As some long-awaited projects from superstars and indie darlings alike sprang to the forefront as those pesky pandemic delays wore off for good, there might not have been a year in recent memory more packed with a sheer volume of new music to check out. And with artists like Kate Bush, Steve Lacy, Joji and the soundtrack to an animated Disney film scoring smash hits out of nowhere, the continued rise of TikTok made it easier for just about anyone to get recognized than ever before. It’s why a lot more big singles than usual ended up on this list – sometimes, the kids know what they’re doing. Here are the best tracks of 2022.
- Caroline Polachek – Welcome To My Island
- DJ Khaled – GOD DID (Ft. Fridayy, John Legend, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne & Jay-Z)
- Drake & 21 Savage – Major Distribution
- Ellie Goulding – Easy Lover (Ft. Big Sean)
- Flo Milli – Big Steppa
- Flume – Say Nothing (Ft. MAY-A)
- Gorillaz – Cracker Island (Ft. Thundercat)
- Lights – Rent
- Mitski – Love Me More
- SZA – Open Arms (Ft. Travis Scott)
50. Yung Gravy – Betty (Get Money)
One of hip-hop’s biggest characters pulled out all of the stops to add to his meme-worthy arsenal this year when Yung Gravy decided to rhyme over the timeless Internet classic that is Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” What nobody wanted to admit was that the original was genuinely a great song – and Gravy’s deep-voiced flexes and dad-joke puns overtop elevate the cheese factor the original was embraced for to another level.
49. Kane Brown – Drunk Or Dreamin’
There wasn’t a song this year that better captured the floating-on-air, butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling of the excitement of a new romance than this one. With appropriately dreamy slide guitar in the back – to match the country-pop star’s twangy vocals – and a vaguely tropical flavour, Kane Brown gets adorably giddy about a love that’s so good he starts to question the nature of his reality.
48. Camila Cabello – Quiet
Set to the tune of one of the most driving, breathless pop melodies of the year, Camila Cabello uses her endlessly malleable vocal skillset to tell the story of a simple kiss calming down all of the chaos in her mind – whether that’s her general mental health or the panic she gets around the object of the song’s affection. She flits between a nervous falsetto as she tiptoes around the issue and some impressive vocal runs as the moment finally strikes.
47. Ari Lennox – Boy Bye (Ft. Lucky Daye)
Ari Lennox’s voice is perfect for the smoky R&B ballad that runs for a couple minutes longer than you might expect it to, and this is her magnum opus in that category. With conversations interspersed between the song’s humorous verses, Lennox confidently shuts down an overzealous flirt whose “lines belong in 1995” – dutifully played by Lucky Daye – as he approaches her in a bar. It would already have been a great R&B duet without the engaging storyline on top.
46. Koffee – Lonely
The 22-year-old reggae prodigy brings one of her sunniest instrumentals yet to the table and an accompanying message about getting over your initial apprehensions and embracing potential connections of all kinds. Jumping between different flows and motifs while showcasing her immediately identifiable lower register, Koffee’s ability to modernize her genre will take her far in the future.
45. Fred Again.. – Delilah (pull me out of this)
Sampling master and UK DJ and producer Fred Again..’s songs are often almost less interesting than the inspiring stories behind them, but this is one that can be greatly appreciated for either. Its club-ready synth explosion can be taken at face value, but the track was actually created in response to Fred’s partner calming him down after a panic attack in the middle of a wild party. The song itself brilliantly reflects the real-life situation, its titular plea for help almost drowned out by the surrounding noise.
44. Charli XCX – Yuck
Another one that’s elevated by a humorous sense of novelty, Charli XCX’s undeniable pop instincts are bolstered by a narrative that finds her rolling her eyes and ready to throw up at the prospect of someone who seems to appreciate her on a deeper level and wants to find a genuine connection. While she never admits it lyrically, the best part about the song is Charli’s breathier, lovestruck moments giving away that she can’t quite convince herself of love’s yuckiness – and that solid bassline.
