The 100 best songs of 2022 (complete with playlist!)
Whether you heard them on TikTok, on the radio or on a fresh slab of old-fashioned vinyl, new songs helped make sense this year of a world that seemed to need more interpretation with every passing month. Here, in ascending order of greatness, are our picks for the 50 best of 2022 — note that we restricted artists to one entry apiece — followed by 50 more to hear, to love, to be enlightened by. (The Spotify playlist features all 100 songs in alphabetical order.)
50. Zach Bryan, “Something in the Orange”
One of the year’s most compelling newcomers inexplicably failed to land a best new artist Grammy nomination, but don’t let that detract from the rippling sincerity of this streaming-smash highlight from Bryan’s sprawling “American Heartbreak” album. — August Brown
49. Kenny Mason, “Zoomies”
Mason’s was far and away the finest trap-metal concept album about an artist’s dog to come out this year. — A.B.
48. Baby Stone Gorillas, “Keep Goin”
The white-hot L.A. rap group assails a soul sample on “Keep Goin,” its members jumping in and out of frame as they pass the baton with an uncanny chemistry. — Kenan Draughorne
47. Kali Malone, “Living Torch I”
Absolutely nothing and everything happens in these gorgeous 18 minutes of organ drones. Light some candles and let the edible hit. — A.B.
46. Rauw Alejandro, “Verde Menta”
Latin freestyle is back, and not a moment too soon. Look out, weekend! — Suzy Exposito
45. Cakes Da Killa, “W4TN”
While we all wait for Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” tour and visuals, here’s another landmark work of queer Black club music that’s equally horny and rooted in house music history. — A.B.
44. Buddy, “Hoochie Mama”
Compton’s Buddy sounds like he’s having the time of his life on each verse he gets to rap. — K.D.
43. David Guetta and Bebe Rexha, “I’m Good (Blue)”
Remember when the Black Eyed Peas added approximately 7% of a new song to “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”? Guetta and Rexha do. — Mikael Wood
42. Lucrecia Dalt, “El Galatzó”
An inheritor to Gal Costa’s vision of psychedelic, deeply orchestrated Latin music as a realm of experiment, pain and — fundamentally — possibility. — A.B.
41. Special Interest feat. Mykki Blanco, “Midnight Legend”
New Orleans industrial punks Special Interest team up with rapper Mykki Blanco for this starry-eyed disco fete, promising hope beyond the hedonism of nightlife. — S.E.
40. Paramore, “This Is Why”
“House of Jealous Lovers” for everyone who went out to the club after COVID, took one look around and went straight back home. — A.B.
39. Baby Rose, “Go”
Baby Rose’s supernatural vocals can stand out anywhere, but they’re even more awesome when paired with this lavish instrumental. — K.D.
38. Gatherers, “Black Marigold”
If early-aughts screamo is classic rock by now, these New Jersey vets brought it into modernity. Slinky, sexy and explosive, with a well-deserved Geoff Rickly endorsement. — A.B.
37. Say She She, “Prism”
Picture this: the Muses of Greek legend, brought to life in the form of a Brooklyn soul-funk band. — S.E.
36. Soccer Mommy, “Shotgun”
Sublime ’90s alt-fuzz from a young songwriter born four years after the Breeders’ “Cannonball” dropped. — M.W.
It was another weird year. This is the music, movies, theater, books, television and art that got us through.
35. Hitkidd and GloRilla, “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)”
Hitkidd and GloRilla earned Grammy noms for rap performance thanks to this rousing anthem to clearing out bad energy and returning to single activities. — K.D.
34. Muna, “Runner’s High”
Before you let their Phoebe Bridgers-assisted “Silk Chiffon” steal the show, surrender to the techno-pop ecstasy of “Runner’s High.” — S.E.
33. Ice Spice, “Munch (Feelin’ U)”
Twenty-two-year-old Ice Spice has it all: withering humor, saucy charisma and the ability to will new slang about useless dudes into existence. — A.B.
32. The Weeknd, “Out of Time”
Can a love song double as a ghost story? “I remember when I held you,” the Weeknd sings sweetly in a voice full of dread. “You begged me with your drowning eyes to stay.” — M.W.
31. Bino Rideaux feat. Roddy Ricch, “Lemme Find Out”
Good things happen when you pair two of L.A.’s strongest melodic rappers. — K.D.
30. Bizarrap feat. Villano Antillano, “Villano Antillano: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 51”
Studio time with 24-year-old Argentine producer Bizarrap has become a status symbol in the Hispanic world. On this trap-house session, Puerto Rican rap starlet (and Bad Bunny associate) Villano Antillano spits with style and a generous dose of queer camp. — S.E.
