LIST: The Top 100 Songs of 2022 (49-1)
Updated: Dec 20, 2022
49. SZA, “Blind”
On “Blind”, SZA is trying to escape her past perceptions while actively giving into parts of them. More importantly, the track is a welcome return from the modern queen of mainstream R&B over tasteful acoustic guitars.
48. Animal Collective, “We Go Back”
AnCo takes it back to basics on “We Go Back” and many other tracks on their excellent new LP. “Basics” in the case of this band is very complicated and psychedelic jam seshes with avalanches of vocals, and this track captures the old style while still feeling entirely new for them.
47. Perfume Genius, “Hellbent”
On what is perhaps his most challenging and expansive cut yet, Michael Hadreas aka Perfume Genius recounts a drunken journey to a lover’s house with Lynchian overtones. He’s bleeding, phoneless and belligerent, and the throttling synths and clacking drum hits convey this perfectly.
146. Denzel Curry / slowthai, “Zatoichi”
While a song with these two artists dropping in 2022 definitely had my skeptical Fantanocore senses tingling, this is one of the more compelling cuts that either of these artists have made in years. The fast paced drum-n-bass allows Denzel to get so much shit off his chest. He sees himself as the blind folklore swordsman Zatoichi, uniting black communities while cutting through the materialism that is pushed on them 24/7.
45. Blood Orange, “Jesus Freak Lighter”
Dev Hynes returns with his signature ‘80s style, more minimalistic and esoteric than ever before. “Living in my head / Photo fantasy” he sings, “Falling in / falling in.” By the time you try to figure out what it means, it’s already looped back five times.
44. Drake / 21 Savage, “Rich Flex”
“21 can ya do some fah may” Drake asks, “ok” 21 responds. And with that, he does something for all of us by making Drake sound listenable. “Rich Flex” the quintessential zeitgeist rap track of the year, the song that was on all of our feeds whether we liked it or not. Thank god it slaps.
43. PinkPantheress, “Boy’s a liar”
If nothing else, this 2022 string of PinkPantheress tracks has proven definitively that she is the pop it girl who is here to stay. This one is particularly cutesy with its 16-bit beat, but still has that dual personality love-hate that we’ve all grown to love from her music in such a short span of time.
42. Daniela Lalita, “Tenía Razón”
Although she’s been only making music this year, Daniela Lalita’s conceptual art background precedes her and bleeds into all of her visuals. She is building a universe around herself, with “Tenía Razón” or “I Was Right” being out portal into it. It is a celebration of her intuition and her familial spirit, and showcases modern production alongside native tribal chanting. It hits the sweet spot between avant-garde and pop that we love here.
41. Beyoncé, “PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA”
It’s not too often that he get to hear a stripped down, seductive Beyoncé these days amid all the braggadocio, but here we are, with the lovely “PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA”. It’s an earnest, funky ballad about making love and setting aside personal trauma in favor of healing. Sexual healing, that is.
40. Bad Boy Chiller Crew, “BMW”
If Ali G made a pop rap crew, it would be BBCC. “BMW” is their very best effort yet, a jokey, summer posse cut that goes way too damn hard for its own good. It’s a rap song that drifts between simping and red pilled masculine chest pumping, it’s absolutely brilliant stuff, harkening back to the glory days of rappers like The Streets.
39. Oliver Sim / Jimmy Somerville, “Hideous”
Oliver Sim took a very courageous stance this year with his new LP Hideous Bastard and its title track “Hideous”. He’s lived with HIV since he was a teenager, and with his first solo offering, he speaks on the loneliness and alienation that it’s caused him until now. “Why don’t you leave me in the dirt?” he cries out at one moment. Yet, the vocal presence and the backing are so tasteful and powerful. It’s a profound take on one’s own struggle to be loved and love oneself.
38. FKA twigs, “oh my love”
twigs strips it way down with some slow burning R&B, a big departure from her previous, more experimental work. The heartache and unrequited feelings at the core of the track more than make up for the lack of left field ideas, and shows twigs in a brand new light.
