Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Blog is Ready to Start Kindergarten, or: Rants of a Diva Turns Five Years Old

On this very day in 2007, I was sitting in my dorm room, indulging in my latest obsession: reading film blogs. As a freshman in college, I had quickly learned how to be as unproductive as possible, and keeping up with these blogs was the perfect way to kill time when I should have been writing a paper. On this fateful night, however, a thought suddenly occurred to me: "Hey, I can write just as well as these people. And I have a ton of ideas. Why don't I start a blog of my own?" It was then that Rants of a Diva was born.

And now it's five years later. Wow, where has the time gone? It seems like just yesterday I was defending Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls. So, to celebrate this momentous occasion, I have decided to do something a little different. I listed my five favorite things in a host of different, entirely random categories. It's a bit silly, sure, but what do you expect from this oddball section of the interweb? 

EDIT: So it turns out I'm a complete retard and my blogiversary was on the 29th of January. Let's just pretend it's today, okay?

Five Actresses I Can Watch in Anything
01. Bette Davis
02. Anne Hathaway
03. Marilyn Monroe
04. Norma Shearer
05. Judy Garland

Five Favorite Working Directors
01. Arnaud Desplechin
02. Spike Lee
03. Andrea Arnold
04. Judd Apatow
05. Michael Moore

One Direction Members, From Fave to Least Fave
01. Zayn
02. Liam
03. Harry
04. Niall
05. Louis

Five Favorite Classic Boyband Songs
01. O-Town "All or Nothing"
02. *NSYNC "Tearin' Up My Heart"
03. Backstreet Boys "As Long As You Love Me"
04. Take That "Back For Good"
05. 98 Degrees "The Hardest Thing"

Five Favorite ABBA Album Tracks
01. "Disillusion"
02. "As Good As New"
03. "Tiger"
04. "Bang-A-Boomerang"
05. "Me and I"

Five Favorite Moments in Spice World
01. "This dress is dry clean only, Melanie!"
02. The Alien Encounter
04. Mel C. rolling her eyes every time Geri shares some useless knowledge with the group
05. The Bomb on the Bus

Five Favorite Best Supporting Actor Nominees (Non-Winners)
01. Claude Rains, Casablanca
02. Richard Widmark, Kiss of Death
03. Sal Mineo, Rebel Without a Cause
04. Al Pacino, The Godfather
05. Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Five Things I Admire About Lady Gaga
01. The way she makes every music video an Event.
02. How quickly she has matured her sound (even if I don't necessarily like where it has gone).
03. The way she has made the label "pop artist" a compliment rather than a criticism.
04. Her work ethic. Girlfriend never stops doing it all.
05. Her ability to manipulate convince her fans that she has invented many of the elements of her persona that she has borrowed from/expanded upon other pop icons.

Five Reality Shows That Have Had a Profound Impact on My Life
01. Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica
02. Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List
03. American Idol
04. Hey Paula!
05. Jersey Shore

Five Favorite Lesbians
01. Ellen DeGeneres
02. Wanda Sykes
03. Tabatha Coffey
04. Jane Lynch
05. Suze Orman

Five Things I Want to Accomplish in 2012
01. Find a job that doesn't make me want to stab people
02. Finish my screenplay (The Single One, coming soon to a theatre near you)
03. Try yoga
04. Interview a celebrity
05. Meet One Direction

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Best Music Videos of 2011

J. Lo "Papi"
A lot of people complained about the rampant, obvious product placement in her latest video. Ultimately, though, who cares when it probably paid for a video as fun and carefree as "Papi". The premise is simple yet, in a mere four minutes, plays out like the silly, classic J. Lo romcom we expect from her. And nothing else in 2011 reminded us why we loved J. Lo in the first place quite like the "Papi" video.

Rebecca Black "Friday"
The fact that "Friday" is not a good video in the typical sense is irrelevant. This was the video that had everybody talking in 2011. Who can forget where they were the day they first clicked on the link for this video? I know my life was never the same after witnessing Queen Rebecca decide which seat to take. The video is absolutely ridiculous, yes, but Rebecca injected enough class and charm into the proceedings to make all of the weaker links (the $40 budget, the terrible girl in the car next to Rebecca who can't dance and, oddly enough, looks like my cousin's fiancée) much less noticeable.

