Thursday, January 5th, 2012

What's Your Most Played Song?

Now that we've finally cleared out all of those "best of" and "year end" music lists of 2011—and good riddance!—here's something different: most played songs. The songs that show up on your most played list aren't necessarily the songs that defined the year for you. They can be timeless—the comfort songs you return to over and over again. Or they can reflect periods of brief, intense obsession, such as, in my case, with "My Heart is a Drummer” by Allo Darlin’, which I first listened to on a recommendation from a friend, and proceeded to play 50 times in a span of three days.

Here then, from 43 music writers, editors, critics and assorted Awl music lovers, is a behind-closed-screens look at the most played songs in their digital-music libraries, as counted on iTunes or Spotify accounts. Keep in mind: Some people use iTunes mainly at home or at the gym, which can make counts lopsided; others didn't have much of a digital archive as they recently got new computers, cleaned out their hard drives or just prefer to listen to records and CDs. For fun, we also included links to participants' "best of 2011"-type lists, for those who had 'em.

Alex Balk, The Awl
"Going Home (Theme of 'Local Hero')" by Mark Knopfler, 16 plays

Zach Baron, The Daily
“Re: Stacks” by Bon Iver, 70 plays
The Daily: Songs of the Year

Amos Barshad, Grantland/Spin
“Trust Issues” by Drake, 52 plays
Grantland: The Year in Music

Lauren Beck, The L Magazine
"Ever Falling in Love" by Times New Viking, 54 plays
The L Magazine: The Top 25 Albums of 2011

Shirley Braha, MTV Hive
“Twelve Roses” by Beach Fossils, 48 plays
MTV Hive’s Best of 2011

August Brown, Los Angeles Times
"I'm On One" by Drake, DJ Khaled, Rick Ross & Lil Wayne, 48 plays
Los Angeles Times: Year-End Top 10 List

Dave Bry, The Awl
“Jigsaw Falling Into Place” by Radiohead, 31 plays

Tobias Carroll, Freelancer/Vol 1
“Always Returning” by Brian Eno, 109 plays
Dusted Magazine: 2011

Amanda Dobbins, New York Magazine
“Rolling in the Deep” by Adele, 1748 plays

Sasha Frere-Jones, The New Yorker
“Katy On A Mission” by Katy B/“Tangerine” by Led Zeppelin, play count n/a
The New Yorker: The Best Music of 2011: The British Singers
The New Yorker: The Best Music of 2011: The American Singers
The New Yorker: The Best Hip-Hop of 2011
The New Yorker: Lists of Lists and Endings of Endings

Adam Frucci, Splitsider
“I Was There” by the War on Drugs, 32 plays

Caryn Ganz, Spin
"’Till the World Ends" by Britney Spears, 58 plays
Spin’s 20 Best Songs of 2011

Mark Graham, VH1 Tuner
“Here’s Looking At You, Kid” by The Gaslight Anthem, 68 plays
VH1 Tuner: The Best Songs of 2011 According to Your Friendly Neighborhood VH1 Staffers

Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
“Always See Your Face” by Love, 65 plays

Peter Holslin, San Diego City Beat
"DC Rails" by Ale Mania, 290 plays
San Diego City Beat: The best, and worst, music of 2011

Amy Phillips, Pitchfork
“Summer’s Kiss” by the Afghan Whigs, 18 plays
Pitchfork’s Staff List: The Top 100 Tracks of 2011

Amanda H. Hatfield, Brooklyn Vegan
“The Perfect Fit” by the Dresden Dolls, 52 plays

Michael Edison Hayden, GQ
"Heaven or Las Vegas" by Cocteau Twins, 42 plays

Will Hermes, Rolling Stone, author of Love Goes to Buildings on Fire
“Good Intentions Paving Company” by Joanna Newsom, 15 plays
Rolling Stone: 50 Best Singles of 2011

Hilary Hughes, The Weekly Dig
“Slight Figure of Speech” by the Avett Brothers, 286

Margo Jefferson, author of On Michael Jackson
“If You Want Me To Stay” by Sly Stone, 208 plays

Maura Johnston, Village Voice
"America's Suitehearts" by Fall Out Boy, play count n/a
Village Voice: 47 Great Songs From 2011

Steve Kandell, Spin
“Beat It” by Michael Jackson, 57 plays
Spin’s 20 Best Songs of 2011