37. death insurance, “ifeelgr8”
No song this year has better pinned down the endless loop of the internet via Discord and 4chan than “ifeelgr8”, a brain rot pop anthem for the ages. The tunnel vision is real in the high BPM, fastly spit verses and “eyes on the prize, and I’m feeling great” hook.
36. Lana Del Rey, “Did you know there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd”
There actually is though that’s the craziest part
35. BabyTron / DaBoii, “6 Star Wanted Level”
BabyTron is the hardest working rapstar in all of Detroit for sure, but maybe on Earth generally speaking. He’s had a hell of a year via his solo work but also with ShittyBoyz. It’s difficult to choose just one cut from such a prolific artist, but “6 Star Wanted Level” gives enough breathing room and beat switches to provide a proper intro to the world of Tron.
34. The Smile, “The Smoke”
Two of Radiohead's most prominent members broke off this year with the drummer from the now defunct Sons of Kemet for a jammy batch of new rock cuts, the best of which is the smoky, noir-like “The Smoke”. The bass lines and drum hits flood the track, setting the tone before Thom Yorke makes his grand entry, calming threatening to set himself on fire, “don’t mess with me” he warns in a whisper.
33. Sudan Archives, “NBPQ (Topless)”
On the title track to her groundbreaking new record, Sudan Archives is able to stay groovy while talking about some real life situations and setbacks that she faces as a black woman. But yet, it’s also a celebration where she’s looking for psychedelics. It’s a real journey from start to finish, a great representation of everything she does so well.
32. Safety Trance / Arca, “El Alma Que Te Trajo”
Continuing their superb collaborative streak that started on “Prada / Rakata” from Arca’s KicK ii, Safety Trance lays down some warped reggaeton for her to go absolutely feral over. This one is not too out there, just a really solid and dark dance track that I’ve grown to love.
31. The Dare, “Girls”
How is that a NYC based artist is headlining shows and playing giant festivals off one song? Well, it’s the way nostalgia is filtered through a modern lens that is really captivating people. Over drums from a Peaches song and with the general vibe of LCD Soundsystem, The Dare is a horny simp for each and every girl. Big girls, small girls, girls with dicks, anyone and everyone. It’s a perfect jam for the post-COVID reconvening, where the only people who are left out are the ones who don’t know how to have fun.
30. Hyd, “Only Living For You”
On what may be SOPHIE’s last true artistic statement (alongside A.G. Cook), Hyd becomes the true pop star that PC Music promised this whole time. She’s part robotic, part human, with a full heart that is ready for dedication and love. Like SOPHIE’s “JUST LIKE WE NEVER SAID GOODBYE”, this is a slow burner that packs in such a punch on the production front.
29. Vince Staples, “WHEN SPARKS FLY”
On one of Vince Staples' very best songs of his career, he spins a Bonnie and Clyde romance tale about his own gun. Each line is a clever double entendre (“love how you illuminate my thoughts”, “make it clap for the homies”) that plays into a building narrative. While the subject matter is aggressive, the production is patient and sexy R&B, a wonderful juxtaposition that really sells the cut.
28. Tokischa / Treintisiete, “Sistema De Patio”
As far as Latin pop and rap acts go, not many artists have had a bigger year that Tokischa. Whether twerking on Madonna and Eartheater, headlining massive international festivals or working with mainstream acts like Marshmello, she’s just about done it all. “Sistema De Patio” with Treintisiete is her biggest achievement of the year in my opinion, an infinitely replayable reggaeton banger that should be a Serato staple.
27. Jazmine Sullivan, “Selfish”
On the deluxe to her excellent Heaux Tales record from last year, she switched the tone to being a caller out of bullshit. On the most pointed track on the record, she is putting a man in the hot seat for making no sacrifices in a relationship, a position I’m sure many people reading this have been caught in. Whichever side you’ve been on, there’s no doubting her talent and straightforwardness here.
