100 & Single: A Dozen Contenders For Billboard's Year-End Top 10, And Their Fight Against The "Last Christmas Effect"

Later this week, Billboard is expected to announce its tallies for the biggest hits of 2011. And what a year for music it's been. Remember all those big hits: "Like a G6," "We R Who We R," "Raise Your Glass," "Fuck You!" and "What's My Name?"

What's that—you say the songs I just rattled off are kinda old? Like, 2010-old? You're absolutely right. But don't be surprised if these vintage hits feature prominently among the biggest Hot 100 hits of 2011.

Billboard's "chart year" runs from December 1 through November 30. Blame old-fashioned dead-tree production schedules—they do this so they can announce the year-end victors before the holidays arrive and run the lists in a big, collectible magazine the size of small phone book. (Makes a great stocking stuffer. Seriously!)

The upshot of this skewed calendar: Take a good look at what's topping the Hot 100 right now. Hits like Rihanna's "We Found Love" (No. 1), LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It" (No. 2), or Bruno Mars's fast-rising "It Will Rain" are going to feature conspicuously among the top Billboard hits... of 2012, next December. On the 2011 list, they won't be very prominent at all.

Even with its abundance of aging tracks, the 2011 list will still be worth poring over when Billboard drops it in a few days. Unlike the year-end album chart—which is based on straight Soundscan sales totals, and whose victor is already a foregone conclusion—the formula of digital sales, radio airplay and online streaming that determines the weekly Hot 100 means year-end predictions require a lot more guesstimating. Which is more fun, anyway.

Let's run down, in alphabetical order, a baker's dozen of hits that are likely to figure prominently on Billboard's Top Hot 100 Songs of 2011. These are tracks likely to make the final Top 10 or at least the Top 20.

"Born This Way," Lady Gaga: Last February, the leadoff single to the year's most hyped album exploded so quickly, it looked like a shoo-in for the year's biggest. "Born" didn't just top the Hot 100, it actually debuted at No. 1, with a record-setting sales total of 448,000 downloads in just three days and immediate radio dominance. But like so many things Gaga in 2011, sales and cultural influence were heavily front-loaded—that big three-day total was about one-seventh of what "Born" sold all year long (3.3 million downloads as of November), and radio cooled on the song long before summer. It will possibly just squeak into the Top 10 for the year.

"Fuck You! (Forget You)," Cee Lo Green: The ultimate viral hit, Green's foul-mouthed yet oddly family-friendly retro-soul smash looked to have peaked just before Christmas 2010. Then a celebrated 2011 Grammy performance brought the song another blast of sales and radio airplay, lifting it to an eventual, totally unlikely No. 2 peak on the Hot 100. As of mid-November, the song still ranked among the five biggest-sellers of 2011 with 3.6 million downloads sold—and that doesn't even include its sales last December. A Top 10 berth is all but assured.

"Give Me Everything," Pitbull (featuring Ne-Yo, Afrojack and Nayer): Pitbull's first chart-topper was an early-summer smash that took about three months to rise to No. 1—the opposite chart pattern of Lady Gaga's insta-burst. That type of slow-and-steady climb is often rewarded on Billboard's year-end charts, because it means a cumulative buildup of points. With more than 3.6 million downloads sold, "Give Me Everything" ranks among the biggest-sellers of the year, and it was a strong radio performer. If it doesn't make the year-end Top Five, it'll come pretty close.

"Grenade," Bruno Mars: One of two likely beneficiaries of the Billboard chart-year skew, Mars's chart-topper broke into the Top 10 last December and reached No. 1 right after Christmas, nearly ideal for year-end chart placement. It sold 2.6 million copies after January 1, plus hundreds of thousands in the final weeks of 2010. Like Pitbull's hit, it will vie for Top Five placement and possibly just miss.

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