Frannie Kelley, NPR/The Record
"Shine Blockas" by Big Boi ft. Gucci Mane, 325 plays
NPR Music’s 100 Favorite Songs of 2011

Gerrick D. Kennedy, Los Angeles Times
"Countdown" by Beyonce, 42 plays
Los Angeles Times: Best of 2011 in local hip-hop and R&B

Scott Lapatine, Stereogum
“Take Care” by Drake/”Snowflake” by Kate Bush, 10 plays
Stereogum’s Top 50 Albums of 2011

Rachael Maddux, Freelancer
"Rambling Man" by Laura Marling, 46 plays

Dave Mandl, The Brooklyn Rail/WFMU
"The Lonely Goatherd" from The Sound of Music, 489 plays

David Marchese, Spin
"Skinny Love" by Bon Iver, 30
Spin’s 20 Best Songs of 2011

Jane Marie, The Hairpin
"Shakey Dog" by Ghostface Killah, 123 plays

Matthew Perpetua, Fluxblog/Rolling Stone/Pitchfork
"Countdown” by Beyonce, 98 plays
Fluxblog 2011 Survey Mix

Caryn Rose, Freelance/author of B-Sides and Broken Hearts
“Bulletproof" by the Afghan Whigs, 653 plays

Alex Ross, The New Yorker
“Bocet – Lament,” recorded by Béla Bartók, from Smithsonian Folkways collection called Folk Music of Rumania, 66 plays
The New Yorker: The Best Classical Music Recordings of 2011

Doree Shafrir, Rolling Stone
"Dog Days Are Over" by Florence + the Machine, 133 plays
Rolling Stone: 50 Best Singles of 2011

Maria Sherman, Freelance/WNYU Music Director & DJ
“Collapse” by Iceage, 146 plays
WNYU 2011 Top 10 List

Hank Shteamer, Time Out New York
"Ritual" by Ghost, 10 plays
Time Out New York: The best (and worst) music of 2011

Choire Sicha, The Awl
"On Parade" by Electrelane, 110 plays

Jessica Suarez, MTV Hive
"Peripheral Visionaries" by Young Galaxy, 11
MTV Hive’s Best of 2011

Seth Colter Walls, Slate/Village Voice/Washington Post
"Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow" by Funkadelic, 100+ plays
The Awl: 100 Great (Not Best!) Songs of 2011

Chris Weingarten, Spin
“Lightweight Jammin’” by E-40, 18 plays
Spin’s 20 Best Songs of 2011

Edith Zimmerman, The Hairpin
“Dancing On My Own” by Robyn, 134 plays

Lindsay Zoladz, Pitchfork/Canonball
"Disciplinarian" by Eternal Summers, 81plays
Pitchfork’s Staff List: The Top 100 Tracks of 2011

Nadia Chaudhury’s most played song is “Good Intentions Paving Company” by Joanna Newsom with 120 play counts.

71 Comments / Post A Comment

Trilby (#3,897)

Hm. I like the song but it will be hard work to wipe the dancing heart with hairy legs from my memory.

jolie (#16)

*braces for round two of the HOLV war, wonders if there actually might be wrestling*

Miles Klee (#3,657)

"Fotzepolitic" is my No. 2 most-played.

Brad Nelson (#2,115)

got someone who otherwise hates the cocteau twins to listen to and really feel holv

jolie (#16)

@Brad Nelson "Today I'm Really Feeling HOLV"

Brad Nelson (#2,115)

implied "what did YOU do" in that sentence by the way

jolie (#16)

@Brad Nelson Oh don't worry, I felt the warm blanket of Krucovian sanctimony (eew Krucovian blanket eew)

Brad Nelson (#2,115)

Never washed, comes with couch.

Miles Klee (#3,657)

For sale, old couch, overused.

HereKitty (#2,713)

Dave Mandl, I want to party with you.

Dave M. (#202,356)

@HereKitty Say when.

Brad Nelson (#2,115)

Unchain Me.

Matt (#26)

Pray for me.

Miles Klee (#3,657)

You get a second chance in Heaven.

superdave (#8,972)

Skip Steps 1 & 3 by Superchunk.

Everyone On The Internet Has Terrible Taste In Music.

Tully Mills (#6,486)

@Choire Sicha "Nice tune, actually. It's funny how wrong people can be about their taste in music, literature, or art."