43. Mura Masa – 2gether (Ft. Gretel Hänlyn)
20-year-old London-based singer Gretel Hänlyn has the kind of voice you know every DJ is going to be falling over themselves to work with. A yearning, husky alto, she provides the emotional core of Mura Masa’s latest dancefloor-centric album. Bouncing off of his glitchy, future-bass inspired drops, the instrumental – and a forlorn, robotic voice not even bothering to hit the rhythms – complete the picture of someone barely holding it together emotionally as a potential romance falls apart.
42. Orville Peck – Daytona Sand
You’d never expect a song that concludes with repeatedly spelling out the word “Mississippi” to be this dramatic, theatrical and emotionally potent. The masked country crooner continues to breathe new life into the genre with his Elvis-like gravitas and application of queer narratives to some classic outlaw-country tropes. The way Peck’s booming vocals falter ever so slightly at some of the most affecting lyrics and the percussion hitting like a galloping horse make it a strong opener to his latest.
41. Kehlani – up at night (Ft. Justin Bieber)
Kehlani has switched up their sound and explored numerous facets of the R&B space since their early beginnings, but this reviewer will always be a sucker for the brighter melodies and layered harmonies that coloured a project like SweetSexySavage. Recruiting the Biebs for a lovestruck duet that finds them unable to sleep with thoughts of their partner running through their heads, it’s a welcome return to the sweetness that they started with in the middle of quite a few savage tunes.
40. Nas – Legit
Every time you think Nas and Hit-Boy’s run is over – after all, Nas isn’t particularly known for releasing anywhere near as much music as he has over the last few years – they come back and hit us with tracks like this one that prove that the legend still has endless ideas left in the tank. Rhyming over a soul singer’s raspy belt that Hit-Boy extended and a dynamic, funky and engaging piano loop that breaks up his 16s with a glissando, Nas celebrates his legacy while dubbing himself “the Jordan Peele of this thing.”
39. Sabrina Carpenter – Nonsense
The bit at the end of this track where Carpenter is just messing around with jokey lyrics in the studio is a testament to just how great of a pop song this is – you could hit me with about 5 more choruses switching up the lyrics and I wouldn’t get tired. She even made an entire Christmas-based parody. A track that doesn’t take itself too seriously with some X-rated puns and self-fulfilling lyrics as Carpenter sings about a love so good “she has to jump the octave,” it’s one of the year’s catchiest melodies.
38. Little Simz – X
For all the important global issues and hope for change that Little Simz expresses in her songs, this one finds her ready to go to war and make them happen. With rattling drums, blaring trumpets, chilling piano and a central gospel-inspired hook asking for divine assistance, Simz’s flow is at its most impressive as she asks listeners to not become numb to injustice and lays out the destruction coming for those who perpetuate it.
37. Rina Sawayama – This Hell
Kicking off with a “let’s go girls,” the forward-thinking pop star’s foray into Shania Twain-esque country-pop is both well-executed and comes with a tongue-in-cheek lyrical twist. After acknowledging all the hatred coming her way for simply existing, Sawayama happily accepts a life of eternal damnation – as long as she’ll be able to spend it with her same-sex partner. The central, roaring guitar riff and Sawayama’s typically soaring vocals continue to cement her as one with pop’s future in mind.
36. JID – Can’t Punk Me (Ft. EARTHGANG)
Featuring some of the year’s most dizzying flows, Dreamville labelmates JID and EARTHGANG link up for three of the most technically skilled verses you’ll hear in 2022. Over a jazzy bassline and a skittering breakbeat that actually matches how fast JID’s flows are moving, the moment where he jumps an octave for the energetic, threatening chorus sends the track into overdrive as listeners’ brains are knocked from side to side. Plus, EARTHGANG’s Doctur Dot disses Gandhi.
