The Absolute Best in Music 2022 (Top 40 Songs)

By: Campbell Petschke

Currently Listening to: Dirt Femme by Tove Lo

Going Through the (Emo)tions

I laid my intro pretty flat out in my Top 50 album blog so if you want to see my brief overview of my perception of 2022 in the year of music I’ll leave the link here.

2022 had a lot of comebacks, throwbacks, and breakneck bangers. This was really a different year where a handful of top 40 was actually pretty solid while genres like folk and bossa nova seem to be making a comebacks again. Maybe something revolutionary is happening over in country… I don’t really care too much. In case you skipped my hyperlink above and didn’t read the intro to my Top 50 albums list, I GUESS I’ll do you the abbreviated favor and keep it brief here. 2022 ruled.

*Sidenote, I will be keeping these rankings concise as possible*

40. Momma – Speeding 72

Genre: Indie-Rock

A duo I had never heard of until this year. Speeding 72 is a lazy Sunday of a slacker song that feels like a stoner’s version of a run away and never look back. The super catchy riff also finds a way to sneak itself into the entirety of the runtime without sounding redundant. Very solid indie from a year with a lot of standouts.

39. Mitski – Stay Soft

Genre: Indie-Pop

I really wanted to love Laurel Hell. The singles leading up to it sounded good and I’ve loved nearly everything she’s put out in the past, but ultimately it felt like warm orange juice. Yeah, it was good, but I know that this can be better. That being said though I still really dig some tracks! Stay Soft is the one that sticks out for it’s upbeat piano and for a pretty great vocal performance from Mitski. The best on the record. At the core, it’s a song about an unhealthy relationship based on sex and little to nothing else. Typical Mitski shit, but doesn’t mean that it’s not gonna slap.

38. Father John Misty – Funny Girl

Genre: Sophistipop

Josh Tillman has proven over the years he can do it all. Folk rock, pop, piano ballads, you name it. Ever since I Love You, Honeybear he has completely won me over. Funny Girl lead me to the same feeling I had hearing that album for the first time. The amount of soul and agony put into this shows something of desperation. He has deep feelings for someone famous, but will probably never cross paths with them again. So he watches her on TV and longs for her attention she’ll probably never have the chance to give him. Sweet, yet the slightest bit unnerving.

37. Djo – End of Beginning

Genre: Rock

End of Beginning gets some bonus points from mentioning Chicago, but gets the rest of the points for it landing on this list for how earnest it sounds. The chorus sounds like music from the city in a weird way. There’s an atmosphere to it that sounds like breezing down Lakeshore Drive with a hopeful sunshine reflecting off the skyscrapers. Joe Keery made an argument for Chicago being the best damn city on earth and put it into song form.

36. Wet Leg – Ur Mom

Genre: Indie Rock

I spoke about how much I enjoyed this song in my album rankings as well. Wet Leg know how to be as brash and brutally honest as possible. The singer tells her past mate to suck her dick and also lets out the loudest, longest scream she has been practicing. Accompanied with a really memorable chorus and bridge, Ur Mom is just a really fun indie track that highlight what I really like about the band.

35. Pusha-T – Dreamin of the Past

Genre: Rap

Diet Coke is an easy contender for being the best song on It’s Almost Dry, but Dreamin of the Past does a better job of highlighting Push’s versatility. This (unfortunate) produced Kanye beat sampling a Donny Hathaway cover of John Lennon’s hit Jealous Guy sounds incredible. Lots of names there, but Push makes this work. The sample helps make this sound like a victory as he is left dreaming of the past with all that he has accomplished. It’s one of the slower moments on the album, but easily the most memorable outside the cocaine’s Dr. Seuss bar in the opener.

34. Rihanna – Lift Me Up

Genre: Pop

The demand for new Rihanna music was at an all time high in 2022. We had enough of waiting and us men can’t buy Fenty for ourselves, so thankfully this track was released. Lift Me Up was written for the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack, but more specifically Chadwick Boseman, who most of us had passed away in 2020 from a not very public battle with cancer. I really liked it the first few times that I heard it, but when it started up during the end credits of the film it turned from like to love. This was the way you’re meant to hear this song if you have any interest in seeing the film. Rihanna utilizes a pretty minimal approach with only her vocals and heavenly piano keys. I don’t like discrediting other artists, but Rihanna is one of few I really feel could’ve delivered this tear jerker of a song as effectively as she did.