Rihanna "S&M"
Normally a non-starter in the music video area, Rihanna gave us two reasons to be hopeful in 2011 that she is finally beginning to understand how important music videos can be for her. The first of these was "S&M," which, with its candy-colored sets and deranged, over-the-top bondage costumes, became the first video of hers that portrayed her having "fun" without sticking her in some dark club with laser lights. This is RiRi at her naughty best.

Frankmusik & Colette Carr "No I.D."
Sure, the Grease homage is a tad overdone, but if you can find me two other popstars this past year who share as much chemistry as Vincent and Colette do in this video, my name isn't Dame James. Besides, did the year in music videos offer up any image nearly as delicious as Vincent, in leather jacket, sunglasses and with slicked-back hair, driving that race car at the end?

Hurts "Sunday"
The Hurts boys recreate the Orpheus myth with heaping helpings of melancholy, bright flashes of color amid a bleak color palette and a fashion sense straight from the pages of Vogue Italia.

Katy Perry "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)"
Unlike nearly any of Lady Gaga's videos this year, Katy Perry's massively stuffed "Last Friday Night" clip works despite its massive length for one reason: the video never feels at odds with the song. The two manage to cohabitate wonderfully, never once sacrificing the completeness of the song just to make the video longer.  Bonus points for including 2011's other Friday girl, Rebecca Black, as the Katy Perry character's fairy godmother of sorts.

Beyoncé "Run the World (Girls)"
Not only did this video make me truly understand "Run the World" as a song, no other song this year managed to have a video that felt so at odds with the flow and rhythm of the song and still have it come out this wonderfully. Beyoncé's dancing is hypnotic, but the long takes and slow editing contrasting with that incessant Diplo beat takes it to a whole other level, making one of the neatest visual tricks of the year.

Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris "We Found Love"
My only complaint with Rihanna's "S&M" video was that there were too many cuts, not allowing us any time to fully see any of the extreme visuals (although, I suppose, there were reasons for that). With "We Found Love," there are, perhaps, just as many cuts, but it works for two reasons. One, it matches the insane, escalating, driving beat of the Calvin Harris production. But, more importantly, it manages to convey the essence of a whirlwind romance, how you are so in love and out of control that everything flashes by you and you have no idea what is going on but you don't care because you are so happy. It's an enviable feeling, which many people expressed on Twitter the day of this video's premiere. But they are missing the grand point of the whole video. Sure, everything was great in the beginning, but by the end of the video, Rihanna grows bored and realizes that all the happiness she once felt for him isn't worth the pain she's feeling at the moment. It's a pessimistic view, sure, but it's conveyed poignantly in this video, without a doubt the finest one she has ever made.

Britney Spears "I Wanna Go"
The most fun Britney has had on a video ever. Spoofing not only herself (Crossroads 2: Cross Harder) and her image (sexed up vixen flirting with all the boys she passes on the street), but the press, who, 5+ years after her meltdown, still won't stop hounding her, this is the video "Piece of Me" should have been.

Robyn "Call Your Girlfriend"
With the music video rebounding in popularity thanks the ease of access on the internet, this leaves artists a lot of room to differentiate themselves and come up with creative ways to sell their product. Unfortunately, very few artists take this path, creating one forgettable video after another. Not content with doing that, Robyn crafted a clever and all-around fascinating video for the final single from her Body Talk trilogy. Armed with herself, a room, a lighting scheme, one shot and a dance routine, Robyn has created one of the finest music videos since Beyoncé's "Single Ladies". It's been more than half a year since the video came out and I still can't get enough of it.

"It used to be witches. At least they don't burn you."

Wow, it has been ages since my last post. Sorry about that. My life has been a whirlwind lately--in the best way possible, I must emphasize--leaving me little time for writing. However, I have a few free days, so it's time to get this blog up and going again. And boy am I coming back with a bang.