35. Carly Rae Jepsen – Go Find Yourself Or Whatever
Carly Rae Jepsen has long been lauded for crafting profoundly sad songs that still sound as bubbly as ever on the surface – but this is the first time that the instrumental is just as sad to match. At this point, Jepsen has been through so many well-documented heartbreaks that she addresses the latest one sung about here with an annoyed faux-indifference, like she’d already gone through a couple of the stages of grief before the end even came. Even still, she finds herself desperately hoping for a reunion.
34. Taylor Swift – Maroon
The biggest grower on the pop titan’s record-breaking latest, it captures the feeling of lavender haze better than the song bearing that title that directly precedes it on the tracklist. With the kind of vivid lyricism you’ve come to expect from Swift describing the messy aftermath of a couples’ night in, the bright Red kind of love she’s previously sung about evolving into a deeper maroon as the connection grows and settles in for the long run. Producer Jack Antonoff is the master of an instrumental that’s sparse on the surface, but everything that is there sparkles so brightly that it doesn’t matter.
33. Kendrick Lamar – Father Time (Ft. Sampha)
On an album that’s structured like a therapy session as Kendrick Lamar sheds his “saviour” image gets more vulnerable and human than ever, this is one to get the tissues ready for if you have any kind of a rift with your father. With poignant verses about rejecting a kind of deeply entrenched toxic masculinity that he now recognizes has been affecting his behaviours since it was taught to him in childhood, Lamar comes to the conclusion that it’s unfair to the women in his life to remain the same. With a striking piano melody and a feature from the reclusive but always breathtaking Sampha, it’s one of his most emotional tracks yet.
32. Freddie Gibbs – Too Much (Ft. Moneybagg Yo)
It’s a hip-hop match so perfect that you almost can’t tell the two apart on the song. With a beat that sounds like light glistening off diamonds, Gibbs indulges in the excess of his life with a relentless flow that seems like it wouldn’t leave him room to breathe. It’s a welcome shift to a more modern sound from an artist with an old-school disposition, demonstrating his skills in many areas while incorporating a little bit of the kind of personality that makes him an expert-level Internet troll along the way.
31. Jack White – Into The Twilight
Who would have thought that the year’s most creative use of sampling would come from Jack White? Mixing together soundbites from disparate worlds and throwing them overtop of the kind of grungy garage-rock groove he’s known for, White adds a chorus of his own to complement The Manhattan Transfer, Bobby McFerrin, Hatsune Miku and an interview with beat writer William S. Burroughs fighting for attention and coming together into the most unexpected of harmonies.
30. Metro Boomin – Umbrella (Ft. 21 Savage & Young Nudy)
21 Savage might have been 2022’s MVP, and he didn’t take over any other track quite like this one. Always a great match with Metro Boomin’s more sinister stylings, he also brings his cousin along for the ride to prove that Kendrick and Baby Keem aren’t the only great cousin duo in hip-hop. With some eerie piano chords and a catchy trap loop, 21 once again demonstrates that he’s the kind of rapper where nearly everything he says is a quotable.
29. BROCKHAMPTON – NEW SHOES
Although BROCKHAMPTON’s final album as a group unfortunately felt mostly unfinished, we did receive one final hyper-charged banger from the experimental hip-hop collective that captured the energy and camaraderie that we’ve come to love from them over the years. All of the members do what they’re best at one last time – from Abstract’s provocative opening bars, to Matt Champion’s more laid-back counterpart, to Merlyn Wood’s frenetic, uncontrollable energy sending it home on the back end.
28. Silk Sonic – Love’s Train
Putting this duo together was truly one of the century’s greatest musical ideas so far. With a cover of the 1982 single from Con Funk Shun appropriately released on Valentine’s Day, the cool charisma of Anderson .Paak and the limitless vocal heights of Bruno Mars once again combine to deliver their flirtatious lyrics in as effective a way as humanly possible. The two sing about a late-night rendezvous with the kind of gusto that makes it sound like they’ll pass away due to loneliness if it didn’t happen right at that moment.
