Once again, old trends were recycled anew in 2022. Y2K is back in fashion. Tamagotchi and Polly Pocket are at the top of every kid’s Christmas list. Another dismal year at the box office was salvaged by who else but Tom Cruise and Jurassic Park.
Nostalgia also played big on the Billboard charts. Kate Bush finally got her flowers for a song she wrote during the Cold War. Elton John used an old trick to become just the tenth artist to crack the Top 10 in four different decades. The boo birds might’ve ruined Bebe Rexa’s Thanksgiving, but running back a Europop classic launched her to the top of the dance charts.
The Internet was also infected by retro fever. “Ginseng Strip 2002” went viral again. Arctic Monkeys rolled out another lavish new album, but it was a deep cut off their somewhat maligned sophomore effort that lingered among Spotify’s Top Songs. Even my beloved Phillies borrowed their victory cigar from another improbable World Series Run.
But the best songs that came out this year put the 20-year nostalgia cycle to the test. Sure, Bad Bunny was the most-streamed artist for the third year in a row. But the Puerto Rican phenom also became the first to earn a nomination for Grammy night’s biggest prize while sticking solely to Spanish. 2022 truly was the Year of the Bunny, who charted all 22 songs off his beach party playlist. Leading the way was “Tití Me Preguntó”, which chilled near the top of the Hot 100 all summer long.
Other big name stars stole their fair share of the spotlight. Never to be outdone, “Anti-Hero” Taylor Swift also charted every song off her new misty-eyed album. Meanwhile, one of her exes recorded the fourth-longest run at No.1 of all time with his own reflective take on synth-pop. Congratulations, Harry: you’re now tied with my least favorite song ever.
As is tradition, the Recording Academy whiffed on plenty of this year’s nominations. I guess they really didn’t want to talk about Bruno. But at least they recognized Beyoncé, who’s now the most-nominated female in history. The Queen Bee swished her eighth No.1 hit while casually dunking all over Drake, who was forced to cheer from the sidelines as his forever-crush Nicki Minaj enjoyed her first time on top without a feature.
This year also ushered plenty of new faces behind the velvet rope. GAYLE knocked Adele off the UK charts. GloRilla twerked to the top of YouTube. TikTok couldn’t stop gabbing about Lizzo, but the most talked-about song on the platform was a sleek slide of SoCal guitar pop from a former Division III water polo player. NBA All-Star Jack Harlow got clowned for a lackluster album but still rode in “First Class”. Rosalía treated SNL to “Chicken Teriyaki”. Steve Lacy indulged his “Bad Habits”. Heck, even the gatekeepers at country radio made room for Walker Hayes to bring back the Oreo shake.
There were plenty of hits to the left of the dial, too. “Heatwave” crept up the Hot 100. Ethel Cain refashioned what it means to be an “American Teenager”. Grace Ives spun a binge-worthy “Lullaby”, while RCA are probably still tossing and turning over dropping MUNA. And one group of indie rock legends proved that some old dogs don’t need to learn new tricks.
Here are our favorite songs of 2022, along with a few oldies that we can’t stop spinning. – Will Yarbrough
Kelsea Ballerini – “Subject to Change”
Since first hitting Country Airplay at 22, Kelsea Ballerini has staked her claim as Nashville’s leading lady. The former dancing queen tied Wynonna Judd by debuting three straight singles at No.1. The past few years haven’t been such a walk in the park. Ballerini filed for divorce, got roasted on Twitter and fell out with a certain pop star.
But Subject to Change gently embraces those growing pains. Fittingly, the album is also a bit of a grower, venturing into washed-out bluegrass and sun-kissed AOR. Once the shuffling beat kicks into the chorus though, the title track shifts back to her snappy pop-country roots.
This is a song about finding out that you don’t have everything quite figured out yet, including yourself. But instead of rushing to pick up the pieces, Ballerini simply strolls with the punches, sprung by brightly bouncing guitars and a silver lining of synth. “I’ll change my mind and that’s alright,” she sings in a husky falsetto that’s uplifted by her own supple harmonies. She’s never sounded more assured. – Will
Conway the machine – “Tear Gas” (feat. Rick Ross & Lil wayne)
Griselda emerged caked in the cobwebs of the 36 Chambers. The crack mafiosos put Buffalo on rap’s map by claiming the dustiest corners of East Coast boom-bap. They’ve got their own in-house producer, who shares RZA’s ear for rusty snares and broken piano loops. Just like the Wu-Tang Clan, each member pops with their own potent style while still sounding like they were all cut from the same brick. Westside Gunn chuckles over high art dealings. Benny the Butcher hawks blood-soaked plug beefs. And then there’s Conway the Machine, the trifecta’s elder statesman, whose trash-talk is as smooth as freshly paved gravel despite having Bell’s Palsy.