A couple months ago, my brother from another mother Dave from Victim of the Time and I were shooting around some ideas for a collaborative series. After a couple of stinkers, we came up with one that immediately piqued our interest: British gay films. Dave and I decided on a list of ten films we were interested in discussing and, voila, the Queer Anglo Film series was born! For our first entry, we immediately recognized that we couldn't discuss British gay cinema without discussing Victim, one of the very first films to discuss homosexuality in a frank and open manner. The fact that it stars my Pretend Boyfriend Dirk Bogarde certainly didn't hurt matters. So head on over to Dave's blog and check out what we have to say about this landmark film.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Imaginary Boyfriends of 2011

It's that time of the year again! Let's honor the hottest, most desirable and all-around attractive men, aka my Imaginary Boyfriends, from the past twelve months.

(And in case you are curious about my previous picks, check out 2008, 2009 and 2010).

Johan Akan
As soon as I saw a picture of Johan, my first reaction was, "Who is this guy?" He's one of those models who looks good clothed, naked, doing a serious shoot, an artsy shoot, a fun, personality-driven one or even one with the legendary Catherine Deneuve. In other words, Johan is the total package and one of the best new models around.

Douglas Booth
Some guys have it all. And a select few, like Douglas, manage to have it all at the ripe old age of 19. He's got the looks of a model, an impeccable fashion sense (or at least smart stylists) and a career on the rise, with both a Miley Cyrus comedy and the umpteenth adaptation of Romeo & Juliet in the works. I would hate him if he wasn't so damn attractive.

Dominic Cooper
I will admit that it took me way too long to warm up to Dom (I still blame that boner crusher Mamma Mia!). Thankfully, 2011 was the year I came to my senses and truly fell for the The Coop. It certainly helped that 2011 was also the year of The Devil's Double, wherein Dom stripped down in to his Speedo and then some. Repeatedly. Needless to say, it was a very good year for Dom's fans.

Leebo Freeman
A bit "out there" for my usual tastes in men, I'll admit, but there's something about that platinum blond hair, those piercings, the way he rocks sunglasses, his versatility in front of the camera and, of course, his body, that works for me.

Max George
One of my favorite pastimes these past six months has been getting drunk and then tweeting very inappropriate messages to Wanted frontman Max George. He hasn't responded back yet, which is probably for the best. But you can hardly blame me when he looks as good as he does, especially on his recent Attitude magazine cover; I'm pretty sure I tweeted him that if I was 14 years old, I totally would have masturbated to his photo shoot.

Ryan Gosling
The Occupy People Magazine movement, started after People picked Bradley Cooper over Ryan Gosling as this year's Sexiest Man Alive, had to be one of the funniest protests in ages. How those boneheads ended up going with Cooper, who isn't bad looking by any means but is really only mega famous because of The Hangover, over Gosling is beyond me. This past year will always be remembered as the one where Ryan Gosling went from respected to indie actor to full-fledged movie star, and as the one where the last stragglers finally fell under his charm. If that doesn't qualify you as the Sexiest Man Alive, I don't know what will.

Armie Hammer
I never rank my Imaginary Boyfriends because I feel that it's enough of an honor just to be mentioned (yes, I am that conceited) and it's a hard enough task narrowing the list down to this many people without having to rank them. With that said, I think we can all agree that My Man Armie would probably be my number one for 2011. I fell in love with his goofiness while making the press rounds for The Social Network, I died of happiness when I heard he was making out with a dude on film (even though said film was an Eastwood film and said dude was DiCaprio), I posed with his cover of Details magazine, I saw freaking J. Edgar at midnight on its opening day. If that doesn't qualify as obsessive behavior, I don't know what does. And you know what? I wouldn't take back a single thing.

Josh Hutcherson
Vanessa Hudgens tried to sink her nasty claws into Our Josh, but thankfully she moved on to someone no one really cares about. The year started off very well for Josh, as he looked perfectly adorable in his tux at the Oscars. Perhaps even more important, though, was his casting in The Hunger Games, which should finally launch him as one of the best young actors in Hollywood. I'm definitely Team whatever character Josh plays.

