Sound Of The City's 11 Clickiest Posts Of 2011

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Have you told someone that you think Nickelback sucks today?
We're about to close up shop here until 2012, and what better way to send out the year that birthed trollgaze than to run down the 11 posts on Sound of the City that generated the most pageviews over the course of the past 52 weeks? Enjoy this look back on the psyche of our readers, and have a happy beginning to your new year.

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53 More Great Songs From 2011

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Every day we're... ahh forget it.
Earlier today, Maura offered a list of the 47 songs on her "2011 Awesomeness" Spotify playlist; to complement that, here are the 53 songs from my less cleverly named playlist, "2011." As is the usually the case with these mega-lists, I compiled mine a bit haphazardly, throwing together a substantial portion of it over the last couple of hours; some of the older selections were likely based around inside jokes that I've already forgotten. Either way, because we only had three overlaps (predictably, Azealia Banks's "212" and Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass"; oddly, Das Racist's "Girl") you now have 97 songs to take with you as exit 2011, which, it seems, wasn't so bad after all.

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Live: Chris Webby Packs Irving Plaza, Scowls While Doing So

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Chris Webby
Irving Plaza
Thursday, December 29

Better than: A Republican debate.

Chris Webby has "203" inked across his right side, a gothic "Connecticut" burned into the skin beneath his neck. There are the scattered images of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mario Brothers and Transformers among his tattoos; a search online suggests Simba exists on his leg, but I didn't check. Some tattooist put a coupling of eighth notes a few inches above his hip. He is suburban, aggressively so; the voice of parking lot angst, the face of middle-middle-class rage. When he tosses an unopened water bottle down at the floor, he scowls: "Motherfucker!"

Outside of the traditional hip-hop blogs, far away from radio, his is a bubbling movement, a frathouse contagion. Over more than two years on the way to six mixtapes—his latest, There Goes the Neighborhood, reached the top of iTunes' hip-hop chart—Chris Webby has racked up some 70,000 followers on Twitter, 150,000 fans on Facebook and 20 million YouTube plays. (He still does not have a Wikipedia page.) This is not to say that he isn't looking for mainstream appeal: at this very moment, he's staging a campaign to get his face onto the cover of XXL's next Freshman issue.

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47 Great Songs From 2011

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In which our heroine takes on jerky overmoneyed dudes with the support of André 3000.
Now that I've run down the worst songs to grace my ears over the past year, it's time to look back on the musical year in a fonder way. To that end, here's the list of songs that made my "2011 awesomeness" playlist on Spotify, a running tally of songs that I couldn't stop listening to that I populated as the year went on (I started naming my playlists containing the year's best songs that all the way back in 2006—miss you, JC Chasez!—and the name just stuck). The 47 songs are listed below in addition to being Spotify-collected; enjoy, feel free to try and guess which ten made my Pazz & Jop ballot (that'll be made public on January 18)!

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Holler! The Ten Loudest, Shoutiest Rappers

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Waka Flocka Flame is the sort of of hip-hop artist who doesn't so much rap or flow as he shouts his ass off. It's a formula that imbues the Atlanta-based rapper's songs with a boisterous, visceral appeal—and one that he's looking to continue with the release of his second studio album, Triple F For Life: Friends, Fans And Family, which will officially drop on New Year's Eve. But Waka's not alone in pledging his allegiance to the lowbrow art of shout rap; the following hip-hop gents also excel at vociferating into microphones.

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Miss Independent: Why Kelly Clarkson's Ron Paul Endorsement Makes Complete Sense