God Don’t Make Mistakes is blessed with plenty more of Griselda’s spooked-out tales of drug deals and shootouts. The album has been cooking for the past four years, which might explain why La Maquina left the family label. But “Tear Gas” hits different. Conway tapped three different outside producers, who tune up his familiar trappings. The piano line cascades and glistens. Flutes flutter above a chipmunked Diana Ross sample. Even the drums are well-oiled by limber fills and crisp hi-hat. The production has less in common with ‘90s Staten Island than it does Port of Miami circa 2006. So it’s no wonder Rozay and Weezy slide in so comfortably.
But Conway outshines them by getting in his feelings. He raps about PTSD and missing his son with hard-nosed bravado. Heck, he even sings the hook with a croaking confidence. “Probably won’t get my flowers while I can smell ‘em”. We’ll see about that. – Will
Karol G – “Provenza”
Universal Records once told Carolina Giraldo Navarro that a woman couldn’t succeed in reggaeton. Boy, were they wrong. Karol G has scored corporate sponsorships with Smirnoff and Crocs to pair with her vault of gold, platinum and diamond plaques. She’s partnered with everyone from Bad Bunny to Nicki Minaj and the Jo Bros, racking up international superhits on her way to scoring Best New Artist at the 2018 Latin Grammys.
2022 was even more lucrative for the Colombiana. She broke through the upper crust of the Hot 100 not once but twice, peaking at #15 alongside her fellow G. But it’s her first-ever standalone smash that netted more Vevo views than anyone anywhere.
After being cooped up during lockdown, this year’s biggest blockbusters were exceptionally horny. “Provenza” is no exception. Karol G is thirsty. She was with someone else. But now she’s free and ready to relive old times (“puesta pa revivir viejos tiempo”). Her come-ons float luxuriously over an undulating dembow riddim, which Ovy on the Drums splashes with hypnotic tropical bouncing afrobeat. The video was shot in the Canary Islands, where Karol G joins a colony of women in tempting the camera by dancing like nobody’s watching. This is more booty call than siren song. But the message rings loud and clear. Pop music is Karol G’s turf. She’s the captain now. – Will
Anxious – “Afternoon”
If love is a battlefield, then adolescence is a never-ending game of minesweeper. Even siding with a particular scene has the potential to blow up in your face. Are you a snot-nosed punk? A hardcore pitqueen? Or maybe you’re more of the starry-eyed midwest emo type.
Anxious know the feeling. These five young dudes have been playing together since high school but swapped singers before they even recorded a proper album. But to avoid getting pigeonholed, they swing from thrashing hooks to twinkly post-rock and (checks notes) Beach Boys harmonizing?
Little Green House is colored by nostalgia. The album is named after the lead singer’s mom’s house and was recorded in their hometown of Darien, Connecticut. But “Afternoon” isn’t a longing glance in the rearview. Instead, it’s about taking an honest look in the mirror and recognizing what needs to change. And yet it’s also about accepting that you’re bound to disappoint people, even over small things like being on time.
“I swear I made the next train, I’ll never be late again”. The tug of war between Grady Allen’s clean vocal and the accompanying screams reminds me a little of Taking Back Sunday. But the guitar melody gushes with all the sweetness of Jimmy Eat World. That is, until the song has about a minute left to go, when those beautifully cresting riffs crash into a nervous breakdown. “Did I talk too much? Will you understand?” With songs this good, Anxious have nothing to worry about. – Will
Amber Mark – “Darkside”
Emerging artists typically don’t arrive with as much mileage as Amber Mark. The 28-year-old singer, songwriter and Grammy-nominated producer was born on a spiritual midwifery farm in Summerville, Tennessee. Her father is a Jamaican musician, while her mother was a German thangka painter. Growing up, Mark taught herself guitar as she bounced between Manhattan, Miami, Munich and a Darjeeling monastery before landing an internship at Roc Nation.
Mark gravitates toward silky-smooth R&B, but Three Dimensions Deep reveals the full sphere of her talents. Trap balladry, funkified electro-pop and chilled-out dancehall bend to her pillowy melisma and honeyed rasp. To pull off this many genre exercises on your debut album is a confident flex. So it’s surprising — but also encouraging — to hear Mark sing so openly about her own artistic insecurities. Most of these songs find her trying to love up on herself rather than some stranger at the club.