27. Bad Bunny – Tití Me Preguntó
Speaking of charismatic figures, this reggaeton smash hit might be the most “Bad Bunny” song yet – as expected of him, he adds a wholesome twist to the classic trope of listing his many admirers across various locations and personal stages of life, tiptoeing around his aunt’s question about whether his love life is going well while laughing to himself about the real truth of the matter. A centrepiece of a perfect summer album, nobody makes that trademark reggaeton beat sound like it hits harder. If this song didn’t play at your party, you didn’t have one.
26. Pusha T – Dreamin Of The Past (Ft. Kanye West)
If you can ignore the presence of a certain disreputable individual during a feature that lasts about 15 seconds, his disciple drops some of the well-written bars he’s known for on this track over one of the year’s best samples (which, unfortunately, came from the sampling legend behind that 15-second feature). Flipping the Donny Hathaway cover of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” and pitching up the rollicking, ragtime-style pianos that accompanied it, Pusha T demonstrates a surprisingly impressive singing voice that he’s been hiding alongside his trademark sneer.
25. Dreamville – Starting 5 (Ft. Lute, Cozz & Omen)
Regarded by many as a Dreamville B-team of sorts, Lute, Cozz and Omen all drop some of the strongest verses onto the label collaboration project released back in March and outrhyme the superstars on this dusty boom-bap anthem. Featuring a trumpet loop from a hazy jazz club and a great beat switch that smartly carries over some elements from the previous one and heralds Omen’s wordplay-laden verse to top it all off, the hook is one of the year’s catchiest in the genre and the social commentary on top of it all completes a fantastic hip-hop showcase.
24. ROSALÍA – HENTAI
The incredible MOTOMAMI album is all about dualities – so it only makes sense that ROSALÍA would drop something so lyrically vulgar that sounds so beautiful. Demonstrating that she has one of the most spellbinding singing voices in the industry right now – mostly because of its little imperfections – she spins a heart-stopping piano ballad about her desire to indulge in the carnal side of things. The industrial, grinding beats that appear in the second half only make it more insane that she was able to harness it all into one great song.
23. FKA Twigs – papi bones (Ft. Shygirl)
2022 was the year that FKA Twigs dropped the untouchable goddess image that’s been following her for her whole career and showed that she can have fun – and apply her talents to a wide range of party-starting sounds. Teaming up with fellow British pop provocateur Shygirl, the two unexpectedly tackle a Jamaican-inspired dancehall anthem for all of the “champagne bubble girls.” With a triumphant horn section backing them up, Twigs alternates between her usual doe-eyed purr and a lower register that’s more direct than anything we’ve ever heard from her.
22. Megan Thee Stallion – Plan B
Another year, another outstanding Megan Thee Stallion single. You’d think that the quality might drop, since she’s only releasing so much music to get out of a contract situation – not to mention all of the other tragedies going on in her life – but “Plan B” finds her taking it back to hard-hitting 90s rap and dropping mic-drop diss after diss towards a distasteful ex. I’m honored to say that I was in the Coachella crowd when the Houston Hottie first debuted this song, and it generated one of the festival’s biggest ripples of energy right from the get-go.
21. renforshort – moshpit
It’s incredible what can be accomplished when you combine a young artist with a passion for the pop-punk trend that’s rapidly taking over all aspects of culture and production by…anyone other than Travis Barker, really. The 20-year-old Torontonian’s vocals find that necessary emotive, anthemic quality that so many artists in the same vein singing about how dead inside they are currently lack, tackling a turbulent relationship that makes her feel like she’s constantly getting elbowed and kneed in the most uncomfortable places by a drunken crowd of strangers.
