The 100 best songs of 2022
From Jockstrap to Carly Ray Jepsen and Karol G to Alex G, these are the songs we had on repeat this year.
The 100 best songs of 2022 Art by Annie Short.  

This year saw the return of some bona fide icons (Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Paramore), the emergence of some likely future stars (Ice Spice, Jim Legxacy, Doechii), and the success of independent artists from across the spectrum (Westside Gunn, Alex G, Jockstrap). It also definitely featured a load of incredible music that you — like me — missed. For example, having failed to register it on release, I haven't stopped listening to Jimi Jules's "Der Aufstand" for the past week. (Thanks, Sal!). No doubt there will be at least one thing on our list of the year's best songs that you'll love just as much — and the same is true of our list of the year's best albums. We'll be back next year to cover the best and most exciting music from across the world. See you right here. — Alex Robert Ross, Editorial Director


100. The Dare, “Girls”

“I like girls who got degrees
Girls on killin' sprees
I like girls who got a bone to pick with me.”

99. Flo, “Cardboard Box”

“I got a confession
I don't think I want you anymore.”

98. Gunna, “Pushin P”

“Pointers in the Patek and my piece, I'm pushin' P.”

97. Chief Keef, “Bitch Where”

“I'm in the church, and I'm tryna get my soul clear
Wrote my name on the wall, hope it don't smear.”

96. G Jones, “Operator”

“Stop Stop Stop. Pull up!”


95. Skeng, “Likkle Miss”

“Killa dem brawlin an' wanted an' haunted
Craig Town know di vibe, Junglist weh Grants Pen.”

94. Holly Humberstone, “London is Lonely”

“Any minute now I swear I'm gonna lose my mind
So many people, it's so easy to get lost sometimes
And this winter is going on too long.”

93. XG, “Tippy Toes”

“Gonna keep ya, gonna keep ya on your tippy toes
Watch the way, we lead the way, we work the way we glow.”

92. Paramore, “This Is Why”

“If you have an opinion
Maybe you should shove it.”

91. Kehlani, “Melt”
The 100 best songs of 2022 Gabe Phoenix / Lede Company

“Wish I could build me a cute apartment
One-bedroom right where your heart is.”

90. SASAMI, “Say It”

“I don't want you to apologize
Just say it, say it, say it.”


89. T-Shyne feat. Young Thug, “Sugar Water”

“When I was young, we drank sugar water.
And now my bathroom filled with Gucci towels.”

88. Show Me The Body, “We Came To Play”

“Cast the first stone, deafen the silence
Violence of law, live by the law of violence.”

87. Caroline, “IWR”

“Do you wake up
With an old set of handlebars
Between your fingers?”

86. Flo Milli, “Conceited”

“Long-ass weave, flow down my back (forty inches)
I want a picture with a baseball bat (swing).”

85. Tyondai Braxton, “Phonolydian”

Glitchy electronica deconstructing in real time as a synth-pop melody and choral samples do battle.

84. Kendrick Lamar, “Crown”

“They idolize and praise your name across the nation
Tap the feed and nod the head for confirmation.”

83. Mura Masa feat. Pa Salieu and Skillibeng, “Blessing Me”

“Serious gyal, she don't Netflix chill
Rain like Amazon, insert the Fire Stick.”

82. Nosaj Thing feat. Julianna Barwick, “Blue Hour”

“Time of day is the blue hour
From a bud into a flower
What was held tight like a fist
That's just flying into bliss.”

81. Action Bronson, “Jaguar”
The 100 best songs of 2022 Brock Fetch / Biz3

“Your bitch got a face like Paulie Shore
It takes forever to pull that long .44 out my shorts.”


80. Central Cee, “Doja”

“Somebody tell Doja Cat
That I'm tryna indulge in that.”

79. Kabza De Small, “Eningi”

“Ah weSomandla, ngicela ungnike imali eningi eningi eningi.”

78. Fontaines DC, “Roman Holiday”

“What artless living all this soft pain thrills
What calamities usher all our brilliance to the hills!”

77. Bad Boy Chiller Crew, “BMW”

“That's my girl, my Cinderella
Ride or die, we slide together
She make my life so much better.”

76. Black Sherif, “Kwaku The Traveler”

“Of course I fucked up
Who never fuck up? Hands in the air
No hands?”

75. Skullcrusher, “Whatever Fits Together”

“I awoke in a warm bath
With words still in my head
They remain unspoken
And follow me to death.”

74. Dro Kenji, “Tightrope”

“I know that sometimes you feel like you walkin' on a fuckin' tightrope
I don't know how she got so entitled without a title
Feel like I don't even belong here
I don't know how they feelin' but I don't care what they think of me.”

73. Joyce Wrice, “Iced Tea”

“Sweetest deceiver
Biting on the hand that feeds ya
I see your demeanor
Why you getting mad for no reason?”

72. Nia Archives, “Baiana”

“Eu vou can- povo, que eu cheguei
Mais outra vez apresentar meu baianá
Boa noite, povo, que eu cheguei
Mais outra vez apresentar meu baianá.”

71. The Smile, “Thin Thing”
The 100 best songs of 2022 Marc Ducrest / Nasty Little Man

“First, she'll pull your fingers off
And then she'll pull your toes
And then she'll steal the photos from your phone
(But you won't notice).”

70. Fish Narc feat 8485, “Instant Sobriety”

“Ripping my life up
Vivienne floorboards
Distressed and all the rage right now
I need to get it out, get it out.”

