As everyone knows, there were not many positive takeaways from the COVID pandemic. The years 2020 and 2021 impacted pretty much everyone in an ugly way. One of the few good things that did come out of this time is its effect on the creativity of musicians. So many artists we’re forced to think outside the box and become creative in the way they made music. They let the emotions of the period bleed into their work, inspiring them to make eclectic music they never would have in the past. Because of this, 2020 and 2021 were full of great music. When 2022 came around and the world got back to normal, I wondered if this creativity that came from the pandemic would fade away. Fortunately, this was not the case at all. In fact, I would argue that the music that came out in 2022 was even better than the music from the last two years. The top albums from 2020 and 2021 are probably on par with the top albums in 2022, but I think the quality of music was definitely better in 2022 than in previous years. In other words, the best artists stayed consistent with how great already were, and everyone else continued to get better. With that being said, here is a list of some of my favorite songs from the first half of 2022. I did not want to make this piece excessively long, so I will release another article that talks about my favorite music from the second half of 2022. Please let me know in the comments below if you enjoy any of these songs, and also let me know what your other favorite tracks from the first half of the year were.
OUT OF TIME – THE WEEKND
The Weeknd’s Dawn FM is a record that has so many great songs. There are many songs from this record that one could pick as being its best. It was honestly tough to pick an absolute favorite because there are multiple songs from the record that I love. I ultimately picked this one because I believe it is the song I have gone back to the most since the album came out. ‘Out Of Time’ is inspired by Japanese City Pop music, which is a genre from the 80s that has similarities to some forms of American Disco music. This song has such a fun, cool, and catchy melody that puts me in a good mood when I hear it. The song has a beat that is somewhat relaxed but also makes me want to dance. The Weeknd’s high-pitched and soft vocals on ‘Out Of Time’ are absolutely perfect for the tone of its melody. ‘Out Of Time’ is yet another example of why The Weeknd is one of the premier Pop artists of the last 10-15 years.
DESPECHÀ – ROSALÌA
Like The Weeknd’s Dawn FM Rosalìa’s MOTOMAMI has so many songs that one could pick as their favorite from this record. If you were to walk up to a bunch of different big Rosalìa fans, I bet there are at least five songs by these various people that would be chosen as the best from the album. I had a hard time picking between ‘DESPECHÀ’ and ‘LA FAMA’ feat. The Weeknd. I actually chose ‘DESPECHÀ’ because of a vacation I recently went on. I went to an area with a lot of Latin people, and this is a song that I heard over and over again at bars and pool parties. I did not realize this a few days ago, but ‘DESPECHÀ’ is the song with the biggest streaming debut of a Spanish-language song by a woman in the history of Spotify. ‘DESPECHÀ’ is a fast-paced mambo track with elements of Electro-Pop that is so light and fun. It is the kind of track that will make anyone want to dance when they hear it. It is almost tough to not want to move your feet and hips when one hears it. Rosalìa’s excellent vocals are highlighted on this track. I love the high pitch and tone that she uses, as they go with the energy of the song so well. Rosalìa is one of biggest artists in the world today, and ‘DESPECHÀ’ is one of the most important songs of 2022.
PERU – FIREBOY DML FEAT. ED SHEERAN
Over the last several years, Nigerian Afro-Pop music has influenced some of the biggest artists in music today. Artists like Drake and Beyoncé have taken elements of this kind of music and incorporated them into their sounds and made it popular. Until recently, though, not many AfroPop artists themselves have seen the kind of success that those inspired by them have seen. One artist who is starting to change that is Fireboy DML. His song ‘Peru’ with Ed Sheeran took the world by storm this year. This track has a warm and breezy melody that takes me away to a warm and tropical place when I hear it. It is the kind of song that makes me want to dance when I hear it because of how smooth the beat is. Fireboy DML and Ed Sheeran glide over this instrumental so effortlessly; their tones and vocal styles match the warmth of the song perfectly. If you have not heard much Afrobeat music yet, please listen to this one because it will make you start to love the genre. ‘Peru’ is that good of a song, trust me.
