Ten pop-music moments that defined 2011
With major comebacks and massive hits, 2011 was the year of the women, from Beyoncé to Miley Cyrus. Without singers like Adele, we wouldn't have songs to cry along with, and without Katy Perry, we wouldn't have any songs to hum at our nine-to-five. So what, exactly, were the biggest pop moments of 2011? Put your headphones in, press play on your Top 40 playlist and prepare to find out.
10. February: Lady Gaga's egg hatches on the 2011 Grammys, because she was born that way
It had been five months since Gaga treated the world with the weirdest outfit in pop yet, a meat dress. Not one to rest on her laurels, Gaga topped the controversial dress with an even stranger food-based tactic: hatching from an egg. After all, what better way for Gaga to say, "Hey, monsters, I'm baaaaaack (with a new song that rips Madonna)" than to break out of her own shell, devil horns and all, to perform "Born This Way" at the 2011 Grammys. Following the hatching, the casual viewer found himself scratching his head, but monsters everywhere had a hankering for scrambled eggs.
Result: Gaga had everyone talking about her newest over-the-top performance, and then that chatter turned into sales. Everyone everywhere bought her second full-length album, Born This Way -- though most bought it on Amazon for only 99 cents.
9. February: Miley Cyrus and her daddy have a falling-out in the tabloids
It sucks when you're having a rough year, but it's even worse when your dad calls you out on it in GQ magazine -- in a story called "Mr. Hannah Montana's Achy Broken Heart," no less. Like, major ouch, Dad. The story sparked an onslaught of Cyrus-family fever, none of which was good publicity for Miley or Billy Ray. Looking back, Billy Ray was on the losing end of the whole scenario: As his family was crumbling -- an impending divorce and a daughter who smokes pot -- he showed the world he was that dad. You know, the type that rats out his daughter to the principal for using Spark Notes to help with an essay. Not cool, Billy Ray, not cool.
Result: Billy Ray just did a straight-to-TV movie for the Hallmark Channel. So there's that. Miley's career, on the other hand, is at an all-time high (zing!).
8. December: Nicole Scherzinger crushes a young girl's dreams on X Factor As if the American public needed another reason to not buy Scherzinger's new record -- which has been delayed and delayed until we wonder if it will ever even come out -- she goes and pulls this stunt. As the fourth judge on the U.S. version of X Factor, after Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and L.A. Reid, Scherzinger is the only one with current experience as a recording artist (Abdul's last release was in 2009, believe it or not). Sure, Scherzinger may be struggling to find an American fan base now that it's been a few years since she last asked Snoop Dogg to loosen up her buttons, but establishing a following was the only reason she was booked for X Factor in the first place. And then she went and messed that up, too. Her indecisiveness inadvertently sent a four-way judges' vote to deadlock on the show and forced thirteen-year-old Rachel Crow to pack her bags.
Result: Only time will tell, but the few fans Scherzinger currently has at this point should not, by any means, expect the singer's debut album until at least May, when American Idol makes us forget all about this X Factor drama.
7. June: Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera team up for "Moves Like Jagger" What do you do when your third album stalls on the charts and you need to kick-start sales? The same thing you do when your fourth album stalls on the charts and you need a sales boost: Pair with an equally struggling pop artist to record one of the most annoyingly catchy songs of the year. At least, that's what Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera did with "Moves Like Jagger," the inescapable song of all songs this year. At the time, the solution to a stalled charting for Maroon 5's new album, Hands All Over, which lacked a radio-ready single, was all too obvious: Throw Adam Levine on The Voice as one of four judges in a format that was a bit like American Idol, a bit like Blind Date, and watch sales soar. Well, that didn't happen. But the second-best thing did, as Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera teamed up for this ode to Mick Jagger's hips. Despite predictions, "Moves Like Jagger" eventually garnered a number-one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and is number nine on Billboard's year-end Hot 100 chart.
Result: Levine and Aguilera's contracts for The Voice are renewed, and Jagger hysteria sweeps the world. Overseas, Cher Lloyd releases a song called "Swagger Jagger," and Stateside, will.i.am gets the Jagger man himself to guest on a crappy hip-pop track called "T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)," which also features Jennifer Lopez. Gee, thanks, Adam and Xtina.
6. May: SNL buddies Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg have a three-way with Lady Gaga First Timberlake and Samberg put their dicks in boxes, then they made love to each other's moms. Now, in the ultimate test of friendship, these bros get down with the same chick, Lady Gaga. And it's cool. Because of the Golden Rule. This clip, plus the other skits in which Timberlake performed during his stint as Saturday Night Live host in May, cemented what many pop fans already knew: Timberlake's music career is long gone. He swapped it for acting, to become a true comedic funnyman instead. (He went on to star in Friends With Benefits alongside Mila Kunis, putting the Natalie Portman-Ashton Kutcher version, No Strings Attached, to comic shame.) It also proved that Gaga, despite her, well, career-centric ambitious demeanor, also had a funny side...and a kinky side. Result: The Lonely Island, the crew behind "3-Way (The Golden Rule)" with Samberg, lands a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album for Turtleneck and Chain, which, unfortunately, does not include "3-Way" in its tracklist.
