By 2011, featured artists, duets and collaborations were the rule rather than the exception, with most dance and R&B tracks credited to several acts. And it wasn't always established names joining forces - although that did happen. A lot.
|Older but not any less poptastic, Steps returned in 2011|
Often, a new artist would be launched by some well positioned guest appearances before their debut solo effort surfaced - ensuring name recognition from the outset. It's a model that continues today, with the likes of Sam Smith and Emeli Sandé getting their first hit on someone else's song.
We'll see collaborations of all varieties as we dive into my top 50 for 2011...
Number 50 "Dancing Queen" by Steps
Anything Take That can do... Putting aside their acrimonious split and reapplying their perma-grins, all-singing, all-dancing pop combo Steps reunited for a UK tour and a new greatest hits collection. This ABBA cover - a song Steps was devised to perform - was the only new track. Yes, it was hardly reinventing the wheel, but (mixed metaphor alert), if it ain't broke...
Number 49 "Love On Top" by Beyoncé Knowles
Like most of her albums, Beyoncé's 4 featured a seemingly endless supply of singles - and, as usual, some were great, like "Love On Top" and "Best Thing I Never Had" (number 88 on this list), and some were an acquired taste, like lead single "Run The World (Girls)". The poppiest track on the album, "Love On Top" came with a rehearsal-to-performance video that reminded me of Kylie Minogue's "Wouldn't Change A Thing" clip.
Number 48 "Buy Nothing Day" by The Go! Team
Here's another old school-style feelgood track - the second single from British indie band The Go! Team's third album, Rolling Blackouts. A jangly guitar tune that sounded like it could've been released in the late '80s/early '90s, "Buy Nothing Day" is guaranteed to always put me in a happy mood - whether or not that's the intention, I'm not sure.
Number 47 "Beautiful People" by Chris Brown featuring Benny Benassi
Two years on from his assault of then-girlfriend Rihanna and Chris Brown's music career was recovering from the downturn it took in the aftermath of the shocking incident. Sales and chart positions improved, but the singer wasn't completely able to escape his past - as a violent blow-up on the set of Good Morning America proved. Like many people, I was conflicted about liking a Chris Brown song - but I figured if I could like a Milli Vanilli song and not really care that Rob and Fab didn't perform on it, I could like a Chris Brown song and not really care that he did. Besides, thanks to heavily altered vocals and production from Benny Benassi and his cousin Alle, "Beautiful People" didn't even sound like a Chris Brown song. Benny, meanwhile, had his first big solo hit in Australia in eight years with "Cinema" (number 64 on this list).
Number 46 "See No More" by Joe Jonas
From one end of the male artist spectrum to the other - and the squeaky clean lead singer of boy band Jonas Brothers, who released his debut solo album, Fastlife, in 2011. Lead single "See No More" was actually co-written by Chris Brown, who also provides backing vocals, but despite that and Joe's massive fanbase, the single and album were commercial disappointments.
Number 45 "Record Collection" by Mark Ronson
Not one of the three singles taken from the album of the same name, "Record Collection" was my second favourite track (after "Bang Bang Bang") and features contributions from Duran Duran's Simon Le Bon and rapper Wiley.
Number 44 "Louder" by DJ Fresh featuring Sian Evans
The title of DJ/producer Daniel Stein's third album, Nextlevelism, was pretty spot-on, since this lead single gave him (in his guise as DJ Fresh) his first UK number 1 single and suddenly made him one of the biggest names in British dance music. "Louder", which features Kosheen's Sian Evans on vocals, was also the first dubstep chart-topper in the UK - proof positive that the formerly underground genre had gone mainstream.
Number 43 "Begging Me" by Florrie
She appeared in my top 10 for 2010 with "Left Too Late" from her debut EP, Introduction, and in 2011, singer/songwriter/drummer Florrie returned with a second EP, Experiments. Once again helmed by production team Xenomania (for whom she worked), the six-track EP boasted two singles, "Begging Me" and "I Took A Little Something" (number 106 on this list), which I treated as separate releases.
Number 42 "Young Blood" by The Naked & Famous
An instant number 1 in homeland New Zealand in 2010, "Young Blood" took the rest of the world by storm in 2011 - and was virtually inescapable, appearing in ads and on TV shows, and being recorded by other artists. The ubiquity of the track turned The Naked & Famous into one of the most buzzed about acts in the world - although next single "Girls Like You" (number 83 on this list) didn't follow in the footsteps of its predecessor. I was a fan beyond this one song, though, and when the band toured Australia with New Order in 2012, it was one of the rare occasions that I turned up to the show in time to see the support act.
Number 41 "Marry The Night" by Lady Gaga
Mentioned in Part 4
Number 40 "Inescapable (Youngboyz mix)" by Jessica Mauboy
She's Australia's answer to Beyoncé and Rihanna, so it only seemed natural that Jessica Mauboy would do as her contemporaries did and repackage her second album, Get 'Em Girls, with some fresh new tracks, like this Diane Warren composition that took Jess back to the ARIA top 5 for the first time since 2008's "Burn". She also released two duets during 2011 - "What Happened To Us" with Jay Sean (number 76 on this list) from the original album and "Galaxy" with fellow ex-Idol contestant Stan Walker (number 87) from the deluxe edition.