26. Mitski, “Love Me More”
Mitski’s “Love Me More” is a galloping, nostalgic treat that continues to play on the lack of inspiration in her career, and the void that no more output will leave. As in all of her best songs, she’s attempting to use love as a crutch to mask a deeper issue. Here, it’s more obvious than before, but the directness adds to the bombast.
25. Frost Children, “LAKE OF LOVE”
Hyperpop is back and more fun than it was the first time around. Frost Children are twisting electronic music in their image, which yields wacky results throughout their newest LP. “LAKE OF LOVE”, however is far from wacky, it’s actually an earnest and hopeful celebration of love among losers. Contray to what you might hear from Carl Wheezer, Frost Children DO NOT fucking suck.
24. Björk / Kasimyn, “Fossora”
The title track to Björk’s adventurous and bold new record is a statement of purpose. It’s a triumphant stake in the ground that she spikes for her lineage. It’s what I’d consider to be the emotional peak of the record, and the heaviest song by far, showcases earth shattering gabbers and rumbling bass clarinets working in harmony.
23. Doss, “Jumpin’”
Doss never ever misses, never forget that. Since dropping her latest EP last year, 4 New Hit Songs, she’s made that clear. This is music that resparks an excitement in dance music and gives it a real purpose, bringing me back to the Disclosure era. “Jumpin’” is just another win for the catalog.
22. The Garden, “Chainsaw The Door”
Whereas in the past it was hard to pin down the duo, “Chainsaw The Door” feels like a real defining moment of the group. Instrumentally, it distills their sound down to its best elements, and vocally it’s bold as hell. It’s both inspirational and filthy, encouraging the listener to break glass ceilings over heavy dub drums and raunchy riffs.
21. Romy / Fred again…, “Strong”
While Fred again…‘s sappy inspirational electronic music really got grating this year with his third album, he gives Romy of the xx an amazing and dynamic beat here that perfectly encapsulates the hope and sense of community she conjures in her lyrics. Never have such simple lines like “you don’t have to be so strong” hit so hard. This is a track that just works on so many levels, as a club banger, as a pick me up, as something more serious. I’m excited to see what Romy does next.
20. yunè pinku, “Laylo”
Put this song on and let me know how many people ask “what is this song, can you send it to me?” I’ve played this at parties, small get togethers, in the car, everywhere I get that exact response from at least one person. It’s a little house banger that just works in every respect. Try it in your next DJ set.
19. Charli XCX / Rina Sawayama, “Beg For You”
Yes, this track is essentially a rework of “Don’t Cry” by Milk Inc, which is a rework of a Bronski Beat song, which Ed Sheeran reworked for “Bad Habits”. The melodies and general beats of this song have been done many times over, it’s like the pop equivalent of A Star Is Born. It’s the strong presences on the parts of Charli and Rina that makes this a bold artistic statement, the best track out of all the ones I mentioned in the beginning. It’s a transformative pop smash.
18. Nilüfer Yanya, “the dealer”
On what I’d consider to be her best track, Nilüfer Yanya uses the age-old trope “love as the drug” to craft a perfect pop rock track. This is a fatless rager who’s guitars, drums and vocals just perfectly compliment each other and continue to grow alongside each other. It’s a great opener for one of the most slept on records of the year, period.
17. Weyes Blood, “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody”
Isolation is the number one killer in the modern era. Ok, maybe that’s heart disease, but you know what I mean. We all want to be “perceived” and “seen”, but there are so many modern factors that make this difficult. On “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody”, Weyes Blood wants you to know that you’re not alone. As is her custom, she uses the most lush and ornately arranged instrumentals to find the center of specific ideas.
16. Perfume, “Time Warp - v1.1”
Ok this one is a cheat because it really came out in 2020, but considering that most people first heard it this year, and it’s “v1.1”, I’m going to count it. Fucking incredible J-pop track, Perfume and their production wizard Yasutaka Nakata return with an absolute smash.