69. The 1975, “I’m In Love With You”

“And yeah, I got it, I found it
I've just gotta keep it
"Don't fuck it, you muppet.”

68. Swami Sound, “Back in the Day (Soulecta Dub)”

“Who said I made you that way?
And you seem easily swayed
Y todo lo que ya paso
Lo tienes presente
Y siempre dices.”

67. Yeat, “Talk”

“I don't give a fuck what you sayin', I don't listen to it
I don't wanna hear 'bout nothin’
In the woods at 2:00 a.m. Rolls Royce truck
Yeah, with the Cullinan up.”


66. Steve Lacy, “Bad Habit”

“You can't surprise a Gemini
I'm everywhere, I'm cross-eyed, and
Now that you're back, I can't decide
If I decide if you're invited.”

65. Caroline Polachek, “Billions”

“Salting, flavor
Lies like a sailor
But he loves like a painter, oh, oh

64. Ayra Starr, “Rush”

“Me no getty time for the hate and the bad energy
Got mi mind on my money
Make you dance like Poco Lee
Steady green like broccoli.”

63. Lucrecia Dalt, “La desmusura”

“Lo es
Sí es
Lo es
¿Tal vez?
¿Lo ves?
Tal vez no.”

62. Megan Thee Stallion, “Plan B”

“Ladies, love yourself, 'cause this shit could get ugly
That's why it's, "Fuck niggas, get money"
And I don't give a fuck if that nigga leave tonight
Because, nigga, that dick don't run me.”

61. Conway The Machine, “Stressed”
The 100 best songs of 2022 Bennett Raglin / Getty Images for BET

“They like, "Why you stressed, boy? You blessed"
They don't know about the nights where I can't even get rest
Burnin' this kush while I pace
Cryin' in the mirror every time I look at my face.”

60. Sabrina Claudio, “Put On Repeat”

“If he could, he would have this for life
Mmm, make it lovely
It only gets better each time, yeah, yeah, yeah.”

59. Easyfun, “Audio”

”Au-di-o, au-di-o
All you ever want
Au-di-o, au-di-o
All I ever got”

58. Hudson Mohawke, “Bicstan”

A hyperkinetic happy hardcore mutation.

57. Shygirl, “Woe”

“When will you see it from my side?
I can have it all but I'm never satisfied
Bitches pree me all time
Do they even know what it's like this high?”

56. Special Interest, “Concerning Peace”

In its complexity
Is the only tool
Against indignity.”


55. Tove Lo, “No One Dies From Love”

“I tried my best with you
You claim the same
Somehow we're strangers, but share this pain.”

54. Rema, “Calm Down”

I see this fine girl, for my party she wear yellow
Every other girl they dey do too much, but this girl mellow.

53. Hagop Tchaparian, “Right To Riot”

Armenian folk-inspired techno that makes you feel like you could run a mile over broken glass.

52. Bolis Pupul & Charlotte Adigéry, “Ceci n'est pas un cliché”

“You're cold as ice
I wanna make you feel real nice
I wanna make you feel real nice
I bet this song sounds real familiar (familiar).”

51. Rosalía, “SAOKO”
The 100 best songs of 2022 Daniel Sannwald / JRPR Music

“Me contradigo, yo me transformo
Soy to’a’ las cosa’, yo me transformo.”

50. Jimi Jules, “Der Aufstand”

Some of the most fun I’ve had dancing this year was thanks to Swiss house producer Jimi Jules, who unleashed his sophomore record + (executive produced by Dixon) back in March. If the lead single “My City’s On Fire'' galvanized the initial inferno, then consider “Der Aufstand” his invitation to grab a torch and catch a flame, to “fight for the fragile and riot for the righteous.” Defiance abetted by escalating staccato synths and square bass, it’s a banger that keeps its fists clenched. — Salvatore Maicki

49. FKA twigs feat. Rema, “jealousy”

“jealousy” is a song that leaks into the subconscious, slowly re-tuning one’s brain until it matches its mesmerizing frequency. Compared to other tracks off CAPRISONGS, twigs’ foray into capital-P pop, is one of the more straightforward, but its slinky, swaying groove has a mysterious power, converting it into the type of rhythm that lives in your head rent-free. Thankfully, twigs is more than welcome to stay, wrapping the instrumental in radiant falsetto and angelic background vocals that make the track worthy of obsession. “I'm living true / Knowing that I'm better off without your blue,” she scoffs in a disarming send-off. You don’t realize how deep the knife is until you look down. — Brandon Callender

48. Eliza Rose, “B.O.T.A.”

For obvious reasons, the summers of 2020 and 2021 were both duds. Maybe that’s why 2022’s edition held an unbridled hedonism, with the joyful allure of dancing with friends and feeling yourself saturating everything. The soundtrack to this urge? “B.O.T.A. (Baddest Of Them All).” A collaboration between Manchester producer Interplanetary Criminal and London polymath DJ Eliza Rose, it borders on trashy Eurodance in the best possible way. With its shiny beats and sweet vocals, this gleaming banger became the UK’s inescapable party song of the year. Inspired by the energy of the titular character from the 1973 Blaxploitation film Coffy, “B.O.T.A.” struts playfully, confidently, teeming with delicious heat. — Tara Joshi

47. Sudan Archives, “NBPQ (Topless)”

Over looping, pentatonic riffs (a rarity in Western music; you’d sooner hear them in West Africa), Sudan Archives sounds like a snake-charmer on “NBPQ (Topless)," rattling effortlessly between cool, puckish pizzicatos, tightly rapped bars, and a sweltry decrescendo. These masterful stylistic pivots drive her point home: “I’m not average / Average / Average,” she sings on the chorus — something, you realize by the song’s end, is a severe understatement. — Emma Madden

