.
If you haven’t downloaded the mixtape, you really need to. It’s legally available for free, so you don’t have an excuse(Not that it would stop a lot of you anyway.)
I doubt I’m the only one who feels that Beyoncé’s growth as an artist is nothing short of extraordinary(and another one snubbed by the Grammys.). 4 is her most refined set of work yet and a sterling exhibit of how much range this woman has.
I already loved I Care the first time I heard it, but watching her performance the night Live at Roseland: Elements of 4 streamed on YouTube made me fall in love with it. The drums alone are enough to get your soul moving, then you had Beyoncé pouring out every ounce of feeling she can muster on top of her riffing in unison with the guitar after the bridge.
It’s one of the few times when I can’t decide if I like the live or studio version better because she does such different things on both. In an ideal world, they would be combined.
2011, without a doubt, was Adele’s year. 21 dominated charts with a total of 13 weeks on top of the Billboard 200 and may very well earn a 14th. One and Only opens up with those gorgeous Pop-Gospel chords that take me back to my roots, growing up in church.
I love every single thing about this song, especially because the bridge takes such a dramatically different direction (holy alliteration). Whenever this song plays, it’s like the first time I’m hearing it.
I think seeing two Rap songs in my top ten favorites would probably surprise anyone who knows me personally. When Otis dropped before Watch The Throne even hit stores, I went crazy. Sampling Otis Redding’s classic Try a Little Tenderness, this song soars.
You can hear how much fun ‘Ye and Jay are having. I can’t help but bop my head like a mad man with stank face on every single time this plays.
If it’s a rough day, blast this song and feel the power to conquer the world. Go ‘head. Do it.
I was introduced to Jessie J’s music about a year ago now and was eagerly awaiting her debut album Who You Are. This girl’s voice is unbelievable and her personality is lovably quirky. While the album didn’t come together as neatly as I was hoping(I still think she was snubbed for Best New Artist), it’s filled with songs I’ll be playing for years, especially the title track.
This song has a special place in my heart. I can’t count the number of days this song was on repeat on my MP3 player and on my computer. During some pretty rough emotional spills this year, the message of this song helped me keep it together.
Seeing is deceiving. Dreaming is believing. It’s okay not to be okay.
Sometimes it’s hard to follow your heart.
But tears don’t mean you’re losing, everybody’s bruising.
Just be true to who you are.
Until recently, I’ve only had my foot in the Hip-Hop pool, partially because my former religious beliefs had polarized me against it for so many years. It’s taken a long time for me to become comfortable enough to listen to some of it. Watch the Throne marks the first time I’ve sat through a new Rap album from start to finish and loved every minute of it.
Made In America caught my attention in particular. One, because Frank Ocean is attached to it, and I’m stupid excited about what he’s bringing to the world. Two, Kanye and Hov deliver something genuine and heartfelt, bringing us their American story. At the same time, they bring us our American story, every bit that’s been hard to swallow.
From the hook, to the rhymes, to the beat, every sample of this is genius and a beautiful homage to Black history in America.
Shake It Out by Florence + The Machine
Florence + The Machine is one of those acts who reaffirm my faith in the power of music. Florence Welch’s voice practically transports you to a world where music is like food and water.
From her recently released album Ceremonials, Shake It Out stands out for me. It comes right out of the gate strong and maintains forward momentum right through the end.
It’s hard to dance with a devil on your back. So shake him off!
Religious views set aside, it’s such a great lyric! It’s a great song leading into a new year. Shake out the regrets and things torturing you and get back to living life.
Listen to this and fight the urge to smile. I dare you.
Jill Scott is my girl. Few sing with as much attitude and passion as she does and still look great doing it. The Light of the Sun is easily one of my favorite albums, ever. I’m still surprised she didn’t garner a Grammy nomination.
Hear My Call, written by Scott and JR Hutson, is the song that grabs my attention every single run through the album and ends up playing again and again. Her singing is honest and vulnerable. If I didn’t know this was recorded in a studio, I’d believe she was very earnestly singing a prayer.
I live for the simplicity of its production. Just a piano and some strings and some reverb. No bells. No whistles. NO AUTOTUNE.(Excuse me. I had a moment.)
This song is a gem. I’ll probably have in my rotation for the rest of my life.
I’ve been having trouble clearing my mind enough to reflect on all that’s happened in 2011. So, to get on track, I’m doing my own personal Top Ten Songs for 2011. All links point to Spotify. If you don’t have it, you really should.
I have so much love for Ledisi. Hands down, one of the most phenomenal voices on Earth. Belter of notes sopranos fear to tread. From her Grammy nominated album, Pieces of Me, my favorite track is Coffee.
Looking at the title of this song, my expectations were pretty low. I always wanted to write a song inspired by coffee(Ask anyone who knows me to understand why.), but the ideas I came up with and heard from others were pretty cheesy.
Leave it to Ledisi to turn coffee into a fun, sassy celebration of hot sex. The beat will have you wanting to get your sexy dance on.
The lyrics may leave you asking “Really?” every now and then, but it’s just so much fun. Especially for any coffee addict.