Raise Your Hand (Or Your Finger?) If You Didn't Realize M.I.A. Flipped Off The Super Bowl Until You Read 4,035 Breathless Headlines About It

Well! When I went to bed last night I figured I'd be writing about a couple of aspects of Madonna's Super Bowl halftime show, during which she ran through her catalog with the assistance of Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., Cee Lo Green, LMFAO, a marching band, a choir, and gladiators. There was the whole notion of bringing voguing, which she plucked out of the gay underground two decades ago, to the most heteronormative major event America's spectacle has to offer; there was the nitpicking over the set list (sure, it's a relatively minor hit in the Madonna catalog, but "Causing A Commotion" would have slotted into the medley nicely); and there was, of course, the cruel exclusion of Shufflebot from LMFAO's cameo. (Seriously, what?) But this morning all the chatter was about the controversy stoked by the controversy-stoking M.I.A., who flipped off the camera as a way to put a period on her verse on the still-underwhelming new Madonna track "Give Me All Your Luvin." Just when you thought it was safe to bring pop music back into the halftime show... a finger happens. The only way this could have inspired more silly outrage is if her finger had been drizzled with truffle oil first.

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Radio Hits One: Hot 100 Peaks Only Tell Half The Story For Cee Lo, Britney Spears, And Other Year-End Winners

One of the most frustrating things about discussing the Billboard singles charts is how a song's peak position—the highest spot it occupied on a chart during its run—is almost universally regarded as the permanent measurement of its success or popularity. Any song that reaches No. 1 is embalmed forever as a chart-topper, the biggest of the big, and any song that didn't is presumed to be less successful in every way. And in the iTunes era, peaks can be even more misleading, as songs by artists with big fanbases rocket up the chart the week after they go onsale, and then have to slowly pick up momentum in the slower moving world of radio to actually stay on the chart.

That's why I love looking at Billboard's year-end charts: you finally get authoritative rankings of how successful songs were relative to each other, based on their entire chart lifespan during the year, not just how popular they were on the particular week they reached critical mass. You can always use anecdotal evidence, or more complicated statistics like sales figures or radio spins to measure a song's staying power, but the 2011 year-end Hot 100 lays it all out, in simple single- and double-digit numbers as easy to understand as a chart peak. Of course, as my colleague Chris Molanphy has noted, the year-end chart runs from the beginning of December to the end of November, and heavily favors songs that broke earlier in the chart year. But even taking that into account, the 2011 list handily debunks the validity of the chart peak as the final word.

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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.

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Radio Hits One: Cee Lo Green's First Urban Radio Hit, 16 Years In The Making

Categories: Cee-Lo

One of pop music's biggest Cinderella stories in recent memory has been that of the man born Thomas DeCarlo Callaway, better known to the public as Cee Lo Green, or simply Cee Lo. After debuting as a member of the pioneering Atlanta rap group Goodie Mob in the mid-'90s, the MC/singer spent a decade as something of a cult figure, widely respected for his talent but scarcely an icon on the level of his old friends in Outkast. Then, Cee Lo sang two of the biggest pop hits of the past few years—Gnarls Barkley's 2006 breakthrough "Crazy" and his 2010 solo smash "Fuck You"—and emerged as an unlikely pop star.

Turn on the TV, and you'll probably flip past Cee Lo: in 7Up commercials, starring in two different shows (as a coach/judge on NBC's hit The Voice and as the host of Talking To Strangers on Fuse), making a cameo on Parenthood, appearing on countless award shows. He was even parodied on Saturday Night Live, perhaps the ultimate confirmation of his household name status. During this media blitz, he also recently scored the biggest R&B radio hit of his long career—and the amazing part is that it isn't "Fuck You."

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Radio Hits One: Reality TV Propels Aging Stars Back Into The Top 40


When I heard that Jennifer Lopez was leveraging her new position as an American Idol judge to launch her new single, premiering the video for "On The Floor" on one episode and performing the song on another, I rolled my eyes at what I thought was her hubris. It'd been less than two years since Lopez's long-flagging music career had seemed to finally come to a screeching halt; her single "Louboutins" flopped, and Sony opted to drop Lopez rather than release her seventh album. Using Idol as a platform to relaunch herself into pop stardom seemed doomed and desperate.