33. Rina Sawayama – This Hell

Genre: Pop

Rina Sawayama is living in the wrong decade at the right time. This Hell is a 2000s inspired, pop ballad. I couldn’t help but think of The Fame Monster when I first heard this song. The production is so clean and her vocals remind me of classic Gaga that would totally kill on a dancefloor. This Hell is a celebration that no matter how shitty things are being together is what’ll keep us alive. After all if being alive means we get more guitar solos like the sick one on here then I’m game for another year.

32. Angel Olsen – All the Good Times

Genre: Indie-Folk

All Mirrors was probably my favorite album of 2019. I was not expecting a folk album going into a teased project three years later. Angel really has the natural twang needed for All the Good Times. It feels like the long drive home in a film after the worst has come and gone and all is a little better now that it’s over but you can’t help but feel torn. Angel is a natural for creating a mood like this where the instrumentals speak for how she’s feeling almost as well as the lyrics. Songs like this one prove that she’s a songwriter never to doubt.

31. Cheekface – You Always Want to Bomb the Middle East

Genre: Indie-Punk

I appreciate how Cheekface’s political satire never takes itself too seriously. This track in particular comes off as a bubblegum pop song that has a goofy delivery that sort of reminds me of Fred from The B-52’s. It’s like half serious all the time, but works in the context of the album. You Always Want to Bomb the Middle East makes it seem like silly, normal, playful everyday activities are substitutes for bombing countries. Activities like having a Nerf gun fight or playing golf and eating cheese. For all the strong, blunt politicization of modern music I’m grateful for something light hearted like this.

30. Goth Babe – Driving South

Genre: AltPop

Encinitas rocked my world last year. I had the privilege to finally hear that track live this year at Lollapalooza slightly tipsy, which is the best way to experience that moment in my eyes. Driving South did me the same favor this summer, just not having to wait as long to hear it performed live. Everything about this screams summer. It’s the life I want to live, live out the summer days and the moment it hits September I’m out of here. Goth Babe’s brand of alt-pop really has the catchiest hooks and I am already seeing other artists try and replicate his sound with not nearly as much success. It’s bright, shimmery, and instantly recognizable.

29. My Chemical Romance – Foundations of Decay

Genre: Post-Hardcore

On the way to the Turnstile concert earlier this year, my friend texts me, “DUDE NEW MCR!” As a longtime fan I instantly got nervous. What the hell would an MCR song sound like in 2022? It sounds like an apocalyptic, grim battle with impending despair. Gerard sounds better than ever, even letting us know how committed to this new album he is by unleashing one of my favorite screams of the year before the breakdown throws a knuckle to your gut. It’s a different approach for the group, but this sound excites me. Hoping this new MCR will come in with the new year.

28. 100 Gecs – Doritos and Fritos

Genre: Hyper-Pop/Ska

This is a Seinfeld of a track. It’s literally about nothing except Doritos, Fritos, and watching TV. If you’re not familiar with Laura and Dylan, this is probably the most accessible they’ve ever sounded so enjoy this dance party while you can. Meanwhile for the fans this is just another bonus round. It’s a stupid fun song that has a nasty continuous bass that contributes to the goofiness. R.I.P. MF Doom.

27. brakence – deepfake

Genre: Hyper-Pop, Art-Pop

I spoke briefly about how effectively heartbreaking deepfake was in the context of the album. Hiding your true colors and numbing your personality to appeal to others and pretend like this won’t catch up over time. Brakence breaks down at the right emotional highpoints in every verse. It’s the highlight of the entire record that leaves you with a midwest-emo guitar at the end in what feels like an attempt to process what the hell just happened.

26. Tove Lo – True Romance

Genre: Pop

Can we please give Tove Lo the love she deserves? Year after year she puts out solid material and puts nothing less than 100% into it. True Romance is one of the rawest pop songs this year. Typically a Tove Lo song has a lot of synth and over-the-top production. This one plays it very lowkey and minimal… except for the vocal performance. She sings her heart out to the point where her voice cracks put even more emotional definition on the lyrics. One of the most heartful songs this year and her best vocal performance to date.