Max Irons
One of the most unbelievable sights in the movies this year was in Red Riding Hood where we are supposed to believe that the gorgeous Max Irons was somehow an undesirable suitor for Amanda Seyfried. On what planet is he not even competition for the equally attractive Shiloh Fernandez? Nonsense!

Steve Jones
The sexiest host on TV (sorry, Seacrest) made one of the most unbearable shows of the year almost watchable whenever he came on-screen, yelling at Nicole "Cunt" Scherzinger to make a goddamn decision already. I will never watch another episode of this God forsaken show ever again, but I still dream about Steve holding me backstage while my friend goes out and auditions for the judges and we nervous wait their decision.

Harry Judd
With their music career in limbo, what else was there for the McFly boys to do but get naked and appear on reality shows? Thankfully, none of the boys delivered on each of these fronts as well as Harry did. The boy has no shame, but with a body and a face like that, can you blame him? As if seeing GIFs of his performances on Strictly Come Dancing weren't hot enough, along came that Attitude cover. We've already seen Harry pretty much naked but that cover feels dirtier than anything we've seen him do before. A tip of the hat to you, Harry.

Zayn Malik
When One Direction was on X-Factor, I was a Liam girl, through and through. But then he came out with that horrible hairstyle, and I moved on to greener pastures. I didn't realize just how green those pastures were with Zayn Malik until I was a complete fangirl referring to myself as Mrs. Malik. I think Zayn is poised as the bad boy of the group (He has earrings. And he's gives good seriousface.), but whenever he smiles, his eyes light up the entire room, inspiring me to join thousands of other teenage girls writing fanfiction about how he spots me across the arena at his concert and immediately falls in love with me. Sigh. A girl can dream, right?

Chris O'Dowd
Chris can't really compete with the others on this list in the looks department, but he makes up for any (slight) deficiencies in looks with his personality and sense of humor. In Bridesmaids, he was the most realistic Prince Charming in a romantic comedy in years. As an added bonus, he doesn't look too shabby in a police uniform.

Anthony Perkins
I've always found Tony attractive--hello, Psycho--but 2011 was when my lust for him went into overdrive. I saw The Trial late in 2010 and, consequently, went on full-on binge of Perkins movies. With Tall Story and Five Miles to Midnight, most of them stunk to high heaven. But Tony was never less than super attractive, so at least I had his lean, lanky frame to stare at for the runtime.

Eric Saade
In a land full of gorgeous, sexy men, Saade stands out as one of Sweden's sexiest. He has the moves like Timberlake and the looks of a Greek god. You simply can't say no to someone this attractive.

Marlon Teixeira
Of all the male models in the world willing to get naked and show off (nearly) all the goods, do any do it as willingly and with such glee as Marlon Teixeira? I've seen more of his body than I have of some people I've been intimate with. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, as his body is absolutely bangin'. God bless those Brazilians, every one of them.

Aaron Tveit
I have been in love with Aaron Tveit ever since he guest starred on Gossip Girl as Nate's ultra preppy, Senate-seeking cousin, yet somehow I have never once included him on one of these Imaginary Boyfriends lists. For shame, Dame! In all honesty, it may have been the best to wait for 2011, as Tveit had what was perhaps his most high profile year ever. First, he starred in the musical version of Catch Me If You Can on Broadway, which produced a great soundtrack and the chance to see him perform at the Tony's (in a pilot's uniform!). Then, we saw him as a guest star on Law & Order: SVU as, much to my happiness, a former basketball star turned drug addict who was sexually abused by his childhood coach. He sings, he dances, he plays emotionally damaged boys; how can you not love this guy?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

OMGMichelleWilliamsISMarilynMonroe, or: When Will Everyone Realize That Mimicry Does Not Always Equal "Best"

