Here are my top ten music favorites for the year. I've included individual songs, albums, and artists in general. It's a good mix of pop and country. Enjoy, and feel free to disagree, or recommend music you think I should experience.
10. Up on the Ridge, Dierks Bentley
Dierks took a slight gamble with this album. Defying conventional radio-friendly standards, Dierks created a work rooted in bluegrass themes and sounds. He's an artist whose sound lends itself well to bluegrass, and it's a record that's pleasing, whether or not you're a bluegrass fan. Not surprisingly, it has not been well received by radio, but the CMAs disagreed with radio's bias, nominating him for Album of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, and Best Vocal Collaboration. My favorite tracks? The eponymous track ("Up on the Ridge") and "Bad Angel" (featuring Miranda Lambert and Jamey Johnson).
9. "Love the Way You Lie" - Eminem feat/Rihanna
This song proves that Eminem is a lyrical genius. Effectively utilizing Rihanna to achieve an emotional pull, Eminem records a track that is as raw as it is shocking.
8. The Reason Why, Little Big Town
Despite cover art that looks like it should be on a Christmas album, Little Big Town releases a fourth album that basically confirms that they are the most under-appreciated, under-rated act in country music. In a world where Rascal Flatts used to dominate and Lady Antebellum now controls, they will likely never get the Group of the Year accolades they deserve. However, continuing to release quality albums will only endear themselves more to their fans, like me. My favorite tracks? "Little White Church," "Runaway Train," and "You Can't Have Everything."
7. "Breakeven (Falling to Pieces)" - The Script
Poppy? Yes. But I responded to it in a big way this year. They blew up with this song and had slight success with a second single, but I'm hoping for bigger and better things from them in 2011. I haven't tried to listen to their full album, but no matter my opinion on it, this gets my vote as one of the best singles of the year.
6. Bruno Mars
Holy crap, did Bruno Mars have a big year or what? Writer of "Fuck You" (Cee-Lo Green), collaborator on "Nothin' on You" (B.o.B/Bruno Mars), and solo hits with "Just the Way You Are" and "Grenade." I could have done without his collaboration with Travie McCoy. I mean, who wouldn't want to be a billionaire, so frickin' bad? Regardless, Doo-Wops & Hooligans would have got an album mention here, but because of the work he's done with others, he gets an artist mention. I'll say it - I got an MJ vibe from "Grenade." Yep.
5. "Fuck You" - Cee-Lo Green
Speaking of Bruno Mars, I basically spent a good part of this summer with my car window down, playing this song loudly, very loudly. The radio version broke my heart, and Gwyneth Paltrow's version on Glee almost made me queasy. But this song is fun, slightly overexposed, but one of my favorites from the year.
4. Miranda Lambert
Some might say I'm jumping on the "hey everyone, let's love Miranda Lambert this year" critical bandwagon. To that, I say, "Gunpowder and Lead" is one of my top played songs on iTunes, so take that. But seriously, Revolution rocks, and basically everything she did this year meets my seal of approval. The only slight qualm is that her monster hit, "The House that Built Me," wasn't written by her as I originally thought, which slightly takes away from the emotional affect of the song. Regardless, "White Liar," "...House...", "Only Prettier" and the previously mentioned, "Bad Angel" make for a pretty awesome year in my book.
3. "Dog Days Are Over" - Florence and the Machine
It's not my favorite song of the year (but close), but it deserves such a high individual mention because it's a song that I enjoy listening to, but also look forward to listening to. Here lately, when I've turned on my iPod, instead of choosing "random songs," I go to this one and let it randomize after it gets done playing it. It's the song I'm currently digging the most, although "Grenade" is giving it a good fight. Admittedly, the video is a spectacle.
2. Katy Perry
Apparently, I like Katy Perry now? Nonsense, I've always dug her. Escapism, pure and simple, but damn were her songs catchy and addictive this year. Her music plus her bizarre public persona entertained me quite a bit. Anyone who digs Russell Brand is ok in my book. Not wanting to single out one of her songs, I thought a top artist mention was more appropriate. Plus, I think the way she managed her career this year was perfect. She performed on basically every TV special this year, (Victoria's Secret Show, VH1 Divas, SNL, Grammy Nomination Special, etc), and her single selection was brilliant. Following "California Gurls" with "Teenage Dream" seemed perfect, and ending the year with the meaningful "Firework," even though she has other poppy, smash-songs on her album that might complement "Teenage Dream" better theme-wise, proves she knows what she's doing. Only hangup? She's hasn't yet perfected that whole singing live thing. But yeah, she basically schooled everyone else this year, except.....
1. Lady Antebellum
"Need You Now" was my favorite song of the year. But it was so much more than that this year with Lady A. They deservedly blew up this year. I respect country artists who can penetrate the pop world yet stick to their country roots. I'm not a fan of remixing to make it sound more "pop." The album is great. Please don't let them being "country" scare you off. Listen to them. "Need You Now," "Run to You" (from their first album), "Stars Tonight," "Hello World." Reward yourself.