Rollo (#3,202)

Ha, I love Alex Ross.

melis (#1,854)

1748 plays of 'Rolling in the Deep'? How many people broke up with Amanda Dobbins this year?

fhwang (#8,234)

@melis What impressed me was that the song isn't even that old. It's like she listened to it four times a day ever since it came out.

It is a pretty great song, though.

"The Awl Party Line"

Leon (#6,596)

Holy Jesus. The Pogues, Sally MacLennane. 43 times. I clearly have a drinking problem.

questingbeast (#201,738)

@Leon Saint-Jean According to, The Pogues are my most-ever listened-to band. And I don't remember any of those plays.

awlsome (#706)

Oh, Cocteau Twins…

likethestore (#32,383)

#1: Rolling in the Deep.
#2: Teenage Dream, the Glee version. Oh dear.

Tully Mills (#6,486)

Pretty sure the top 3 of my most played songs are songs I passed out to after drinking too much. They're all whale songs?

jolie (#16)

GRANTED I'm currently working on a very, very old 'putey of mine but I just fired up iTunes and apparently my most played song, with 44 clicks, is "Crush" by David Archuleta. What even? That is unpossible except that I know exactly how and why it happened and somehow the how and why of it is even more embarrassing than the fact of it.

Also I have no earthly idea how to find out my most played on Spotify except that I'm certain it's either "Two of Hearts" or "Mother and Child Reunion" because sure, that makes sense.

@jolie I love that song. The video is hilarious.

cory dodt@twitter (#12,071)

Hans Zimmer: Half Remembered Dream with 123 plays (followed by the entire Inception soundtrack, followed by the entire Tron:Legacy soundtrack).

Excluding soundtracks, Rosetta Stoned by Tool with 71 plays.

Make that 72.

Jane Hu (#5,833)


2011: "Human" – Oh Land
Overall: "Our Lady in Havana" – The Essex Green

BadUncle (#153)

Only seeing light at the gym, my iPod is a richness of embarrassments. Spearheading it all:

Slade's "Come Feel the Noise"
Ladyhawke's "My Delirium"

LondonLee (#922)

@BadUncle Actually that's "Cum On Feel The Noize"


@BadUncle "All I Do is Win" is incredibly close to the top of my list for this same reason. I'm too embarrassed to say what's actually #1 or #2. But they make me run faster!

s. (#775)

“Learned To Surf” by Superchunk, 31 plays tells me that my number-1 song this year was It Must Be Obvious by the Pet Shop Boys, with 53 plays, followed by If I Can't Change Your Mind by Sugar and A Red Letter Day also by the Pet Shop Boys at 51. This seems right because I put on the Pet Shop Boys mix I made a LOT over this past year. It Must Be Obvious is sort of arbitrary, though, it could have been any of the songs on there.

zidaane (#373)

This is also working into a listicle of you'd rather take a car trip with in order.

Redacted (#2,882)

The is my work computer, so there aren't many songs, but mine are all Beach House (Zebra is #1) or Bon Iver. Somehow I'm okay with those…

IamRyo (#8,358)

Did my best to recreate the list on Spotify… There are some substitutions for songs I couldn't find. Now I have something to listen to for the rest of the day.

awlsome (#706)

Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) by Arcade Fire, 232 times

joshc (#442)

According to, which misses a bunch of iPhone listening: Bon Iver – "Calgary". 30 times in 2011.

questingbeast (#201,738)

Of the year: Baltimore Blues No. 1 by Deer Tick. 80 times.

Ellie (#18,264)

Margo Jefferson's is the best – "If You Want Me To Stay."

My most played song is Love The Way You Lie (43) but I've switched hard drives a few times since I first got iTunes so that's not necessarily representative.

iantenna (#5,160)

yeah, margo jefferson clearly wins the year.

Knives Chau (#201,761)

I recently reformatted, so I lost all my iTunes play counts, but I know my most played song was Dilaudid by The Mountain Goats, at some 600-odd plays. Since I had to restart, the new most played is Green Valley by Puscifer, at only 7 plays. Sad.

#1. Decemberists – Calamity Song
#2. Kasey Anderson – My Baby's A Wrecking Ball

wickedwitch (#2,399)

So, where's the link to listen to this playlist on Spotify?

BadUncle (#153)

In aggregate, this could make a fine punishment premium for people that don't donate to the NPR version of The Awl.

Vijith Assar (#12,925)

Wow, so that's 4.6 days of "Rolling in the Deep" for Amanda Dobbins!