46. Alex G, “Runner”

No matter how sunny a given Alex G song sounds, there’s a good chance it’s hiding a dark streak. Clouded by guilt, the grimness of reality, and the ghosts of the past, his moving character studies reveal a Lynchian appreciation of the sinister undercurrents lurking under life’s mundanity. “Runner” is one of his best tracks in this mode, opening with gentle acoustic guitar arrangements that recall both AM Radio Gold and the cheery, plasticine guitar pop that ruled the charts around the turn of the millennium. Still, he sings of morality, cruelty, and a deep intimacy with the mechanisms of violence. His cheerful refrain is that he’s “done a couple bad things,” an admission with distressingly little detail. It’s a delightfully grim testimony, delivered with a smile that never cracks. — Colin Joyce

45. TSHA feat. Mafro, “Giving Up”

The blockbuster breakbeat climax of London producer and DJ TSHA’s debut album Capricorn Sun exists on the cliffside precipice between love and anguish. Written with her partner Mafro (who lends his pliant vocals to the track) amid a particularly fraught time for the couple during lockdown, “Giving Up” orbits around the idea of throwing hands in the air, quickly accumulating enough kinetic energy to obliterate it entirely. Holding on wins this round. — SM

44. Lil Yachty, “Poland”

“Poland,” which leaked online in October and went viral almost instantly, is proof that Lil Yachty is at his best when he’s having fun. This is an 80-second throwaway about cough syrup inspired by a plastic bottle of water, and it allegedly earned Yachty a personal invite to Poland from Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. Its 8-bit production and Yachty’s uneasy warble only render it more absurd. The exuberant Lil Yachty is one of the few rappers out there who could leak something so silly and leave his audience demanding more. — ARR

43. John Cale & Weyes Blood, “STORY OF BLOOD”

A John Cale-Weyes Blood team up is, for this writer, as close as musical collaboration can come to its platonic ideal. “STORY OF BLOOD” is Cale’s song first and foremost, but Natalie Mering’s presence can be felt in the track’s bones before she even enters. Over an instrumental that would feel almost devotional save for its synthesized trap drum beat and occasional ‘80s-style stadium blasts, Cale delivers an abstract, sinister treatise on blood’s less common functions in his forthright, booming baritone. Mering sings around him, filling up the cracks in the music like a rich, mournful mist. — Raphael Helfand

42. Hikaru Utada, “Somewhere Near Marseilles”

The typing bubbles on your phone bounce giddily; each message from them is coming quickly now. You’re past flirting, past the sensual allusions; you are tied together by the dream of skin against skin. Hikaru Utada relishes these erotic prospects on “Somewhere Near Marseilles,” spending nearly 12 minutes immersed in its deep-house instrumental co-produced by Sam Sheperd a.k.a. Floating Points. More than any one sonic element, the composition’s all-encompassing delirium is the music of Utada’s heart: “I'm gonna give it to you / I'll get a room with a view,” they sing, the deliciousness of the impending collision almost too much to bear. — Jordan Darville

41. Carly Rae Jepsen, “The Loneliest Time”
The 100 best songs of 2022 Meredith Jenks / Universal

If you didn’t already know that Carly Rae Jepsen was a theater kid, here’s your proof. The title track from her fourth album is a gloriously slick disco duet with Rufus Wainwright — a farfetched daydream about returning to an old lover and finding paradise. It perfectly distills the deft songwriting and joyous abandon that’s distinguished her as a truly great pop star (whatever the charts might say). — ARR


40. Jane Remover, “Cage Girl”

For the young New Jersey singer-songwriter Jane Remover, the searching is the point. Earlier this year, they wrote that they’d adopted this new name, Jane Remover, as part of a journey to “figure out who you really are.” “Cage Girl,” released at the time of the project’s rechristening, is a document of a similar kind of uncertainty and inner turmoil. Over dreary, dreamy arrangements that recall Slowdive at their stormiest, they sing fragments of memories and images that evoke, at once, tenderness and violence, uncertainty and peace. The swirl of emotions and instrumentation feels true to those liminal times in life when you don’t know which way is up. Sometimes you just have to spill it all out to try to make things make sense. — CJ

39. PGF Nuk feat. Polo G, “Waddup (Remix)”

PGF Nuk imagines his music as a release valve. The Chicago rapper told DJ Booth earlier this year that he hopes that he can “bring the anger out of people.” The remix of “Waddup,” featuring Chicago star (and Nuk’s cousin by marriage) Polo G, does just that, in a simple, effective three minutes. Swerving over ominous synth melodies, the pair outline the violent ends that await anyone who stands in their way. Most crushing is Nuk’s simple delivery of the phrase that gives the song its title: "Ay, bitch, waddup?" Playful, sneering, intense, and sinister, his delivery packs a wide spectrum of feelings into just a few words — the hope is, by the time the song’s over you’ll be able to purge all of them and find some peace. But if not, you can always run it back. — CJ

38. Omah Lay, “I'm a Mess”

Omah Lay can legitimately claim to have done as much to broaden the emotional range of Afropop as anyone else with Boy Alone, but the true selling point of his poignant debut album is the never-ending tension between the glitzy trappings of his fame and the sunken depth he falls to due to insecurities and fears. While he spends the entire course of the album sulking about his distress, he never directly addresses the elephant in the room like he does on “I’m a Mess.” Opening the song, he wistfully admits: “Sometimes I’m happy, sometimes I’m sad, I don’t know what’s over me.” The confessional feel of the song rests on the minimalist pairing of hi-hats and shuffling drums that producer Niphkeys weaves but it also owes its acclaim to the specificity of Omah’s songwriting. Here, Omah is fessing up to everything he feels with the hope that it will all be okay. — Wale Oloworekende

