But What About...: The most acclaimed album of the year, Adele's 21, was a major improvement over her debut and featured six or seven killer tracks. But, in all honesty, a good portion left me completely cold. Maybe 23 will be the album where it all comes together for me...Rihanna's Talk That Talk had the best opening three songs of any album released this year. The rest of the album: miserable, monotonous "jams" about how horny Rihanna is. We all know you can do better, Miss Fenty.
The Also-Rans: Kelendria Rowland finally released her long-delayed Here I Am, and it proved to be far better than I expected...Kelly Clarkson's Stronger has many high points, but 18 tracks is far too long for any album to sustain greatness. Cut about five songs and this would have been a far greater album...Alexis Jordan's Alexis Jordan was certainly a pleasant debut. Nothing groundbreaking, mind you, but she has charm and personality to spare...My most anticipated album of the year, Demi Lovato's Unbroken, also proved to be one of the strangest. Her bizarre attempts to become a generic pop star are embarrassing to say the least. Thankfully, though, the album's second half shines, with deeply felt ballads and exciting, emotional uptempo tracks. This is the Demi we want on album number four, thank you very much.
The Top 10 Albums of 2011
10. Cher Lloyd, Sticks + Stones
The X-Factor Princess (she doesn't want to be the Queen) wasn't as sanitized as I figured she would be on her debut album. It's not perfect, but it establishes the Cher Lloyd identity very well.
- The post-chorus breakdown at the very end of "Swagger Jagger"
- The mix of rap and pop in "Playa Boi." Everything that's great about Cher in one song.
- "I'm the princess, I don't want to be the queen." The perfect summation of Cher's persona in "Grow Up"
09. Nicola Roberts, Cinderella's Eyes
Although not my favorite album of the year, I feel like this is one Girls Aloud solo album we will be looking back at fondly in years to come.
- The final "Please don't/Break my porcelain hearrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrt" on "Porcelain Heart"
- The "Ding dong" intro to "Gladiator"
- The Diplo production on "Beat of My Drum". Audacious way to start an album and a campaign. Who is this woman?
08. Foster the People, Torches
The most welcome surprise of the year. Indie music done with a pop sensibility. It's not Britney, but it doesn't shy away from big choruses, either.
- The quiet mysteriousness of "Pumped Up Kicks". I still couldn't tell you what this song is about.
- Whistling on "Don't Stop (Color on the Walls)". More songs should have whistling.
- "And every daaaaay that you wanna waste." Surprisingly epic chorus in "Waste."
07. Frankmusik, Do It in the AM
Oh Vincent. Why didn't this album make you the household name you should be? Many accused him of selling out, but if "selling out" sounds as glorious as this album does, a lot more popstars should do it.
- The chorus of "Running." That beat makes it feel like you are running, or at least like you should be.
- His blazing chemistry with Colette Carr on "No I.D." I've said it before and I'll say it again: one of the best genuine duets in ages.
- "We Collide." Now that's an album opener. What a defining statement of his new sound.
06. Natalia Kills, Perfectionist
Is she trying a bit hard to channel Gaga circa the Fame Monster era? Perhaps. But can you think of a better era to channel Gaga? Besides, Natalia still manages to build her own persona through her referencing.
- The easy breeziness of the opening to "Kill My Boyfriend": "I'm rolling the dice, got the wind in my hair/I'm gonna kill my boyfriend." Killer (ha!) contrast.
- The sound of "Mirrors."
- "Wanna be like Midas/But my bank account is minus." The wordplay on "Free" is fun and clever as hell.
05. Same Difference, The Rest is History
Everyone's Favorite Loveable, Slightly Incestuous Brother & Sister Pop Act came roaring back with the follow-up to their ingenious debut Pop. Not only have they updated their image, but their sound is a good deal more mature. This duo obviously knows their shit when it comes to pop music.
- "Karma Karma" is a three minute orgasm of pop perfection.
- The moodiness and vocal distortion on "Souled Out" is unlike anything Sean & Sarah have done before. No surprise, it works.
- For once, Sean gets the lead vocals on "Best Mistake" and absolutely nailed it. Snaps for you, sir.
04. One Direction, Up All Night
This is the album I wanted from these boys and more. I can't stop listening.
- "If only you saw what I could see/You'd understand why I want you so desperately" from "What Makes You Beautiful." One of the most heartwarming lyrics I've heard in ages. Seriously.
- The heavy, RedOne-esque dance club feel of "Save You Tonight."
- "It's everything about you, you, you/The way you make it feel new, new, new" from "Everything About You."
03. Selena Gomez & The Scene, When the Sun Goes Down
The future of pop music matures her sound even further from her last album. When did the also-ran of Disney's princesses become the best?
- "My Dilemma." It became the song people associate with me for a reason.
- The bridge in "Whiplash." The way she says, "Hello, darling" makes me love her even more than I already did.
- "And I keep hitting repeat-peat-peat-peat" from "Love You Like a Love Song."
02. Beyoncé, 4
Not going to lie, it took ages to get into this album, but 4 was ultimately worth the wait. Finally, Beyoncé stopped phoning it in with her albums. This is an incredible tribute to 90's-era R&B.
- I could jam out to "Rather Die Young" all day long, singing hardcore into my remote control while imagining it was a microphone. "I'd rather die than live, and, OH!"
- The actual countdown in "Countdown."
- "Who needs a degree when you're schoolin' life?" Most people need a degree, actually, but Beyoncé doesn't when she's spitting out tracks as hot and fun as "Schoolin' Life."
01. Britney Spears, Femme Fatale
Producer Dr. Luke, after the release of this album, rightly declared that Britney is "her own genre" of music. If there was an album to prove that, Femme Fatale is it. Can you imagine anyone else singing these songs?
- The hard verse/soft chorus contrast in "Hold It Against Me". This proved to be 2011's most imitated musical trend.
- "Sh-sh-shame on me/To need release" and the accompanying whistling in the background on "I Wanna Go"
- "I can be your treble/Baby, you can be the bass." No one has more fun than Britney with double entendres.