Looking back at 2011 in music, some of the year’s biggest stories were ruled by major pop stars — Katy Perry and Rihanna’s chart domination, Lady Gaga’s ongoing costume changes and baffling videos, Beyoncé’s ongoing flawlessness, Adele’s never-ending vocal glory. And, of course hip-hop’s heavy hitters like Jay-Z and Kanye’s collaboration, Drake’s long-awaited (and worth-the-wait) album and Wiz Khalifa’s big breakthrough.
But what about the bands that broke through in 2011? The groups that grew from music blog acclaim to radio chart-climbers to… wait… are they playing “Cough Syrup” AT MY STARBUCKS? Well we weren’t content to let some of our favorite bands that went from near-obscurity to near-ubiquity in 2011 not get their due. So we took a good hard look at some of the most-buzzed-about bands (specifically, big musical acts that consisted of at least two or more people, and no, Lady Gaga and Jo Calderone do NOT count as two people in this case) and came up with a list of our favorite breakthrough bands of the year. Those bands are: A Day To Remember, All Star Weekend, Big Time Rush, Black Veil Brides, Breathe Carolina, Foster The People, Hot Chelle Rae, Karmin, Mindless Behavior, Odd Future and Young The Giant.
Check out the list of breakthrough bands below, and vote for your favorite breakthrough band of 2011. Voting closes Friday, Dec. 16 at 11 a.m. ET, and we’ll announce the winner on Friday, Dec. 16, at 12 p.m. ET!
+ A Day To Remember: While the The Ocala post-hard-core band’s third album, Homesick, catapulted A Day To Remember into sold-out show status, it was their fourth album, What Separates Me From You, arguably their best album to date, that cemented their punk-superstar status. What Separates Me From You was released in late 2010, but 2011 became the band’s biggest year yet, with increased radio play, increased sales, bigger shows, a headlining spot at Warped Tour and even a spot on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” — and not to mention, more than 2.5 MILLION Facebook fans, all while perfecting their sound. Haters, that’s not selling out. That’s straight-up winning.
+ All Star Weekend: Though the Cali band’s been around since, well, the early days of “Sonny With A Chance,” the threesome shed their mouse-eared image and emerged as a viable pop-rock contender with their sophomore album, All The Way. All Star Weekend‘s breakthrough singles, “Not Your Birthday” and “Blame It On September,” racked up online video streams and gained them a legion of committed fans — almost 1 million fans on Facebook — more grown up than the afternoon-TV set.
+ Big Time Rush: You’re probably thinking, well, of course boy band Big Time Rush made this list. Both Buzzworthy and Nickelodeon are rocking on Viacom’s dime, after all. And true, “Big Time Rush” the show has been one of Nickelodeon’s top shows since it premiered in early 2010, pulling in more than 7 million viewers, making it Nickelodeon’s biggest live-action series debut ever. But Big Time Rush the band has become a runaway success in its own right since the 2011 release of their smash singles “Worldwide” and “If I Ruled The World,” which have sold millions of downloads. Their sophomore album, Elevate, was just released less than a month ago and debuted at No. 12 on the Billboard 200 chart. It’s already poised to outsell their B.T.R. debut. Another year of relentless touring — including a winter stint at Radio City — and their upcoming TV movie, Big Time Movie, should help.
+ Black Veil Brides: No, Black Veil Brides are not a KISS cover band (though they cover them on their new Rebels EP). No, they didn’t get their start this year, and no, they’re absolutely not a joke. At all. The Los Angeles melodic-metal band you may have never heard of has racked up TENS OF MILLIONS of YouTube views and legions of devoted bridesmaids who love them more than they can ever scream. And while their 2010 full-length debut hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Independent Release chart, in 2011 alone, Black Veil Brides released a second full-length and just dropped the aforementioned Rebels EP, covered AP magazine’s “100 Bands You Need To Know In 2011″ April issue, played Warped Tour, turned every head in the house when they walked the red carpet at the VMAs and hit the road on the “Buried Alive” tour. And they’ll embark on a world tour in 2012. Oh, and they won Revolver’s 2011 Golden Gods Best New Band Award and have consistently maintained their reputation of being some of the nicest guys in the business. What did you do this year?
+ Breathe Carolina: Sure, Breathe Carolina‘s David Schmitt and Kyle Even may not GAF about much more than making party-ready synth dance tracks in Denver, but they probably do GAF that their wasted-anthem “Blackout” — a song that premiered here on Buzzworthy back in June and took them less than a day to write — became the song that launched their radio career breakthrough hit, earned them a headlining spot on the “Scream It Like You Mean It” tour, and a not-at-all unenviable number of video plays.