37. Future, “Wait For U”

Drake and Future both spent this year chasing a moment that has perhaps passed them by, but “Wait For U” served as a reminder that, in fleeting moments, their tag team of relationship chaos can still be devastating. Both rappers open up in their verses, with Future candidly admitting his need to be loaded to express his true feelings. Drake, in particularly spiteful form, makes his inability to commit in a relationship sound like a hidden blessing. The spikiness of both verses jumps out between Tems’s choruses, luminous and addictive — a life raft in the choppy emotional waters created around her. — David Renshaw

36. Midwife, “Sickworld”

A doll hangs suspended in the sky on the cover art for this song. It’s unclear whether it’s flying or falling. On “Sickworld,” heaven metal artist Midwife hangs in this moment of abeyance, switching between two arpeggiated chords for the entirety of the track’s almost seven-minute length. As Jon Brion-inspired strings float in and lightly pull you upwards to heaven, its beauty is overwhelming. The doll was flying all along. — EM

35. El Alfa, “Gogo Dance”

Since his breakthrough track “Coche Bomba”, El Alfa has become one of the few artists to consistently drop music that innovates and contributes to the evolution of Dominican dembow. Produced by Chael Produciendo, “GOGO Dance'' is no exception, an automatic and worthy global sensation on TikTok and at the club. — Jennifer Mota

34. Anxious, “You When You're Gone”

Connecticut band Anxious’ amped-up album Little Green House is the sound of a pop-punk band with hardcore roots — but its tender closer, “You When You’re Gone,” is where it soars. Stella Branstool (from Brooklyn band Hello Mary) provides guest vocals, delivering the line “No one will miss you when you’re gone / but I’ll still love you” with unnerving clarity as guitars twinkle above her. It’s a lyric that could only come from deep inside a relationship, committed to the end when everyone and everything else has fallen away. — DR

33. Harry Styles, “As It Was”

Using each new release as a reintroduction, Harry Styles always audibly strives to be more than what is expected of him. On Harry’s House lead single “As It Was,” the singer hits an effervescent pitch both sonically and conceptually, expressing a willingness to embrace introspection while delivering one of the most textured performances in his loaded discography. This is a musician who has been at the center of pop music for more than a decade proving first that One Direction was more than a copy-and-paste boy band — and then that he was more than One Direction. While shedding the past on “As It Was,” and embracing the fullest extent of his skills in the present, Styles frees himself up to embark with unhindered confidence into the future. — Larisha Paul

32. EST Gee and 42 Dugg, “Thump Shit”

No one makes a casual threat quite like EST Gee. And “Thump Shit,” a single from Last Ones Left, his collaborative project with Detroit rapper 42 Dugg, is exactly what its title promises: a firehose of intimidation tactics and ultimatums. But the magic of “Thump Shit” is how much fun he and 42 Dugg sound like they’re having as shots ring. (Note the bars in which he compares his itchy trigger finger to, uh, premature ejaculation). Dugg, for his part, employs a nasally, halting delivery that makes even the most innocuous bars sound mischievous — outlining the lifestyle that makes such a steely mindset feel necessary. It’s the sort of song in which every staccato consonant promises chaos. — CJ

31. Real Boston Richey feat. Lil Durk, “Keep Dissing 2”
The 100 best songs of 2022 Art Related

Real Boston Richey is fed up. The hangers-on have bled him dry, Instagram situationships endlessly linger, and his hard-and-fast lifestyle has sunk its claws into him. Richey’s mood causes his Florida cadence on “Keep Dissing 2” to coil tighter than we’ve heard previously, each word sounding like it has left a bitter taste in his mouth. Resigned, Richey shrugs off the dark side of his growing success (“Wanna know why niggas dying? Niggas keep dissing,” he says with a schoolteacher’s deliberation). In contrast, guest Lil Durk is as bloodthirsty as he is shrewd, outlining his ruthlessness while taking care not to give the prosecutors who may be listening any material for a RICO charge. The orchestral beat solemnly ebbs and swells throughout, its strings singing the song of a ceaseless, tragic blood feud. — Jordan Darville

30. Black Midi, “Sugar/Tzu”

black midi revel in their ridiculousness. On “Sugar/Tzu,” frontman Geordie Greep imagines himself as a “three-foot-three superfluous freak” (read: small child) watching an ultra-violent boxing match in the year 2163 between heavyweights Sun Sugar and Sun Tzu. It plays out over a maelstrom of volatile instrumentation: the controlled chaos of Morgan Simpson’s thunderous drums; an anxious, driving bass line from Cameron Picton; Greep’s caterwauling guitar; and a few key embellishments from additional contributors — most notably Kaidi Akinnibi, whose alto sax squeals make the song’s climactic moments sparkle with campy brilliance. — Raphael Helfand

29. The Weeknd, “Less Than Zero”

Lamenting the end of a relationship while accepting the blame for its demise, “Less Than Zero” presents the kind of emotional vulnerability we’ve come to expect from The Weeknd in the recent years of his career — saddled, of course, with his usual hedonism. A mid-tempo new wave track, “Less Than Zero” would fit snugly on the soundtrack of a 1987 coming-of-age blockbuster, its climbing synths and acoustic backdrop offering the perfect nest for its introspective hook. — SE

