2011: The Return of the Sax - Rolling Stone
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2011: The Return of the Sax

The year’s top 10 best pop songs featuring saxophone

clarence clemons

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Though 2011 saw the passing of iconic saxophone players Clarence Clemons and Gerry Rafferty, the year also marked the resurgence of their instrument in popular culture. After years of signifying the goofiest excesses of the Eighties, artists ranging from Bon Iver to Lady Gaga embraced the sax and made the woodwind instrument one of the most vital sounds of 2011. This list highlights Rolling Stone's 10 favorite sax performances of the year.

By Matthew Perpetua

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3. Tune-Yards, ‘Gangsta’

Tune-Yards mastermind Merrill Garbus is one of the fiercest singers in pop music today, with a voice capable of such intensity that some of her shouts seem as though they could level a mountain range. In this performance of "Gangsta," a standout track from her band's breakthrough album, w h o k i l l, the singer complements her voice with sax parts so wild, they make her seem mild in comparison.

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2. Destroyer, ‘Kaputt’

Kaputt, Dan Bejar's ninth album as Destroyer, conjurs a misty, early-Eighties world out of carefully composed layers of synth-pop keyboards and lite-jazz woodwinds. It's a remarkable piece of work that almost singlehandedly makes some of the least cool sounds of the decade seem fresh and edgy in context. "Kaputt," the album's first single, nods in the general direction of Roxy Music but sounds more like the best-case scenario of a Bob Dylan/Kenny G collaboration.

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1. Lady Gaga, ‘The Edge of Glory’

Lady Gaga channels the spirit of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band all throughout her second proper album, Born This Way, merging their stadium-rock grandeur with her pounding disco beats. Rather than simply emulate the Boss' sax style, she went straight to the source and hired the E Street Band's Clarence Clemons to rip into what turned out to be the last great sax solo of his amazing career.

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