2011 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast
EDM triumphs as the “New Pop” unifies American music for the first time in a decade, while Adele sets a new standard for soulful female singers.
Welcome! I’m Christopher Verdesi, and this is the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Every week on Chartcrush, we set our sights on a different year in pop music history and count down the top ten hits according to our recap of the weekly pop charts published at the time by the American music industry’s leading trade publication and chart authority, Billboard magazine. This week, we’re turning the clock back to 2011, a year that solidified a sea change on the pop charts that began as the aughts decade came to a close.
Some critics said that it was the return of pop. Others said it was America finally arriving at a party that’d already been raging across the Atlantic for 20 years, namely electronic dance music, or EDM. Well both are right. If the 2000s were a decade in search of an identity—a diversity of styles but not a lot of cultural cohesion—the last couple years of the decade into the 2010s were when it all coalesced into a distinct, massive popular sound rooted in EDM, but with pop being the common denominator, as if music fans suddenly got tired of all these fragmented genres and flavors and styles and scenes just co-existing in their silos, and spontaneously rallied around the idea of pulling it all together to create a new whole that was greater than the sum of its parts: a “New Pop,” as it was described in leading sources including Billboard.
Now who those fans were in 2011 had everything to do with how and why this happened. Every generation has a pinnacle or plateau: the five-years, plus or minus, before its youngest members turn 18. when its preferences get imprinted on the mainstream: the music they like, what they watch (TV and movies), the technology they use, the advertising they respond to, their slang, with little to no competition from older or younger folks. Well, the period from about 2008 to 2013? That was the Millennial generation’s pinnacle, and pulling together all the splintered styles and scenes that Gen-X had left in its wake—alt-rock and grunge, gangsta rap, pop divas, R&B vocal groups and trancey trip-hop and house—under that one “new pop” umbrella, was the Millennials’ crowning, defining contribution to music.
So what is it, this “new pop?” Well, as I said, it’s EDM. The sprawling, trancey, groove-centered native form of the music, was suddenly drawing Woodstock-sized crowds in America in 2011. Multi-day events like The Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra Music Festival with LivePA’s (that’s EDM for “performances”) by top DJ-producers like David Guetta, Tiesto, Deadmau5, Swedish House Mafia and American newcomer Skrillex. The “new pop” was EDM, distilled, honed and crafted, often with the help of those bigtime DJ-producers, into irresistible pop songs with an emphasis on hooks and maybe even gimmicks, served up straight or spiced with reggae, hip-hop, R&B or even rock, not too much to overwhelm the dish, mind you, just enough to add a little flavor and character.
The Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga blazed the trail and set the template with their late 2000’s hits, and both were still going strong on the charts in ’11 although neither made our Chartcrush top ten. The Peas “Just Can’t Get Enough” was #10 on Billboard’s year-end Hot100 chart but misses ours at #14, and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” an important LGBTQ anthem right as the debate on gay marriage was heating up, ranked #18 on both our and Billboard’s rankings.
#10 Nicki Minaj – Super Bass
But again, their influence is all over many of the hits that did make our top ten, including the one at #10, the first top ten hit by a Trinidad-born female rapper who was raised in Queens, New York, and has the accent to prove it! The fifth single off her debut album Pink Friday, proving that even in the era of focus groups and web analytics, big sleeper hits can still happen. Peaking at #3 for two weeks in the summer, but in the top 40 for 35 weeks, it’s Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass.”
Nicki Minaj’s first big hit, “Super Bass,” #10 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2011. In a 2012 feature story, The New York Times called her “a sparkling rapper with a gift for comic accents and unexpected turns of phrase,” but hip-hop critics mostly slammed Nicki Minaj as bubblegum rap for her electropop-rap hybrids. Again, though, amalgams like that were the whole point of the “new pop,” and Nicki Minaj got her rewards on the pop charts.
#9 Katy Perry featuring Kanye West – E.T.
So, while The Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am and Lady Gaga were pioneering the new pop in ’08 and ’09 and scoring massive hits, our next singer at #9 was also conquering the charts, but with a Kelly Clarkson/No Doubt-derived pop-rock sound. Her next album in 2010 though, Teenage Dream, was such a perfectly-timed “new pop” bullseye shot that she wound up overtaking Gaga and Will on the charts and personifying the style by the end of 2011. And no surprise, she has not one but two songs in our top ten countdown. At #9 is the first of them: Katy Perry, teaming with rapper Kanye West, on the single remix of “E.T.”