Mine was "Time Machine" by Robyn — I guess I'm just automatically on board if your chorus uses "DeLorean" in the rhyme scheme. Much more concerning, though, is that the runner-up was "Rye Whiskey" by Punch Brothers, which is almost exclusively deployed after one too many doses of the same.

Equestrienne (#201,975)

@Vijith Assar Nothing screams "I got dumped in 2011" quite as loudly as 4+ days of Adele…

roboloki (#1,724)

"friday" by rebecca black, 947 plays*

*not intended to be a factual statement

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

"Reason to Believe" by Tim Hardin / "Where We'll Never Grow Old" by Alfred G. Karnes / "Stay a Little Longer" by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.

iantenna (#5,160)

call me.

Liina (#192,492)

@dntsqzthchrmn I am beyond thrilled that someone loves Alfred G. Karnes that much. Seriously.

LondonLee (#922)

According to iTunes mine was 'Chinatown' by Destroyer but at #2 with only three fewer plays was 'Just Walk In My Shoes' by Gladys Knight & The Pips. I've had that record in one form or another since I was a kid and am apparently not tired of it.

Yeah, my iTunes play counts got wiped out *twice* this year so "America's Suitehearts" won the tally. But I suspect my real No. 1 is Patrick Stump's "Everybody Wants Somebody," the second-greatest pop song to be released in 2011.

zoom (#10,138)

I don't scrobble because I prefer to work under the illusion that my taste is impeccable…and I use a 4 year old zune.

Mr. B (#10,093)

I only listen to music via CDs or YouTube videos for some reason, but I'm pretty sure I listened to the whole of Forever Changes by Love at least 20 times since buying it in Williamsburg (!!!) in August.

BirdNerd (#4,196)

Bry and the guy who jams War on Drugs wins.

Away from my itunes now but I'd bet mine was a John Prine or Grateful Dead tune, its been a long, strange, folky year.

BobbyJim (#1,942)

@Choire Electrelane "On Parade" is my most-played song in the last few months, too. I'm surprised!

(PJ Harvey "The Words That Maketh Murder" is my most-played for all of 2011, and Fred Neil "Everybody's Talkin'" is my all-time most-played.)

, (#196,079)

I totally get being addicted to "The Lonely Goatherd".

Dave M. (#202,356)

@spoonbread I'll spoil the mystery and say: It dates from when my daughter was three years old and made me play the song for her over and over and over. Six years later that song's number of plays still dwarfs everything else in my iTunes.

curds? (#73,503)

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band: "Lo Yo Yo Stuff"
I can live with that.

fhwang (#8,234)

I reset play counts about once a year for reasons far too nerdy to go into here. But this past year mine was "Swim Good" by Frank Ocean.

The lack of Frank Ocean in this comments thread makes me sad.

apb (#9,461)

Pretty sure that anyone who doesn't say "Countdown" is lying. Tied for second for me (excluding records I worked on) are, I assume, Robyn's "Call Your Girlfriend" and "You Can Tell Me All Night Long" by Bill Fox.

Crunchbird (#1,002)

"Dance or Die" by Janelle Monae at #1 with 51 plays, "African Problems" by Seun Kuti at #2 with 37.

Things that end up on frequently-used playlists, and albums from an obsessive period in mid-2008 are particularly likely to end up high on my iTunes # of Plays list . . .

Auntie Maim@twitter (#178,787)

"Slow Show," The National with 73, followed by "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea," Neutral Milk Hotel! Not surprised.

Graydon Gordian (#3,206)

"Shakey Dog" is the REAL SHIT. Such a great track.

when in front of my computer i listen to mostly non-lyrics music, mostly minimal electronica/dub or miles davis or gentle coltrane but there were exceptions and the biggest one was no doubt "Young" by Annette Peacock, one of the most underrated singers still around today. i once played it for 8 hours on repeat. this no doubt reinforces my family's suspicions that i may be crazy. top alltime on my itunes playlist is "Promenade Sentimentale" by Vladimir Cosma from the DIVA soundtrack.

Lenora Jane (#211,994)

Currently "Survival" by Andrew Jackson Jihad, from the night I spend almost eight hours listening to it on repeat while writing an essay on it for music studies.

That said, I have only had iTunes for eight months(!) so I imagine that will sink back into the muck (other stuff is already catching up!)

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