20. Pharrell Williams – Cash In Cash Out (Ft. 21 Savage & Tyler, The Creator)
I’ll never understand the inordinate amount of hate this song received online. One of the greatest producers of all time teaming up with not one, but both of the most reliable, slam-dunk feature, enigmatic rappers in the game? Sign me up. While 21 continued his excellent year here, Tyler dropped what might have been the year’s most impressive verse to close it out. As he gets more experienced, his insatiable energy is making him sound more and more like his album namesakes. His deep growl makes him sound like a Goblin, but he attacks everything with the hunger of a Wolf.
19. Tove Lo – No One Dies From Love
While talking about this song in a Rolling Stone interview, Tove Lo mentioned that she thought her biggest strength was crafting “heartbreak you can dance to.” Not many people can measure up to Robyn in that sense, but this song comes close. One of the best pure pop tunes of the year, the Swedish mastermind gets melodramatic in the wake of a breakup, contemplating the memories “stained with blood” as she lays dying from the stab wound of betrayal. Of course, without all of that morbidity, the great harmonies, sudden rise in intensity during the 2nd verse, virtuosic synth work and Daft Punk-style vocal filter would still make it a truly fully-realized pop song.
18. Lizzo – 2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)
It can be easy to forget about just how talented Lizzo is in the wake of all of her big-personality antics, but when she drops a song that sounds like it could have just as easily been recorded by Whitney Houston in the 80s it all comes rushing back. There have been numerous thinkpieces written on the demise of the key change in popular music, but Lizzo is refusing to let them die on a track that sounds like a cross between a cheesy pop-diva power ballad and Disney’s Hercules. The message is expectedly great too, as Lizzo makes sure she has her self-love locked down before opening herself up to others.
17. Joji – Glimpse of Us
What would it take for the man formerly known as Filthy Frank to score a top 10 hit out of the blue? A song that’s this good, apparently. The internet’s premium sadboi made a track with such a heartwrenchingly specific angle sound so absolutely vivid and visceral that everyone empathized even if they hadn’t been there. Everyone who had, I can only assume melted in a pool of their own tears. Joji’s vocals have never been top-notch, but that’s part of what makes his tracks sound so human – especially when hoping desperately to catch a glimpse of the effervescent energy of a former partner in the eyes of a new one.
16. Beyoncé – CUFF IT
While it’s difficult to pick out individual tracks on the perfect dancefloor party mix that is RENAISSANCE, this one took off as a single for a reason. Bringing collaborators like Nile Rodgers and Raphael Saadiq on board to craft a shimmering disco-funk number in the midst of the pounding house beats, this song is what it feels like to get ready for a night out on the town with the Queen Bey herself. Simultaneously delivering one of her most fun songs and one of her most technically impressive vocal performances in years, its continued success should have everyone feeling like falling in love in 2023.
15. 100 Gecs – Doritos & Fritos
The oddball hyperpop duo keeps on rolling with another ska-inspired, absolutely goofy single that has no right going as hard as it does. With lyrics involving Danny DeVito, an entire country running out of all food but the titular chip brands, and running away to join the circus, both Laura Les and Dylan Brady join the fun vocally to pull off one of the duo’s most so-called “real music” songs ever with live instruments, a guitar solo and the clink of a percussion set right in your ear – but even so, I don’t know how many outside of their cult following they’re winning over.
14. Denzel Curry – Walkin
The hip-hop community must have all seen the success of Future and Drake’s truly lacklustre “Life Is Good” and gone “I can do that.” Another rap track with a stellar beat switch, Denzel Curry’s lead single to the album where he gets a little more political and introspective finds him dutifully contemplating the constant paranoia of life in America and the struggle to keep on trudging his way onwards. With some great lyrical moments chronicling systemic injustices – and the massive levels of personality and energy that we know him for – Denzel contributed a lot to a very strong year for hip-hop.