25. Spitting Off the Edge of the World – Yeah Yeah Yeahs, featuring Perfume Genius

Genre: Alternative

The DJ on SiriusXMU premiered this song and then as soon as it was over he declared that we should all listen to it again. So that’s what he did. Months have passed since the debut of Spitting of the Edge of the World and I still get a rush of excitement as soon as that abrasive synth and bass attack my ears in the opening. Karen O and co. have never made a song like this before. It’s a slow burn with a feature, a Perfume Genius feature at that. His contributions to the track are brief, but works well given he’s no stranger to this type of sound. This truly feels like the end of the world. Before the chorus hits and the slaps of the drum kick in, I’m ready for the hellfire to singe my eyebrows. It’s a fiery track that’s different, but remains in YYYs spirit.

24. Beach Bunny – Entropy

Genre: Power-Pop

Beach Bunny put out music this year so it was inevitable that a song would end up on my list. It totally could’ve been any track on this album (minus Oxygen which was a 2021 release), but in the end I played Entropy so many times this summer. It’s so sugary sweet and outward in what it wants to be. The bridge of Lili saying she wants to kiss her partner when everyone’s watching and not being ashamed makes my heart soar (in the manliest way possible). Beach Bunny will definitely be in the conversation of one of the pioneering acts of this modern power pop revival if she keeps putting out catchy, honest bangers like this one.

23. Carly Rae Jepsen – The Loneliest Time feat. Rufus Wainwright

Genre: Pop

When you think of a perfect closer, what comes to mind? The Loneliest Time is one that clicks with me instantly from this past year. It’s a bubbly, poppy jam that feels like the result of Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia era of modern 80’s pop. At the tail-end of an already great album, this track just packages it all together. It’s dazzling and really encapsulates what this album is all about. Plus the Rufus Wainwright feature is worth the price of admission we should be paying these artists.

22. Joey Bada$$ – Zipcodes

Genre: Boom-Bap, Rap

Old heads will be snapping their fingers to this shit. For someone who didn’t grow up with a lot of hip-hop, I still find a lot of comfort in the beat. It took a sample of a relatively slow and jazzy song from the mid 2000’s and made it feel BIG. This is a walk through the city during a late summer evening. Joey takes the opportunity to rap over a beat with this wonderful production and bodies it. It’s a big braggadocios song with bars for days. “Dropped out of school, still voted most likely to succeed” resides in my head on the daily.

21. Dreamville – Stick

Genre: Rap

As I said in my album rankings, Dreamville had their strongest year to date in 2022. This is truly what kicked off the year with a bang. Kenny Mason and Sheck Wes go back and forth screaming at each other and it’s fucking incredible. You would think that was Sheck’s only purpose, but no! He delivers maybe the best verse of his career. What a comeback. J. Cole is stunning here. His wordplay and aggression is unlike anything that he has put out in years. DJ Drama feels like he’s on top of the world as his adlibs and dramatic, almost cartoonish production. This is the hype song that filled the gaps of the past few years. Oh and JID is great too, as if you were gonna doubt that.

20. Steve Lacy – Mercury

Genre: Alt-Pop

For some reason Mercury reminds me of the song that plays in the Pixar short Knick Knack. Anyway, this is my favorite Steve Lacy associated track I’ve heard so far. The instrumentals feel almost Spanish inspired with bossa nova elements as well. Lyrically this will be one of the tracks that most people will relate to on Gemini Rights. Not regretting his choice to breakup with his partner in a toxic situation, but still looking for the good in the time and wanting that more than ever. Presumably the situation is recent, but you can feel the denial and bargaining in his lyrics. I really appreciate a song this catchy to hit so hard.

19. Harry Styles – As It Was

Genre: Pop

Even if Harry’s House really did nothing for me, As It Was remained in my rotation constantly. This gentle performance Harrys gives vocally feels very effective with the cute vibe. The leadup to his “letting loose” moment in the final verse only makes the payoff greater. Something that stands out to me the most though is the percussion. The drums during the chorus shimmers and makes the beat a little quirkier. Admittedly, this may be cheating but the music video for this elevates how I feel about it too. It’s the energy I’d hoped for to match the tone of the song.