My Week With Marilyn is a piece of shit. With its BBC-level production values, a banal script full of clichés and dialogue that ranges from generic as all hell to "Holy fuck, people got paid to write turds like Marilyn telling Colin at the end of the movie, 'Don't forget me,' as if spending a week with one of the biggest celebrities in history is somehow going to slip his mind one day," and, perhaps most glaringly, an utter lack of any interesting new idea or thought, serving only as a cash-in on the infamy and legend of Marilyn Monroe, this film makes The King's Speech and its Wall look positively ripe with feeling and cinematic flourish. But you didn't need me to tell you any of this. I mean, you all have functioning eyeballs and eardrums, right? No, what I really want to talk about is this idea that an actor mimicking a real life person, preferably one who we are all familiar with and has identifiable quirks, somehow has more skill than an actor who conceptualizes a character from the page to the camera. Obviously, I'm not speaking in absolutes here, as there are "mimicry" performances that work and others that no one is particularly fond of, but it's a general trend in "important" movies that, after witnessing My Week With Marilyn, I have realized is getting completely out of hand.

Michelle Williams is an actress I respect and admire far more than I actually love. Her work with director Kelly Reichart, which consists of Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, is good for what it is (cerebral and naturalist actressing pushed to the extreme), but it is rarely the kind of work that elicits any sense of excitement from me. Last year's Blue Valentine, which gave Williams' much more narrative to hang her introverted, low key acting style on, was the first time I truly loved a performance of hers, unbiased by the "Genius!" cries that usually surround her. With that said, how sad will it be that after that revelatory performance Williams will probably win the Oscar for her Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn? She's not bad by any means, but, my God, could people get any more worked up about such an inconsequential, run-of-the-mill performance? Williams does not nor will she ever possess the movie star mojo necessary to carry off the Marilyn Monroe needed for this film. If she was playing "The Actress" in a remake of the Nicolas Roeg's Insignificance, which relies on the Marilyn essence but asks for far more from its leading lady than My Week With Marilyn does, then I can easily see why Williams would be an appropriate choice. But My Week With Marilyn is such a flimsy, superficial film, it never asks for Williams' Marilyn to be anything other than Effervescent Star or Overwhelmed, Depressed, Close-to-the-Edge Star. You can tell Williams is straining for something, practically anything to really sink her teeth into, even if this something challenges the straining-to-be-sophisticated narrative. During one "crucial" scene, Marilyn and her confidante Colin run into a group of fans wanting to meet her. "Let me give them Marilyn," she remarks to Colin, before going into a parody of the Marilyn as sexual bimbo routine. The problem is that she's not giving us a different take on Marilyn, merely recreating the one she has played for the previous 80 minutes or the one we know from history or a quick Wikipedia search. We already know everything about this Marilyn.

The same thing could be said about Kenneth Branagh's much ballyhooed take on Sir Laurence Olivier. He gets the accent right, and even looks like Larry at certain angles, but what does he add to the role that we don't already know about him? He's vaguely funny at times, and he's a bit of a douche. That's all we've got. We learn nothing new about his character that we didn't already know from minute one. And he's hardly interesting enough to be a vivid sidekick, like Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids. "But, but, he practically becomes Olivier!" you'll hear supporters cry. So? The SNL cast members "become" various celebrities every week, yet you don't see people rushing around giving them Emmy's for every convincing De Niro or Denzel. Don't get me wrong, mimicry is extremely difficult and, given the chance, I don't even think I could do a proper imitation of myself, but it's only one component of a performance. If we don't connect to a performance on any other level, whether intellectually, emotionally or according to any other criteria, then what in the hell does it matter if they sound like Olivier? It's not a complete performance. And, in Williams' case, she doesn't even get the mimicry right, for she sounds and acts like how you would imagine Michelle Williams straining to be upbeat and perky at a party after her mother tells her to stop being such a Gloomy Gus all the time. In a blonde wig, of course.

Listen, I'm all for biopics with a point of view and stars playing stars, and I understand the appeal. But we can't continue to place "playing a real person" on a pedestal while ignoring acting that is either less showy, more difficult or funny. Especially when said acting fails to elucidate anything new about the person they are playing or about some grander theme. Mimicry can help an actor find their character, but let's not continue to mistake it for an actual character. My Week With Marilyn: D-, Williams *, Branagh *

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Top 50 Songs of 2011, Part 2

Read part one here.