SURROUND SOUND – JID FEAT. 21 SAVAGE AND BABY TATE
JID is a rapper that a lot of Hip Hop heads had been expecting to take the game by storm at the beginning of this year. It was rumored that he was going to drop his much anticipated next album in 2022(he did end up doing so and it was excellent), and a lot of people expect this record to catapult him to the top of the Hip Hop world because of the immense amount of talent he has. When the first single from this record came out, ‘Surround Sound,’ which features 21 Savage and Baby Tate, people who knew him and didn’t know him were immediately hooked and super excited to hear his new record. Everything about ‘Surround Sound’ rules. Its sample, ‘One Step Ahead’ by Aretha Franklin, is flipped in two different awesome ways, as there is a great beat switch halfway through the song. JID’s demonstrates his many incredible intricate rap flows, his complicated lyricism, and his overall charisma on this song awesomely. His features on the song, 21 Savage and Baby Tate, thrive in their roles and complement JID well, ‘Surround Sound’ is easily one of the best songs of 2022, and it shows that JID is as great as anyone making Hip Hop music today.
THIS HELL – RINA SAWAYAMA
Rina Sawayama is an artist that I have truly loved ever since I found her a few years ago. She is such a breath of fresh air compared to the rest of the artists in the Pop world, and she seems to have the ability to do anything musically and make it catchy. Her debut record, SAWAYAMA, demonstrated this, as there are elements of ElectroPop and Synth-Pop, R&B, Hip Hop, and even various forms of Hard Rock. When she announced her second album was coming in 2022 at the beginning of the year, I was super excited, because I know how talented and interesting she is. ‘This Hell’ is a song that demonstrates her ability to create cool music by morphing different genres. The track fuses the Dance-Rock music that LCD Soundsystem is known for and the Country Pop that Shania Twain is known for. It is a super fun and cool track that brings up my mood when I hear it. This is the kind of song that has a melody and overall sound which is light and uplifting and cool. I do not know how you could listen to this one and not smile when you hear it. ‘This Hell’ is yet another example of why Rina Sawayama is one of the most interesting and talented artists making Pop music today.
RUMORS – GUCCI MANE FEAT. LIL DURK
Gucci Mane is an artist whose name has become synonymous with Trap music at this point. If someone were to talk about the Founding Fathers of Trap(those who popularized the sub-genre), Gucci Mane has got to be near the top of that list. He is one of the first artists to blow up making this type of music in the late 2000s, and he has been relevant since he first popped off. Not many years have gone by in the last 15 where Gucci Mane did not have one of the top Trap tracks of the year. 2022 is no different, as this year’s Trap hit by him is ‘Rumors’ featuring Chicago Drill Star Lil Durk. ‘Rumors’ has a sound and style that almost feels like a direct crossover between Chicago Drill and modern Atlanta Trap. This song has the kind of dark and harsh nature that one would expect to hear from Drill music but its beat and melody still feel very clean and grand which is reminiscent of modern Atlanta Trap. Lil Durk and Gucci Mane have such awesome chemistry in this song. I love how Gucci Mane’s high pitch and cleaner tone contrast with the gritty sound that Lil Durk has. These two complement each other so well. ‘Rumors’ is yet another song that proves that Gucci Mane is still one of the premier artists making Trap music today.
BREAK MY SOUL – BEYONCÈ
Every few years, The Queen that is Beyoncè has to come back and show the world why she is one of the most important artists in the history of music. Time and time again, she has proven that she can do any kind of Pop, R&B, or Hip Hop as well as any other person doing it. She has sort of dabbled with Dance music in the past, but she has never fully dove into this kind of music as she did with the song ‘Break My Soul’(Ultimately, her whole 2022 RENASSAINCE dove into Dance music similar to the way this song did). ‘Break My Soul’ is an old-school House music song with elements of New Orleans Bounce music. It is such a great song that will make anyone want to party when they hear it. This is the perfect song to play late at night in a club because it is so high energy and fun. Beyoncè once again proves that there are absolutely no boundaries on what she can do as a musician, and she made one of the top Dance music songs of the year with the song ‘Break My Soul.’
