Sure, everyone has their list of top albums. But how do you rank the things that really resonated in pop music this year — like Nicki Minaj's ubiquity, the best song you were embarrassed to sing out loud, and the top return of the year? We try to put a spotlight on some of music's other highlights here.
BEST HOOK: The chorus of Rihanna's "S&M" is downright nasty, so we can't repeat it here, but it's downright catchy, too. Na, na, na, na, c'mon!
BEST GUILTY PLEASURE SONG: "Tonight, Tonight" AND "I Like It Like That" by Hot Chelle Rae.
BEST USE OF NICKI MINAJ: Last year, Nicki Minaj costarred on many songs, but this year she focused more on her solo efforts. Her best guest appearance is on David Guetta's "Turn Me On," a future hit that highlights the rapper's singing chops.
BEST AWARD SHOW PERFORMANCE: Kelly Rowland's live rendition of "Motivation" at the BET Awards reminded viewers that training alongside Beyoncé for years has a plus-side: Rowland's vocals were crisp and her sexy dance moves helped her come off like a contemporary version of Janet Jackson.
BEST UNRELEASED TRACK: Frank Ocean's "Thinking About You" did not appear on his free album and it was never supposed to be a single. He recorded a demo of the song for singer Bridget Kelly, but his version is personal and perfect, with its Maxwell-esque falsetto breakdown.
BEST INANE LYRIC: Insert LMFAO song here.
BEST KATY PERRY SINGLE: Katy Perry has a slew of No.1 hits, but her best song this year was the Ke$ha-sounding party jam "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)" It's hard not to love lyrics like: "Think I need a Ginger Ale/that was such an epic fail."
BEST MUSIC VIDEO: Swedish singer Lykke Li is hauntingly amazing in her video for "I Follow Rivers," filmed on a snowy, deserted island. It's cinematic, dramatic and classic, and by far the best music video of 2011.
BEST COMEBACK: While some people were impressed with Chris Brown's rap on "Look at Me Now," it was Busta Rhymes who stole the show with his fantastic flow. Did I just rhyme? Oh snap! Anyway, it was a tease and has everyone wondering: When is that album coming out, Busta?!!
BEST REMIX: Adele and reggae? No way! But Jamie xx's remix of the British singer's "Rolling In the Deep" — dubbed "Rolling In the Heat" — is fun, epic and sweat-inducing.
BEST MIXTAPE: Ethiopian-born R&B singer The Weeknd, who is based in Canada, is one of the year's brightest newcomers, and his mixtape "House of Balloons" is just as great as Drake's first mainstream offering, "So Far Gone." Must be something in Canada's water.
BEST ALBUM UNRELEASED IN AMERICA: 2011 marked the death of Amy Winehouse, one of music's best singers. It was also a year that birthed a new star: Winehouse's 15-year-old goddaughter Dionne Bromfield. Her sophomore album "Good for the Soul" is a flawless collection of songs that bump with soul and pop flavors. And it rivals Adele's "21" for top album of the year.
BEST "GLEE" COVER: The songs covered on "Glee" are often current hits on the music charts, and that can get annoying. So it was refreshing to hear a cover of k.d. lang's "Constant Craving," and there should be more like it.
BEST ALBUM THAT (ALMOST) NO ONE BOUGHT: I got it for free, so technically I didn't buy it either, but Panic! at the Disco's "Vices & Virtues" is an excellent CD filled with uptempo gems that are addictive, layered and theatrical. You should listen to the album, which has sold 148,000 copies since March. (Runner-ups: Ellie Goulding's "Lights" and "Charity Starts at Home" by Phonte, formerly of Little Brother).
BEST BEYONCE VIDEO: This diva released a whopping seven music videos in six months, and honestly, most of them are average. But Beyoncé is a killer on the dance floor, and in the "Run the World (Girls)" clip, her moves are infectious and mind-blowing. She still does run the music world.
Mesfin Fekadu covers entertainment for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/musicmesfin