That “stomp-stomp-clap” beat from Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” repurposed for the 2010s by Katy Perry on the single remix of “E.T.,” the #9 song here on our Chartcrush countdown of the top ten pop hits of 2011. No Kanye on the original version from Katy’s multi-platinum Teenage Dream album though, just Katy. That version came out as a promo single before the album was released, but barely dented the charts. And then the remix with Kanye dropped and was #1 for five weeks in the Spring…
#8 CeeLo Green – Forget You
…the same time as NBC’s The Voice was debuting on TV. In 2018, four years after her last #1 hit, Katy Perry became a judge on the prime-time talent show that NBC launched The Voice to compete with: Fox’s American Idol. But one of the reasons The Voice was a such a big hit right out of the gate, was that all three of its judges, although music biz veterans with the gravitas to offer trenchant advice to aspiring pop stars on TV, were themselves still big enough to score major chart hits. And all three did in 2011. One of them is our artist at #8, tackling one of the evergreen themes of pop songs in all genres: being rejected in love over someone with more money. It’s CeeLo Green’s vintage-R&B throwback that was on the Hot100 for 48 weeks, “Forget You.”
Cee Lo Green at #8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Pop Countdown for 2011. “Forget You’s” R-rated album version uses much saltier language to describe the song’s bitter feelings of anger and rejection, not just in the lyrics but in the song’s title, which prompted a Billboard writer to opine: “It’s as sunny as a ’60s Motown hit and as expletive-laden as an early Eminem song.” CeeLo’s only previous top ten hit was another oldskool soul-R&B throwback in 2006, “Crazy,” when he in the duo Gnarles Barkley. But his chart career stretches back all the way to the mid ’90s when he was in the Atlanta hip-hop group Goodie Mob.
#7 Katy Perry – Firework
Now recall from “E.T.,” which we heard at #9: the single remix with Kanye West’s rap verses dramatically outperformed Katy Perry’s original solo album version, which only peaked at #42 for one week when it was first released in 2010. But the months between the original and remix versions (December 2010 into January ’11) were the months that another even bigger hit from Perry’s Teenage Dream went to #1, and that’s the song we’re going to hear right now at #5. Again it’s Katy Perry, “Firework.”
Katy Perry’s “Firework,” off Teenage Dream, after Michael Jackson’s Bad in 1987, only the second album in history to produce five #1 singles, and the first by a female artist. A sixth single from the album went to #3, and then a new song from a reissue version of the album went to #1 in 2012.
#6 Adele – Someone like You
At #6 as we count down the top ten hits of 2011 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown show, the other singer besides Katy Perry with two songs in our countdown: Billboard’s 2011 artist of the year, with the #1 album, and her face and name on the cover of the December 17th year-end issue under the headline “The Year of.”
She was one of the first pop stars discovered on social media, in ’06 on MySpace after a friend posted one of her demos. Soon she had a record deal and was being compared to Amy Winehouse, the blue-eyed soul sensation whose first big hit “Rehab” was on the charts that year. Two years later in ’08, she’d outdone Winehouse with two U.K. top tens, and then in America her second album 21 made 2011 “The Year of Adele.” Oh, and by the way, she also writes all her songs. At #6, “Someone like You.”
Adele, “Someone like You,” #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2011: the second of her three consecutive #1’s off her album 21. All three, by the way, on the Hot100 for over a year, well into 2012. Adele, obviously the big exception to the EDM/”new pop” theme of 2011. Later in the countdown, we’re gonna hear another Adele cut: her first and biggest U.S. hit of 2011.
#5 Pitbull featuring Ne-Yo, Afrojack and Nayer – Give Me Everything
At #5, a Cuban-American rapper out of Miami who’d been in the biz and making records since 2002 when he featured on a track by crunk-rap pioneer Lil Jon, a mentor and collaborator throughout his career, and made his first of several appearances on a Fast & Furious film franchise soundtrack. In ’05, Sean “Puffy” Combs tapped him to co-found a Latin subsidiary of Bad Boy Records, and then his breakthrough on the Hot100 came in ’09 with two top tens. But in 2011 this was his first #1. It’s Pitbull, featuring singers Ne-Yo and Nayer and Dutch EDM DJ and producer Afrojack, “Give Me Everything.”
Pitbull, “Mr. 305” (Miami’s area code), the baton-holder for Latin Pop in 2011 “Give Me Everything,” the #5 song of 2011 on our Chartcrush ranking, and also in the top ten on Billboard’s Year-End chart. We get one of Pitbull’s trademark “dale’s” (Spanish for “give it”) at about the minute-twenty mark on the song, but a commenter on the lyrics website genius.com noted: “I can’t stand how Pitbull starts the song rhyming Kodak with Kodak.”
