How Did Rihanna Sneak By Beyonce On Best Artists Of 2011?

It was close, but Rih's ability to remain in the pop-culture consciousness all year places her just above the Queen B.

It was a showdown between two queens of pop — Rihanna and Beyoncé — each vying for a prime spot on MTV’s Best Artists of 2011 list. RiRi wound up besting Lady B by a slim margin. But how did she come out on top?

MTV correspondent Sway Calloway moderated a spirited roundtable discussion with some of our very own experts: James Montgomery and Rob Markman (MTV News), Yomi Desalu and Malika Quemerais (MTV Music and Talent) and Tamar Anitai and Nicole James ( The panel discussed the artists who ruled 2011, from the Throne and Lil Wayne to Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga. It was during that debate that Beyoncé and Rihanna met in a battle for the #6 position. In the end, Rihanna prevailed, with B taking #7.

“I love Rihanna,” Montgomery said. “I think she is the kind of artist that I really like as a pop star who makes really cool, controversial videos and pushes the envelope in every conceivable way.”

“She hustled so hard,” Anitai added.

After all, Rih did have us buzzing about songs off two albums in 2011. New hits popping from 2010’s Loud — including a remix of “S&M” with the one-and-only Britney Spears — ruled the charts in the first half of ’11. While some artists would just ride the momentum of that smash album, Rih went back into the studio mid-tour and cranked out Talk That Talk. The first single off TTT, “We Found Love,” was a certified dance-pop classic from the minute it hit.

See where “We Found Love” placed on MTV’s Best Songs of 2011 countdown!

It was a tough decision for our experts because Knowles had such a remarkable year. Her album 4 — a collection of soulful ballads and mid-tempo tracks tempered with a deep nostalgic streak — was arguably her most mature yet. And she triumphed during intimate, sold-out shows at New York City’s Roseland Ballroom in August. B was also responsible for this year’s most talked-about (and tweeted about ) pop-culture moment, announcing her pregnancy to the world right on our VMA stage.

But it was Rihanna’s ability to rule for 365 days straight that was the deciding factor.

“It’s very rare that you see an artist that’s there, that is consistently there throughout the year that people don’t get sick of,” Quemerais observed. “I feel like the appetite for Rihanna is constant.”

“If you were to go numbers by numbers, Rihanna can go toe-to-toe with anyone on our list,” Montgomery reinforced. “She never gets the credit that she deserves.”

She certainly got the credit here.

Bieber, Weezy or Adele, oh my! The full debate for MTV Artist of the Year is below!

All this week, watch “AMTV” on MTV every day at 8 a.m. ET for our Best of 2011 lists. Then, come to at 5 p.m. as we reveal our top picks of the year!