20. Britney Spears "Criminal"
Britney and ballads usually don't mix, or at least they haven't since "Every Time". But "Criminal" is perhaps the first ballad of Britney's career that caters to her vocal stylings instead of the other way around. Bonus points for that flute solo.

19. The Wanted "Lose My Mind"
"Lose My Mind," a melancholic, mid-tempo ballad a good deal more mature and emotive than you would expect from "just a boyband," was the first song from The Wanted that truly clicked with me (so of course it's the only single of theirs that didn't even land in the Top 20 in the UK).

18. Jennifer Lopez featuring Pitbull "On the Floor"
"It's a new generation," J. Lo sings over the intro to this RedOne-produced jam, alluding to the fact that a whole generation has come and gone since the last time she's been a popstar (I mean, I didn't even have my driver's license the last time she had a Top 10 hit). With its swift tempo changes, contrasts between hard dance and soft, breathy pop and an accordion melody, "On the Floor" proved that J. Lo still has what it takes to keep up with the Gagas and Rihannas of the pop world.

17. Taylor Swift "Back to December"
Taylor usually comes off as a whiny, mopey lesbian who spends far too much time thinking about her feelings and crying. However, "Back to December," allegedly about her "relationship" with Taylor Lautner, is her first ballad that comes off as a mature piece of work, rather than mediocre poetry from a 16-year-old. The line "You gave me roses/And I left them there to die" is filled with more melancholy and bitter regret than most songs can muster in three and a half minutes.

16. The Wanted "Lightning"
With "All Time Low" and "Glad You Came" before, and now "Lightning", it is readily apparent that when The Wanted and Ed Drewett get together, magic happens. Taking a cue from the unexpected contrast between hardness and softness in Britney's "Hold It Against Me," "Lightning" is The Wanted's most ingenious song to date and further proof that this group's success is not a fluke.

15. Nicki Minaj "Girls Fall Like Dominoes"
Nicki manages on "Girls Fall Like Dominoes," without the crutch of imagining herself as a boy (á la "Like a Boy," "If I Were a Boy" or "Do It Like a Dude"), to deliver a powerful, "if the boys can do it, why can't I?" message with her usual off-the-wall flow. She also manages the near impossible feat of name checking both the Kardashians and Kristin Cavallari without looking like she's trying too hard.

14. Nicola Roberts "Beat of My Drum"
Now this is how you launch a solo career after being a part of a mega successful girl group for nearly a decade. Instead of giving a fuck about how commercial this song is, Nicola hired a producer better known for urban and club music to create the sound she was looking for. Combined with the most infectious and catchy school yard chant since "Hollaback Girl," "Beat of My Drum" is the best (and most successful) experiment of the year.

13. Adele "Rolling in the Deep"
Although it became impossible to avoid on both sides of the Atlantic, "Rolling in the Deep" doesn't get any less amazing the 500th time you hear it. It's the kind of mind-blowing pop anthem that comes along only a couple times a decade and should be treasured as such.

12. Lady Gaga "The Edge of Glory"
The 99 cents I paid for Gaga's Born This Way album was just for this song. Whereas most of that album was an ugly, monotonous mess, "The Edge of Glory" is a reminder of how good Gaga can be when she's not trying so hard to be an artsy, edgy artiste. In many ways, this is a throwback to the sonic and emotional overload that was "Bad Romance".

11. Hurts "Sunday"
"Sunday" is an achingly sad song, disguised with as fast of a tempo as you're likely ever to get from the notoriously gloomy British duo. The contrast is jarring, but only makes the song that much more fascinating.

10. Rihanna "S&M"/Rihanna featuring Britney Spears "S&M (Remix)"
What a lot of people failed to understand about this song is that S&M is not about the whipping, the tying up and the gagging. It is more about control and trusting your partner. In other words, there's a world of difference between your popstar boyfriend beating the shit out of you in a car and leaving you for dead (for example) and having someone you love and trust tie you to a bed and whip you. "S&M" is Rihanna taking back control of her life from past demons. The fact that it's a candy-coated pop song summarizes what was so brilliant about the Loud era--the combination of the darkness of Rated R with the commerciality of Good Girl Gone Bad. The remix is admittedly frivolous, and the production is wonky at best, but it's so much damn fun I can't resist. I still feel pangs of excitement every time I hear Britney's inimitable voice growl, "Na na na, come on!"

