2011 Time Capsule: The Year of the Pop Diva and the Queer Anthem

2011 saw the release of an extraordinary number of legendary pop songs.

2011 was a turbulent year, a year of the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, of murdered dictators and earthquakes.

In terms of American pop culture, it was a time of great exuberance and energy. Female pop stars dominated the airwaves, as did the British Royal Wedding, as political unrest tangled with the public's desire for flashy distraction. Here are the pop culture highlights of 2011.

Music: Fridays and Queer Anthems

2011 was the year of the pop diva, and an almost unfathomable number of iconic hits by women hit the airwaves that year. Katy Perry and Adele dominated the charts, Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" became a queer anthem, Britney Spears' "Hold It Against Me" played perpetually, and Rihanna dropped her scandalous "S&M," the absolutely legendary "Man Down," and another song about Friday, "Cheers (Drink to That)".

Lady Gaga - Born This Way

Rihanna - Man Down

Avril Lavigne had us bopping along to "What the Hell" and Nicki Minaj had everyone learning the words to "Super Bass." Beyonce released "Love On Top" and "Who Run the World? (Girls)" and Jessie J. put out "Domino." Carly Rae, of course, dropped "Call Me Maybe."

Nicki Minaj - Super Bass

Beyoncé - Run the World (Girls) (Video - Main Version)

There were some sad bangers in the midst of all the girl power; Demi Lovato put out "Skyscraper" and Lana Del Rey dropped her mysterious amalgamation of found footage for "Video Games."

Lana Del Rey - Video Games (Official Music Video)

And last but not least, Rebecca Black's "Friday" went super-viral and lodged itself in everyone's brains for eternity.

Rebecca Black - Friday

Folky boys Conor Oberst, Wilco, and Jeff Magnum of Neutral Milk Hotel all had big years—the first two dropped great albums and the third reemerged from obscurity with a flood of unreleased gems. The ukulele also grew in popularity, taking center stage on the hit album w h o k i l l by tUnE-yArDs.

That year, we also tragically lost Amy Winehouse, who passed away at 27.

Movies: Franchises Come to a Close

2011's greatest hit was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, which smashed box office records. It was also a good year for the Twilight franchise; in Breaking Dawn, Part I, Jacob the werewolf imprinted (or fell eternally, irrevocably in love) with his former love interest's, Bella's, baby daughter.

Twilight 4 Breaking Dawn Part 1 Jacob imprints on Renesmee, the Cullens and the werewolves fight Y

Overall, it was a strange year for film. The Artist had everyone falling in love with an adorable dog; Drive polarized audiences, and so did The Descendants; and the heart-wrenching Like Crazy had everyone sobbing.

Las mejores escenas de Uggie ''The artist''

TV: Escaping to Sweeter Times

Like the movies, television favored escapism, with shows like The Great British Bake-Off and Downton Abbey transporting viewers to other, sweeter times. Game of Thrones promised that "winter is coming," and South Park gave us "tween wave."

Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, Fringe, and other dramas gained continued success.

Entertainment: Kate and Pippa Middleton Make History

2011's biggest entertainment event may have been the Royal Wedding, which dominated America's hearts. Kate Middleton's dress went down in history.

Royal Wedding - Carriage Procession To Buckingham Palace And Departures Bustle

In terms of viral trends, honey badgers and planking were huge. The year's top Twitter trends were:









It wasn't a great year for Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan, whose hard-partying habits (and lawsuits) made headlines constantly. Lady Gaga arrived to the Grammys in a giant egg. Kim K. and Kris Humphries married and got divorced. Beyonce announced she was pregnant. Justin Bieber debuted his relationship with Selena Gomez–and was also slammed with a paternity suit. Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher broke up. Anne Hathaway and James Franco hosted what was called "the worst Oscars ever."

That was 2011... A year of divas and distraction, chaos and comedy, and of course, the only 11/11/11 any of us will be alive for.

Music Lists

Slept On: New Underground Releases from Drakeo the Ruler, Dreezy & More

Protest music aside, there is a slew of good underground music out today

An invigorating slew of protest music hit the shelves today.

Detroit-based emcee Tee Grizzley collaborated with Queen Naija and the Detroit Youth Choir to craft a melodic ballad that attempts to open up a dialogue with police. Meanwhile, alt-Jazz pioneer Terrace Martin took a different approach in his collaboration with Denzel Curry, Daylyt, G Perico, and Kamasi Washington, with "Pigs Feet" being more of an angry f*ck you than an attempt at communication.

Keep Reading Show less
Music Reviews

Why "Baby Shark" Is an Evil Song—And Top 40 Hit

"Baby Shark" is incantatory, spell-binding, and creepy as hell.


After garnering over 2 billion views on YouTube, "Baby Shark" is now charting at No. 32 on U.S. Billboard's Hot 100.

The song has possessed children worldwide and invaded the Internet with the #BabySharkChallenge and viral memes. According to Nielsen Music, last week alone brought over 20 million streams of the tortuously hypnotic song. But with the bopping sensation now invading the US music industry (ranking above the likes of Ariana Grande and Ellie Goulding), the question is: what are the song's origins, and are they a little bit evil?

Baby Shark Dance | Sing and Dance! | Animal Songs | PINKFONG Songs for Children

The song isn't new, with a decades old history as a campfire song that's thought to be originally inspired by a European nursery rhyme. In 2015, the South Korean educational brand, Pinkfong, posted to Youtube a "fresh twist" on the "traditional singalong chant." Its lyrics tell a simple story about a family of sharks going hunting, with hand gestures accompanying each character, from Baby Shark to Grandma Shark. Over time, the song's repetitious pop rhythm gained traction among K-pop fans, and as that genre experienced a meteoric rise in global popularity, so did "Baby Shark."

As a result, the #BabySharkChallenge became a viral trend that gained celebrity involvement from K-pop stars like Girls' Generation and U.S. comedians like Ellen Degeneres and James Corden. (In Corden's Late Late Show rendition, he featured Sophie Turner as Mommy Shark and Josh Groban as Daddy Shark).

The Biggest 'Baby Shark' Ever w/ Sophie Turner & Josh Groban

But let's be honest: hidden in the catchiness of "Baby Shark's" beat, there's something sinister about the song's chanting melody. While The Cut defends that the tune "provides an anthem for a child's worldview, a reinforcement of the imperative to seize blind happiness whenever we come across it"–it really doesn't. It's true that Pinkfong's viral version repackaged the tune to befit children's sing-alongs, but other versions of the song describe the sharks eating a sailor, recount their prey's journey to heaven, or simply detail sharks hunting fish more graphically ("Swim faster," sing their prey, "doo doo doo doo!").

It's the building momentum of the song that makes all of these darker versions work. As it is, the chart-topping version of the song is only catchy because it's paced according to a predatory hunt: "Let's go hunt (doo doo…) / Run away (doo doo…) / Safe at last (doo doo...)"–I've already mentioned there are more graphic endings, but even the official last verse is creepy–"It's the end (doo doo…)."

"Baby Shark" is incantatory, spell-binding, and eerie as hell. Imagining a campfire chant being sung by adults is already unnerving, but a children's song's ascent to mainstream success via K-pop stars and Internet memes must be a conspiracy.

Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.

POP⚡DUST |

Woodstock Returns—Hopefully Safer Than Last Time

Exclusive: Lost Kings Release "Anti-Everything" feat. Loren Gray Music Video

The Most—and Least—Anticipated TV Shows Coming in 2019