2022 was such an exciting year for music; we would replay the experience all over again if we could. This year saw the grand comeback of artists who had been on hiatus since before 2020, the rise of new superstars, and modern resurgences of older sounds and genres. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has been tamed a bit, the music industry has gone back to being bold and ambitious. We wouldn't have it any other way.
For this list, we're counting down the ten best tunes that were released in 2022. We're only counting newer songs released this year - so for those expecting Kate Bush's Stranger Things hit "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)" to make an appearance, we're sorry to disappoint you. We're glad to count it as an honorable mention, though!
Like 2021's Top 10 Songs list, this ranking is based on Live365's own personal favorites, as well as chart data, critics' picks, and streaming numbers. Essentially, we're listing the tunes that made big splashes and broke the internet this year, as well as tunes we feel will stand the test of time and define this decade.
Without further ado, let's count down!
10. "SAOKO" - ROSALÍA
In a world full of male musicians who have dominated the reggaeton industry - Bad Bunny, J Balvin, Daddy Yankee, Maluma - we were so proud to see ROSALÍA shine bright this year. Motomami was the experimental reggaeton/urbano record we all desperately needed, and the jazzy, sultry "SAOKO" was the best way she could have opened it.
In the song, ROSALÍA makes a nod to the pioneers of reggaeton, Wisin and Daddy Yankee. In their 2004 joint track also called “Saoco,” a female voice can be heard repeating “Saoco, papi, saoco” during the chorus. ROSALÍA replicates the voice in her piece while also laying down a sick beat and spitting bars about personal transformation. Even former President Barack Obama gave a nod to "SAOKO" in his yearly Top Songs list! We're so excited to see where ROSALÍA goes next. (And we're also secretely hoping she does a collab with Karol G in the future.)
9. "Kill Bill" - SZA
While SZA's sophomore record SOS arrived later in the year, it managed to make more waves than the ones found on its glossy album cover. The project has a plethora of solid tracks: "Shirt", "Ghost in the Machine", "Blind", and "Nobody Gets Me" just to name a few. But if we had to pick the one with the most technical skill, the cleverest analogies and the catchiest chorus, it easily goes to "Kill Bill".
With a lackadaisical melody, steady rhythm, and emotional lyrics that all feel "so mature", this song will go down in history as not just a standout in SZA's catalogue, but a defining track in modern R&B. It's just a really good song, period. It also makes us want to sit down and rewatch Quentin Tarantino's dual Kill Bill movies.
8. "N95" - Kendrick Lamar
Everyone has their own personal favorite track from Mr Morale & The Big Steppers, but "N95" seems to be the one everyone can agree is a banger. It's essentially an anti-pop jam with a message to “take off” the fakery, lavish materialism, and external validation. In a nutshell, it's a tough-love lesson to other rappers in the game who've lost sense of what's actually important.
Kendrick Lamar begs for morals over distorted, growling 808s and trap synths. Every time he shouts "b--ch", it's like a wake-up call. With the smoothest flow ever and lyrics on another level, this song is the reason why Lamar is the reigning king of rap. And why he's probably going to win another Pulitzer Prize someday.
7. "This Is Why" - Paramore
After months of hearing how much this band had influenced up-and-coming artists (such as Olivia Rodrigo) and contributed to the resurrection of the pop-punk movement...Paramore finally returned in 2022. And it was glorious. While their next studio album isn't set to arrive until February of next year (we're religiously counting down the days), they did manage to drop the slick rock track "This Is Why" in September. It contains subtle 70s rock and Bloc Party influences while also being extremely catchy and chill. Through this single alone, Paramore managed to do a short-but-uber-successful North American tour in the fall, and made some explosive appearances on TV and at music festivals.
Later on this year, Paramore also released the poignant song "The News", which felt like something far closer to their roots. But "This Is Why" was the song that captured everyone's attention. It made us forget about that very long five year hiatus, and reminded us that "if you have an opinion, maybe you should shove it." It slowly but surely grew on us, and was the full funk fest we needed after two years of "Hard Times." (See what we did there?)
6. "CUFF IT" - Beyoncé
Between this track, "Alien Superstar", and "Break My Soul", Queen Bey's latest album Renaissance gripped us all during the summertime. The masterpiece of a record was created for dancehall shenanigans and late-night voguing sessions. "Church Girl" made us feel some kind of nostalgic, enlightened way, while "Energy" had our mitochondria going into overdrive.
To be totally honest, we're only choosing "CUFF IT" as our #6 entry on this list becuase it's equally the most critically and commercially successful track off the record. It's a straight-up anthem, and anthems are what Beyoncé is most beloved for. It soars sky-high, just like the spaceships she mentions and oh-so beautifully harmonizes. Consider this entry on our list to be the placeholder for the entirety of Renaissance. Because seriously: there's no skips on it. Every song is equally astounding.