18. The Smile – You Will Never Work in Television Again

Genre: Rock

Nothing excites me more than when Thom Yorke and co. freak out on a track. This stunning track caught me completely off guard because the past few years that these members of Radiohead have been active, their sound has been a bit more mellow. The Sons of Kemet drummer hasn’t, but for Thom Yorke playing front-man you can’t help but make that contrast. You Will Never Work in Television Again is like an OK Computer B-Side. I mean this feels just very grim and revolting. I love the amount of angst is in the vocals and how the rush from the first seconds of the song never let you down. Thin Thing almost took the spot, but this one blew my mind first.

17. Black Thought & Danger Mouse – The Darkest Part

Genre: Jazz Hip-Hop

My gateway into hip-hop was more melody inspired. I liked lyrical, clean production, rap in my early years of high school. Listening to Cheat Codes took me back to that time where I was just discovering rap and The Darkest Part evoked the kid in me again. Black Danger Mouse immaculately produced this and Black Thought spits as if he’s Rose in Titanic. He’s honestly a lyrical miracle just by the first verse. It felt like a MF DOOM song and maybe that’s why I resonated so hard. The beat feels like you’re in the city on a beaming sunny day through the less classier parts of town, where real creativity blossoms. This mostly optimistic song is definitely worth anyone’s time. Not just for hip-hop fans.

16. Phoebe Bridgers – Sidelines

Genre: Indie

A majority of Punisher was chockful of eye sweats. You try to maintain your composure while hearing I Know the End for the 37th time and it just doesn’t work OKAY? IT DOESN’T! But anyhow Sidelines is the antithesis of Punisher really… but it’ll still make you cry. You feel baited by how soft and tender the instrumental is while you feel like you’re being sucked into another helping of Phoebe whooping your ass emotionally. This time she sings about freedom and love. How love helps her feel like she can go outside and explore the world. It’s a cute placeholder track for whatever is to come this year.

15. Denzel Curry – Walkin

Genre: Rap

I fall victim to beat switches so helplessly. When the beat switch slapped my ear drums for the first time, the endorphins kick in. Denzel just knows how to make a hype song that still illustrates an important message. Walkin is a metaphor for facing the other way when it comes to the oppressive forces of society. He feels crushed by capitalism and inner demons that seemingly possess his mental state. Melt My Eyes See Your Future is a focus on Zel’s mental health and this is the best possible way to get people interested in his storytelling and masterful songwriting. This guy really is unstoppable.

14. JID – Sistanem

Genre: Rap

Continuing on with great storytellers, JID has nearly mastered this art in three albums time. What he did on The Forever Story is legendary and the fact that he can include a slow burn of a song like Sistanem in between a handful of bangers just shows how invested I am as a listener to what he has to say. This one is about the relationship he has with his sister and how much she meant to him. She was his role model, but since he’s gotten this level of fame signing with Dreamville and all else the past few years their connection has gotten a bit hazy. James Blake also has a surprise appearance to make the tone even slightly more haunting and pressing over his head.

13. Alvvays – After the Earthquake

Genre: Indie Pop

Blue Rev had Alvvays at their very best. Antisocialites will alvvays have a place in my heart, but I appreciate the whole array of new and familiar sounds they explored on this one. After the Earthquake is part of a spectacular three track run to start off the album. Molly Rankin pours her soul into this beautiful moment on the album where she hopelessly sours for her dead lover to “say you’ll climb out of your wake now.” She’s heartbroken and afraid of the attachment breaking her further once this person is gone. The final chorus of this might shed a tear or two. It’s modern jangle pop perfection.

12. Men I Trust – Billie Toppy

Genre: Indie Pop

Oh… OH!! This was my first reaction when I heard the opening of Billie Toppy for the first time. The bassline of this blew my damn face off. The tease of the song makes you feel like you’re being immersed into a rainy, neon lit, cityscape in a sleek black car with tinted windows. Men I Trust have fully established themselves as having a sound unique to their own already with their past few records, but this just shows the amount of versatility they possess too. I hope they keep on with this sound at some point because this keeps faithful to a normal song of theirs lyrically, but sonically it feels like something even bigger.