But “Darkside” is all about how loving someone else can help you transcend those doubts. Marks doesn’t know what it is, but these vibrations have got her shaking, Big Bang-making type of high. “Your astronomical kiss / Constellations shoot sensations through me to the sky”! This song was conceived as a love child between Prince, Michael Jackson and Phil Collins and you can definitely hear that resemblance in the skronking synth and bolts of arena rock soloing. The drums were manufactured by Ne-Yo, but the beat bumps and grinds like a LinnDrum machine. There’s no box that Mark can’t break. – Will
Foo Fighters – “Aurora”
Before they broke out, the Foo Fighters were on the verge of breaking up. By the spring of 1996, they’d already split with two guitarists and their drummer had quit after Dave Grohl famously scrubbed him off their previous album. Seeking a replacement, Grohl called Taylor Hawkins.
Hawkins died this year after two decades as the Foo’s long blonde and perpetually tan drummer. But during that initial phone call, Grohl was merely hoping for a recommendation. Back then, Hawkins was already the drummer for Alanis Morissette, who was riding high atop one of the best-selling albums of all time. But Morissette was a solo act. Hawkins wanted to be in a rock band. As a kid, growing up between Texas and California, he worshipped at the throne of Roger Taylor and Neil Peart. Before the Dee Gees, he moonlighted in a Police cover band.
So Hawkins flew to Arlington, Virginia, where Grohl had gone to get away from LA’s nightlife. Joined by long-time bassist Dave Mendal, this three-man lineup boozed and ate chili while camping out in a makeshift home studio (literally). When the weather was nice, they’d crack a window and write the songs that would win Best Rock Album at the 1999 Grammys — an award Foo Fighters would win three more times on their way to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
“Aurora” isn’t the most popular song off There Is Nothing Left to Lose. It wasn’t even released as a single. But it’s my favorite Foo Fighters song and it was also Taylor Hawkins’ favorite. Which is ironic. Because it’s the closest they’ve ever come to sounding like Mazzy Star. “Aurora” is a cosmic, melancholic, slow burning reverie. Hawkins mostly hangs back on the hi-hat, basking in the glowing reverb and Grohl’s mellowed double-track.
“I love that side of Dave”, Hawkins told Matt Wilkinson. “And that was the first drum track that I did for the Foo Fighters that I was really, really proud of”.
Foo Fighters recently played an extended version of “Aurora” in Hawkins’ honor. Grohl wrote this song while reflecting on his final days in Seattle, shortly after his grandmother died, and the lines about buying the hole you’ll fill and spinning the sun around before we all turn and come back down feel newly urgent and even more crushing.
But Taylor Hawkins was always the one to lead its grand finale. It’s his charging fills that raised “Aurora” into the rafters when Foo Fighters brought live music back to Madison Square Garden last year. Watching him now makes me wish the rush of his cymbals would go on and on and on – Will
Bonobo – “Rosewood”
Hey everyone! Cher here. I am absolutely overwhelmed by the incredible amount of new music we were all gifted this year. Believe it or not, this is my list cut down – so I think we are going to have to make a few more of these posts! Let us know if you want more of these throughout the year.
First up, one of my favorite artists Bonobo released a new album via Ninja Tune this year called Fragments and as expected the entire album is stunning. Since Simon Green started Bonobo as a solo DJ and producer, he’s worked with Erykah Badu and Jon Hopkins, remixed Gorillaz, London Grammar, Michael Kiwanuka, received GRAMMY nominations, and toured the world with an epic live show…he was working hard to say the least.
The weight of everything, along with everything going on in the world, made Green retreat and stop making music for a bit. Luckily for us, he found inspiration being in nature over lockdown and reminiscing the crowded dance floors he once brought so much joy to – seriously seeing Bonobo bring this music to life is a must – one of the best shows I’ve ever been to.
He reconnected with collaborators including Joji, Kadhja Bonet, Jordan Rakei, Jamila Woods, O’Flynn and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and Fragments was created. The albums came from struggle and isolation but celebrates collectiveness, togetherness, and the dance floor. I couldn’t pick just one song so please enjoy “Rosewood” and “Shadows (feat. Jordan Rakei)”: – Cher
The Wombats – “If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming With You”
The Wombats have been one of my favorite bands for a long time so I was stoked when they released their new album Fix Yourself, Not The World out now via AWAL. The band wrote and recorded the new album from their respective homes around the world, with frontman Matthew ‘Murph’ Murphy in LA, drummer Dan Haggis in London, and bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen in Oslo.