5. February: Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez endorse "Super Bass" to teenage girls everywhere Nicki Minaj owes Taylor Swift much of her success this year. Without Swift, teenage girls everywhere -- and British girls, too -- would not have bought "Super Bass," Minaj's subsequently strongest performing single to date. Swift's endorsement of the song, which was released as a single after the push, was not a publicity stunt. It wasn't manufactured or premeditated in any way. It was just Swift being honest, as usual, about her favorite song at the time. She rapped a few lines on radio, then acted all bashful -- you know how she do. Then there's Selena Gomez, who also recorded her own rap of "Super Bass," but in webcam-style full force. For a Disney starlet, Gomez can be pretty street.
Result: Minaj releases "Roman in Moscow" and dares any pop star to rap alongside her. No takers yet? Taylor? Selena? Yeah, didn't think so.
4 (TIE). October: Justin Bieber's balls finally drop in time for Christmas Every girls' dream came true in October 2011: Justin Bieber finally came of age. Of course, for the Biebs, puberty came with a price -- and that price was twofold. On the one hand, Bieber's vocal register may not be able to handle the higher notes of "Somebody to Love" anymore. We know, we're sad, too. On the other hand, Mariah Yeater, who came out of nowhere with allegations that Bieber was the father to her baby, spurred many a Belieber to hate mail, giving Bieber fans the first catalyst in the singer's short career so far to truly fight off the haters.
Result: Justin Bieber's fourth-quarter 2011 release of the aptly titled "Baby Remix" is delayed until all this baby-mama drama is officially over. Just kidding!
4 (TIE). October: Beyoncé confirms her pregnancy rumors on the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards Imagine the pressure this baby is going to feel. His or her parents are two of the biggest in the industry: Queen Beyoncé and Hip-Hop King Jay-Z. Beyoncé announced she was pregnant with Baby JayBey at the end of her performance on the 2011 VMAs, after performing "Love on Top" in full retro regalia. Upon the big reveal, her song choice made sense. Repeatedly referring to her love as "baby," "Love on Top" became less a song addressed to Jay-Z and more one addressed to JayBey. It was the perfect serenade to the future of R&B and hip-hop.
Result: Every other celebrity couple has an "Aw, shit, we have to live up to that?" moment. Here's looking at you, Katy Perry and Russell Brand.
3. August: Katy Perry ties Michael Jackson's chart record Speaking of Perry, MTV just named her their artist of the year. It's no wonder why. Two of Perry's singles -- "E.T." and "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)" -- shot to the number-one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 this year, joining fellow number-ones "California Gurls" and "Teenage Dream," released in 2010, from the album of the same name. This brings Perry's tally to five consecutive number-ones from Teenage Dream -- that's just as many as Michael Jackson had from 1987's Bad, including "I Just Can't Stop Loving You," "Bad," "The Way You Make Me Feel," "Man In The Mirror" and "Dirty Diana." But Perry is in it for the record, as she just released a sixth single, "The One That Got Away," which is inching its way up the charts. Even if "The One" doesn't do well, Capitol Records still has a few songs to release from Teenage Dream as potential history-makers.
Result: MJ fans everywhere are horrified that the pop star who shot whipped cream out of her bra is suddenly on the same level as their immortal King of Pop.
2. All Year Long: Adele proves that solid pop records with no gimmicks can still sell While Katy Perry may have had an unforgettable 2011, it was Adele who really blew us all away. Who knew that heartbreak could hurt so good? With two massive singles -- one of which was named Billboard's number-one Hot 100 song ("Rolling in the Deep"), from its number-one Billboard 200 album (21), and one that was the first piano-vocal track to top the Hot 100 ("Someone Like You") even without being released as a single initially. Adele also received six Grammy nominations for 21 and its subsequent releases. Good for Adele -- finally, a modern pop star who doesn't use Auto-Tune, recycled dance beats or a rent-a-rapper to sell records. If there's a better way to show an ex what he's missing than world domination, we're all ears.
Result: The pop world will see more organic-sounding releases in 2012, or at least more piano. Because if it sells, every pop star is eventually going to try it out for themselves.
1. July: Amy Winehouse dies The death heard around the world, Amy Winehouse's July 23 death by alcohol poisoning, as it was ruled by the coroner on October 26, was a devastating blow to everyone who loves good music. The singer, who revived the old-school pop sound with songs like "Tears Dry on Their Own" and "Rehab," may have only released two albums before her untimely death, but her influence was much more vast than her collection of recorded music would allow. From her beehive 'do to her cool on-stage demeanor, Winehouse was bigger than herself. She led the way for a revivalist movement in pop where, besides being yourself, it was okay to sound like a one-woman girl group from the 1960s. Without Winehouse opening the door for that type of music again, we wouldn't have the two singers who came after her, Duffy and Adele.
Result: The first posthumous Winehouse album, Lioness: Hidden Treasures, released at the beginning of December, is a collection of previously unreleased gems, including the most Wall Of Sound-esque recordings of the singer's career, like "Our Day Will Come" and a new version of "Valerie." Pop stars everywhere, take note.
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