11. SZA – Open Arms feat. Travis Scott

Genre: Pop

Kill Bill was my original choice to be included here, but after talking with a friend yesterday, Open Arms really is the best song on SOS. SZA utilizes a lot more guitar driven beats this album, which created a more nostalgic and passionate approach to her sound. I loved Love Galore when it initially dropped five years ago. It was something different for top 40 back then and put the spotlight on SZA for the first time. Now for them to recreate that same magic years later just shows the chemistry between her and Travis. Man, this song is so cute. This is really love being shown for what it is in all of its’ glory. Every time I hear it I am just reminded that that’s what falling in love really does feel like.

10. The Weeknd – Less Than Zero

Genre: Synth Pop

Sometimes all you need is just a good pop song and that’s what Less Than Zero is… a REALLY good pop song. Abel can stick with the 80s aesthetic as long as he wants to if it sounds as booming and brain massaging as this. Dawn FM has a lot of standouts that could easily compete with this like Gasoline, Take My Breath, and Sacrifice, but what makes me choose this one is how much this one feels like his answer to Blinding Lights. Him and his team know he can produce something like that again and for how much spirit and devastation he feels. It’s a heartbreak anthem that has no problem dominating your headspace for a few days.

9. Soul Glo – Driponomics

Genre: Hardcore Punk

By the time I reached Driponomics in the tracklist I was already locked and loaded for the ride. This was easily one of the most exciting things I had heard all year. Soul Glo has a super unique way of presenting themselves. Even on stage, they really just give off a true “fuck you, I don’t give a fuck” tone. Driponomics was the mind shred moment of the project. Truly, I had no clue that a song as off the walls nightmarish as this one would be included here. This trap beat influenced banger is all about drip. Clothes, shoes, clout chasing… buying shit to feel worthy and how dumb it is to go about life that way. Shoutout to Mother Maryrose on this one too. She absolutely killed it and matched Soul Glo’s energy perfectly.

8. Kendrick Lamar – Mother I Sober

Genre: Rap/Spoken Word

Kendrick crushes your heart more than a few times on Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers. He does it because he had to crush his own facing some hard truths he didn’t want to face either. Mother I Sober illustrates his relationship with his mother. All the trauma that his mom had and her family’s generational traits and habits being passed down and how they affected him growing up. With every verse I get sucked into this journey through therapy and how he learned to grow and rise from his past. The last two minutes of this song are the most powerful moments in music I heard all 2022. On an album where Kendrick could’ve easily just opted to make bangers and doing what he already does best, he took a chance and put something like this. Thank you.

7. Black Midi – Sugar/Tzu

Genre: Art Rock

When I look at Hellfire’s album cover I see chaos, doom, and hell obviously. Sugar/Tzu prepares to take you on this journey through hell by springing an unsuspecting, cartoonishly dark, animated jam. This feels like the perfect song to show someone who has never heard Black Midi before. It highlights their political commentary/satire and how much chemistry the band has instrumentally. The end of this song feels like you’re running away from the world ending and you wouldn’t dare look back. It’s an exciting song from one of the best bands working today.

6. Black Country, New Road – Concorde

Genre: Art Rock

I kind of hate writing about BC,NR nowadays. Since the lead singer Isaac left the band just before dropping one of the best albums of last year, I’ve been down. Songs like Concorde were so amazing because of his weeping, yet powerful screams of despair at all the right moments. Concorde is about grief and denial specifically. Isaac is so hung up on his former love, but still wants to demonstrate all that he can and would do to be with them. This is in comparison to the Concorde airplane that is properly shown on Ants From Up There’s album cover. Flying over mountains and looking for light, all for while he is suffering in this trial. The explosive buildup at the end of this song sends goosebumps down my spine, arms, legs every time.

5. LCD Soundsystem – New Body Rhumba

Genre: Dance Punk

New Body Rhumba is why LCD Soundsystem remains one of my favorite bands. This is the band putting a shit ton of effort for a film soundtrack. The amount of layers and beat switches that happen in the last few minutes feel effortless even though mixing and arranging this song was probably really difficult. James Murphy does what he does best, be sad and call society out for being stupid and judgmental. Constantly saying how much he needs a new body and begging to give him what he wants. This carries on in swirling detail of how much we have to change ourselves to appease others, until we reach the end where it bittersweetly comes to terms with how things are. Sad but true shit from a band that has mastered doing that for years now.