Meeting over Zoom to plan and recording individually. The band then sent off their files to producers Gabe Simon (Dua Lipa, Lana Del Rey), Jacknife Lee (The Killers, U2), Paul Meaney (Nothing But Thieves), Mark Crew (Bastille) and Mark Crossey (The 1975, The War on Drugs, Yungblud) to mix.
One of my favorite songs from the album is “If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming with You” – listen below! The Wombats are another band you need to catch live and lucky for us they tour often – keep up with their tour dates here to catch them in a city near you! – Cher
Dope lemon – “Sailor’s Delight”
Dope Lemon, Angus Stone’s project released the gorgeous Rose Pink Cadillac and though every song makes me feel like I’m floating on a cloud, “Sailor’s Delight” is just a dream – listen below!
Rose Pink Cadillac starts off with its namesake track, which immediately carries you into the dream sequence that is this entire album. You may know of Angus Stone from his music with his sister who have been releasing albums under Angus & Julia Stone, Rose Pink Cadillac is Angus Stone’s 5th studio album and the third under his namesake Dope Lemon. This album dreamed up by Angus Stone released in January this year, but it’s a year round listen – with the first half of the album representing a lighter, upbeat, “daytime Dope Lemon experience” with latter half of the album turning darker and representing “the nighttime world of lemon”. Although Sailor’s Delight is my favorite, honorable mentions go to “Howl With Me”, “Rose Pink Cadillac”, and “Kids Fallin’ In Love”.
The album is out now on Zoetrope Picture Disc vinyl still available now at Wax and Beans here – check it out and listen to “Sailor’s Delight” below. Keep up with Dope Lemon here! – Cher
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – “Never Seen You Dance”
Another long time favorite of mine, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs released a new album this year that is magical: When the Lights Go (get your copy on Limited Edition Blue vinyl, CD, and cassette here). This was another tough one for me to pick one favorite song, but I love everything about this song- lyrics, melody, beat, the pure energy of “Never Seen You Dance” and the music video is incredible too (watch below)!
TEED is touring! Keep up with tour dates and catch him in a city near you – tour dates are here. For more music and merch, click here!
Listen to “Never Seen You Dance” below: – Cher
- Neil Francis – “dancing”
- alt-J – “U&ME
- Methyl Ethel – “Neon Cheap”
- Gang of Youths – “in the wake of your leave”
- Metronomy – “Right on time”
- Nilüfer Yanya – “the dealer”
- Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – “Tidal River”
- King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – “Gondii”
- Soraia – “Jokers, Thieves and Liars”
- Jessie Ware – “Free Yourself” (Melanie C Remix)
- See Thru Hands – “Modern Home” & “Border Control”
- Angelo Outlaw – “Time Traveler”
- L7- “Shitlist”
- Filter- “It’s Gonna Kill Me” & “The Best Things”
- Nine Inch Nails – “Piggy” & “Only”
- Jane’s Addiction – “Just Because”
- George Benson – “Give Me The Night”
- Earl Sweatshirt – “2010”
- Hallie Kearns – “Happy in This Bar”
- Hatchie – “Till We Run Out of Air”
- Tim Heidecker – “Sirens of Titan” (feat. Kurt Vile)
- Maren Morris – “Background Music”
- Soul Glow – “GODBLESSYALLREALGOOD”
- Wilco – “Tired of Taking It Out on You”
- Bonnie Raitt – “Something’s Got a Hold of My Heart”
- MOD SUN – “Battle Scars”
- Soccer Mommy – “Shotgun”
- S.G. Goodman – “Teeth Marks”
- Alvvays – “Belinda Says”
- Counterparts – “Whispers of Your Death”
- Bad Bunny – “Otro Atardecer” (feat. The Marias)
- Taylor Swift – “Sweet Nothing”
- Beyoncé – “CHURCH GIRL”
- billy woods – “Christine” (feat. Mike Ladd)
- Drug Church – “Super Saturated”
- Hanson – “This Time Around”
- Mike Jones – “Still Tippin” (feat. Slim Thug & Paul Wall)
- Cher- “I Go To Sleep”
- Elbow – “Any Day Now”
- The Wonder Years – “You’re the Reason I Don’t Want the World to End”
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