Taylor Swift places three songs on the list last year, and Lady Gaga had three the year before, but in 2011 another female singing sensation thoroughly dominated the chart. Here are the 11 of '11; clicking the song title will take you to the Songfacts.
We start off with a bang with this inspirational burner by the fizzing Californian pop star. (That's enough 'Firework' puns - ed). The one-time Christian rocker had an exceptional year rocketing, sorry, climbing to #1 with a string of singles, but this was the song that attracted your curiosity the most. "Firework" had a worldwide appeal and as Perry toured the globe folks typed in Songfacts from Malaysia to Canada to find out more about the track. Perry wrote the empowering anthem to encourage people to feel proud and strong, but the firework image came from an unusual place: the idea of being shot across the sky as a last hurrah.
America's country princess has been a Songfacts favorite over the last few years and this 2011 hit was of particular interest. The song finds Taylor apologizing for messing up a relationship with a former boyfriend, but which former beau was she was addressing? Although Swift is coy about disclosing the subject matter of her songs, there's a good chance she was singing about her namesake, American actor Taylor Lautner, who she dated briefly at the end of 2009. We somehow resisted the temptation to write about Lautner being "tailor-made" for Swift.
This aptly titled power ballad (it was "the first time" that Irish band The Script had featured on our annual top songs list) was one that you not only wanted to learn about, but also to play. Whether it was tinkling the tune on the piano, strumming the song on a guitar or simply crooning the cut's words, a surprising number of people clicked through to Musicnotes and grabbed the sheet music for this song, which was a recession-inspired tune. The Script were ready to celebrate their success, but found that many people were struggling in their home country of Ireland, so they turned "For The First Time" into a song of home and about celebrating the simple pleasures in life.
This is the first of several entries by British singer-songwriter Adele on our list. Her sophomore album, 21 was one of those rare beasts, a best-selling record that was also highly-rated by the critics. Rolling Stone, Time and Amazon all ranked 21 as their album of the year, whilst the individual songs had a broad appeal crossing generations and appealing to fans of pop, adult contemporary and R&B music. Any home without 21 would appear to be as under equipped as one without a bath or toaster. This album track is another one that came courtesy of an inspirational ex. Adele wrote it after a Meet Cute with Ryan Tedder on an elevator that involved a bunch of balloons.
Another entry by the 'one and only' British songbird - the uncontested singing star of 2011. Many of you wanted to know who wrote this song about a rebound romance, and we reported that Adele penned the song with American songwriters Dan Wilson (Semisonic, Dixie Chicks) and Greg Wells (Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson). It's a very sweet song, but the relationship that inspired it ended with Adele swearing like a sailor talking about the guy and how she was blinded by love. And about the middle eight in the song - that came courtesy of the 1999 movie Never Been Kissed.
2011 will be a year that young Ms. Adele Laurie Blue Adkins will always remember. 13 million people worldwide bought her sophomore album, 21, which may have eased the sting of the relationship that prompted songs like this one, where she struggles to recall why she used to love the guy in the first place. There's a bit of that "wonder if he ever thinks about me" sentiment in this one as well.
Initially a country hit, this song by the sibling trio of Kimberly, Reid and Neil Perry achieved its highest Hot 100 position in 2011 after crossing over to pop radio. You wanted to know why the heck Kimberley Perry wrote a song about dying young in her mid-20s? We explained that it arose from "a gorgeous moment of contentment," where she realized that if her life was to suddenly end now, she'd achieved everything that she had set out to do. Trivia geeks that we are, we even counted the number of chart-topping country hits with the word "Die" in the title. We found five.
The broken-hearted Brit appears for the fourth time on our list with this song about letting go of a relationship. Of interest on this one: her songwriting partner (Fraser T Smith, who also worked with Taio Cruz), where the title came to her (middle of the night, getting up to pee), and some details about the guy who inspired it (a cultured type - he got her into food and wine).
After spending much of 21 dissing her ex, Adele closed the album with this piano ballad in which she portrays her former lover in a more positive way. When we first heard her sing, "I wish nothing but the best for you," many a tear was shed at Songfacts Towers. Released as a single, "Someone Like You" was the first purely piano-and-vocal-only ballad to ever top the Hot 100. Numerous people wanted be someone like Adele - when we last checked there were 9,329 covers of this tune on YouTube. You also wanted to know who the former boyfriend is. Adele has not named him to date, but we told you he was a 30-year-old man whom she believed was The One. They had an intense 18-month relationship and Adele wrote the song after finding out he'd got engaged to someone else.
Adele may be disappointed to learn that "Rolling In The Deep" only reached #2 on our list, but the British songstress can console herself with wins for the song in a number of other surveys in 2011. The feisty ditty came top of both Rolling Stone and Spin magazine's polls of song of the year and topped the Hot 100 for seven straight weeks. Many of you wanted to know what the phrase "rolling in the deep" means. It is an adaptation of a British slang phrase, "roll deep," which refers to always having someone to back you up. Adele thought her ex was always going to be there for her, but then he betrayed her trust by hurting her, so now she's taking her revenge. The phrase proved especially intriguing to Americans, who found a new saying for the lexicon.
Not only was "Pumped Up Kicks" the most viewed song released in 2011 on our site, it was the most viewed song of all with twice as many hits as the second most popular track on our database, The Eagles' "Hotel California." On top of that, this breakout hit from the Los Angeles trio didn't have an entry on our site until the middle of May. So why did you flock in your hundreds of thousands to check out this particular number? Mostly to reconcile the cheery, feel-good tune with the lyrics about an unhinged, psychotic kid plotting revenge. That and to find out if it has anything to do with those Reebok Pump basketball sneakers from the '80s.
We trust you got plenty of kicks out of our site in 2011 and with new albums by Nicki Minaj, All American Rejects and Madonna promised early in the new year, we hope there will be plenty of fresh songfacts to interest you in 2012.
Written by Ed Pearce, who we're hoping survives the edit of the latest James Bond film, where he will hopefully appear as an anonymous office worker. Ed has also appeared in The Dark Knight, Garfield 2 and Sherlock Holmes, and wrote a book called Food for Thought: Extraordinary Little Chronicles of the World.
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