28. Cate Le Bon, “French Boys”

There’s nothing in the world so romantic as waiting. Waiting is the lover’s predisposition. Roland Barthes (a French boy) said so himself. On "French Boys," Cate Le Bon renders that amorous anticipation into remote symbols — plastic bouquets, faces like lakes — that scan clearer than direct language, so that you can feel the waiting rather than merely registering it. You can also feel when the waiting gets too much. After the chorus, guitars and saxophones burst into a tantrum of ecstasy. A series of little deaths that bloom and contract. — EM

27. Nilüfer Yanya, “try”

A sky does not have to be crowded with stars to dazzle us. Nilufer Yanya’s virtuosity comes from a restraint buoyed by the enduring tenderness in moments anxious, desperate, and somewhere in-between. “try,” a song on Yanya’s superb second album PAINLESS, best showcases this talent. Yanya wrestles with solitude and the resulting cacophony of internal noise that gets generated when everything around us is silent, beginning the journey on a cluster of gently ascending guitar notes. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, the song evolves into a post-rock soul explosion, an idea so grand that lesser artists would have thrown it at us immediately. — JD

26. Ethel Cain, “American Teenager”

On “American Teenager” Ethel Cain picks at the idealized image of the U.S.A. and quickly reveals it to be a front masking widespread loneliness and hurt. How, she asks, can anyone have faith in the military when their son comes home in a box? And how will God save her when she’s drunk at the altar and can’t feel Him in her own time of need? Over jangly guitars and stadium-sized drums, Cain throws in images of darkened football arenas and tear-stained bleachers as she subverts the anthemic rock trope into a portrait of a society in decline. Standing in the rubble, she’s left to focus on the only thing she can rely on: herself. — DR

25. Pusha T, “Diet Coke”

Dubbing yourself the “Martin Scorsese of street rap” is a serious boast, but they’re shoes the Virginia rapper has filled for over two decades. On “Diet Coke,” Pusha T’s snarling voice bounds over infectious piano trills and a chopped-up sample originally intended for an 88 Keys beattape nearly 20 years ago. Push plays the long game, his bombastic delivery almost daring you to respond if you’re brave enough (“Saddle up / I’m still pitching baby, batter up”), paying homage to JAY-Z (“Imaginary players ain’t been coached right''), and fellow Virginian Missy Elliott (“Missy was our only misdemeanor”). Finding increasingly inventive ways to rap about coke and its accouterments, coupled with fourth-wall-breaking self-awareness, has always been Pusha’s superpower. Here, it makes for an audacious and dark proclamation of his longevity: “How many are still standing, reflecting in that mirror?” — Sajae Elder


24. Grace Ives, “Lullaby”

By the time Grace Ives has reached the end of her knockout sophomore record Janky Star, everything has unraveled into a “lovely mess.” Carnivalesque synths bounce around her as she’s back to square one, going through the motions once again. “I hear the neighbors sing ‘Love Galore,’ I do a split on the kitchen floor,” she exclaims as though it’s just another day that ends in “y.” It’s a bittersweet certitude delivered with an oblique grin; a paean to the rituals we teach ourselves to survive, the melodies we fall back upon to ease our anxious minds. — SM

23. Lana Del Rey, “Buddy's Rendezvous”

“Buddy’s Rendezvous” may be a Father John Misty song — the original appeared on this year’s Chloe and the Next 20th Century — but Misty melts away when Lana sings it, even if he is still on backing vocals. “Buddy’s Rendezvous” is the most perfectly languorous ballad Lana has ever sung, floating along on coils of vape smoke, fading out as slowly as it fades in. — Shaad D'Souza

22. Sabrina Carpenter, “Because I Liked A Boy”

Over the last two years, Sabrina Carpenter found herself unfairly written into love-triangle gossip with Olivia Rodrigo and Joshua Bassett. But on "Because I Liked a Boy," she answers the criticism and vitriol with honesty and pithiness, reclaiming her narrative along the way. She makes it clear that she doesn't want anyone's grace or pity, she wants them to know the truth. She’s not a “homewrecker” or a “rebound going ‘round stealing from the young,” she’s a confident — and often underrated — pop singer with sharp instincts for heart-on-your-sleeve lyricism. And, more importantly, before she’s any of those things, she’s a human being, a deceptively tricky truth to tell in a three-minute pop song. — LP

21. Samthing Soweto, “Amagents”

After taking a creative detour with the release of the amapiano-inspired Danko! in 2020, Samthing Soweto’s recent releases have marked a return to the buttery R&B and jazz-adjacent sound he originally delved into after splitting with South African acappella group The Soil 13 years ago. Samthing’s first release of 2022, “Amagents,” is a “simple yet complex message from a father to his daughter” according to the singer — but it’s also a critical portrait of how men can let down women in various ways. Tenderly written from a concerned father’s perspective, Samthing breaks down the complexity of men and their relationships with women while playing up his love for his daughter and reassuring her of his devotion regardless of what direction she heads in later in life. Performed entirely in Zulu, “Amagents” is a powerful reminder of love’s potency and a needed affirmation that it can be a force for actualizing good in our bleak world. — WO