Number 39 "All Over The World" by Ola
Like Tove Styrke (who we saw in Part 2), Ola Svensson had been a contestant on Sweden's Idol - although he competed way back in 2005 and only came eighth. Still, "All Over The World" gave Ola his 10th consecutive top 5 hit in his homeland - and was his first song to reach my ears. Incidentally, Ola's first single, "Rain", was a cover of Australian Idol runner-up Anthony Callea's 2005 hit.
Number 38 "Wet" by Nicole Scherzinger
Mentioned in Part 4
Number 37 "Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love) (Pete Hammond mix)" by Kylie Minogue
Her Aphrodite album might have yielded her least successful batch of singles ever, but it wasn't for want of trying. Kylie even ventured back in time (see what I didn't do there?) to enlist the remixing services of PWL legend Pete Hammond, who gave this track a retro spin. I was also a fan of the album's title track (number 53 on this list) and was able to check out the album's accompanying tour while visiting the UK - and, as my Google profile picture shows, even came face-to-face with Kylie for the first time later that year when the show arrived in Australia and an "intimate showcase" was thrown by her record company. Brag over.
Number 36 "Promises" by Nero
2011's second UK chart-topping dubstep single came from the British dance act that'd been releasing tracks since 2005, first as a duo (Joseph Ray and Daniel Stephens) before the arrival of vocalist Alana Watson in 2008. "Promises" was the fourth and biggest single from the trio's debut album, Welcome Reality.
Number 35 "Judas" by Lady Gaga
Mentioned in Part 4
Number 34 "Hush Hush" by Alexis Jordan
It was nowhere near as successful as previous hits "Happiness" and "Good Girl", but "Hush Hush", particularly the Cahill Full On remix, was actually my favourite of the three singles from Alexis Jordan's debut self-titled album. Seems that the follow-up is turning out to be the epitome of a difficult second album, with false starts and delays meaning it still hasn't surfaced.
Number 33 "I Wanna Go" by Britney Spears
Mentioned in Part 4
Number 32 "Til Death" by Wynter Gordon
She'd guested on a Flo Rida single (2009's "Sugar") and had a surprise number 1 hit in Australia (2010's "Dirty Talk"), and in 2011, American singer Wynter Gordon (real name: Diana) released her debut album, With The Music I Die, and this ARIA top 20 single. As a result of all her Australian success (which also included a guest spot on Marvin Priest's "Take Me Away"), Wynter's 2010 collaboration with Freemasons, "Believer" (number 82 on this list) was also given a new lease of life, but it, like everything else that's come since, has failed to make the same impact.
Number 31 "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga
Mentioned in Part 4
Number 30 "Skeleton" by The Good Natured
One of the most exciting new synthpop acts in 2011 was British trio The Good Natured - who would feature prominently on my next few year-end charts before getting caught up in record company wrangling. Here's hoping the band, now called Lovestarrs, can get back on track.
Number 29 "Without You" by David Guetta featuring Usher
Like Calvin Harris, David Guetta had graduated to the big time, breaking the US and now able to work with A-list artists like Usher, Nicki Minaj and Snoop Dogg, who all featured on the Nothing But The Beat album. Big-name singers who didn't appear on the album were Mary J Blige and Katy Perry, who were both offered "Titanium" (number 56 on this list) - but in the end, co-writer Sia, who'd recorded a demo vocal, was chosen to perform the finished version.
Number 28 "Talk Talk Talk" by Darren Hayes
It was back to the world of major labels for Darren Hayes in 2011, following his independently released 2007 opus, This Delicate Thing We've Made. It was also back to pure pop, with this lead single from the Secret Codes And Battleships album proving to be as catchy as anything he'd previously released. "Talk Talk Talk" even came with two great bonus tracks - one, a remix called "Out Of Talk", which mashed up the song with Hall & Oates' "Out Of Touch", and the second, a cover of Madonna's "Angel" (number 60 on this list). The obligatory weepy ballad, "Bloodstained Heart", followed, while "Black Out The Sun" also makes this chart (at number 78).
Number 27 "That's The Truth" by McFly
It might be their worst performing single in the UK - by some margin - but for me,
"That's The Truth" was the best thing McFly had released in half a decade. It also just happens to be the last single by the band I've liked, since they've opted for more of a Jason Mraz-lite style since.
Number 26 "Finish Line (Freemasons mix)" by Yasmin
Yasmin Shahmir is one of those emerging singers who appeared on someone else's record - Devlin's "Runaway" - before proceeding with her own career. That career included two solo singles in 2011 - "On My Own" (number 58 on this list) and "Finish Line". The latter came with a Freemasons overhaul, which as usual, sounded markedly different from the Stevie Wonder-sampling original.
In Part 4: two of the biggest boy bands of all time form a supergroup, the Glee cast take a break from releasing covers, and some of the biggest female pop stars on the planet do battle.
MY YEAR-END CHARTS