The state of pop in 2011 was strong. Very strong. Ruled by exciting newcomers, chart-topping females and the occasional party rock stomper, pop did in 2011 what it does best: It evolved and morphed itself into a leading genre of music that took its cues from myriad different styles and genres, making it a true reflection of what music lovers were captivated by last year.
Once again the shuffle-happy playlist generation set the tone for 2011 and encouraged pop makers to daringly mix and mash up genres to fit their changing taste. As a result, one of the biggest trends in 2011 was the emerging influence of dance/electronica music on the pop scene.
For years, dance has been a massive influence in Europe, but this year dance music completely, utterly and convincingly broke into the American mainstream with artists such as LMFAO and David Guetta ruling the charts. Even the unstoppable and universally adored pop princess Rihanna embraced dance music by collaborating with club hero Calvin Harris on the fan-favorite "We Found Love."
With economic worries lingering for many in 2011, music fans turned to pop music for hope and comfort. GRAMMY-nominated artists, including Adele and Bruno Mars in particular, provided simple yet powerful ballads that gave fans a moment to escape and connect with people close to them.
Mars' rise to fame is a true success story. I remember covering Mars when he was writing songs for other artists, putting out demo tapes in Los Angeles and playing small gigs in small venues across California in exchange for a few dollars and free pizza.
But times have changed for the young crooner. Together with his pals the Smeezingtons — Philip Lawrence and Ari Levine — the GRAMMY-nominated artist now has fans at his feet with tunes about falling in love, catching grenades and lazy mornings in his jammies. Mars' success demonstrates that in times when bombastic pop productions tend to take up a lot of space, poignant storytelling and sweet melodies can go a very long way.
Katy Perry continued her winning streak in 2011, celebrating more No. 1s, but it was not just Perry who had an incredible year. In fact, 2011 was once again the year for female artists such as Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, Britney Spears, and Rihanna, who all released new music and packed arenas on tour. Beyoncé pushed her artistic boundaries with 4, which featured pop-forward production work with the help of an all-star team featuring current GRAMMY nominees Jeff Bhasker and Ryan Tedder.
One of the most pleasant surprises of the year was Maroon 5's resurgence, with help from pal Christina Aguilera. Together with savvy songwriter/producer Benny Blanco they recorded the pop-perfect "Moves Like Jagger," an instantly catchy tune that took over radio this summer.
The interest in dance music, the prominence of timeless pop singers/songwriters and the continued success of the pop's females will likely continue in 2012. However, I would not be surprised if we see a new, young generation of pop stars emerge this year, making 2012 a year in pop to watch, enjoy and support.
Hail to 2012! Hail to pop!