The best songs of 2022
(Clockwise from top left) Yung Kayo, Amber Mark, Britt Daniel, JID, Sharon Van Etten.
Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Pictures by YouTube
Contrary to popular belief/Radio’s Top 40/your ever-growing collection of used Rolling Stones vinyl, there’s still plenty of new music coming out on a regular basis. The early months of 2022 have shown it: everything from grunge garage rock and funky self-esteem anthems to sunny Afrobeats-borrowed beats and emotional electropop. This regularly updated monthly list, from Vulture staff writer Justin Curto and music editor Alex Suskind, sums up the best we’ve heard so far this year – a mix of fun new singles. , stimulating and cathartic that we will play on repeat throughout 2022.
Let’s Eat Grandma knows the power of a simple word. It’s the key to “Happy New Year,” the heart-pounding opener to the new album two ribbons, which details the changes in the duo’s dynamic as best friends. The song is colored by vignettes of the couple’s shared history, told over synths that erupt like fireworks. The emotional punches, however, come from a single line: “There’s no one else who makes me quite like you,” Rosa Walton tells Jenny Hollingsworth, whom she’s known since she was young. 4 years old. Of them Ribbons chart the ways the two had to reconfigure their friendship, but the end of each “Happy New Year” chorus centers the project: “Cause you know you’ll always be my best friend / And look what I got with you.” What more do they need to say? — Justin Curto
There’s a tight thrust towards the first single from The Smile, a new Radiohead spin-off project featuring vocalist Thom Yorke, guitarist Johnny Greenwood and Songs of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner (Yorke’s explanation for the name of the group: “Not the smile as in ‘ahh, ‘ more ‘the smile’ as in, the guy who lies to you every day.”) “You’ll never work on television again” unloads as a drop of precision: eight seconds of ambient feedback before being thrown into a fast, dense guitar riff, reminiscent of Elbows-Radiohead era. Yorke’s lyrics are particularly gnarly, as he sings about spitting bones, rambling stitches, and gangster trolls. At the end, some dissonance is added to the mix, but the trio still keeps the beat going. — Alex Suskind
Nearly three decades later, Spoon are still one of rock’s smoothest and most cohesive bands. The proof is in “Wild”, a swaggering and explosive track where everything falls exactly into place – a back and forth between restraint and passion that always advances but never completely explodes. Singer Britt Daniel is the driving force behind the song, stretching her voice to its raspy extremes. The second single from the indebted rock classic Lucifer on the couch, “Wild” is big enough to fill an arena, with layers of guitars and a game-winning piano line pulled straight from U2’s playbook. Fittingly, it’s a song about feeling like you’ve got more to find in the world – and one that shows Spoon isn’t done reaching yet, either. — JC
“Surround Sound” blends a handful of elements that would be fun to listen to on their own into a fantastical collage. There’s the expertly cut Aretha Franklin sample; 21 Savage’s effortless guest feature, which builds momentum with every bar; a smooth four-line Baby Tate bridge, the keystone of the song’s two-part gambit; and, most importantly, the hugely fun JID verse, full of street talk, distinctive puns, and more flow than some full albums. It’s the kind of verse that will have you replaying simple lines like “I’m a, I’m a, I’m a, I’m an anomaly / I became a rapper ironically” over and over. — JC
“Oh, I didn’t know what love is / ‘Til I found my bliss,” sings Amber Mark on the funky penultimate track of her long-awaited debut Three deep dimensions. Structured in three sections, the album begins with a deep dive into Mark’s own doubts, shifts into recovery mode, and then, in the final act, arrives at a place of peace and joy. As she sings on the third part single “Bliss”, “You teach me things I’ve never known / A crush don’t have to leave a bruise / My soul shines, changed my life with perfect timing.” Mark’s delivery on the song’s soupy bassline is a marvel, as she dips in and out of the groove, taking brief pauses for dramatic effect and using her impressive range to show the triumph she feels. This is the kind of approach that cannot be taught. — LIKE