20. Cash Cobain & Chow Lee, “JHoliday”

Listening to Cash Cobain and Chow Lee’s “JHoliday” is like tapping through the Instagram story of that one friend who lives at the club. They recall their X-rated lifestyle with graphic, messy detail. “I ain't Spiderman I cannot save you ho,” Chow raps, drowning out the wholesome pleas sampled from the R&B singer J. Holiday’s “Suffocate.” Sure, Cash and Chow Lee may be toxic, but they lean into it with a cartoonish sense of humor, cranking up the dial until their situations sound too ridiculous to be true. There’s no denying the comedic, easy-going spirit they brought to New York drill. Life would be more fun if we all were this loose. — BC

19. Karol G, “Provenza”

As a tribute to the name of a neighborhood in Medellin, Colombia — a creative hub for music in Latin music and also the home to singer Karol G and producer Ovy On The Drums – “Provenza” fuses Afro-dance beats and tropical influences into a nostalgic pulse for a song about homecoming and nostalgia. — JM

18. Boldy James & Nicholas Craven, “Scrabble”

Amidst a coke rap lane that usually alternates between crushing paranoia and triumphant bombast, “Scrabble” is relaxed — a rare moment of equanimity for vocalist Boldy James to survey the state of the game. Over a folky, loping sample courtesy of Nicholas Craven, Boldy uses his one-of-one monotone flow to reflect on his younger days moving weight and spraying down opps, all while making thinly veiled threats at his adversaries. The “Alphabet Boys” remain an ever-present nuisance through it all, but until his time is up, Boldy James leaves no doubt that whether DEA or FBI, rapper or drug dealer, he’s not sweating the competition. Catch him if you can. — Son Raw

17. Doechii, “Persuasive”

2022 was Doechii’s year. In August, she dropped her debut project after signing with TDE, and the young star has been establishing herself as a provocateur at every turn. Known for her quick-witted lyricism and the occasional primal scream, nothing about her sound is timid. But the lead single from her EP she/her/black bitch, “Persuasive,” showcases a more mellow persona. Doechii skates over a house track as an observer, a feeling, a concept, and slowly speaks life into herself as the subject. “How does it feel to be that-that bitch? / “How does it feel to let, let-let go?” It’s flirtatious, sharp, and provocative. — Gyasi Williams-Kirtley

16. Bladee & Ecco2k, “The Flag Is Raised”

If “Amygdala” signaled the beginning of Bladee and Ecco2k’s main pop bitch era — “I want it, I want it! Iconic, iconic!” — “The Flag Is Raised” brought them to No. 1 on some strange and Drained alternate plain. The opening song from their collaborative album Crest, “The Flag Is Raised” is jet-propulsive, capturing all the rippling sweetness and cynicism of The Year In Drain Gang. At this year’s world tour, the effusive performances of “The Flag Is Raised” were inarguable highlights — like hearing a platinum hit beamed in from another galaxy. — SD

15. Jim Legxacy, “Eye Tell (!)”

“Eye Tell (!)” is the sound of U.K. producer Jim Legxacy working himself out in real-time. Fingers slide up and down the fretboard as plucked guitar chords sit atop a skippy beat that loops over and over, creating a vibe somewhere between a Sunny Day Real Estate practice room circa 1995 and TikTok in 2022. Legxacy pitches his own vocals up, giving added tenderness to his lyrics about protecting his heart behind the walls of a medieval stronghold. He tries to hide his face from onlookers, ironically pulling more in with his uniquely eclectic expression of regret. — DR

14. Asake, “Peace Be Unto You”

Asake’s “Peace Be Unto You” is an enchanting fusion of amapiano, fuji music, and street pop that feels so massive it’s hard to believe the Lagos singer is still a newcomer. Asake’s warm and commanding vocals fill the air with joy and self-determination, gently riding the momentum of the shuffling drums and whistles. “I just blow but omo I know my set / Before them use me I use me I go use my sense,” he sings with conviction. When the choir joins to sing alongside him, it’s purely magnetic. While it’s playing, “Peace Be Unto You” feels like the only thing that matters — a balm of encouragement and safeguard from bad will with Asake serving as its shimmering center of gravity. — BC

13. Omar Apollo, “Tamagotchi”

Months after the release of Omar Apollo’s debut studio album Ivory, the brooding deep cut “Evergreen” became the kind of viral hit to cry to instead of dance. But when the tears subside, the effortlessly seductive Neptunes-produced standout “Tamagotchi” is a fail-proof confidence booster cathartic enough to wipe the memory of whatever it was that got the tears flowing in the first place. For three minutes, Apollo abandons his signature sleek indie pop. In its place, he paints an airy, harmony-filled wonderland as captivating as any dreamy pop performance that preceded it. — LP

12. Brent Faiyaz, “Jackie Brown”

Jackie Brown is an R&B ouroboros referencing everything from Timbaland and Aaliyah’s 90s run to plot points from Quentin Tarantino’s titular soul-soaked Blaxploitation homage. Morphing his voice à la Prince & Camille to sing both male and female vocals, Brent Faiyaz has no time for previous romantic conquests, whether detached or clingy — all he wants is commitment from the current object of his desire. In a year that saw pop stars pivot towards the dance floor, “Jackie Brown”’s bedroom romance felt fresh, dangerous, and extremely welcome. — SR

11. Westside Gunn, “Big Ass Bracelet”

Taking a page from the early aughts Roc-A-Fella playbook, “Big Ass Bracelet” sees Westside Gunn and show-stealer Stove God Cooks reminiscing about their drug dealing days. Over a lush, regal soul loop, the rappers use the faded grandeur of civil rights era R&B to comment on the crack years’ urban decay. Opps get slain and kilos get moved, but above all, “Big Ass Bracelet” is a tremendous flex, an opportunity for the duo to admire just how far they’ve come. Just as importantly, it’s a sign that rap’s sonic center is shifting away from the 808-heavy sound that dominated the last decade, and is heading towards stranger, more abstract frontiers. — SR