Lindsey Lohan, the perpetually troubled actress-singer, also had a problem with the song’s lyrics because they mention her name. She sued for mental anguish and damage to her image, but lost.
#4 Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera – Moves like Jagger
So back at #8 when we heard CeeLo Green’s “Forget You,” I mentioned that all three of the judges on season one of The Voice are in our top ten countdown, CeeLo being one of those judges. At #4 is the song with the other two. They debuted it on an episode of The Voice, and unlike Lindsey Lohan with the Pitbull song, Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger thought being mentioned not just in the lyrics but in the title (with old clips of Jagger featured throughout its video) was “very flattering.” It’s Maroon 5 with singer and Voice judge Adam Levine, their first #1 since ’07 featuring Levine’s fellow Voice judge, Christina Aguilera, her first #1 since 2001: “Moves Like Jagger.”
Maroon 5, Christina Aguilera, “Moves Like Jagger.” #4 as we count down the top ten hits of 2011 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Back in ’04, Maroon 5 had updated the sound and image of pop boy bands on their pair of breakthrough top tens, “This Love” and “She Will Be Loved.” But they struggled on the charts after 2007. And early aughts teen pop sensation Christina Aguilera hadn’t scored a top ten hit since ’08 despite going full-bore EDM and “new pop” at the same time Katy Perry did in 2010. But TV critics praised Levine and Aguilera’s onscreen chemistry as Voice judges, and it carried over to their pairing on “Moves Like Jagger.”
The song made Aguilera the second female artist, after rival Britney Spears, to hit #1 in the 90s, aughts, and 2010s, and only the fourth to score #1s in any three different decades, after Janet Jackson, Madonna and Britney.
Adam Levine also sang the chorus as a featured singer on the hit “Stereo Hearts” by alt-rap-rock group Gym Class Heroes, which just missed our countdown of 2011’s biggest hits at #12.
#3 Bruno Mars – Just the Way You Are
At #3, we have a very interesting situation: a song that entered the Hot100 in August 2010 and rose to #1 for four weeks in October 2010. But wait! This is a 2011 countdown. Why is there a song that was #1 in 2010; shouldn’t that be in the 2010 countdown? Normally, yes! But after it was dislodged from the #1 spot, this particular song spent another 14 weeks in the top ten, which gets us to February 2011. Then it was in the top 40 for another 18 weeks after that, which puts us in June of 2011. When you add it up, even though its peak at #1 was in 2010, 51% of its total chart points, looking at its full chart run, came in calendar 2011. 51%! That’s crazy close!
Now Billboard will split a chart run like that between both years. They really don’t have a choice; they have to set a cut-off week for the chart year to get their year-end issue out before New Years. Okay, but as a result, throughout chart history, big hits with year-straddling chart runs have not been properly reflected in the year-end rankings. Our #3 song was Billboard’s #18 song of 2010 and the #15 song of 2011. Combining the full chart run and putting it in the year it earned the most points, which we do with every song here on Chartcrush, makes it the #3 song of 2011.
It’s the singer’s first record under his own name, but his voice had already been all over radio for months as the featured singer on rapper B.o.B’s #1 hit “Nothin’ on You” and Gym Class Heroes’ leader Travie McCoy’s solo debut “Billionaire,” both of which were produced by his production team, The Smeezingtons. It’s Bruno Mars, “Just the Way You Are.”
Bruno Mars’s solo debut at #3, “Just the Way You Are,” which he followed up with what became Billboard’s #10 song of 2011, “Grenade.” That one misses our Chartcrush countdown at #11.
compared to Michael Jackson, Mars’s halftime show at the 2014 Super Bowl was the most-watched in Super Bowl history up to then, and then he was back in the top ten in 2021 as half of the soul throwback superduo Silk Sonic.
#2 Adele – Rolling in the Deep
Well we’re down to #2 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 2011’s top ten hits. And if you’re comparing our ranking to Billboard’s published year-end Hot100, one of the first things you’ll notice is that numbers one and two are flipped. Both songs had extraordinarily long chart runs that extended well beyond Billboard’s December 3rd cutoff for the 2011 chart year and into 2012. Of course, Billboard could only factor chart activity up to the cutoff issue. But as I mentioned earlier with Bruno Mars, here at Chartcrush we count every song’s full chart run, so Billboard’s #1 song of 2011 becomes the #2 song. It’s the Hot100 breakthrough by the singer whose second #1 we heard at #6. Here again, Adele: “Rolling in the Deep.”