15. The 1975, “Happiness”
“Happiness” captures everything I love so much about The 1975. The glitz, the glamour, the romance, the nostalgia and lead singer Matt Healy’s perspective. It definitely employs a simpler and more catchy strategy than something like “Love It If We Made It”, but it’s carefree whimsy just works, like Matty says “you met me at the right time”, and that’s how I feel about this track coming out in this particular year.
14. Yung Lean / Skrillex / Bladee / Ecco2k, “Summertime Blood”
I just want to say, Ecco and Bladee are a couple of little divas on this track man. Yung Lean is doing his thing, some classic emo boy shit. But something about those Skrillex synths bring the competition out of those two, as they’re like twin snakes trying to outdo each other. The result of the friendly completion is easily one of the most compelling pop cuts of the past five years.
13. Jockstrap, “Glasgow”
Like the rest of Jockstrap’s music, “Glasgow” is a halfway baroque, halfway futuristic fever dream. It builds up from scratch with dissonant string hits and high flying vocals, before fully transitioning to what sounds like the greatest Joni Mitchell song never released, all while contending with laser gun sound effects and sharp synths. It’s a multi-faced beast of a ballad, constantly shifting in style while holding onto the song at the core of it all, and lead singer Georgia Ellery’s voice by extension. This is special music from a very rare debut.
12. Caroline Polachek, “Welcome To My Island”
Talk about a buzzer beater, sheesh. As much I’ve grown really enamored with her incredible lead single to her sophomore record, the psychedelic nonsense that is “Billions”, “Welcome To My Island” is just too much of an instant classic. DEEESSIIIIIREEEEE I WANNA TURN INTO YOU-HOOOOO. I love the playful concept of the track and it’s equally bubbly beat, the chorus is simple but elegant, and Caroline is singing her ass off. Can’t say enough how great this one is.
11. Big Thief, “Simulation Swarm”
Big Thief has always had a really keen sense of space and how to describe it. Whether describing a moonlit floor, a deep exhale or violet door, it’s difficult to tell what is symbolic or what is real. This constant fight between reality and simulation is what makes “Simulation Swarm” one of my very favorites of theirs, alongside the jammy, calculated freewheeling of the instrumentals.
10. Kendrick Lamar, “United In Grief”
We’ve all been going through something, for far longer than 1,855 days. Kendrick Lamar has always been a great summarizer of the problems of today, and “United In Grief” is absolutely no exception. The worldwide harm of covid, the individual stresses, the forceful push of materialism on the culture — Kendrick dissects it all over Portishead-style drums. It’s so specific yet the feelings coming through are so applicable to everyone, “I grieve different”.
9. Soul Glo, “Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass?)”
“Gold Chain Punk” has a lot going on in it, so I won't try to break it all down here. Parts of it discuss paranoia, while others discuss societal ills, but the key part of it all is the phrase, “can I live?” Living in America, especially as a person of color, comes with multipliers of difficulty that make it difficult to walk around, breathe, learn, you know, basic human rights. Soul Glo’s hardcore is one that seeks to unite the marginalized against the powers that be by asking simple questions within a framework of intense breakdowns and screamed floods of truths. They peaked out the gate with this first track on the record, although the rest of the record is spent, and nearly succeeding, to outdo it.
8. Ethel Cain, “American Teenager”
Ethel Cain is really the breakout star of 2022. For a long time now, she’s been toiling in this sort of Gothboiclique dark world folk she’s made for herself, building out 7 to 8 minute tracks with gothic intrigue. While there is certainly plenty of that to go around on her debut record Preacher’s Daughter, the shining statement is much more brief and direct, and that’s “American Teenager”. She does the pop rock anthem her own way, referencing dead neighborhood kids and Jesus over bright synths and pumped up solos. This is a confident stride into the future by Cain that I want to hear more of in the future from not just her, but peers like her. Deeply creative and catchy stuff.