10. SZA, “Shirt”

In perfect SZA fashion, “Shirt” gives us an entire unhinged inner monologue about a frustrating new fling. SZA has always been down to get her hands dirty and her heart scuffed, but “Shirt” takes things to a new level: “Blood stain on my shirt / New bitch on my nerves,” she sings. Produced by Darkchild, “Shirt” feels nostalgic but new, and even the full version of the track, as opposed to the snippet that leaked months ago, feels too short; it’s almost disrespectful. — GW-K


9. Vince Staples, “When Sparks Fly”

Concept songs anthropomorphizing guns have been a rap trope for ages, but it took Vince Staples’s blend of dry humor and sensitivity to reinvent the form as a sweaty, tender, R&B-inflected ballad. Equal part romantic pillow talk and deconstruction of American gun culture, “When Sparks Fly” sees Vince and his pistol whispering sweet nothings to each other against a backdrop of gang violence and police brutality. Listen intently, and it’s a damning indictment of the cycle of violence wracking cities like Vince’s Ramona Park. Play it at 5 a.m. as your after-hours event is winding down and you’ve got a slow jam beautiful enough to forget about the threat of violence in the first place. — SR

8. Jenny Hval, “American Coffee”

All good songs start simple. “My mother came to the city at 21,” Jenny Hval begins on “American Coffee” over neatly blocked organ chords before launching into an unembellished tale of tearful car rides and compassionate midwives that encapsulates her mother’s early 20s and the circumstances of her own birth with perfect, poignant clarity. From there, the song spreads out in several directions. Simplicity is no longer the name of the game; Hval moves to Australia, where she lives with a group of nurses who recite a translator’s note from Deleuze and Guattari’s Capitalism and Schizophrenia: “A concept is a brick. It can be used to build a courthouse of reason, or it can be thrown through the window.” She has a UTI while watching Dreyer’s La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc. She throws shade at higher institutions of learning, Interstellar, and, of course, American coffee. There’s no one else in the world who could pull all this off in the space of a pop song (even a six-minute one), but Hval does so effortlessly, her graceful voice cutting through the dense theory and endless references to create a uniquely compelling piece of art. — RH

7. Ice Spice, “Munch (Feelin U)”

It’s been impossible to escape "Munch (Feelin’ U)” since its release in August, no matter how hard you try. Bubbling from the Bronx to TikTok, the viral hit’s brash lyrics are like the perfect pre-game pep talk, full of quotables that are equal parts ego-boosting (“Baddest bitch out, you shittin me?”) and hilariously descriptive ("I'm walkin' past him, he sniffin' my breeze"). Ice Spice swerves across a glitchy bass line and frenetic hi-hats, taking munches everywhere down as she goes. Straightforward and addictive, “Munch” packs an undeniably fun punch in its sub-two-minute runtime. Part of a new crop of female rappers breaking up New York drill’s boys' club, Ice Spice’s playful delivery brings a feather-light touch to the genre's thumping beats. If “Munch” proves anything, it’s that Ice Spice’s quiet confidence makes a big splash. As she herself reminds us: “Bitch I’m a baddie, I get what I want.” — SE

6. Beyoncé, “Cuff It”

First of all, let’s be clear that “I feel like falling in love / I’m in the mood to fuck something up” is one of the greatest opening lines that any song gave us in 2022. On RENAISSANCE, Beyoncé dances free and easy through an endless summer party of her own design; “CUFF IT” is a sexy, euphoric invitation to cut loose and join her. With its glossy, distinctively Nile Rodgers guitar lines, airy strings, resplendent horns, and general aura of ecstasy, the track is an exquisite homage to more classic disco and R&B stylings. But unlike on, say, 4-era cuts with similar sonic sensibilities, here Beyoncé leans unabashedly into her desires (“Squeeze it, don't let it go / Tease it, no self-control”). Elsewhere on the album, she’s too flawless to be touched, but the deliciousness of “CUFF IT” is in her imploration for recklessness. Drunk and high and carnal, this song is a reminder that an insatiable appetite will always result in a mess — and that can be glorious, too. — TJ

5. Two Shell, “home”

Giddy, romantic, brilliant, and gleefully stupid, Two Shell’s “home” is four minutes of utter jungle pop joy. With its ebullient synth, popping candy breakbeats, and blitzed-up R&B sample, the track fizzes through you as though your blood were McDonald’s Sprite. Originally a vinyl-only release, the track began making the rounds in DJ sets from Ross from Friends and Four Tet before it was made available to stream at the beginning of this year. Now the track’s been with us for almost four seasons, it remains a frenzy that doesn’t let up, no matter how many times you replay it. It’s proof that joy doesn’t always need to be tempered with melancholy — ”home”'s wholehearted and cartoonish tribute to glee can lift you with a force as strong as heartbreak can sink you. It reminds us that our childlike capacity for happiness may have never really floundered after all. — EM

4. Jockstrap, “Greatest Hits”

Jockstrap’s I Love You Jennifer B, with its discombobulating mix of indie rock and avant-garde electronic music, exists outside time and space, but you can pinpoint “Greatest Hits” easily — it’s all old-school disco glamour, slinking satin and freely-poured ice-cold vodka. Never mind that the beat itself is hardly traditional — it saunters drunkenly between dub and footwork, making sleazy advances towards each — or that the song’s mood, when you try to parse it, is actually as pensive as it is lascivious. “Greatest Hits” is pure vibe: something to slip into when the world just isn’t feeling spectacular enough. — SD