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For those people who adore Kelly Clarkson and hate Ron Paul supporters, the inaugural American Idol's Wednesday night endorsement of Paul's presidential candidacy was especially painful. The move might have been merely confusing in years past, when Paul was a web-specific phenomenon—the equivalent of Carrie Underwood using a ragecomic as her next album cover, or Perez Hilton having a record label—but the recent exposure of Paul's startlingly racist and homophobic newsletters from the 1980s shifted Kelly's gung-ho Paulophilia from quirky to offensive. It turned out that Clarkson (apparently honestly) didn't know about Paul's issues, but the course of excusing her endorsement raised a host of other problems. The resulting Twitfit played out like a weird kind of crossover special, including a co-sign from Michelle Branch, a sullen @-reply to music critic Matt Cibula, and Clarkson's revelation that she is a pro-Obama Republican. The stormy response was heartening, if also predictable (what books will Ron Paul supporters recommend I read in responses to this post? Leave your answer in the comments!), and both Clarkson's and Branch's responses to the criticism—that whether or not Paul was prejudiced, they certainly weren't—were helpful little distillations of the issues inherent in collectively supporting a presidential candidate who doesn't believe in doing things collectively.

In retrospect, though, the endorsement makes a depressing amount of sense, and not just because Clarkson and Paul are fellow Texans. For all the supposedly progressive politics of rock and pop, the structure of the business is incredibly entrepreneurial, with musicians required to front a remarkable amount of their own money for instruments, travel, and recording before they see any sort of return on their investment. There's no large-scale structure that can provide steady employment (and health insurance) while nurturing innovation, just a produce-or-die ethos that receives no subsidies or grants. In America, at least, one of the few areas of life in which government really does have minimal involvement is pop music.

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The 11 Most Infuriating Songs Of 2011, No. 1: Jessie J Featuring B.o.B, "Price Tag"

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Ahhhh!!
The Song: Jessie J, "Price Tag"
The Crimes: Using what might be the entirety of her label's marketing budget to convince the world that she actually functions on a higher, post-capitalistic level; "video hos"; "ch-chang-cha-chang"; "bla-bling-bla-bling."

The year's most grueling pop personality was, without a doubt, the BRIT School-bred British yelper known as Jessie J. Born Jessica Cornish and known before 2011 as one of the people who helped birth Miley Cyrus's "Party In The USA," Jessie drop-kicked herself into the American consciousness earlier this year with one of those "big in the UK, but unknown here" Saturday Night Live performances, then stuck around, thanks in large part to her handlers booking her in any venue—the MTV Video Music Awards, VH1 Divas Live, your mom's 65th-birthday party—that might help up her Q rating.

While it's true that she could hold a note or two here and there, Jessie's barky voice and insistence on indulging every vocal trick in the book (stuttering, scatting, fake patois) turned her debut Who You Are (Universal Republic) into one of the year's most excruciating albums to sit through, a Katy Perry-like bludgeoning through pop that lacked even the scant amount of charm or self-awareness possessed by that singer. No song on Who You Are was more aggravating than the Dr. Luke and Claude Kelly-penned "Price Tag," a schlocky bit of lite reggae during which Miss J tries to be down with the recessionary populace she's shoved herself in front of by claiming that "we don't need your money, money, money" because "we just wanna make the world dance." Wait, does that mean those Vevo ads for your new video were paid for in hip-shakes?


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The 11 Most Infuriating Songs Of 2011, No. 2: Lana Del Rey, "Video Games"

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It's all come to this.
The Song: Lana Del Rey, "Video Games."
The Crimes: Irritated-alley-cat vocals; overwrought harps; fundamental misunderstanding of whether or not ironic critique of male-female mores can exist in the Hipster Runoff age; this poor girl's right thigh.

In 2011 the phrase "Lana Del Rey" wasn't just the name of an artist on Interscope's high-priority docket for 2012; those three words became a symbol for indie culture gone corporately curdled, for the confused feminism of the 21st century gone to pot, for the notion that while men could reinvent themselves as cool dudes with names like "Frank Ocean" women had to wear their major-label pasts and boring given names like "Lizzy Grant" like a permanently affixed scarlet L, for the hordes of anonymous commenters on the hunt for as much material for their hatefuck-masturbation fantasies as they could find. What got lost in this abstraction of signs and signifiers that the world is hurtling toward something completely unpleasant, though, was any concrete discussion of the actual music put out by the aforementioned artist. Which is probably a good thing for Del Rey and her people, since "Video Games" is about two harp-strokes, a battery of singing lessons, and a couple of pots of hot tea away from being Enya for the Twitter set.