GLIMPSE OF US – JOJI
I am going to be completely honest, I have never been that big of a Joji fan. Apart from the song ‘Daylight’ he made with Diplo a couple of years ago, his music never really resonated with me in the past. That changed with the song ‘Glimpse of Us,’ though. This is easily one of the best R&B songs of the year. It is amazing how a song that is so simple can be so powerful. This instrumental for this song consists of a single slow and beautiful piano riff. This riff is emotional in itself; it is the kind of melody that can make someone tear up because of how beautiful it sounds. The other element of this song is Joji’s vocals. At the beginning of the song, we hear Joji’s voice in a very raw and vulnerable state. As the track progresses, his vocals get layered more and more in a way that gives more emphasis to the piano riff. Towards the end of the track, we even get some choir-like vocals that help give the song a bold and noble sound. Joji’s lyrics on this song stand out as much as his vocals do. He lets himself be vulnerable in these lyrics in a way that connects with so many people. I love how open and honest he is on this track, even if the message is not super positive. ‘Glimpse of Us’ proves that Joji is a rising R&B star that I need to personally pay attention to more, as he keeps getting better and better.
CRACKER ISLAND – GORILLAZ FEAT. THUNDERCAT
The Gorillaz have been one of the coolest, most eclectic, and most innovative Alternative artists in music since first emerging in the early 2000s. Most Alternative artists have short-lived peaks and fade over time, but the Gorillaz have always been able to stay ahead of the curve; they have continued to sound cutting-edge while taking obvious influence from great artists of the past. As the Pop music world has shifted more and more towards music influenced by 70s and 80s Disco and Funk music over the last several years, The Gorillaz have thrived because this music always influenced them. Their early 2022 single ‘Cracker Island’ featuring Thundercat is a great example of this. Even though this song is somewhat similar to the other modern Pop and Alternative music of today, it still sounds so ahead of its time. ‘Cracker Island’ somehow sounds futuristic and retro at the same time. It has a funky synthesized Riff that is so fun she groovy, driven by a killer baseline provided by Thundercat. 2-D’s vocals are perfect on this song, helping drive the melody home while not taking away from the awesome instrumental. With ‘Cracker Island,’ The Gorillaz once again show why they are still one of the most important Alternative artists making music more than 20 years since their debut.
10:36 – BEABADOOBEE
Since I first found Beabadoobee a few years ago, they have very quickly emerged as my new favorite Indie/Alternative Rock band. It has always been apparent that Beabadoobee is heavily influenced by early 90s Punk and Alternative Rock and late 90s and early 2000s Slacker Rock. They have been able to take these sounds which would normally sound out of place today(because of how distorted and unclean they can be) and make them sound fresh and modern. A good example of this sentiment is Beabadoobee’s song ‘10:36.’ This was the third single released in anticipation of her record Beatopia which came out in the summer of 2022. ‘10:36’ has an Alternative Rock sound that feels like it came right at the turn of the century. When I hear this song, I think of artists like The Spin Doctors, The Gin Blossoms, and even Sheryl Crow(the song has a bit of a Country-Rock element to it). The instrumental is super distorted and buzzy, which emphasizes Bea Kristi’s soft and dainty vocals. Her voice creates such a cool juxtaposition with the sound of the song. Beabadoobee is one of the best young artists making Alternative Rock today, and ‘10:36’ is an excellent example of this.
PUFFIN ON ZOOTIES – FUTURE
Similar to Gucci Mane, Future is another artist whose name comes to mind above all others when one thinks about the titans in Trap music. In fact, I do not think there is a bigger artist in Trap music period. He has numerous chart-topping albums over the years, and in 2017 he became the first artist to debut different albums at number one at the top of the charts in consecutive weeks. In 2022, he is still one of the biggest artists making Hip Hop music. His 2022 album I NEVER LIKED YOU became his 8th album to hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This album has many popular songs that I could have picked for this list, but my favorite has got to be ‘Puffin On Zooties.’ This is one of the more low-key and calm songs on the record, but it still does hit hard. I love how sweet and intricate the melody and beat are, as they help emphasize Future’s vocal performance, which is excellent. His flow on this song is so perfect for the pace and style of the beat, and the way he fluctuates his tone from low to high and from rough to soft gives the song so much texture. ‘Puffin On Zooties’ is the latest example of why Future is one of the best and most important artists to ever make Trap music.