7. Alvvays, “Pharmacist”
“Pharmacist” is the very best Alvvays song, without question. It employs nostalgia as a means to look forward rather than backward. Lead singer Molly Rankin sees a person from the past that makes her go existential, unleashing a wall of guitars that turn her mindset into a bright glowing fog. People are getting older, the town is not what it used to be, change is happening. It packs so much into such a small package, like watching an entire life flash before one’s eyes. The year’s most expressive guitar solo also pops in at the tail end of the cut.
6. black midi, “Sugar/Tzu”
In terms of technical ability and storytelling, there is no greater song this year than black midi’s epic jazz metal opus “Sugar/Tzu”. This is being a trope of this list but this is the best black midi song. I don’t even know how the fuck these dudes are able to play this music, if this was the game Rock Band, all the instruments and vocals would be max difficulty. Aside from the proficiency, it tells a very interesting fictional story of a fake boxer being murder by a jealous fan looking for fame, a tale as old as time that is only getting more real and frequent in the clout era.
5. Alex G, “Blessing”
Simple songwriting and production mastery can get you extremely far, look no further than Alex G’s “Blessing”. He doesn’t say anything overly complex here, yet the way it’s presented with blasts of sound, hushed vocals and biblical references conjures a real image of fighting for one’s life. It’s motivational in a way that isn’t preachy, it’s like taking a bus everyday praying that one day you could have a shitty car to drive around in. It’s not asking you for much, just to be present and accepting of whatever blessings you may have.
4. The Weeknd, “Dawn FM / Gasoline”
“It’s 5AM, my time again, I’m calling and you know it’s me” The Weeknd tells you in a deadpan, like a corpse beckoning you into the darkness. The past 2-3 years have been a playground for him, creating this pop atmosphere around his music that feels truly multidimensional. On the opening cut to the record, he uses the aesthetics of radio and ‘80s darkwave to introduce the world to his new era, one that differs from his previous efforts in its overt desperation and toxicity. It’s perfectly performed and produced, and utilizes Oneohtrix Point Never’s talents so well. This will be a forgotten pop masterpiece. Mark my words.
3. Shygirl, “Come For Me”
Shy teams again with Arca to create another Metal Gear Mech of a deconstructed pop track on “Come For Me”. The beat is mechanical and Shy’s vocals are commanding, “Come when you’re called, be easy if I take the lead”. It refuses to stand still for even a moment, constantly shifting with squelching synths or skittering percussion hits as her vocals get chopped, looped and pitched by Arca. This is a match made in Hell, Shygirl’s shining moment elevated by the architect of this new wave.
2. ROSALÍA, “HENTAI”
God this is such a gorgeous song. It starts out so unassuming with some spare pianos, but within seconds it wraps you in its anime tentacles. Read into the deeply sexual lyrics to go further down the rabbit hole, giving an additional layer of appeal here. At the core is ROSALÍA’s immaculate and angelic vocal presence, it sends chills down my spine every single time she utters a sound. It’s cheeky in its subject matter, tastefully measured in its delivery, and the production matches the moment as it builds to its climax. All hail La Reina ROSALÍA!
1. Bladee / Ecco2k, “The Flag Is Raised”
The first time I heard this track, I thought “wow this is a decent track on a little throwaway tour mixtape, cool.” Then I saw the two perform it live that night at the Knockdown Center in Queens, taking pictures in the press pit right under them. Behind me were scores of sweaty teenagers screaming their lungs out to a song that literally just came out. That’s when I realized the power that this crew holds, and with more and more listens, I quickly realized this is the sound of the future. Spiritual but not religious, rap without bars, no long intros, just cutting straight to the feeling. This page has had a long history with Bladee especially, in 2020 it was “DNA RAIN” against the world, as a previous co-writer pointed out at the time. 2022 was the Year of Drain Gang, and it’s well deserved. The flag is raised.