My Favourite Songs of 2011: #30-21

30 . Adele – Set Fire to the Rain
From 21

As we’ve covered, it’s been a pretty amazing year for Adele, topping more charts than I realised existed until this year. The odd thing is, where was the third single? After a campaign that blasted off with such force that the CDs might as well have just grown legs and bought themselves, it seemes that the stunned label wasn’t sure what to do next. A few singles were mooted, and it seems that this one is going to take off whether anyone likes it or not.

A bit more of a sweeping string-led effort than Rolling in the deep, but plenty of scorn poured out by Adele. Vocally I much prefer this as a single, but it does leave me thinking how this could have done with a proper video, and some actual direction from the label. They must be too busy counting their money.

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29 . Danny Saucedo – In The Club
From Melodifestivalen 2011

Back to Melodifestivalen now, with the runner up this time from veteran entrant Danny Saucedo. Not really made an impact outside Scandinavia, but I imagine he’ll probably make it all the way to Eurovision sooner or later. This is a pretty lavish production, throwing pretty much in to make sure it blew away the competition. Well nearly everything, crucially it lacks a chorus with much more than the repeated title.

Still, great songs have been based on less (there’s no limits…), and it doesn’t detract from a full-on dancepop assault. His album was a pleasant surprise a few months ago, and I’m keen to investigate his back catalogue a bit more.

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28 . Nicki Minaj – Fly (ft Rihanna)
From Pink Friday

Oh Nicki, what are we going to do with you? She’s an odd one, but totally mesmerising when she gets it right. I hadn’t thought this was a great move as a single, apart from its feature credit for omnipresent megastar Rihanna who provides most of the chorus and relieving Nicki of singing duties for the most part.

It’s quite a downbeat effort for the colourful Nicki, but it took a bit more exposure to this before I really clicked with it, having listened to Pink Friday several times during the Autumn. The video struggles to keep up the weird image, but I really like the rap segments and the buildup in the music. Not usually the sort of thing I like, but she’s really got something about her.

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27 . Leona Lewis – Collide (ft Avicii)
From Glassheart

Poor Leona seems to be teetering on the brink at the moment. Not that I think she’s in any real danger of the pitfalls other X-Factor winners have fallen into so far, and her massive success with Spirit will buy her some time. But what is she doing? I really love this throbbing club track, and her vocals really work well on this sort of thing, but it does seem like an odd change in direction.

But the promo for the upcoming album is really a bit strange, this one which I can’t imagine will be the norm sound-wise, and the Nine Inch Nails cover “Hurt” which was amazing (I should have included it in this top 50 had I realised this sooner), but even that was seemingly thrown together when she got a slot on the X-Factor final (along with a few other hastily recorded covers in an EP “for the fans).

I guess that’s a question for 2012, but in the meantime, I really do love this song, not amazingly exciting, but upbeat and shows her vocals off wonderfully.

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26 . Pixie Lott – All About Tonight
From Young foolish happy

I really have trouble liking this woman, but annoyingly she keeps coming up with songs that really grow on me. After “Boys and Girls” I was willing to keep an open mind, and this lead single from her disasterous second album was a No.1. It’s a lot more dancey than her previous efforts, I love that sparkly distorted synth hook.

Then the chorus is catchy as hell too, it just all meshes together wonderfully. How annoying!

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25 . Blue – I Can
From Eurovision Song Contest 2011: Dusseldorf

Yes, back to Eurovision we go, and happily it’s our own entry next. We might have been edged out of the top 10 by the Germans on penalties, and our result of 11th might not seem like much to write home about, but it was heartwarming to see us at least paying lip service to the idea of TRYING to win. Not that it was a concerted effort to win, I mean after all, Blue were only in it as some promo for their reunion that precisely nobody asked for, and it’s not like they were our brightest stars or anything…

I was a little bit amused by them making so much about their big hit in Italy many moons ago, and Italy giving them naff all in the way of points on the night. Still, we came 5th in the public vote rankings, so there’s some promise that it’s not “all politics”, the favourite excuse of the British Eurovision denier, the poisonous legacy of an embittered Terry Wogan.

The song itself is a surprisingly modern pop song, with big production and a catchy chorus (or you’d think, my mum said “this is great, even I can remember it: I can, you can, we can” …). I don’t know why it didn’t quite live up to its potential (I even thought we had a shot at winning, so did the bookies who placed us as second favourite, behind France who settled for disasterous 15th, so what do they know).

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24 . Danny Saucedo – In Your Eyes
From In The Club

Another helping of Swedish dance now, and a cover version of one of my favourite Swedish songs, namely a 2006 effort by The Attic. I LOVED the song at the time, and I learnt with some dismay that Danny had covered it, seemingly without changing it.

While it doesn’t really stray very far from the original at ALL (it’s basically a re-vocalled version with the original tune), the production is beefier and his vocals are capable of much more than the original vocalist, so it really raised it up for me. It’s a bit difficult to rate it as highly as the original, since it’s basically the same song I’ve been listening to for the last 5 years, but a great effort.

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23 . Beyonce – End of Time
From 4

Beyonce is good at having a choice few moments that set a campaign blasting down the road to moneytown. For her Sasha Fierce album that moment in the UK was her duet with Alexandra Burke at the X-Factor final, kicking off an exceptionally successful year for her. For this year’s album “4”, the moment for me was the Glastonbury performance of this song.

Before that, we’d got a rather iffy launch single “Run the world (Girls)”, and while that didn’t scare me off as much as it did the buying public, her Glasto set gave her a big hit and launched the album to No.1 the following week.

Sadly amid the flurry of videos and totally directionless promotion that has lead to practically every song getting a video and supposed release, this track is curiously missing. They are really out of their minds if they let this one slip away, and that amazing performance at Glasto really sold it to me. Thumping percussion, brass instruments, crazy-legged dancing, it’s all amazing.

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22 . Eric Saade – Hotter than fire (ft Dev)
From Saade Vol. 2

Eric’s been a busy bee this year, after representing Sweden at Eurovision (more on that later), he wasted no time in getting an album out, namely Saade Vol.1 (though this is his second album). And only five months later he unleashed Vol.2, with this as the lead single, with a feature credit from that Dev woman again.

The song itself isn’t particularly inventive, borrowing more than a little from Taio Cruz’s tactic of repetitive choruses, but it’s a solid gold dancepop hit, and there’s just something about it that has grown on me more and more as I listen to it. I struggle to see Eric as a major force to contend with musically in the future, but if he’s producing serviceable and listenable albums without sounding too samey, I’m more than happy to keep consuming.

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21 . Nicole Scherzinger – Don’t Hold Your Breath
From Killer Love

How this woman is clinging on to relevance is beyond me, she’s evidently enough of a name to perpetuate her use as a celebrity for another year at least, after securing a recently-vacated seat on the USA X-Factor judging team after Cheryl Cole’s humilating binning earlier this year.

However this is a great pop song, Christ knows why anyone gave it to her. The production does a lot of the work though, a bit of an oddity since she’s got a decent voice, but the short breathy syllables in the chorus would make it quite hard to sing with much character (I’d imagine). A convincingly huge No.1 though, and I’m pleased for her.

She did inadvertently give me one of the most funny/awful moments of the year though, when she brought about Rachel Crow’s eviction from the contest. (http://youtu.be/LbWBrlT1NBA). Really a situation that goes from BAD to WORSE, and the “oh SHIT” moment in Nicole’s eyes really is priceless, the poor cow.

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