Or so I thought.

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Two Of The Songs On The New Kidz Bop Compilation Originally Had Titles That Couldn't Be Printed In A Family Newspaper

Clutch the pearls and cue the outrage, or at least the next round of thinkpieces about "raunch pop": The latest edition of Kidz Bop, out today, has on its track list sanitized versions of Cee Lo Green's "Fuck You" and Pink's "Fuckin' Perfect" (they're under the guises of "Forget You" and "Perfect," respectively). If you feel like hearing how awkward the lyrical switches are, feel free to head on over to iTunes for a taste. I guess "I hate your ass right now" is a bit too strong of a sentiment for the delicate ears of today's youth? Anybody want to do a Facebook spot-check and see if this is the case?

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Radio Hits One: Adele Achieves the Crossover Hat Trick

It wasn't all that surprising when Billboard crowned Adele's 21 as the top-selling album of the first six months of the year—the next-highest seller, Lady Gaga's Born This Way, is still trailing it by nearly a million copies. The British diva missed out on having the biggest-selling digital single of the year so far by a much smaller margin, with "Rolling In The Deep" taking second to Katy Perry's "E.T." by only 30,000 units. Both songs are quadruple platinum.

Of course, odds are Adele will end up with the top single and album by year's end, and she's racked up plenty of other impressive achievements during her hugely successful 2011 run. But perhaps the most rare and difficult to quantify measure of Adele's ubiquity is the sheer volume and diversity of all the singles charts "Rolling In The Deep" has appeared on; it may be the only hit in recent history, and perhaps ever, to appear on Billboard's adult contemporary, dance, pop, rock, R&B and (get this) Latin charts.

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The Voice Feels The Pressure Before Its Big Finish

via Rickey

Already, The Voice is just about over. Tomorrow, the field of four contestants gets wiped away and we get a winner. This show could've kept going for another three months or so if it followed a less fucked-up elimination schedule, but maybe NBC didn't realize they had an actual hit on their hands. This two-hour show was a weird one, with all the contestants teaming with their coaches for duets and also singing original songs—and original songs on televised singing competitions are never good. Structurally, the show remains a mess, and I hope some of the problems will be fixed next season. But all four remaining contestants are people who I could imagine having careers in music, and that's not something I can say about any single season of American Idol. The people behind The Voice did a pretty amazing job picking talent, if nothing else.

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The Voice: All Of A Sudden, There Are Only Four Contestants Left

via Rickey
One thing about The Voice that bugs me: Way too many people getting sent home way too quickly. It's hard to develop that much of a connection to the contestants when half of them get axed once a week. So on this results show, people were, once again, just dropping like flies. Would it kill this show to stretch things out a little longer? It's not like NBC has shit else going on.

Another thing that bugs me: How do people get sent home again? The results came from some combination of coaches' scores and audience votes, but Carson Daly didn't exactly do a bang-up job explaining how it would work, or which was weighted more. At this point, it's been firmly established that the coaches love everyone, so why not leave it up to audience votes entirely? Is that such an awful idea?

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The Voice: The Dominance Of Javier, The Rise Of Vicci

via Rickey
Vicci Martinez performs "Dog Days Are Over."
I wish Game of Thrones was still on. It isn't. But hey, The Voice is still on!

On last week's show, it seemed pretty obvious which four singers would make it through and which ones wouldn't. On Team Cee Lo, for instance, it was absolutely not a surprise that Vicci Martinez would be the one voted through. The only surprise came when Vicci stood up next to the other members of her team and revealed herself to be tiny. She's Peter Dinklage height; if she'd gone home, she would've had to travel to King's Landing to become the new Hand. Probably even Cee Lo is taller. It also wasn't surprising to hear Cee Lo go into phantasmagoric funkateer detail about how much he loves each and every one of the singers on his team, though it was pretty fun. And then, when he picked friend-of-a-friend Nakia as the one guy to stick around, I'd already called it exactly. So, you know, I'm awesome. Good choices, everyone.

(Quick Nakia update: Marc Hogan, my friend and his former showgoing buddy, reports that Nakia does, in fact, have a last name, though I've already forgotten it. The shows, Marc confirms, were probably John Mayer shows, though Nakia was probably going because he was friends with the opening band or some shit.)

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