The 20 best songs of 2022


Flo – Cardboard Field

The debut single by London girlband Flo is a time machine. For 3 minutes, it’s 2000 once more: The Writing’s on the Wall is the world’s largest album, Darkchild reigns supreme over pop, and no pair of trousers is full with out 5 superfluous pockets and a harmful array of straps. Flo weren’t even born then however they’re an incredible examine: this effervescent No Scrubs for the TikTok period was one of many freshest pop launches in latest reminiscence, palpably floating on a sigh of aid as Jorja, Stella and Renée kick some bug-a-boo again to Y2K the place he belongs. LS


Confidence Man – Vacation

Vacation sees Confidence Man doing what they do greatest: toeing the road between tacky and calculated, chopping anthemic vocals and a bouncy groove with radiant synths and filtered interludes. Connecting the dots between 2022’s indie sleaze and Y2K revivals whereas additionally nodding to 2010s EDM, Vacation is heat, nostalgic, and prioritises pure pleasure over pretension. SB

Pure pleasure … Janet Planet and Sugar Bones of Confidence Man. {Photograph}: Josh Hourigan


Alan Braxe/DJ Falcon – Step By Step ft Panda Bear

French contact icons Alan Braxe and DJ Falcon reunited to determine how their pioneering 90s home may need mellowed into center age. Step By Step turns down the aggressive filtering of their heyday (an evolution akin to how our listening to vary fades with age, possibly) for wistful mushy rock that sails, Christopher Cross-style, right into a hazy horizon with no division between sea and sky. “As I attempt to discover a new method ahead / Seems like there’s one thing within the air,” sings Panda Bear (AKA Noah Lennox), his voice evanescing into their limitless pop future. LS


Kendrick Lamar – The Coronary heart Half 5

Kendrick Lamar.
Fractious comeback … Kendrick Lamar. {Photograph}: Dave Free

Earlier than he even shared a single be aware of his fifth album Mr Morale and the Large Steppers, Kendrick Lamar was priming the world for what can be a fractious comeback. The Coronary heart Half 5 – the fifth in his long-running pre-album single collection – opens with what is actually Mr Morale’s thesis assertion: “As I get just a little older, I realise life is perspective, and my perspective might differ from yours.” Over the subsequent 5 minutes, as he rides an expensive, funky Marvin Gaye pattern, Lamar unpicks concepts of unity and equality, laying naked the fallacy of “neighborhood” in a grasping, money-hungry world. It’s a prickly return, and, make no mistake, Lamar’s intent is to sting: “Within the land the place harm individuals harm extra individuals, fuck callin’ it tradition.” SD


Megan Thee Stallion – Plan B

Since she was shot in 2020, Megan Thee Stallion has confronted a few of the most brazen misogyny the music trade has to supply, with male rappers and trade figures popping out in droves to help her alleged shooter. Plan B was Megan’s excellent rejoinder: rapping over a beat that samples Jodeci’s Freek’n You remix, the Houston rapper unleashes a superbly calculated callousness, chopping her ex right down to measurement with a hardened, devastating wit. All through, she lands justifiably low blows (“The one accolade you ever made is that I fucked you”) earlier than providing a feminist rap pearler: “Women, love your self – ’trigger this shit may get ugly.” SD


Tiësto and Charli XCX – Scorching in It

Launched in Charli XCX’s pop star sell-out yr, bimbo anthem Scorching in It could be a reasonably rudimentary slab of Eurodance intercourse hokey-cokey (“rocking it, dropping it”, and so forth) if it weren’t for Charli’s spectacular blunt weapon of a voice. Just about denatured of flesh and blood, she goes via the motions of her revenge kiss-off with metronomic effectivity that’s barely extricable from Tiësto’s relentless cymbals. But it winds up surprisingly human: burning with the monomania of getting one over in your ex, to not point out Charli’s menacing model of sexuality. LS


Rina Sawayama – This Hell

How do you observe up a maximalist blast out of the pop leftfield beloved by everybody from pop Twitter to pop royalty? Go larger, crank the processors and dial up the lyrics to Broadway musical pitch. This Hell is a declaration of intent from somebody fearlessly prepared themselves into pop’s valkyrie frontline. Mainlining early-2000s power to the purpose of overdose, right here’s the place the high-drama, don’t-spare-the-key-change, everything-all-at-once fusillade of Rina Sawayama’s patchy second album got here into focus. LS


Mitski – Love Me Extra

Excessive-glamour … Mitski. {Photograph}: Ebru Yildiz

Nobody needs to listen to musicians wanging on concerning the difficulties of fame, but when extra of them pulled it off with the addled desperation Mitski brings to Love Me Extra, issues is likely to be totally different. After TikTok made her track No one (from 2018’s Be the Cowboy) into an unwitting hit, Love Me Extra finds the once-underground songwriter going “properly alright then” and proving that she will be able to do high-glamour self-loathing fairly in addition to the Weeknd, thanks very a lot. Are the viewers’s screams feeding her soul or killing it, she wonders in a refrain so delirious and rafter-tickling it most likely counts as an act of masochism. LS


