2011 in Review: The 10 best Idol songs

This is the third part of my look back at the best and worst of American Idol and its imitators in 2011.

Monday, I picked the five best Idol occurrences/moments from the year. Yesterday, I presented the five worst.

Today, my picks for 10 favorite songs from Idols — and just Idols — in 2011.

The only requirement — the songs had to be released in 2011. In other words, songs released as singles in 2010 and included on albums in 2011 didn’t count.

I limited the selections to one song per artist, tried to shy away from the best-known singles (though I’m not sure they would have made the list anyway) and didn’t consider duets Idols recorded for albums released by other artists.

That said, here’s the list, complete with the song in cases where it was available.   Coming tomorrow: My picks for best albums.

1. “We Believe,” David Cook

What a great feel-good song about perseverance, faith and determination, co-written by David. My favorite verse: “Everyone / every single person under the sun / has a moment when they now they’ve won / but until then … ” It’s the standout track on “This Loud Morning.” And I was thrilled to hear it as a Season 11 Idol theme song.


2. “Einstein,” Kelly Clarkson

And this makes for a great kiss-off song. Includes my favorite lines of the year: “I may not be Einstein / but I know / dumb plus dumbs equals you.”  Kelly has a co-writing credit on the tune. Best of all guys — just change a couple words, and you too can sing along.

3. “Gone Too Soon,” Daughtry

Three albums in, this is my favorite ballad yet from Chris and the guys. A heartfelt tune about a child lost to soon. It’s easily my favorite track from the band’s third album, “Break the Spell.” Unfortunately, I can’t find a great quality audio of the song on Youtube, but head to Daughtry’s website, click on the “play music” button and you can listen to it.

4. “Just Cry,” Mandisa

Great ballad from the Season 5 contestant who recently got a Grammy nomination for her third album, “What If We Were Real.” Hard to believe she finished ninth. I could have easily put two or three other songs from the album on this list.

5. “Black Doll,” Siobhan Magnus

Remember Siobhan, Idol’s magnificent screamer from Season 9. She released this tune in early October, just in time for Halloween. And I immediately found myself haunted by that chorus. Different. Catchy. And so Siobhan. Her CD, “Moonbaby,” is supposed to be available for download in January, followed by a physical release something in February.

6. “The Locket,” Lauren Alaina

There are lots of catchy, up-tempo songs on Lauren’s debut album, but this is the track that drew me in the very first time I listened to her album. A tender song about the passing of a locket from grandmother to granddaughter, beautifully performed by Idol’s Season 10 runner-up.

7. “Better Than That,” Scotty McCreery

My only complaint about the Season 10 Idol winner with the voice deeper than his years is that he sometimes sang older than his age. Well, he’s young and fun on this toe-tapping tune. And I get a perverse pleasure out of that fact that he sings about a Chevy truck after starring in all those Ford commercials on the show.

8. “Hotter Without You,” Kimberly Calwell

Hey, Kelly Clarkson doesn’t own the market when it comes to kiss-off songs. There are a couple of great one on Kimberly Caldwell’s long-awaited, much-delayed debut album, “Without Regret,” which was released in April. “Mess of You” is my favorite, but it doesn’t qualify since it was released as a single pre-2011. This one will certainly do in a pinch. You’ll have to head to iTunes or a similar site to listen to a snippet.

9. “Love is a War,” Lacey Brown

There was no way I wasn’t going to include a song from Lacey’s splendid “Let It Go” EP on this list. This might be the quirkiest of the five originals she unveiled in late May. And to think she finished dead last among Idol’s Season 9 finalists. Clearly, she should have been singing her own songs.

10. “Screaming,” James Durbin

I sometimes complained that James screamed too much on Idol. Which strikes me as funny now since “Screaming” is my favorite track on his debut album. It could be his theme song, an anthem for underdogs from the guy who overcame Tourettes and Asperger syndrome. Five artists had a hand in writing it, including James and Season 7 Idol winner David Cook.


16 Responses to “2011 in Review: The 10 best Idol songs”

  1. Dugan says:

    Good choice for Number One, Mr. Franklin. David Cook is giving away free downloads of that “We Believe” song – to anyone who donates to the GirlUp.org effort for education, as a follow-up to his UN Foundation visit to Ethiopia in 2010 that inspired the song.

    Easy to find details on Google – and another good reason to acquire that excellent music.

  2. Sammie Byrd says:

    I feel the same way about WE Believe by David Cook. What a song full of hope and promise for the future. This positive song is what we all need to hear and remember… ” We Believe that tomorrow carries something new and after all that we’ve been through.. we believe.”

  3. pandora__box says:

    there are so many potential #1′s off David Cook’s This Loud Morning. it is always interesting to see what someone’s favorite is, and there is no wrong choice.

  4. Tess says:

    Feel-good song! There isn’t a bad track in This Loud Morning. My faves are Circadian, Goodbye to the Girl, Rapid Eye Movement, and the second bonus song in the deluxe CD edition– Let Me Fall for You.

  5. Maria says:

    I agree with your top choice; David Cook’s “We Believe” is a great song and so is the cd, “This Loud Morning.” I love the entire cd. If you don’t have it, get it! You won’t be disappointed.

  6. Brian Copp says:

    You can already purchase Siobhan’s album through her website. I have it, and I think it’s pretty good. “Big Collapse” and “Always Thinking” are the best songs.

  7. Margaret Cotogno says:

    Pleased with your top choice.Cook’s entire album “This Loud Morning” is awesome. This is definitely one of the standouts but each track is a trip.

  8. Rey says:

    Yes, #1 is an intelligent choice because WE BELIEVE!

  9. Wendy Liu says:

    I agree, Screaming by James Durbin can easily be an anthem for the underdogs. There are actually so many songs in his album, Memories of a Beautiful Disaster, that I think belong to the list. I have yet to find a person who has heard “May” and not be touched. Then there is “Right Behind You”, “Higher Than Heaven”, the list goes on and on!

  10. Shelby says:

    Thanks for the black doll love. I just got the pre release of siobhan’s new album from her website and it’s better than expected. Moonbaby in 2012

  11. Garrett Clayman says:

    Really dissapointed you did not include any JHud here. Idol albums dominated the last quarter but in the beginning of the year she was the only Idol rockin. No One Gonna Love You is much better than any David Cook song

  12. carly says:

    Ha “Einstein” the 2nd best song. “Einstein” is an okay song, not too crazy about the lyrics though the track is pretty good but all of the other 18 tracks on Stronger are better like “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)”, “Dark Side”,”Honestly”, “You Love Me”, “Let Me Down”, “Alone”, “Why Don’t You Try”, etc.

  13. [...] find a top 5 moments blog, a worst 5 moments blog, my picks for top 10 Idol songs, top 5 Idol albums and top 5 Idol [...]

  14. [...] reader provided me with that tip after I named “We Believe” the top Idol song released in 2011.  I just love the song’s positive [...]

  15. [...] two songs Siobhan released from the album so far is “Black Doll,” which made my list of 10 favorite Idol songs of 2011.  Listen to it [...]

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