13. SZA – Nobody Gets Me
While some people online hilariously pointed out that the song sounds like it came from Hannah Montana – or at least, early Miley tracks like “The Climb” – SZA imbues that yearning acoustic pop space with so much genuine emotion that you could never compare it to those focus-grouped Disney tunes. Finally revealing the behind-the-scenes of her secretive engagement and breakup with her former fiancé, SZA reaches up to a beautiful falsetto in the chorus to mourn the loss of a relationship with the only person who she felt truly understood her.
12. Rex Orange County – ONE IN A MILLION
Likely the song I found myself absentmindedly singing under my breath the most often this year, it’s the pinnacle of Rex Orange County’s orchestral pop-R&B mixes that made up his latest breakthrough album as he serenades his partner as his most perfect match under astronomical odds. Rex’s passionate vocal performance ebbs and flows in intensity with the string swells, completing one of the most feel-good tracks of the year on a project full of positive affirmations. Thank goodness it was disproven that his real-life personality may have served in direct contrast.
11. Charli XCX – Lightning
One of my favourite notes on my first-reaction, stream-of-consciousness notes documents I create while listening to new albums found me writing “this is like…pop that belongs in a museum” in response to hearing this one for the first time. The culmination of Charli trying to appeal to wider audiences while still keeping up her experimental spirit finds her imbuing one of her most immediately memorable choruses with a variety of instrumental quirks, including Spanish guitars, orchestral-sounding synths, and a bridge where it seems like she’s truly just playing around with vocal modulations that thankfully made the final cut.
10. Carly Rae Jepsen – Sideways
If this is what a happy Carly sounds like, maybe we need a little more songs in that vein in the future. With a syncopated synth beat that sounds like skipping down the street on a sunny day, Jepsen is head-over-heels in love while singing about how none of life’s inconveniences can break her stride, toasting to the confidence boost that her new beau gives her. A short track that makes the most of every second of its runtime, the best parts are Jepsen taking a break from the shiny pop energy to quietly and breathlessly anticipate their meeting later that night.
9. Steve Lacy – Bad Habit
Having this song hit #1 on the Billboard charts was a true win for music-lovers everywhere. TikTok championing one of the most underrated artists in the game’s weird alt-rock leaning R&B tune that has a highly satisfying beat-switch, but not before Lacy sings a cappella for a good 10 seconds? It opens the door for more unconventional tracks and unconventional artists to take up residency at the top of the charts. That final motif as Lacy’s unrequited crush changes her mind and comes back into the picture is some of the most anthemic, cathartic music of the year.
8. NIKI – Oceans & Engines
While the song is technically six years old – originally released and subsequently deleted on NIKI’s burgeoning YouTube channel at the age of only 17 – it only received a studio version this year as NIKI elected to look back on some of the formative songs that got her here. There’s always a song that ends up in my year-end top 10 simply because it opens the waterworks, and this is 2022’s representative. Written in response to a first love moving to another country, her “final song” as she elects to move on with her life finds her mourning what could have been with the lyrical specificity of her idol, Taylor Swift. If I was him and I heard the final line “This is the last falsetto I’ll ever sing to you, my great, lost love,” I may have died on the spot.
7. Little Simz – Gorilla
One of the only tracks on her latest that doesn’t dive into some more conscious material, sometimes it’s good to be reminded of why Little Simz is so effective in communicating some of her more serious points – she’s a ridiculously gifted rapper in all facets of the word. Over an effortlessly cool bassline sampled from Jurassic 5 – one that periodically shifts to an orchestral version in line with the rest of her work – Simz drops a series of creative flexes and internal rhyme schemes while making it all sound far too easy. She doesn’t often show this much personality and mic presence, but she stomps through this beat like its titular namesake.
6. ROSALÍA – DESPECHÁ
It’s a testament to the year that ROSALÍA had that she dropped one of 2022’s undisputed greatest albums, and yet, the best song she released this year isn’t even on the standard edition. Backed up by tropical synths and a chorus that had it becoming a viral sensation on TikTok before it was even officially released, the video finds her frolicking around on the beach and the song’s sound reflects that. Opening the track by ignoring calls from an unfaithful partner, ROSALÍA dances the night away to forget with the support of all of her fellow motomamis.