+ Foster The People: If you went anywhere in 2011 and DIDN’T hear Foster The People‘s breakthrough hit, “Pumped Up Kicks,” then you either spent the year orbiting Earth from space (and really, that’s hardly an excuse) or you don’t own ears. Next to Adele’s dueling singles, “Pumped Up Kicks” absolutely owned 2011, which, if you’re Mark Foster, Mark Pontius or Cubbie Fink, was easily the best year of your career: Coachella, car commercials, Kimmel, Fallon, “Saturday Night Live,” nonstop spins at radio, literally MILLIONS of digital downloads, a pair of VMA nominations and a pair of GRAMMY nominations, a No. 1 spot on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart, and certified gold status for their debut album, Torches. Foster The People made it cool to whistle, and even cooler to be Foster The People.
Check out more breakthrough bands of 2011, and vote for your favorite after the jump!
+ Hot Chelle Rae: True, their 2009 debut album was a relative sleeper. But in 2011, Hot Chelle Rae went from more or less unknown to more or less absolutely everywhere upon releasing their single “Tonight Tonight,” which earned the Nashville natives a No. 1 spot at adult radio and went double-platinum in the United States. Their “I Like It Like That” video pulled in more than 1 million views in THREE days, and Hot Chelle Rae picked up the AMA for Best New Artist a week before their sophomore album was even released. Shout out to Zach Galifianakis.
+ Karmin: The boy-girl duo with an affinity for hair rolls, a mockingbird-like ability to imitate pop and hip-hop hits (if birds had rhythm), and a die-hard YouTube following went from internet darlings to an honest-to-goodness record deal after their cover of Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now” pretty much shut down YouTube. (They uploaded their take on Breezy to YouTube in April 2011, and to date they’ve racked up over 48 million views. More people have watched Karmin cover “Look At Me Now” than have viewed Lady Gaga’s “Marry The Night” video to put it in perspective.) The result of owning the adorable viral video aisle of the internet (tweets from Questlove and Diplo helped too): The act was signed to Epic by L.A. Reid, released their own original single, “Crash Your Party” in September, and will drop their “swag-pop” album early next year.
+ Mindless Behavior: True, Princeton, Ray Ray, Roc Royal and Prodigy haven’t really been around long enough to have blown up much before 2011, mostly because THEY WERE BORN IN THE LATE ’90s (!!!!), but this year, with the release of their #1 Girl debut album — which opened at an impressive No. 7 on the Billboard 200 album chart — the R&B-pop foursome, known for their smooth harmonies, lockstep dance moves and expertly matched outfits, went from being Justin Bieber and Diggy Simmons‘ openers/hypemen to head-on headliners, complete with the type of fearless fans who might even trample Bieber for a piece of Mindless Behavior.
+ Odd Future: Love them or loathe them, unless you’re one of those rich teenagers who sailed around the world solo, you’re more than familiar with the fact that in early 2011, the roaming, rotating cast of skate punk/smart kid/art kid misfits known as Odd Future went from the most remote recesses of the internet to owning the internet to clowning on the stage of “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” to earning a hallowed Kanye West co-sign in the form of a tweet, eventually earning the Wolfpack’s leader, most outspoken member and head dog, Tyler, The Creator, a Best New Artist VMA. Free Earl.
+ Young The Giant: Not many bands release their debut album and go on to sweep the festival circuit mere months later the way Young The Giant did upon the release of their shimmering eponymous album… which MORRISSEY called perfect. South By Southwest 2011, Sasquatch, two dates at Java Rockin’ Land Festival in Jakarta, front and center at Lollapalooza, sold-out shows in countless major markets throughout the U.S and England, an explosive debut performance at the 2011 MTV VMAs followed by their own “MTV Unplugged” gig, and rave write-ups in rags like Rolling Stone and Spin and notoriously hard-to-impress blogs like Consequence of Sound and Drowned In Sound. It’s hard to imagine topping a year like that, but if history’s any indicator, Young The Giant will somehow find a way.
PLEASE NOTE: VOTING IS NOW CLOSED!
Starting Monday, Dec. 12, MTV will reveal the best artists, songs and movies of the year. Come to MTV News each day to see more big reveals and check out more of MTV’s Best of 2011 music, TV, movies, and news coverage.