Weighing in from the edge of irrelevance

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

Yeah, man, that’s the good stuff.

— Kenny Chesney

Forget the pending election, which is going to be ... say it with me now: THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF OUR LIFETIME! ... and the mounting environmental crises and the slowly recovering economy. It’s time to talk about what was really important in 2011: the pop culture moments that made the year unique.

Even those of us who edge more and more toward irrelevancy as the years fly past have earned the right to at least participate as interested observers.

Here, then, the best of the year gone by:

ALBUMS: Justin Timberlake may have brought sexy back a few years ago, but the Red Hot Chili Peppers (along with the Foo Fighters) brought rock back with the best album and song of the year. British songbird Adele had the biggest-selling album of 2011, a year — it should be noted — in which the steady decline of the music business actually reversed itself. The most welcome return: a wonderful collection by the great Paul Simon, who at 70 is still one of music’s best singer/songwriters.

The most promising newcomer is easily blues guitar wonder Gary Clark Jr., and hometown boy Luke Bryan released his best work so far.

  1. “I’m With You” — Red Hot Chili Peppers. 2. “So Beautiful or So What” — Paul Simon. 3. “21” — Adele. 4. “Born This Way” — Lady Gaga. 5. “The Bright Lights” — Gary Clark Jr. 6. “Wasting Light” — Foo Fighters. 7. “Watch the Throne” — Jay-Z and Kanye West. 8. “Tailgates and Tanlines” — Luke Bryan. 9. “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” — Skrillex. 10. “El Camino” — The Black Keys.

SONGS: The Peppers’ “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” is far and away the best song of a year in which pop music — Maroon 5 in the Top 10?! — dominated, thanks primarily to the diminishing influence of rock radio.

  1. “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” — Red Hot Chili Peppers. 2. “Getting Ready for Christmas Day” — Paul Simon. 3. “Someone Like You” — Adele. 4. “Super Bass” — Nicki Minaj. 5. “Walk” — Foo Fighters. 6. “The Edge of Glory” — Lady Gaga. 7. “Pumped Up Kicks” — Foster the People. 8. “5 O’clock in the Morning” — T-Pain, Wiz Khalifa, Lily Allen. 9. “Moves Like Jagger” — Maroon 5. 10. “Little Black Submarines” — The Black Keys.

MOVIES: I looked back over the films on my list, and it occurred to me that no one was going to accuse me of being one of those phony critics who loves to champion “cinematic masterpieces” whose “nuances offer an alternative to the popcorn films that dominate the local cineplex.” (I even had to look up “nuances.”)

Most of the movies on my list are those “guy” kind of movies that run heavy on lowest-common-denominator sophomoric humor. To which I respond: What’s wrong with that? (Side note: Having a 9-year-old means few of the movies I see are non-animated, anyway, so give me a little latitude on the cruder films.)

  1. Horrible Bosses. 2. The Descendants. 3. Bad Teacher. 4. The Hangover — Part II. 5. The Lincoln Lawyer. 6. Our Idiot Brother. 7. Hall Pass. 8. The Adjustment Bureau. 9. Moneyball. 10. Dolphin Tale.

BOOKS: I finally made a New Year’s resolution that I kept. I said I’d read 50 books over the year, and I actually read 83. There was plenty of catching-up on some of my favorite authors, but I read enough works released this year to compile a true 2011 list. You’ll note that included on this list is a work by local — and first-time — author Jon Gosa. It’s not a nod to the home team; his book is excellent. Get a copy now! (Note: I have not read Lee Child’s new “Reacher” book “The Affair” yet, but I expect it would be high up on my list if I had ... love me some Reacher.)

  1. “11/22/63” — Stephen King. 2. “The Fifth Witness” — Michael Connelly. 3. “The Art of Fielding” — Chad Harbach. 4. “The Drop” — Michael Connelly. 5. “The Cut” — George Pellicanos. 6. “Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?” — Steven Tyler. 7. “The Sixth Man” — David Baldacci. 8. “August Ending” — Jon Gosa. 9. “Red” — Sammy Hagar. 10. “Through My Eyes” — Tim Tebow.

Here’s hoping for more great stuff in 2012.

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.