09. Adele "Set Fire to the Rain"
"Set Fire to the Rain" is the bombastic, over-the-top, shout-it-at-the-top-of-your-lungs powerballad I always knew Adele had in her. I love "Rolling in the Deep," obviously, and "Someone Like You" is a beautiful song, but this song is more suited to my taste for massive, emotional pop ballads ("Set Fire to the Rain" is up there with Céline Dion's magnum opus "It's All Coming Back to Me Now"), songs as emotional therapy (but I guess the entirety of 21 would fall under this category) and even songs with the word "fire" in them (just as this is my favorite Adele song, "Fire Bomb" is my favorite Rihanna song). Adele's throaty, gritty vocals have never sounded better, especially when she's singing, "Well it burned while I cried/'Cause I heard it screaming out your name." While 21 wasn't my cup of tea overall, it is because of songs like "Set Fire to the Rain" that I sincerely believe Adele is one of the greatest talents of our time.

08. Beyoncé "Best Thing I Never Had"
Aside from a new baby, girlfriend had a tough 2011. After releasing nearly every damn track off her challenging (but still brilliant) 4 album, Beyoncé couldn't land a Top 10 hit if she changed her name to Katy Gaga. I guess no one was in the mood for mid-90's R&B throwbacks (and whatever the hell you would classify "Run the World" as), which is an utter shame when they are as brilliant as "Best Thing I Never Had". The song's theme is that of a typical "I'm so glad I'm over you" anthem, but it's written from a slightly different point of view, giving it even further depth beyond B's powerhouse vocals (Which are fun to belt along with into your remote control/pretend microphone at 1 am. Not that I've ever done that).

07. Nicole Scherzinger "Don't Hold Your Breath"
I've grown to hate Nicole "Cunt" Scherzinger after her stint as judge on X-Factor US, but, as I have said before, don't hate the song, hate the singer. "Don't Hold Your Breath" is still a magnificently potent pop song, intelligently written to be an empowering "moving on" anthem with just the slightest hint of mournful sorrow about the demise of the relationship. Of course, Scherzinger's personality-free vocals have very little to do with its success, but she does deserve some credit for realizing what a great song this is.

06. Sophie Ellis-Bextor "Off & On"
While many will (deservedly) think of "We Found Love" as the Calvin Harris jam of the year, I can't rank it above Harris' underappreciated effort with the one and only Sophie Ellis-Bextor. "Off & On" has been floating around for a few years, first as a Róisín Murphy track which didn't make her album, then as an unreleased SEB demo and finally in this finished album form, and is still just as brilliant today as it was then. The fact that both Murphy and Ellis-Bextor, two immensely talented divas with two completely different styles, both managed to use this song to suit their individual styles has me curious what covers of this song by other pop divas and their favorite producers would sound like. I mean, imagine "Off & On" by Britney and Bloodshy & Avant, Nelly Furtado and Timbaland, P!nk and Dr. Luke or Madonna and William Orbit. The results would be all over the place, but "Off & On" is such a flexible song, you can easily imagine all of them working.

05. One Direction "What Makes You Beautiful"
I rooted for One Direction during their X-Factor days because even then I somehow knew that they were going to make music that I was going to appreciate and love. But when "What Makes You Beautiful" came out, they completely blew my expectations away. The title makes it sound like a dreary, completely clichéd mid-tempo boyband track, so color me surprised when I discovered it was the most cheery, sunny, peppy pop song you could ever hope for. Lyrics such as "If only you saw what I could see/You'd understand why I want you so desperately" sound like complete hokum, but the One Direction boys deliver them with such immense joy and earnestness, you begin to believe it. In other words, my new dream in life is for a boy to sing this song to me to proclaim his love for me (the boy in this dream may or may not be Zayn Malik). "What Makes You Beautiful" is the kind of song that makes you wish for something as ridiculous like that and doesn't make you feel ashamed about it after the song has ended. If that's not the definition of a perfect pop song, I don't know what is.