Our #2 song of 2011: Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” the lead single from her second album, 21, Billboard’s #1 album of 2011 and 2012, two years in a row. Adele titles all her albums with the age she was when she made them. How cool is that?
Now she might’ve had her big breakthrough on the American charts with her first album, 19 in ’08, but she cancelled the entire U.S. leg of her first tour so she wouldn’t have to be away from her boyfriend. Still, 19 did okay, in part because in October 2008 she got to be the musical guest on the episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential election, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. It was the most-watched SNL since the mid-’90s, and enough of the episode’s 14 million viewers were sufficiently impressed to propel 19 to #4 on the album chart, get “Chasing Pavements,” one of the songs she performed from the album, into the top 40 for a week and help earn her the Best New Artist award at the 2009 Grammys.
Adele reverberated on the pop charts throughout the teens and beyond in hits by, in no particular order, Ellie Goulding, Sam Smith, Lana Del Rey, Olivia Rodrigo and piano ballads like A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera’s “Say Something” and Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved.” And Adele stayed hot too: three #1’s from her 2015 album 25 and another from her 2021 set, 30.
#1 LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett and GoonRock – Party Rock Anthem
And that brings us to the #1 song of the year 2011, by an electro dance-pop duo whose name is taken from an acronym commonly found in texting, which I can’t translate for you because Chartcrush has to stay radio-friendly. The duo consisted of a son and a grandson of Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr. Son and grandson, but Stefan Kendall Gordy, a.k.a. Redfoo, and Skylar Austen Gordy, a.k.a. Sky Blue, are not father and son to each other, they’re uncle-nephew. And in a year of very long chart runs, it topped the longevity list with 68 weeks (April 2011 to July 2012), and that included 52 in the top 40, 29 in the top ten, and six at #1 in July and August, making it the big summer hit of 2011. Here’s LMFAO featuring British singer Lauren Bennett and producer GoonRock, the #1 song of 2011, “Party Rock Anthem.”
LMFAO: the #1 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2011. In Vanity Fair, writer DJ Louie the 14th described “Party Rock Anthem” as a song “engineered for the peak of your molly roll and your 13-year-old cousin’s bar mitzvah,” adding that it “battered radio and clubs with its gloriously tacky synths, white-boy-rap verses, and preposterous, shuffling beat drop.” It became the bestselling single of all time in Australia thanks to the video, which took a dance from ’90s Australian techno raves and sparked one of the biggest dance crazes since the Macarena. Moms were notching hundreds of thousands of YouTube views with vids of their toddlers doing the dance. LMFAO had a second massive hit in 2011 with “Sexy and I Know It,” but shortly after, they announced a hiatus, and never regrouped.
Bonus: Lady Gaga – Born This Way
So in every year before 2011, a song that had six weeks at #1, even with less than 20 weeks total on the chart, would be a lock for a spot in the year-end top ten. Those were the stats on Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” But in 1985, the average total weeks on the Hot100 for #1 songs was about 21. In 2011 it was 35, and that average peaked at 45 in 2014: the increase due to direct consumer impact as Billboard added digital downloads, social media hits, video views and streams to its ever-changing chart calculus. Turns out songs have a lot longer shelf life for actual fans, than among radio programmers and retail merchandizers. Anyway, our 2011 honorable mention had those stats too, and it also debuted at #1 and was a transcendent cultural milestone for helping gain public acceptance of LGBTQ lifestyles right as the debate over gay marriage was heating up. Somehow, though, despite all that, the song only ranked #18 on the year on both our Chartcrush ranking and Billboard’s official published year-end ranking. Here’s Lady Gaga, “Born This Way.”
Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” our honorable mention here on our 2011 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show: a gay rights milestone and, by the way, also a chart milestone. It was the one-thousandth #1 hit on the Hot100 since the chart started in 1958. And Gaga, of course, one of the pioneers of the EDM “new pop” sound that dominated the charts in 2011. Lots of good reasons to make it our honorable mention in our 2011 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show.
Which, unfortunately, we’re gonna have to be a wrap up, because we’re out of time! I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi, and I want to thank you for listening. Be sure and check out our website, chartcrush.com, for written transcripts and streaming links for this and other Chartcrush countdown shows, plus chart run line graphs and other amped-up extras. We count down a different year every week on this show, from the very beginning of the charts in the ’40s all the way up to the present, so tune in again next week, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.