29. Chat Pile, “Grimace_Smoking_Weed.jpeg”
This one belongs here for the title alone, but it accompanies one of the most savage, astringent metal records of the year. — A.B.
28. The 1975, “Oh Caroline”
Imagine Lloyd Dobler hoisting that boombox outside Diane Court’s window and blasting “The Way It Is” instead of “In Your Eyes.” — M.W.
27. V.C.R, “Blue”
The Memphis-born singer and violinist V.C.R makes being spellbound sound oh so good. — K.D.
26. Becky G and Karol G, “Mamiii”
Real Gs only. After years spent trailing each other on red carpets and Latin pop charts, reggaeton-pop stars Becky G and Karol G — no relation — fused their Mexican and Colombian sensibilities into an empowered cumbiatón breakup jam for the ladies. — S.E.
25. Elton John and Britney Spears, “Hold Me Closer”
To follow up his hit 2021 collab with Dua Lipa, Captain Fantastic enlists pop’s blue-jean baby for a soft-touch disco jam about freedom, endurance and the shrewd monetization of one’s intellectual property. — M.W.
24. Sam Smith feat. Kim Petras, “Unholy”
It’s a milestone No. 1 song for trans and nonbinary artists. And how cool that it’s also as dumb as a bag of hammers. — A.B.
23. Kendrick Lamar feat. Blxst and Amanda Reifer, “Die Hard”
The best song from “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers” speaks to the nervousness that comes with putting your heart in someone else’s hands. — K.D.
22. My Chemical Romance, “The Foundations of Decay”
For those who declared emo long dead and buried, let this song be a fist, bursting defiantly from the soil. — S.E.
21. Joji, “Glimpse of Us”
Nearly a decade after he helped launch Baauer’s jock-trap “Harlem Shake” to a fluke No. 1 showing atop the Hot 100, this former YouTube prankster topped Spotify’s global chart himself with a bare-bones piano ballad as pretty as peak Nick Drake. — M.W.
Bad Bunny, Beyoncé, Rosalia and Taylor Swift vie for the top spot in our critic’s list of the best albums of 2022.
20. Makaya McCraven, “The Fours”
A perfect suture between heady jazz and electronic precision. — A.B.
19. Sessa, “Canção da Cura”
Brazilian singer-guitarist Sessa creates a hypnotic ode to heartbreak on a standout song from his sophomore album, “Estrela Acesa.” — K.D.
18. Wet Leg, “Wet Dream”
In this saucy cut off their debut LP, Isle of Wight indie rockers Wet Leg make fun of something that Harry Styles couldn’t quite capture in his cover of their song on BBC Radio 1: the yawning banality of male attention. — S.E.
17. Harry Styles, “Matilda”
Say what you want about his performative allyship: The empathy in this song — in the delicate melody, in the sighing tenderness of Styles’ vocal, in the vivid image of a girl tying up her hair as she tries to pop a wheelie on her bike — is real. — M.W.
16. Chappell Roan, “Casual”
All the high drama and meticulous melody-writing of Taylor Swift at her best, with some NC-17 zingers that make this situationship feel like a fresh wound. — A.B.
15. Khruangbin and Leon Bridges, “Mariella”
The psychedelic-funk trio Khruangbin proved long ago that they don’t need vocals to make great music. But it doesn’t hurt to have Leon Bridges’ honey-soaked voice floating over their alluring sounds. — K.D.
14. Anitta, “Envolver”
Brazilian funk-pop star Anitta scaled her way to the peak of the Billboard Global 200 chart with this slick reggaeton joint about a strictly casual affair. Although the song may not be safe for work, it’s proven optimal for clubs, bachelorette parties and other sites where reckless abandon is encouraged. — S.E.
13. Lizzo, “2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)”
The key change of the year. — M.W.
12. Fousheé, “Double Standard”
Fousheé’s talent earned her high-profile guest spots on albums from Vince Staples, Steve Lacy and King Princess, but here she owns the spotlight by daring to defy gender-based relationship roles. — K.D.
11. Sudan Archives, “NBPQ (Topless)”
A defining statement about colorism in the music industry, the exultations of Black womanhood and Sudan Archives’ musical virtuosity — that ends with a full minute of her howling, “I just wanna have my titties out, titties out, titties out.” — A.B.
10. Rosalía, “Bizcochito”
The Spanish art-pop queen’s “Motomami” LP contains profound reflections on emotional torment and pandemic-era isolation. But TikTok regulars came to know Rosalía best on this gum-smacking reggaeton-pop clapback to misogyny. — S.E.