Yung Kayo is perhaps the weirdest rapper on Young Stoner Life’s roster, delivering swaggering trap bars on tracks that draw more inspiration from PC Music than Atlanta. See: the intoxicating “YEET”, which works best when you devote yourself fully to it. (Another thing to give up on? The fact that “YEET” features an up-and-coming colleague named Yeat, whose name is a mix of “yeet” and “heat”.) Kayo battles an unrelenting wall of bass and synth lines for one of his most technically skilled performances, rapping a verse over a fast clip before to take a breath in the second. And of course you could let’s just say his writing is superficial and basic, but Kayo is best enjoyed as he leans into Goyard’s dreams and drops lines like “I’m about to float like I’m soaring, I’m about to float like a BRB.” — JC
“I learned how to write a hook,” FKA Twigs admitted in a statement accompanying his intimate 2022 mixtape, CAPRISONS. This maturation is evident on “Jealousy,” a bouncy, indebted single from Afrobeats that explores both sides of a story: a woman suspecting her partner’s nefarious actions, while her partner – played by Nigerian star Rema – attempts to convince her otherwise (“Girl, I’m sick of your drama,” he sings, “Don’t let me take you back to your mama”). Twigs seeks a break from the tension, and she finds it in the chorus, pouring out his desperate need for respite in an infectious melody: “I just wanna get out / and feel the sun shining on my best side. — LIKE
Saba’s “One Way” is a snapshot of success – the double-edged sword of being the only friend in your band who made a fortune and started making money. For now, the 27-year-old rapper orders “pasta I can’t pronounce correctly,” earns a million after taxes to spend on fashion, and hires an accountant to handle it all. “We all splurge on this dumb shit, ’cause we’re careless and we’re young,” he spits over a rattling beat and nervous guitar riff. But caution is always around the corner, both from his white neighbors who watch him and his friends warily and for the bottom that could fall at any moment. As Saba says, “it’s a one-way street”. — LIKE
Stay with me here: The greatest pop song of 2022 so far is called “Bites on My Neck”, from an album titled glitch princess. It’s by yeule, a performer from Singapore who plays with electronic dissonance while making extremely polished, often poignant music. “Bites” is one of their simplest tracks – a soaring love song in the truest sense of the word. While others cut glitch princess consider life online, this one simply deals with the overwhelming feeling of love, drawing on a tradition of emotional electropop that stretches from Robyn to Charli XCX. But “Bites on My Neck” is less mournful in the club and more invigorating, thanks to a beaming synth siren in the chorus. It is music that is made to be shared. — JC
Sharon Van Etten turned electronic to stunning effect on her latest album, fueled by 2019 nostalgia Remind me tomorrow. Where that record leaned into obscurity, its latest single, “Porta,” uses those same tools to create a synthpop-lite explosion. Not that it’s an easy subject – Van Etten confronts his anxiety and depression here, personifying those thoughts as a stalker who wants to “steal” his life. It’s a concept that might sound too heavy from another artist, but Van Etten makes it work through those synths, which take “Porta” from wallowing to motivating. (The music video of Van Etten doing pilates with an instructor friend is surprisingly appropriate and moving.) Once the churning track behind Van Etten peaks, the song turns, too: “Stay out of my life! she declares to what follows her. It looks like freedom. — JC
The cover of Dragon New Warm Mountain I believe in you, the transcendent double album from folk-rock heroes Big Thief, is a graphite sketch of four guitar-playing animals sitting around a campfire. It’s a perfect expression of some of Big Thief’s best traits: laid back, playful, communal. And if this image had a sound, it would be “Red Moon”, the country toe that launches the second disc. It’s one of the most laid-back songs the band has ever done, like an impromptu jam session that was just recorded. It’s also the album’s best showcase for the lively fiddle played by unofficial fifth member Mat Davidson and features some particularly clever songwriting from Adrianne Lenker (“I lit the oven, got the onions wishing / They didn’t make me cry”). Oh, and there’s a shoutout to Lenker’s own grandmother on top of all that. — JC