Music brought to our attention this year worth mentioning, for better or for worse; without regard to record sales, popularity or radio play. Just a take on 2011’s music, as I heard it.

Best Folk AlbumThe King is Dead The Decemberists.

This album is a perfect example of why folk is starting to become more and more prevalent in popular music. Tracks like ‘This is Why we Fight’ and ‘Down by the Water’ have elements of folk, country, rock and pop blended together to create a complex sound. And yet they make it sound so simple.

Best TV Show Soundtrack:  How to Make it in AmericaVarious.

The tracks are always hip, perfectly placed and make every scene that much better. My personal favourite, M83’s ‘Midnight City’ playing while “Ben”, actor Bryan Greenberg, and “Nancy”, actress Gina Gershon, finally break the sexual tension between them in the backseat of a cab. So appropriate. Other artists on the soundtrack include Damian Marley, N.E.R.D., Martin Solveig and Otis Redding.

Biggest Loss for the Industry:  Amy Winehouse.

She was only 27 years old and even if you weren’t shocked by her passing – we were all aware of her struggle with drug addiction and alcoholism – you can’t ignore her talent or the music she brought into our lives. She will be missed.

Most Severe Identity Crisis:  Mylo XylotoColdplay.

Who are they trying to be? They blew our minds with Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head. X&Y wasn’t bad, but Viva la Vida or Death and all his Friends was the start of their descent and coincidentally, their ascension in mainstream music. The current album Mylo Xyloto (really?) can only signify they’ve fallen. I blame Gwyneth Paltrow and her obvious hindrance of Chris Martin’s creative mind. Naming your kid “Apple” doesn’t make you cool. Neither does putting out a song called “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall”. Because it isn’t. The intended metaphor is pedestrian for a band like Coldplay, and the whole album is just lazy. I guess once you’ve hit it that big, you don’t need to try anymore. That’s a crying shame.

Best Collaboration Track:  “Paris”Jay-Z/Kanye West.

A great hip-hop/rap offering: it has quotes from the film Blades of Glory, courtesy of Will Ferrell and Jon Heder; it has references to fish filets, Gucci and Mary Kate and Ashley. But most importantly, it boasts lines like “That shit cray”, “Ball so hard” and my personal favourite, “Doctors say I’m the illest/Cause I’m suffering from realness”. Instant classic.

Worst Collaboration Track:  “E.T.”Katy Perry feat. Kanye West.

Katy Perry gave us some pretty useless tracks this year, including ‘Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)’ and ‘Firework’. Her lyrics are terrible, her videos worse, she’s more than obnoxious and her permanent bug-eyed look a la Zooey Deschanel is infuriating. This track doesn’t help her credibility as a musician, it only makes things worse. And Kanye, after spitting great rhymes on ‘Paris’, completely fails on this track with lines like “Tell me what’s next/Alien sex?/I’ma disrobe you/Then I’ma probe you”. Poor Kanye, can’t get anything right.

Most Exploited Collaborator:  Pitbull.

Seriously, why does he appear on so many tracks? In 2011 alone, he was featured on J-Lo, Marc Anthony and Timbaland songs; he also released his own album Planet Pit (definitely somewhere I never want to visit), with songs featuring Ne-Yo, Afrojack, Nayer, T-Pain, Enrique Iglesias, Sean Paul, Kelly Rowland, Jamie Foxx and Chris Brown, to name a few. Call me crazy, but anyone who gets around that much is kind of a slut.

Worst Summer Anthem:  “Pumped up Kicks” Foster the People

It’s a track with dark lyrics, commenting on teenage gun violence, from the point of view of the shooter. Yet the upbeat, cheerful music with random whistling interludes (clearly stolen from OneRepublic’s ‘Good Life’) give it a bubble gum pop-rock sound. This song somehow went from no one listening to it at the beginning of the year, to mainstream by summer time. I’m still trying to figure out their intention: they obviously want to create awareness for a serious issue, but when disguised with unicorns and rainbows, no one’s really going to pay attention to the message. It was a summer anthem for many, just not for me.

Best Summer Anthem: “Young Blood”- The Naked and Famous

It’s a song about youth and hope, a song about possibilities and liberation. The music is uplifting and unique. Everything summer should be.

Better Gallagher Brother:  Noel.

Both former Oasis frontmen ventured into solo careers, and both released an album this year. Sorry Liam, you and your “Beady Eyes” just couldn’t compare to Noel and his “High Flying Birds”.

Most Confusing Video of the Year: “We Found Love” – Rihanna.
If you hear this track at a club, you can’t help but feel good, alive and full of life. When you watch the video, however, you can’t help but want to curl up in a ball in the corner of the room and cry. It shows two young adults constantly going on drug binges, jumping around, dancing, skateboarding, having the time of their lives, making out and making love. But it also shows them yelling at each other, fighting,  passing out on the floor, crying and sitting in a bathtub fully clothed. It’s like they’re saying don’t do drugs because look at what they do to you; while also saying do drugs, because look at what they do to you. You be the judge.

