Was there any doubt? Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” has topped MTV’s Best Songs of 2011 .
The megahit so dominated 2011 that calling it the Song of the Year is putting it mildly. And we’re not just talking commercially — though it was the year’s best-selling track — or critically, mostly because focusing on those details fails to tell the whole story.
In a lot of ways, “Deep” was bigger than all that. It was a genuine cultural touchstone, the rare zeitgeist-seizing thing that kept crossing genres and platforms and demographics (quick, try to name somewhere you didn’t hear it) until there really were no borders left to bust. It was a complete throwback, a reminder of an era when folks actually bought music and one single could drive an album for months and months. It was the rarest of phenomena in these increasingly temporal times, an actual defining piece of work — not just for Adele, but for the entirety of 2011. Try as hard as you might, you probably can’t name the biggest song of 2010, but in 10 years’ time, you’ll still remember that “Rolling in the Deep” owned 2011.
That accomplishment is all the more noteworthy when you consider that “Deep” dared to focus on emotions that fall outside the usual parlance of pop, circa 2011. It is not about partying or falling in love or material excesses. It does not try to be uplifting or inspiring. There is not a single Will Ferrell sample to be heard anywhere. It is, simply put, a total bummer of a breakup tune, with Adele sifting through the ashes of her failed relationship, the scorned lover who can’t help but lament that, really, “We could’ve had it all.” Of course, she’s not exactly a shrinking violet, either, and “Deep” seethes with genuine anger too. No matter how classy her voice may be, there’s nothing quite as real as her promise to “lay your sh– bare.” It strips away the artifice and adjectives and exposes the raw nerve that pulsates within anyone who’s ever had their heart broken. And, really, that’s everyone.
So given that sentiment, perhaps it’s not exactly shocking that “Deep” was such a massive hit. Then again, given everything else, maybe it is. A deceptively simple song, it rolls along on little more than a stubby guitar line and pounding, primal drums and yet it packs a 10-megaton wallop, thanks entirely to some ugly emotional bloodletting and Adele’s sonorous, searing pipes. When she hits that chorus, you not only feel her pain, you can relate to it. That’s what sets the truly great songs apart from just the good ones, and “Rolling in the Deep” is unquestionably a great song, one that you’ll remember for years to come. Which is why simply calling it the Song of the Year is selling it short; it’s something bigger entirely.
Consider it the anthem to end all anthems, the feel-bad song of our time, the antidote for the Auto-Tuned masses. But maybe it’s best just to call it Adele’s coronation into the ranks of the all-time greats. She’s now and forever the Queen of Pain . Long may she reign.
Was Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” your Song of the Year? Let us know in the comments!