Saluton! — and welcome to the year-end essay, capping the countdown of 2011's Top 40 songs from the Council on Five Paragraph Essays. The full list is at the bottom, but for the purposes of this summary, it's worth looking at the Top 12.

2011: The Riot Girls. 

12) Till The World Ends, Britney Spears

11) Bumpin Bumpin, Kreayshawn

10) My Kinda Party, Jason Aldean.

9) Automatik, Livvi Franc.

8) You Lie, The Band Perry.

7) Cheers (Drink To That), Rihanna.

6) Blow, Ke$ha.

5) Storm Warning, Hunter Hayes.

4) Yoü and I, Lady GaGa.

3) Stay Away, Charli XCX.

2) We Found Love, Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris.

1) Gucci Gucci, Kreayshawn.


Paragraph 1, wherein the matter of the post-teen arises. Katy Perry's implausible transformation from crass post-Christian popsploitation Barbie to crass post-Christian popsploitation Barbie with better hooks than anybody else was complete by July when the feelgood song of the summer not only owned the charts but had more or less displaced every other song in the world. In a market where technological flux has substantially shortened the average stay at the top, and iTunes — the source that matters — can effectively list a new chart leader every hour on the hour if it so desires,·"California Gurls"·spent six weeks at #1. It·is incredibly bouncy and obvious and mind-meltingly catchy, and seems to have contrived a synthesis that appears as near-impossible and utterly obvious: a stylistics and atmospherics that conjoins Kelly Clarkson and Lady Gaga. Genius. The song's only mystery is that she calls her guest rapper "Snoop Doggy Dogg," which no one has called him since Monica Lewinsky was president. It was hard to tell if she was a New Jill saluting the oldskool, or was just an old lady in teen's clothing, someone about to let fly with "fly," or "the bee's knees," or "forsooth." This particular problem of the non-teen teen turned out to be at the heart of her next number one hit,"Teenage Dream": when she says "I'll be your teenaged dream tonight" it's not entirely clear whether the singer is supposed to be an actual teen delivering something dreamy to another teen ("let's go all...the way tonight") or whether the scenario is one of nostalgic recollection for a lost moment of teenagerdom. Are we still in the teen moment, or is it so far gone that we can only peer behind ourselves wistfully? This might be what is most decisive about Katy Perry: her look, her style, her entire way of being uncertainly in the middle of those two instants allows this ambiguity and this question to present itself, allows the simultaneous persistence and loss of the teenage dream.


With its eclectic mix of standards spanning genres and eras, Jerry Lee Lewis's "Mean Old Man" (Verve), much like his 2006 comeback, "Last Man Standing," is like a really good dive bar’s jukebox. Each track pairs the Killer with a big name admirer or two, many of them icons and idols in their own right, on a collection of well-chosen, well-executed rock, country, and gospel covers. It gives the album a sense of historical importance. The supporting performances (by Jagger, Richards, Clapton, Slash, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard Mavis Staples, and others) are far from restrained, but no one tries to shadow Jerry Lee's shine. And though it's not a live album per se, it was recorded live in the studio (with many tracks captured in one take, "like we used to do"). Lee gave the musicians minimal musical direction or lead-time; he'd just take off, dragging them out of their comfort zones and eliciting some inspired performances in the process. Some of the raw heat and energy of live is preserved, and the result feels spontaneous.

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