''Skyscraper'' Demi Lovato (2011) vs. David Lee Roth (1988)
A troubled teen star rising from the Mouseketeer ashes with a laid-bare power ballad, or the dude who bailed on Van Halen to sing spandexed pseudo-prog odes to space travel? Sophie never had to make a choice like this.
Winner: Lovato Sorry, Diamond Dave — Demi’s defiant battle cry soars above.
''Monster'' Paramore (2011) vs. Kanye West (2010)
The titular beasts in Paramore’s guitar-fueled growler may or may not be the group’s departed band members; Kanye is merely trying to slay the demons that nest in his own cerebrum on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy‘s cornerstone posse track.
Winner: West Guest star Nicki Minaj stomps her verse like Godzilla over Tokyo.
''Smile'' Avril Lavigne (2011) vs. Lily Allen (2006)
Avril is smiling because she’s finally found her soul mate — he’s ”f—ing crazy rock & roll” and, apparently, slips roofies in her drinks. Romance! Lily is smiling because her cheating ex wants her back, and she’s so over him.
Winner: Allen Lavigne’s punchy snarl-pop comes close, but Allen wraps her schadenfreude in the sweetest island lilt.
''Tonight Tonight'' Hot Chelle Rae (2011) vs. The Smashing Pumpkins (1996)
Hot Chelle Rae aren’t worried about the evening’s festivities, casually tossing off this ambling sing-along (currently a top 10 Billboard hit) about maybe hitting up a party later. The Pumpkins, meanwhile, are too overwhelmed with orchestras and crucifixions to show up at some shindig.
Winner: Hot Chelle Rae If Billy Corgan had any hair, he would really need to let it down.
''Out of My Head'' Lupe Fiasco (2011) vs. Fastball (1998)
In a rare departure from the Sturm und Drang of his socially conscious spitting, Fiasco invites Trey Songz along for a seductive party-starter. At no point does he channel Elvis Costello’s dewy-eyed croon, which is what wry Texas rockers Fastball do on their groovy love ballad.
Winner: Fastball Bow down, Lupe, to the power of the Hammond organ.
''Pieces of Me'' Ashlee Simpson (2004) vs. Ledisi (2011)
These ladies both want you to know that they contain multitudes: Ledisi says it with jazzy ”I am woman” instructionals; Ashlee’s just happy that her new guy loves her for all of her Sybil tendencies.
Winner: Simpson That killer pop-rock hook makes us miss mid-aughties A. Simp — ”punk” phase, SNL lip-synch debacle, and all.
''So in Love'' OMD (1985) vs. Jill Scott (2011)
Though OMD’s waterfall of weeping synths and Scott’s backyard-barbecue jam share a title, their subjects deviate: Scott can’t believe how smitten she is, while OMD are bleeding at the end of a doomed love affair.
Winner: OMD Heartbreak and falsetto always lead to triumph.
''Novacane'' Beck (1996) vs. Frank Ocean (2011)
The king of ’90s pastiche buries his trash-can funk in kitschy bleep-bloops and a wall of feedback fuzz; the Odd Future crew’s standout delivers bedroom R&B with a crisp, mentholated cool.
Winner: Ocean The man nearly out-Becks Beck with absurdist lyrical riffs on Coachella and Stanley Kubrick.
''Tomorrow'' Chris Young (2011) vs. Silverchair (1995)
Australia’s teen-grunge exports never tell us what we’re waiting for (or why they’re calling us ”fat boy”), but on his country smash, the Nashville Star winner knows exactly what he wants: one more swoony roll in the hay before he heads on up the road.
Winner: Young He may be leaving you forever, but at least he’s not mean about your weight.
''Good Life'' One Republic (2010) vs. Kanye West (2007)
The pop-rockers’ Little Song That Could — it’s the fourth single released from 2009’s Waking Up, and only really impacted the charts in 2011 after several memorable placements on the big screen (Easy A, One Day) — is all airy aspirations to far-flung area codes (lots of London, plus ”Paris to China to Colorado”). Kanye’s ”Good Life” involves more domestic frequent-flier miles (”It feel like L.A., it feel like Miami / It feel like N.Y., summertime Chi”) and some naughty mile-high high jinks.
Winner: This one may be a draw. More than any others on this list, both seem to be saying pretty much the same thing: that being young, famous, and geographically mobile feels very nice, thank you. And it sounds good, too.