Kendrick Lamar – N95

N95 is all sinew – it writhes and slithers like no different Kendrick Lamar track ever actually has, taking part in like 2017’s Humble with all of the fats scraped away. As with a lot of Mr Morale, it eschews coherent ethical for snarky, crystalline realpolitik; the track’s jagged, electrifying bass line, punctuated by Lamar’s cry of “bitch, you ugly as fuck!” roils within the track’s bowels, threatening to crack its floor like a tectonic occasion. SD


Arctic Monkeys – Physique Paint

Arctic Monkeys from left: Nick O’Malley, Alex Turner, Matt Helders and Jamie Cook.
Spectacular … Arctic Monkeys from left: Nick O’Malley, Alex Turner, Matt Helders and Jamie Cook dinner. {Photograph}: Zackery Michael

The sly, tense Physique Paint is sort of a quantity from some misplaced Cassavetes musical, a story that turns mutual deception in a relationship right into a surrealist sport of cat and mouse. Alex Turner prowls round his set making an attempt to uncover the reality he already is aware of, whereas refusing to indicate his personal hand: “I’m holding on my costume and calling it a writing software.” The track’s grand instrumental denouement is likely to be a blowout or it is likely to be intercourse; both method, it’s spectacular. SD


Eliza Rose – BOTA

Ladies have all the time been intrinsic to UK storage, however its most up-to-date revival has too typically centred DJ bros. This summer season, London DJ Eliza Rose introduced the sound to the mainstream and the baddies to the entrance with Baddest of Them All, a shock No 1 that mixes feelgood 90s home with the slightest shade of tacky Euro sensibility. That includes one of many yr’s most unforgettable refrains, it was a unifying floor-filler. SB


Two Shell – Residence

Residence was floor zero for one in all digital music’s largest 2022 mysteries: Who the hell are Two Shell? The mysterious London duo, who’ve solely ever given one interview and are supposedly susceptible to hiring actors to indicate as much as their gigs and hit play on a pre-recorded DJ set, dropped their now-signature observe in January. It refused to fade away: by the point summer season rolled round, it appeared to have lodged itself on the peak of each weirdo DJ set and between-set competition playlist. And no marvel: House is like aural amyl, a raucous, discombobulating storage observe that splits the distinction between Sophie’s McDonald’s advert period and 4 Tet at his most banging. It’s one of many yr’s most embodied dance tracks whereas being one way or the other, completely weightless – extra a feat of inconceivable physics and harmful chemistry than synths and drums. SD


Ethel Cain – American Teenager

Euphoric … Ethel Cain
Euphoric … Ethel Cain

American Teenager is the yr’s greatest Taylor Swift track – a heart-racing, impossibly euphoric piece of heartland pop from a musician who, till that time, had been generally known as a form of excessive priestess of gothy, streaming-era slowcore. Like one of the best Swift songs, American Teenager works as taut Prime 40 pop however incorporates a complete universe, and finds common youthful feelings that usually really feel inconceivable to articulate. With simply two excellent strains – “Jesus, if you happen to’re listening let me deal with my liquor / And Jesus, if you happen to’re there, why do I really feel alone on this room with you” – Cain manages to seize all of the intertwined recklessness and insecurity of being a teen. SD


Beyoncé – Virgo’s Groove

Virgo’s Groove is the axis on which Beyoncé’s Renaissance turns. It arrived about two years later than the remainder of the 2020s disco revival but it surely immediately obliterated the competitors – even when that they had put their appreciable skills collectively, Dua, Kylie and Jessie couldn’t have hoped to document a track as luxurious, as dazzling, as impossibly wealthy as this. Virgo’s Groove is ideal pastiche: its gleaming surfaces and infinite grooves seize all of the marvel and thriller of peak Donna Summer time songs, the sensation of being in a superclub full of plush couches, mirrored dancefloors and grand balconies. However dig in and it’s electrifyingly novel, too – though Beyoncé pushes her vocals to new zones all through Renaissance, Virgo’s Groove finds her switching cadence and tone with exceptional fluidity. The remainder of the album radiates outwards from Virgo’s Groove: the nucleus of a brand new period of Beyoncé. SD