04. Eric Saade "Popular"
Saade is very hit or miss, as evidenced by the success of this year's Saade Vol. 1 album and the utter shittiness of Vol. 2 just a few months later. When he hits, as he does with his Eurovision entry "Popular," there are few male popstars in the world who can match him. There's nothing especially noteworthy about either the lyrics or the message of "Popular," both of which are pretty standard fare as far as dance-pop tracks go. But there is something in Saade's delivery, particularly in the last minute of the song where things go absolutely off the rails and Saade is wailing and crying and singing his heart out, that elevates this song to classic status. Saade may not have won Eurovision with this song, but he certainly won a fan in me.

03. Rihanna "Man Down"
The fact that "Man Down," Rihanna's farewell to the Rated R era in both theme and tone, was ever released as a single completely surprised me (although I wasn't as surprised by its underperformance on the charts). I can see why this song wouldn't appeal to Rihanna fans who are fond of her lighter, dancier stuff, but it's because of songs like "Man Down," where she is willing to skirt commerciality in order to express a darker, less digestible idea, that I'm such a big fan of hers in the first place. Now that she has the success and the credibility to back her up, she is up for trying anything, even if that involves a pseudo-reggae styling and her most pronounced Bajan accent ever featured on one of her songs. But the real power of "Man Down" is around the three minute mark where Rihanna completely descends into reggae territory and starts slurring words in her own, special way. Not many commercial artists would be willing to push their sound that far outside the box, but Rihanna does it without breaking a sweat.

02. Britney Spears "I Wanna Go"
At this point in her career, Britney has nothing left to prove. The woman has defied expectations for years and managed to stay relevant long after many of her early counterparts have bitten the dust (yes, Floptina, I'm talking about you!). So, what else is there left for her to do but assert herself as the Queen of Pop and remind us once again why we go to her for edgy, top-notch dance songs. "I Wanna Go," with it's talk of masturbation and showing us all the dirt Britney's got running through her mind, is nothing we haven't heard before from her. But is there anyone else on the planet who can sing about such things with such complete cheeriness and without making it the filthiest fucking song you've ever heard? I talk a lot about "summer jams" and how most of the ones made today are processed to sound like immediate iTunes must haves. But "I Wanna Go" is the perfect example of how a song not immediately destined for the easiness of a lazy day on the beach can completely encapsulate that feeling. The song is reckless abandon and utter freedom with a dash of naughtiness to spice things up. And without "I Wanna Go," 2011 would have been a whole lot less fun.

01. Nicki Minaj "Super Bass"
Ignorance may be bliss, but in the case of "Super Bass," ignorance nearly cost me my number one song of the year. It wasn't until this video's premiere in April that I even knew this song, or any of the other Pink Friday bonus tracks, existed. As soon as I heard the song, I liked it enough to download it. Then I kept listening to it and I thought to myself, "Hey, I can learn that rap!". So I spent nearly a month singing along with the lyrics, hoping that one day it would sink in. And then it did, but I still couldn't get enough of this song. Now at 98 plays on my iTunes--the only song that ranks higher is Girls Aloud's "Biology"--I can safely assume that I will never be tired of "Super Bass". Usually, I'm not a big fan of when Nicki does raps outside of her Roman ego, but "Super Bass" is the very notable exception to this rule, as she doesn't need that flamboyant, in-your-face arrogance to make this song work. "Super Bass" is a pop song through and through, with the only difference being, obviously, that Nicki raps her verses. Everything about "Super Bass" is a pure joy to listen to; I know I certainly perk up whenever I hear the opening notes come on my iTunes. Sure, it's not the deepest, most intricate rap Nicki has ever done, but how can you argue with the authoritative way she boasts, "Somebody please tell 'em who the eff I is" or her annunciation on, "You're slicker than the guy with the thing on his eye, oh!"? Nicki sells this song like the star that she is, making this the year we found a popstar in a hopeless place.