‘Bad Girl Turned Sad Girl’ of the Year:  Lindsay Lohan.
How many times can she go to jail? How many hours of community service can she do? How many more chances will she get? No one thinks of her as anything other than a pathetic disaster. At age 25 that’s just sad.

Douchebag of the Year:  Adam Levine of Maroon 5.

I can deal with Adam Levine’s egocentricity. I can turn a blind eye at his attempt to resurrect his career by being a judge on “The Voice”. I can even pretend I don’t notice that he’s an exhibitionist as most of Maroon 5’s videos feature him, and only him, semi-nude, getting frisky with a hot blonde. But what I can’t handle is that he claims to have the moves like Jagger. Adam, you’re not even close.

Most Surprising Song of the Year:  “How to Love” – Lil’ Wayne.

I don’t think I was the only person shocked by Lil’ Wayne’s attempt at singing. A love song of all things. We’re all used to his tough guy image, as seen in his gangster rap, his multiple tattoos, his trips to prison and his grills of course. But this track shows a completely different side of him: it’s sensitive, sends a beautiful message and aside from a little creepy raspiness, his vocals are half decent. Props to him for stepping outside the box and giving it a try. Who would’ve thought?

Least Surprising Song of the Year: “When We Stand Together”Nickelback

Why? Because it sounds like every other song they’ve ever written, produced and played. Who keeps telling them to make the same song over and over again? Take a hint Nickelback, none of us are standing together with you. 

Best Canadian Representation:  Take CareDrake.

So I’m not the hugest Drake fan out there, but he’s definitely talented and knows how to make a solid record, Take Care being no exception. He’s had collaborations with the best of them and is recognizable worldwide. He wins this category because everything about him is so Canadian. He always mentions his hometown of Toronto, he’s biracial, he’s friends with Justin Bieber, and he was on Degrassi – it just doesn’t get more Canadian than that.

Worst Canadian Representation:  Goodbye LullabyAvril Lavigne.
Avril first started out as a teeny-bopping, punk-rocking tomboy from Napanee, Ontario who became famous all over the world. Then she married and divorced Deryck Whibley of Sum 41 and her music became boring: Goodbye Lullaby will put anyone to sleep. I understand a musician’s sound changes over time as they age, learn and develop. With experience, they can become more insightful and introspective. Avril may have used this album’s direction to demonstrate her growth and maturity. But then again, she’s dating Brody Jenner.

Hometown Shout Out:  USS ApprovedUbiquitous Synergy Seeker

It’s an eclectic album, fuses all kinds of sounds together and can put anyone in a good mood. Plus they’re from Toronto, why wouldn’t you want to check them out?

Best Live Show:   Ben Harper, Sound Academy, Toronto.
                             Eminem, Lollapalooza, Chicago.
                             Bon Iver, Massey Hall, Toronto.

Ben for his endless stamina and dedication to playing over three hours of live music non-stop. Eminem for throwing everything he had into his performance to ensure every fan out of thousands at Lollapalooza was entertained. Bon Iver for having such remarkable musicianship to bring an entire crowd to silence as they watched in awe.

Most Disappointing Album:  King of LimbsRadiohead.

After waiting four years for a follow up to the epic In Rainbows, all Thom Yorke and co. could do was produce eight mediocre tracks. The only thing they’re consistent at is being inconsistent.

Worst Song of the Year:  “The Lazy Song”Bruno Mars.

Everything about this song is painful. In the video his background dancers don monkey masks with sunglasses, his lyrics allude to him putting his hand down his pants and he himself was runner up for douchebag of the year. I don’t know if I’m more annoyed at him for making this song (or any of his other ones), or at the general public for accepting it. Note: I know everyone was expecting Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’ but I’ve decided that she’s suffered enough for one year. She has been teased relentlessly for making a bad song, just like Aaron Carter and so many others have done before. She’s only fourteen, leave her alone.

Album of the Year:   CeremonialsFlorence and the Machine.
                                  Bon Iver, Bon Iver – Bon Iver.

It was a tough call to make so I chose both. They are equally unique and distinctive and stand out above the rest in their own way. The albums as a whole are musical genius. Florence’s voice is powerful and only amplified by the haunting, almost tribal-like music that accompanies it. Justin Vernon’s vocals for Bon Iver are ethereal and complemented by orchestral instruments and perfectly produced sounds. Either way, can’t go wrong.

Song of the Year:  “Someone Like You”Adele.

This was probably the easiest category. There is nothing wrong with this song: from production, to music, to lyrics and especially to vocals. Everything is flawless. And above all, it manages to break your heart, every time. Well done Adele, well done.

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