Arctic Monkeys – There’d Higher Be a Mirrorball

On the promo path for Arctic Monkeys’ seventh album, Alex Turner has been sporting an array of V-neck woollen jumpers, a far cry from the extra macho costumes of AM and Tranquility Base Lodge and On line casino. That is delicate menswear that leaves the jugular weak, an anti-pose that carries via into the lead single from The Automotive. “Don’t get emotional / That ain’t such as you,” Turner croons, apparently to himself, then admits that he simply can’t assist however give it “the outdated romantic idiot”. The elegiac There’d Higher Be a Mirrorball dwells on a departure; we don’t know what type, however within the nerve-holding association – the looping synth spiral suggesting nicotine-stained purgatory, the millpond-calm hand percussion – and Turner’s unusually romanticised lyrics, you’re feeling his effort to repair the ultimate picture as one thing stunning. LS


Harry Kinds – As It Was

Harry Styles.
Refined languor … Harry Kinds. {Photograph}: Lillie Eiger

In some methods it’s been a tough yr to be Harry. Field-office opprobrium, spitting on Chris Pine … “Stick with the day job” could also be just a little harsh, however few ship so efficiently on that remit like latter-day Kinds. Occupying the slim valley between A-ha’s Tackle Me and Vampire Weekend, As It Was delivers bruised-peach harm, subtle languor from the again seat of a tastefully costly automobile. He can sing one thing as obscure as “On this world, it’s simply us / You realize it’s not the identical because it was” and make you’re feeling that he actually means it: most likely the very definition of actor. LS


The Weeknd – Much less Than Zero

On his fifth album Daybreak FM, the Weeknd – fashionable pop’s biggest, most brilliantly disturbed hedonist – lastly tries to repent. An idea album a few celebration monster’s journey to the afterlife, Daybreak FM finds Abel Tesfaye dipping into beforehand unthinkable photographs: making somebody a cup of tea, settling into home life, confessing his timeless love and devotion. Then, on the album’s penultimate observe, its closing actual track, the fantasy comes crashing down. Much less Than Zero is a flickering neon signal studying “PEOPLE CAN’T CHANGE”, an achingly wistful apologia that implies the previous 45 minutes of contentment and kindness had been a feint. “I attempt to disguise it, however I do know you realize me / I attempt to struggle it, however I’d somewhat be free,” he sings, turning one in all his darkest songs ever into one in all his purest singalongs – and the yr’s most devastating heel flip. SD


Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Spitting Off the Fringe of the World ft Fragrance Genius

For 20 years, Karen O has staked out thrilling extremes with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, vaulting from vituperative disgust to heart-melting compassion. Spitting is their first to straddle each poles so magnificently: over glowing, grinding ooze, O seethes on the cowardly politicians who’ve put capitalism forward of local weather, discovering bittersweet vindication within the data that the burning solar will soften their “homes of gold”. The plot twist, and intestine punch, comes within the second verse: “Mama, what have you ever carried out?” O sings, adopting the voice of the technology who should stay on this mess. The cavernous Spitting makes room for all these emotions without delay: it’s grand and ruined, wracked and comforting, livid and hopeful, including new shades to O’s already kaleidoscopic palette. LS


Beyoncé – Break My Soul

Obliterating the competitors … Beyoncé. {Photograph}: Mason Poole

Beyoncé generally feels much less like a pop star than a magnet for suppose items, and so her first solo single in six years invited reams of heavy-handed theorising. A single point out of quitting her job noticed Break My Soul held up as a employee’s anthem; it’s obvious interpolation of Robin S’s Present Me Love, coming a month after Drake’s house-heavy Actually, Nevermind, prompted hasty declarations that these heterosexual pop superstars had been reviving grassroots, queer membership tradition (typically uninformed claims that, in and of themselves, drowned out the music they presupposed to have a good time). Actually what’s most putting concerning the lead-off from Renaissance is its levity, as Beyoncé nimbly flicks off expectations to say her personal pleasure precept. LS


Steve Lacy – Dangerous Behavior

Dangerous Behavior could possibly be probably the most noncommittal track to ever grace the head of the US singles chart. From its opening line – a meek, half-whispered utterance of “I want you knew …” – Steve Lacy’s shock smash mumbles and drags its toes, shrugging its method via flirtation and forlorn glances. Dangerous Behavior captures all of the brilliance of Lacy’s excellent second document Gemini Rights – its sun-warmed cocktail of indie-rock, pop and R&B – but it surely additionally represents the apex of some tendencies which were percolating over the previous couple of years.

It’s the most well-liked (and, arguably, greatest) track to spring forth from the brand new wave of TikTok-beloved lo-fi bed room pop stars akin to Clairo and Beabadoobee; on the identical time, it fulfils the promise of Rihanna’s Anti, SZA’s Ctrl and Frank Ocean’s Blonde, three mid-2010s information that introduced a profoundly indie, guitar-centric sensibility to the shimmering textures and swish heartache of R&B, and went on to revolutionise a style and encourage a complete technology of shy, weirdo would-be pop stars. Lacy is a deserving inheritor to these artists’ thrones – and, if Dangerous Behavior is something to go by, he’ll scuff and stumble his method there, Bottega Veneta-clad eyes firmly educated on his footwear. SD


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