5. "Tití Me Preguntó" - Bad Bunny
If ROSALÍA was the queen of reggaeton this year, Bad Bunny was the certified king. If you went to any kind of sporting event, Latin club, or outdoor jamboree this year where this song was blasting, you know the kind of magic-voodoo-dancing-sing-along effect it has on people. You just know.
With some fans affectionately nicknaming this jam "VIP" due to its catchy lyrics, "Tití Me Preguntó" is a rallying cry for the party-hard misfits, the gritty city-dwellers, the gangsters, and the socialites. With its slappy snares, hard-hitting bass, and that hypnotic "titi mi ha chiesto-sto-sto-sto" that builds up to the second earwormy chorus, this sex-alicious jam is going to endure for a while. Bad Bunny is really shaping up to be this era's next Daddy Yankee, and "Tití Me Preguntó" is the proof in the pudding.
4. "About Damn Time" - Lizzo
Putting aside the fact that "About Damn Time" was a massive TikTok hit, we believe this feel-good bop proved to be a 2022 standout for other reasons. First, it marked the much-awaited return of our dear Lizzo, who had been seemingly absent from the music world since 2019. Second, the throwback to disco and funk in this track is just too cool, and so welcoming. And third, the funk feels so inviting because of this song's universal lyrics. "Oh, I been so down and under pressure / I'm way too fine to be this stressed, yeah," Lizzo croons over smooth and buttery music production.
"About Damn Time" is all about shedding off the old and letting in the new: whether that be from the pandemic, quiet quitting and getting a job that treats you better, or finally marrying the person you love with a huge celebration after months of being shuddered from in-person gatherings. Yup, "About Damn Time" was a song of the summer, and it shaped up to be a song for the rest of the year, too. Why wouldn't it be, with that iconic rap break, that awesome flute solo, and that stylish music video? While it's not our #1 pick, "About Damn Time" felt like the motto of 2022. It's just so...damn timely.
3. "Anti-Hero" - Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift is the queen of consistency. In 2021, her standout hit was the 10 minute version of "All Too Well". This year, it was her Midnights track "Anti-Hero". It's a self-deprecating anthem catering to those in the wings of our age's mental health crisis. It'll make you laugh. It'll make you cry. It'll make you realize it's okay to be a monster on the hill while everyone around you is a sexy baby.
Delivering tongue-in-cheek lyrics over Jack Antonoff’s flouncy production, Swift does in "Anti-Hero" what she does best: turn painfully relatable experiences into a certified hit. "Anti-Hero" is one of the reasons why Midnights' album rollout broke the internet and caused a Ticketmaster fiasco for the ages. And let's not forget how “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me” has spawned scores of memorable memes this year.
2. "Bad Habit" - Steve Lacy
We vividly remember the day Steve Lacy's Gemini Rights song "Bad Habit" miraculously made it to the top of the charts. It felt like a dream come true. Not simply because the moody and melodious "Bad Habit" had every right to be #1, but because for hardcore Steve Lacy fans, it felt like the hard, long wait was over. After years of labor, Lacy has finally received the mainstream recognition he deserves. To quote NME, "his first US #1 single felt long overdue."
Of course, the song was aided to the top by its massive popularity on TikTok (which would lead to some turbulence for Lacy as Gen-Z fans at his concerts didn't know the lyrics to any part of the song besides the chorus). But without the boost from the social media platform, we believe this track would have done well anyways thanks to Lacy's impressive vocal range, the stirring guitar riffs, those memorable lyrics "You can’t surprise a Gemini” and "it's biscuits, it's gravy, babe." This song heals you when you're sad, cools you down when you're angry, and carries you off into the sunset when you're happy.
1. "As It Was" - Harry Styles
With this big hit, Harry Styles went from generic heartthrob-y pop-star only beloved by a throng of teen girls and One Direction stans to a prolific singer-songwriter with something important to say. "As It Was" got everyone's attention when it was released. It appeased the fangirls, it gave disc jockeys their first big radio hit of the year to play, and it made pretentious music nerds turn their heads around and finally state, "okay Harry, we see you."
At first, "As It Was" sounds like standard Top 40 fare. But then you hear Styles’ longing for the perfect something that got away. That resignation to a lonelier reality. That silly opening by his goddaughter, those pillowy synths, and spirit-moving church bells that contradict his tortured artist state. The heart-racing BPM and twinkling keys remind us of an adventurous 80s love song; like the classic "Take On Me", but with the fat trimmed. (And we didn't even know there was any fat in "Take On Me" to trim!) You can listen to the winding and varied instrumentals of "As It Was" and still understand the song's poignant message: that in order to overcome the rough past, you must let change set you free. It's a lesson we'll carry along with us into the new year.
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Article Image: Rosalia singing at a show during her 2022 "Motomami" tour, Harry Styles performing on the NBC Today Show, SZA performs at REBEL in 2017. ( Andrés Ibarra [CC BY-SA 4.0] and The Come Up Show [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons.and thenews2.com via DepositPhotos, )