4. Phoenix – Tonight feat. Ezra Koenig

Genre: Alt-Pop

The more and more I came back to Tonight I realized this has been the Phoenix song I have waited my whole life to hear. It’s a typical heartfelt Phoenix track with a really catchy hook, but there’s something else about it. It felt like a long lost track from their 2000s era, like an It’s Never Been Like That bonus track. It’s also the most danceable track that Phoenix has had in a while too. What really seals everything for me is the fact that two of my favorite singers when I was a kid finally collaborated. Ezra and Thomas have insanely good chemistry for this being their first track together. Both Vampire Weekend and Phoenix have this shared indie pop essence that mesh well and turn my nostalgia brain to mush.

3. Paramore – The News

Genre: Alternative

After Laughter was a second coming for Paramore. Instead of sticking with their pop-punk/alternative roots, they chose a more 80’s new wave/pop tinged rock record. It’s been five years since that record came out now and the whole time I’ve been wondering what’s their next move. The lead single, This is Why, reminded me a lot of Talking Heads first few albums. Obviously it didn’t sound exactly like it, but it felt more experimental in that sense.

The News is working off that same essence, but instead they put out the most fiery song they’ve put out since their self-titled album a decade later. Hayley sounds fed up on this one and I’m here for it. Her delivery on this song is unlike anything I’ve heard from her solo work or even past Paramore records. It’s a commentary about how we are hypnotized by the consumable media we have around us and how we are just willing to digest anything and everything. The “I feel useless behind this computer” line rolls off the tongue and sticks like a sucker. There’s subtlety and directness on this track that gives off a wake up already vibe that doesn’t come off as cheesy, which is honestly hard to do in 2022. I hope that with the rest of This is Why coming in early 2023 that they keep steam in this engine, but who am I kidding it’s Paramore… OF COURSE THEY ARE!!

2. Quadeca – Tell Me a Joke

Genre: Art Pop

Admittedly, I’m writing this entry super late. It’s 2023, but even to this day I still think about I Didn’t Mean to Haunt You. This is a once in a lifetime album that really is hard to pick a single from a concept album to choose as your favorite. Tell Me a Joke is a functional single on its’ own that really starts off the record and sets the tone. Quadeca sings this song from beyond the grave. He makes the metaphor of telling a joke to that of the life he left behind. He felt as though everyone was laughing at him, that he was a joke and ultimately served no purpose other than being the punchline. The repeated line of all he could hear are the crickets symbolize him not being laughed at for what he tries to entertain people with, but also him being dead in the grass hearing the crickets above him. This being the first exposure I had to Quadeca, I was invested. This is one of the saddest songs I heard all last year.

1. The 1975 – Looking for Somebody to Love

Genre: Alternative

You know what’s the sign of a great album ? When you listen to it and then be fondly remembered of how much you really do love the band. What makes a great single is the reminder that this band can really show you what they’re capable at the height of their power. Looking for Somebody to Love was my reminder of not only what The 1975 is capable of, but also how they are one of my favorite bands ever.

Matt Healy has a really cool perspective on the world. Sure, it’s not always the most agreeable or PC, but it’s really admirable of how he’s really not afraid to speak his mind ever. This track in particular covers his views on toxic masculinity and how fragile the world is now. Throughout the song Matty sings that the gentleman with a gun is hand is looking for somebody to love, sort of illustrating that this weak willed man was rejected or hurt by someone he admired and is taking his aggressions out by starting a mass shooting. I love this commentary because there’s really no easy way to discuss something like this in regular conversation let alone a song. I’m very grateful that someone with this platform was the one to start another discussion.

Jack Antonoff, as much as the world seems to resent him now, really did an amazing job with the production here too. This is an instantly recognizable sound for him, but also for The 1975. It felt like his spin on their sound while still honoring both parties. It sounds nostalgic and exciting with a little bit of grief in there too. It’s one of the band’s best songs they’ve ever put out and my favorite song of 2022.


Published by cpetschke

College student, writer, music lover, listener, learner.

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