It’s been emotional, but the time has come for the best of the best. We’ve had some Beyonce, some Coldplay and, fuck it, even some Matt Cardle. Along the way, there has been applause and there has been uproar. But above all, there has been no Dappy. There’s always 2012, eh.
IT IS TIME.
5. Will Young – ‘Jealousy’
August, Peak #3
In career terms, apparently life begins at 10. Will Young marked the landmark anniversary of his first Pop Idol audition with one of the best tracks of his entire career. Richard X twiddled the knobs on ‘Jealousy’, a spine-tingling electro-ballad with a vocal performance tinged with a restrained heartache we haven’t heard Will properly ace since ‘Leave Right Now’. The trailer single from the brilliant Echoes album, this was a career highlight for Young and an annual highlight for pop in general.
4. Adele – ‘Rolling In The Deep’
January, Peak #2
Not a bad year for Adele, all in all. In fact, wipe out the small matter of serious vocal chord surgery and it’s pretty much flawless. ‘Rolling In The Deep’ was hailed by critics in territories all over the world as a masterpiece, and we’re gonna have to join that bandwagon and agree. It doesn’t sound like your typical Big Hit Single but the Great British Public came through and made it one of 2011′s best-sellers. Just one of the 11 highlights from the 21 album.
3. Lady GaGa – ‘The Edge Of Glory’
May, Peak #6
Despite the success of album Born This Way, GaGa hasn’t been the definitive singles artist this time around that she was with The Fame back in 2009. But the quality control has in no way dropped. ‘The Edge Of Glory’ is right up there with ‘Bad Romance’ as a master-class in good pop music. The Kitty Brucknell-enticing chorus and the ball-busting sax solo are the best bits, but its always a good sign when a track with a killer refrain is just as amazing in the verse department, too. We’re probably in a minority when we say ‘Judas’ was a disappointment, but ‘TEOG’ pulled the seemingly unstoppable GaGa firmly back on course.
2. Adele – ‘Someone Like You’
February, Peak #1
THIS is how you do a ballad. No frills, no string section, no gospel choir, no key change – just a piano, a voice, some cracking lyrics, and a performance so heartstring-tugging its impossible not to recall your own past heartbreaks. It’s so rare that a song of any kind, let alone a restrained piano ballad, can appeal to both critics and millions of record buyers at the same time, but with both her record-shattering album and this song in particular, Adele did it. From the original album version to that unforgettable Brits performance, ‘Someone Like You’ will be covered by many but replicated by none. It’s a masterpiece.
1. Britney Spears – ‘Till The World Ends’
March, Peak #22
With Ke$ha on the writing and Dr Luke and Max Martin on production, ‘Till The World Ends’ is a Britney Spears classic. With a healthy burst of ‘Wo-ah-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-OH-oh’s and a chorus that explodes with euphoria, it’s arguably also the year’s most under-rated single, and a huge victim of the On Air/On Sale release system. Abandoned by radio when it charted at No. 22 immediately after its première, the track was cruelly robbed of the opportunity to rise any further. Ke$ha says she’s “never been more proud of anything in my career”, Digital Spy dished out a similar accolade to ours and Rolling Stone praised its “sky-sucking synths”. As for us, it had passed the 100 plays count on iTunes within weeks (dread to look now). The only thing left to do is bust out the never-gets-old Spearsism of the century: “It’s Britney, bitch”.
But hey, that’s just our opinion – you guys have been picking your faves too over on our Reader Poll. A few weeks ago we paused voting and narrowed it down to your Top 5 in every category, and now the final round of the poll will close on Boxing Day. Vote here if you haven’t already done so.
Also next week – our 25 best commercial pop albums, 25 best films, TV highlights, the best music videos, and – of course – the 2011 Shitlist.