We're going to do something a little different for our weekend playlist. As long-term readers have no doubt noticed, over the month we counted down our 10 Artists of the Year--people who've had the best overall showing in 2011, starting with Rick Ross and ending with Katy Perry. We've recapped all their years for you, but there's only so much you can do in one feature. Consider this a supplement: one track for each.
* Must be from 2011 (or might-as-well-be-2011). We've all got our back-catalog favorites, but the year's end is not the time for those.
* Must not be overplayed as hell. You might chime in and say some of these tracks are overplayed for you, but they're not for us.
That's all the ado! Be sure to check out our full artist lists to see what we're purposefully leaving out. ow then, for No. 1 on our list and on this playlist:
1. KATY PERRY, "CIRCLE THE DRAIN"
This pop-rock track with far more edge than what you imagine of Katy Perry's image is tied with "Teenage Dream" for track most likely to make someone say "that's a Katy Perry song?" (Travie McCoy said something to that effect, at least.) It's probably the best thing on Teenage Dream, somehow not a single--for someone as hell-bent on setting singles records as Perry, it's astonishing that this hasn't gotten released.
2. ADELE, "RUMOUR HAS IT"
The last line. The laugh at the end of that. The spooky background vocals and the percussion, but mostly that last line. We're going to keep talking about this song until it's a single and we don't have to.
3. LADY GAGA, "ELECTRIC CHAPEL"
The thing about Born This Way everyone misses but the people who actually take it to heart is how well Lady Gaga when she's not talking about unicorns or whiskey-soaked boots or other Gaga-isms, captures teenage emotions. "You want me bad, I think you're cool, but I'm not sure" is something at least a thousand people have probably said verbatim, and even those who haven't probably have, at some point, grappled with how to carve out safety in relationships, The track sounds great, too, softening the album's glam-rock referents to a dull choral haze and a restrained electric guitar solo, along with which Gaga essentially does the same thing Beyonce does on "I Care," just as well but to less writing. "Scheisse" might say more, "Government Hooker" might be creepier, and "Marry the Night" is just better, but "Electric Chapel" is probably the best introductory track.
4. DRAKE, "THE RIDE"
Doesn't close Take Care so much as let it drift to a gentle end. On this playlist, it's an interlude--and a damn good one; say what you will about Drake, his persona and his omnipresence this year, but it's hard to deny that Take Care is not just among 2011's best-sounding albums but will probably be a sonic template for R&B in 2012. Drake's and otherwise.
5. RIHANNA, "WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN"
Like "Rumour Has It," this is one of those "this fantastic song is going to be the single in 2012, so enjoy it now before it's overplayed and lord your foreknowledge over your friends. Whether you think Rihanna's pace is laudable or scary, you can't call "Where Have You Been" a rush job. The track's perfectly constructed-- and yes, "perfectly constructed" means "perfectly constructed to the dance template," but notice, for instance, how it kicks into gear on "crowd"--just when the real-world crowd would get moving.
For tracks from Artists of the Year No. 6-10, including Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj, click NEXT.
6. JUSTIN BIEBER, "OTIS"
Slim pickings this year for the Bieb, no? There's that Christmas album, but this isn't a Christmas playlist. So instead, we're going to go with Bieber's take on "Otis" for L.A. radio station Power 106. We feel the need to mention here that "Otis" is not a freestyle. (It's just not. Come on.) But it's a million times better than any venture into hip hop by an underage, very poppy teen pop star has any right to be.
7. BEYONCE, "END OF TIME"
Remember when "End of Time" leaked? Between it and "Run the World (Girls)," 4 was looking like it might be quite the uptempo, percussive album. It wasn't, and although the 4 that was is great on its own merits--a mature R&B album for a maturing artist--the album "End of Time," with its clattering percussion and larger-than-real sentiment, sounds like it's from would be fine as well. It's getting overlooked on 4; we say it shouldn't be.
8. NICKI MINAJ, "HERE I AM"
Built on a sample of "Red Sky" by John B feat. Shaz Sparks, "Here I Am" shows Nicki at her most vulnerable yet never saccharine. It takes audacity to turn "I'm a woman, hear me roar" into an expression of pain, not confidence, but Nicki manages it. Who else could but her?
9. TAYLOR SWIFT, "LUCKY"
Taylor Swift's 2011 was just as much about turning in cover after cover on her tour as her own singles (all of which violate the "overplayed" criterion "overplayed by Swift fans" for sure.) This, obviously, is "Lucky" by Britney Spears, which as it turns out makes a near-perfect, perfectly empathetic Taylor track.
10. RICK ROSS AND NAS, "IT'S A TOWER HEIST"
Yes, it's technically "Nasft. Rick Ross." In a way, this might be more representative--Rick Ross has guested on maybe a third of everything in 2011; as for his solo singles, most of them skirt the "don't be overplayed" rule. (See: why he's on this list in the first place.) Meanwhile, Teflon Don was released in 2010, God Forgives, I Don't will--and should--be released whenever Ross feels like it (and is in good health)--we're narrowing down things fast. So let's close with a track we've featured on the Playlist before, with the same rationale as then. This is much better than a soundtrack cut should be. And you might be unearthing it in five years or so.