3. GloRilla, “FNF”

From the moment she stepped on it, GloRilla made it look like the stage at the BET Awards was made especially for her. Dressed in silver hot pants and a matching baseball jersey emblazoned with the words “Big Glo”, she was every bit the hotly-tipped rookie prospect stepping up to the plate for her first big swing. It was when she launched into “FNF” that something in the room was unlocked; the song of 2022’s summer by a long stretch, everyone present was taken back to the cookouts, pool parties, and yes, the rowdy red lights in traffic. For two minutes and 17 seconds, GloRilla was your bodyguard tossing the toxic exes and vicious gnats from your brain: “I’m F. R. E. E. Fuck. N****. Free.” Hitting her song’s theme in a cartoon bully flow, GloRilla punches each word like there’s a period after it. The track, produced by HitKidd, surges with the menacing energy and pummeling rhythm that has since rallied contemporary Memphis rappers into unexpected chart success — but on that stage, GloRilla made it look inevitable. Months before the chants of “Let’s gooooo!” filled the room, we were already following GloRilla’s lead. — JD

2. Bad Bunny, “Después de la Playa”

"Después de la Playa''’s dreamy pop synths are quickly interrupted by Bad Bunny: “Dime, ¿vamo' pa'l mambo o no vamo' pa'l mambo?” He’s saying “let’s get to the mambo” – referring to the street merengue known as Dominican mambo. Incorporating the foundations of classic merengue – the guira, piano, trumpet, and hand drum percussion – he and producer Dahian el Apechao build a composition that represents the sonic atmosphere in Dominican beaches, albeit a more modern, street mambo take that includes a faster BPM, horns, and lyricism rooted in Dominican slang. (The track also serves as a highlight of El Apechao and Dominican musicians, which, considering the heavy influence of Dominican music on the album, Un Verano Sin Ti largely fails to do.) "Después de la Playa'' proves that homegrown styles of the Spanish-speaking Afro-Caribbean are still very much alive and present — and audiences are hungry for it. JM

1. Burna Boy, “Last Last”

Much of the run from Outside to Love, Damini that established Burna Boy as an international superstar has seen him cosplay as a political theorist, party starter, and pan-Africanist — but there’s been little space for personal reflections from the African Giant. “Last Last,” the lead single from his sixth album course-corrects that with a groovy break-up single that reflects on the end of a romantic relationship. Here Burna Boy lays bare the inevitability of heartache (or, in his Nigerian slang, "breakfast"). But the true genius of “Last Last” is how he uses that pain as a map to touch on other moments that have felt precarious for him: the death of the southern Nigeria militant Soboma George over a decade ago, and a car crash in Lagos earlier this year. Like all classic break-up anthems, “Last Last” finds Burna Boy both deflecting blame (“And I know I’m in trouble / She manipulate my love”) and accepting his imperfection (“I no holy and I no denge pose”) before attempting to find an escape from his pain by consuming copious amounts of liquor and weed. It's the year’s most lucid exploration of heartbreak. — WO


42 Dugg and EST Gee, Afrobeats, alex g, Ambient, Anxious, Asake, Asake ft. Burna Boy, ayra starr, Bad Boy Chiller Crew, Bad Bunny, Beyoncé, black midi, black sherif, Bladee & Ecco2k, boldy james, Bolis Pupul, Brent Faiyaz, burna boy, Caribbean, Carly Rae Jepsen, caroline, Caroline Polachek, Cash Cobain & Chow Lee, Cate Le Bon, Central Cee, Charlotte Adigéry, chief keef, Club, Conway the Machine, Country, Cumbia, Dancehall, doechii, Dro Kenji, Drum & Bass, easyFun, El Alfa, Electronic, Eliza Rose, Emo, Ethel Cain, Experimental, Fish Narc, fka twigs, Flo, flo milli, Folk, Fontaines DC, Footwork, Future, g jones, Glorilla, Gospel, Grace Ives, Grime, gunna, Hagop Tchaparian, Harry Styles, Hikaru Utada, Hip-Hop, Holly Humberstone, House, Hudson Mohawke, Ice Spice, J-pop, Jane Remover, Jazz, Jenny Hval, jim legxacy, Jimi Jules, Jockstrap, John Cale & Weyes Blood, Joyce Wrice, Julianna Barwick, K-pop, Kabza De Small ft. Mhaw Key, Karol G, kehlani, Kendrick Lamar, Lana Del Rey, Lil Durk, Lil Yachty, Lucrecia Dalt, Mafro, Megan Thee Stallion, Midwife, Modern Classical, Mura Masa, nia archives, nilufer yanya, Njelic, Noise, Nosaj Thing, Omah Lay, omar apollo, Pa Salieu Skillibeng, Paramore, PGF Nuk, Pop, Punk, Pusha T, R&B, Real Boston Richey, Reggae, Reggaeton, Rema, Rock, rosalia, Sabrina Carpenter, Sabrina Claudio, Samthing Soweto, SASAMI, Show Me The Body, shygirl, Simmy, Skeng, Skullcrusher, Soca, Soul, Special Interest, Steve Lacy, sudan archives, Swami Sound, SZA, T-Shyne, Techno, The 1975, the weeknd, tove lo, TSHA, Two Shell, tyondai braxton, Vince Staples, Westside Gunn, XG, Yeat, Young Thug
The 100 best songs of 2022