Music  |  Lists

The 50 Best Songs of 2011

November 30, 2011  |  7:30am

Every day between now and New Year’s Eve, we’ll be looking back at the best music and pop culture of 2011. Yesterday we looked at The 50 Best Albums of the Year. Today we narrow that in to particular songs. One thing I noticed filling out my own ballot was that while I tend to shy away from glossier pop, I’m still a sucker for a good hook and a joyful chorus. Looking through the final list, it seems I’m not alone.

50. Lykke Li – “Love Out of Lust”
If you’ve ever seen Lykke Li live, you’ve seen her demonstrate what the line, “dance while you can” means off her track, “Love Out of Lust.” The Swedish powerhouse knows how to make music for moving your body, and the mellow “Love Out of Lust” might be the best representation of her style from her new album, Wounded Rhymes.—Allison Ziemba

49. Lana Del Rey – “Video Games”
When “Video Games” first hit the web, people weren’t freaking out about Lana Del Rey or fake lips or Lizzy Grant. People were freaking out because they had stumbled upon a fresh voice and a beautifully written song and ultimately, does the rest really matter?—Luke Larson

48. Little Dragon – “Ritual Union”
The opener and title track off of Little Dragon’s third studio album, “Ritual Union” showcases the best of what this swedish electro-R&B outfit has to offer. Carefully selected synths, a thumping beat and Yukimi Nagano’s silky-smooth vocals form an infectiously catchy combo that’s hard to beat.—Kyle Smith

47. Chris Bathgate – “Salt Year”
In a year where Bon Iver will take home plenty of accolades for his sophomore full length, it’s fellow Midwesterner Chris Bathgate that has most noticeably created the year’s great cathartic record. Like the former’s For Emma, Forever Ago, Salt Year documents the inner emotion of a distraught individual. Bathgate’s title track exemplifies one chapter of his highly personal, widely relatable experiences.—Max Blau

46. Fitz & The Tantrums – “Moneygrabber”
“Moneygrabber” embodies the unique sound that brought Fitz & the Tantrums into the public eye. Unabashedly retro, singer Michael Fitzpatrick and company wear their influences on their sleeves, most obviously old soul and Motown but also David Bowie and even New Radicals. The song is driven by a soulful, falsetto-laden-chorus and a pounding flat-four beat.—John Barrett

45. Florence + The Machine – “Shake It Out”
Florence Welch’s booming voice over a pop-gospel piano and backing vocals is more than enough to fill the arenas she tours. Still, there’s something down-to-earth about a song Welch claims is the ultimate hangover cure.—Adam Vitcavage

44. Nicki Minaj – “Super Bass”
Minaj’s rap skills are better than most of the men in the game, but what really makes her stand out is the ability to turn into a beautiful-sounding R&B singer on her own choruses. She does it all and never gets outshined by guest artists—something that can’t be said for others when she features on a track.—Adam Vitcavage

43. Peter Bjorn and John – “Dig a Little Deeper”
Swedish three-piece indie-rock outfit Peter Bjorn and John is at its lighthearted best on “Dig a Little Deeper,” a great summer track off of Gimme Some. Poppy and catchy, the guys implore you with the chorus to consider that “All art has been contemporary.”—Kyle Smith

42. Surfer Blood – “Miranda”
This perfectly-crafted surf-rock hit from Surfer Blood’s followup EP would have been easy to gloss over. But in “Miranda,” Surfer Blood takes everything we loved about the band’s debut album and wraps it up in an irresistible chorus featuring just one word. —Luke Larson

41. Kurt Vile – “Jesus Fever”
Kurt Vile’s lo-fi dreamy sound hits its zenith with this stand-out track from Smoke Ring My Halo, as the Philadelphia artist’s simple, yet entrancing guitar riff plays over the fractured memories Vile leaves behind. It’s both personal and entirely relatable. —Ross Bonaime

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