9. Taylor Swift, “Anti-Hero”
If she felt like “a monster on the hill too big to hang out” before the concert-ticket debacle, just think about the metaphors she might deploy in her next anthem of superstar self-loathing. — M.W.
8. Health and Nine Inch Nails, “Isn’t Everyone”
Getting Trent Reznor to revisit the lyrics to “Piggy” on your collaborative industro-goth single? That’s music history right there. — A.B.
7. Doja Cat, “Vegas”
Doja Cat released only one original solo song this year: this Grammy-nominated single from the “Elvis” soundtrack. There’s poetic justice in the fact that she sampled Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog” rather than Presley’s 1956 cover. — K.D.
6. Yahritza Y Su Esencia, “Soy El Unico”
Singer-songwriter Yahritza Martinez was just 13 years old when she penned this forlorn heartbreak ballad, the first hit by her family band, Su Esencia. Yet her sonorous voice carries the weight of a hundred years of solitude. — S.E.
5. Steve Lacy, “Bad Habit”
It’s rock, it’s soul, it’s biscuits, it’s gravy. — M.W.
4. Burna Boy, “Last Last”
A song so good that newlywed couples have been using it in their marriage videos — despite the fact that the Nigerian superstar is singing about heartbreak. — K.D.
3. Ethel Cain, “American Teenager”
Zoomers finally have their own “Born to Run,” courtesy of a trans girl from the evil swamps of Florida. — A.B.
2. Bad Bunny, “Titi Me Preguntó”
In his dembow smash, Puerto Rican dynamo Bad Bunny paid tribute to all the meddlesome titis, or aunties of the world, and successfully baited new anglophone fans with a (rare!) sliver of English in the chorus: “[Let’s take a] selfie, say cheese!” — S.E.
1. Beyoncé, “Break My Soul”
Not only the most exuberant song of 2022 but the most varied in its practical applications. Did you just fall in love? Did you just quit your job? Did you just happily proclaim that you’d taken your last-ever COVID test? (That one may require some walking back.) Whatever you were celebrating — whatever you were resisting — “Break My Soul” made for the right soundtrack. Its wiggle contains multitudes. — M.W.
And in alphabetical order, another 50 songs not to be missed:
Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul, “Blenda”
Alex G, “Cross the Sea”
Omar Apollo, “Evergreen (You Didn’t Deserve Me At All)”
Automatic, “New Beginning”
Big Thief, “Simulation Swarm”
Bleed, “Killing Time”
Blxst, “About You”
Cloud Rat, “Babahaz”
Dixson feat. Tinashe, “Heat”
Drake, “Down Hill”
Silvana Estrada, “Te Guardo”
Sure, you know from Latin stars Bad Bunny and Rosalía, but you’re cheating yourself if you don’t check out these wildly creative Spanish-language albums.
Brent Faiyaz, “All Mine”
Fontaines D.C., “Jackie Down the Line”
Mabe Fratti, “Cada Músculo”
Gel, “Mental Static”
Genesis Owusu, “Get Inspired”
Girl Ultra and Little Jesus, “Punk”
Gunna and Future feat. Young Thug, “Pushin P”
Hardy feat. Lainey Wilson, “Wait in the Truck”
Hemlocke Springs, “Girlfriend”
Larry June feat. 2 Chainz, “Still Boomin”
Kalan.Frfr, “Light Breeze”
Omah Lay and Justin Bieber, “Attention”
Ravyn Lenae, “M.I.A.”
Ari Lennox, “Pressure”
Demi Lovato, “29”
Post Malone with Roddy Ricch, “Cooped Up”
Ashley McBryde with Pillbox Patti, “The Girl in the Picture”
Mitski, “The Only Heartbreaker”
Maren Morris, “The Furthest Thing”
Carla Morrison, “Diamantes”
Paopao feat. iZaak, “Jodona”
Pusha T, “Let the Smokers Shine the Coupes”
Adrian Quesada feat. iLe, “Mentiras Con Cariño”
Red Hot Chili Peppers, “White Braids & Pillow Chair”
Reyna Tropical, “Pajaritos”
Smino feat. Lil Uzi Vert, “Pudgy”
Jazmine Sullivan, “Hurt Me So Good”
Victony and Ktizo, “Jolene”
Summer Walker with SZA and Cardi B, “No Love”
Westside Boogie feat. Smino and Teezo Touchdown, “Can’t Get Over You”
Weyes Blood, “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody”
Pharrell Williams feat. Tyler the Creator and 21 Savage, “Cash in Cash Out”
Nicky Youre and Dazy, “Sunroof”
Bailey Zimmerman, “Where It Ends”
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