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The 11 Most Infuriating Songs Of 2011, No. 3: [White Person], [White Person Cutely/Seriously Performing Urban-Radio Hit]

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The Songs: Karmin, "Super Bass" and "Look At Me Now" and way too many others; Mac Lethal, "Cook Wit Me Now"; Jackson Foote and friends, "Get Low"; Sophia Grace, "Super Bass"; probably more that are shooting up the Reddit charts right now.
The Crimes: Anti-pop snobbery; humorlessness in the name of "musicality"; pandering to the commenting hordes on tech blogs who consider themselves above pop music, but not above being catered to directly and embarrassingly. And let's not forget the racist viral hit of late November, Texts From Bennett, which came from one of the above auteurs.

Internet attention is precious currency for up-and-coming bands, who have to make their way past a torrent of acts both established and brand-new in order to get themselves heard. Those artists who have figured out that a pretty easy way to skip the line, so to speak, is to pander to the world of social-news sites—places like Reddit and Digg that are overwhelmingly male and extremely pop-averse, among other things—have held a depressing competitive advantage over the past few years, with their modest successes breeding breathless "future of the biz" stories that led to even more success and press and so on. There's one other common thread between all these musicians; the geek-beloved strummer Jonathan Coulton, for example, suggests that people listen to his chiming cover of "Baby Got Back" before almost anything else he's recorded; last year, the Bay Area duo Pomplamoose snagged a deal to annoy TV-watching Americans during the holidays after thrilling Digg and with wall-eyed, "real-music" versions of fun songs like "Single Ladies" and "Telephone."

Yes; even though it's been some 27 years since "Rappin' Duke," the "white people turn urban-radio tropes into something more similar to what they might listen to, with hilarity possibly ensuing" tack is still guaranteed to hit pay dirt among certain subgroups of people who consider themselves both musical aesthetes and "geeks." Whether they're cowed by the technologically forward production (irony alert!), unsure of which Urban Dictionary definition to use when figuring out just what the lyrics might mean, or just trying to fight the man, man (never mind that their computers were made by multinational conglomerates), these sorts of covers still get eaten up by YouTube viewers like they're ice-cream sundaes made by dairy geniuses. And thanks to the increased importance of "virality" in 2011, artists who took this tack were often rewarded by showers of likes, buckets of retweets, and hordes of people delighting in the knowledge that there were a lot of people out there whose noses were all upturned at exactly the same angle—which meant that they could only multiply. The four most egregious examples below.


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The 11 Most Infuriating Songs Of 2011, No. 4: Brian McFadden, "Just The Way You Are (Drunk At The Bar)"

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The Song: Brian McFadden, "Just The Way You Are (Drunk At The Bar)"
The Crimes: Setting sexual assault fantasies to the dulcet strains of "Cotton Eyed Joe," as remixed by a David Guetta clone.

As has been the case for too many years now, 2011's year-end polls have ended in a wave of proclamations that the past 365 days, for real this time, constituted what could be called a Year Of The Woman; pieces of evidence cited to back up this claim include the sales successes of Adele, the artistic peaks of PJ Harvey and St. Vincent, the media blitzes of Gaga and Beyoncé, and so on. Few of these laurels, however, talk about whether the year was a good one for the woman listener, i.e., how easy it was to navigate the musical landscape in toto without tripping across even the mildest forms of sexism multiple times. As it turns out, 2011 was yet another year to perform pretty lousy on that particular front, from L'Affaire "Lyin' Ass Bitch" to the whole Tyler mess to the reflexive way culture mocked the bulk of Justin Bieber's fanbase for committing the crimes of being young and female while enjoying a particular artist's musical offerings. One of the most odious examples of this sexism, though, came from the ex-boybander/Aussie reality-TV judge Brian McFadden, whose hyperactive "Just The Way You Are (Drunk At The Bar)" comes off like an amphetamine-fueled date-rape fantasy focused on an inebriated paramour who he dragged to a hi-NRG line-dancing club.


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