5. Bad Bunny – Ojitos Lindos (Ft. Bomba Estéreo)
For all of Bad Bunny’s party-starting anthems, sometimes he’s at his absolute best when he gets a little more subdued and emotional. He’s also often at his best when he recruits a female duet partner. That partner comes in the form of electro-tropical outfit Bomba Estéreo’s Li Saumet, who offers the other side of the picture in the story of Bad Bunny deciding to abandon his life of debauchery and settle down with the one who gives him a feeling of rebirth with the simple gesture of eye contact. A beachside love story with a slow reggaeton groove, Saumet’s sharper tones serve as an excellent complement to Bad Bunny’s more rounded delivery, both sounding like they should probably become a real-life couple with how much they throw themselves into the performance.
4. JID – Dance Now (Ft. Kenny Mason)
The best song to choose if you were searching for an energetic rap banger in 2022, these two ATLiens team up to drop some bars over an intoxicating melody lifted from a traditional Jewish folk song. JID’s chorus delivered through gritted teeth leads up to a beat drop that makes it simultaneously function as both legitimate dance anthem and menacing threat, while his play with accents only adds to the personality factor. Longtime producer Christo also puts on a masterclass, switching up the instrumental palate as JID shifts through different voices, characters and flows. Not to mention that “FAX” line that still stands up as the year’s best.
3. The Weeknd – Out Of Time
Surely this song has to open up the floodgates to more mainstream Western pop artists drawing from the world of Japanese city pop. Despite The Weeknd’s masterful interpolation of Tomoko Aran’s “Midnight Pretenders,” the result actually comes out sounding a lot closer to a modern-day Michael Jackson song. With a lush instrumental palate to get lost in and a flawless vocal performance from someone who’s only improving on that front as the years go on, Abel’s character – currently on his way up to the pearly gates after perishing at the end of After Hours – laments not being able to make things right and confess his true feelings to a romantic interest.
2. Kendrick Lamar – Mother I Sober (Ft. Beth Gibbons)
The bleary-eyed conclusion of Mr. Morale‘s therapy narrative, this is the track where Lamar makes a breakthrough and gets right to the heart of the issue – generational trauma that dates all the way back to American slavery. A subdued, nearly 7-minute track with an unconventional but effective feature in Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, Lamar offers up some grisly details of his mother’s abuse and the guilt he felt for perpetuating the cycle through infidelity, setting himself free from the generational curse by the track’s end and celebrating his newfound healthy family life. With a voice that sounds like it’s all cried out, this is the most vulnerable he’s ever been, and somehow, concerning his catalogue, it’s not even close.
1. Burna Boy – Last Last
There’s something about overhearing a song like this blasting in public that really makes it click for you. “Last Last” was likely my most-played song of the summer, and seeing everyone else in my Canadian city and the world at large embrace a song written in the West African Yoruba language was incredibly cool to see. But underneath that infectious melody delivered by gang vocals and that perfect first kick that catapults listeners into the energetic verses, Burna Boy is actually touching on some deep-seated issues, both personal and global. It feels like the perfect song for a world trying to emerge with a positive attitude from a couple of years that felt like they had anything but positivity to offer – a hard-hitting party song on the surface, as Burna Boy repeatedly calls for marijuana and alcohol in its chorus, but with the underlying context that he needs these things to cope with the pain of both a heartbreak and the assassination of a local hero trying to prevent oil companies from damaging the Nigerian environment. On whatever level you choose to receive the song, Burna’s raspy vocals and the persistent strum of the guitar loop behind him make this an unforgettable track.
Check out the list on Spotify below, and stay tuned for the top 25 albums of 2022!