TITÌ ME PREGUNTÒ – BAD BUNNY
Un Verano Sin Ti is another one of those albums where I could have put multiple songs on this list. I am not going to lie, I feel like I could have put at least five songs from Un Verano Sin Ti; the whole album is full of such fun music. I was going to go with ‘Ojitos Lindos’ feat. Bombay Estereo, but the recent vacation I mentioned once again changed my mind. ‘Titì Me Preguntò’ is a song I heard everywhere on my trip. It is a fast-paced Reggaeton song with Electro-Pop elements that makes me want to party whenever I hear it. This is the kind of song that will get most people out of their seats and onto the dance floor even when they don’t know the language. The song has such positive and fun energy; it is tough not to have your mood improve after hearing it. Bad Bunny shows off his vocals and rapping ability on this track; it’s a song that shows off his artistic diversity. I do not think one would be wrong to say that they think there are other songs on the Bad Bunny’s latest record they enjoy a bit more, but that doesn’t take away from the fact ‘Titì Me Preguntò’ is as great as anything else on the album.
MOTH TO A FLAME – SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA FEAT. THE WEEKND
After Swedish House Mafia disbanded in the early 2010s, most Electronic Music fans assumed they would never hear from this group again. Swedish House Mafia was always supposed to be a short collaboration of three very high-profile EDM artists(Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso, and Steve Angello); they were so impactful during their brief time as a group, though, that fans have been begging for them to come back together ever since. This is because they are heavily responsible for the popularization of Electronic Dance Music in the mainstream music world. When it was announced that they were coming back and that they were going to be working with The Weeknd, expectations went through the roof. Fortunately, they lived up to those expectations with the song ‘Moth To A Flame.’ I know that some people expected this song to have more of a high-energy Festival House music sound, but I love that they went in the direction they went. Instead of making The Weeknd adjust their style of music, they leaned into what he is known for. ‘Moth To A Flame’ is a combination of down-tempo House music and 80s Synth Pop music. I do not know what else to say about this song besides that it is so good. It is a crossover of the things that make both of these artists so great in their own right. ‘Moth To A Flame’ shows that Swedish House Mafia is still one of the top artists making Electronic Dance Music today.
ROCK N ROLL – PUSHA T FEAT. KANYE WEST AND KID CUDI
Pusha T’s album It’s Almost Dry had a lot of songs that I think are great, but there is one that stands above the rest. As good as songs like ‘Call My Bluff’ or ‘Scrape It Off’ are, ‘Rock N Roll’ is just a little bit better in my opinion. This is a song that draws inspiration from his (former) colleague and friend, Kanye West, who is also featured in the song. Kanye’s former friend and apprentice Kid Cudi contributes to the song as well. ‘Rock N Roll’ has a sound that brings listeners back to the music that Kanye West originally got famous for in the early 2000s. This track has that “Chipmunk Soul” sound that Kanye excelled at so many times on his first couple of albums. ‘Rock N Roll’ has a melody that is driven by a sample of Beyonce’s song ‘1+1.’ Her vocals are pitched up super high, giving them an almost squeaky sound. Because of the way the sample is arranged and because of the beat that is paired with it, the song has a very joyous feeling. Pusha T, Kanye, and Kid Cudi all have very different vocal tones, styles, and deliveries, and they all complement each other so well on this track. All three of these artists demonstrate why they are so good in their own unique ways, which makes the song so much better overall. If you like early 2000s Hip Hop, ‘Rock N Roll’ is a song you need to listen to.
N95 – KENDRICK LAMAR
There could probably be a lot of debate about what is the best song from Kendrick Lamar’s MR. MORALE & THE BIG STEPPERS. If someone were to say it was ‘We Cry Together’ feat. Amanda Paige or ‘Silent Hill’ feat. Kodak Black, I do not think they would be wrong to think this. But the song that I keep returning to the most on this album is ‘N95.’ This is easily one of the most sonically intense songs on the record. It truly stands out on this tracklist because of how tough it is compared to the rest of the record. It has a very gruff, intense, and bass-heavy beat that almost feels like it draws some influence from UK Drill music. After starting the song with a kind and soft and low-key vocal style that contrasts the instrumental, Kendrick picks up his energy and tone as the song progresses. By the end of the track, the energy he is rapping with is on par with or even more fierce than the instrumental. One of my favorite things about this song is how many times Kendrick switches his flow. He constantly keeps the listener on their toes because of how frequently he changes the speed and style of how he is rapping. ‘N95’ is yet another reason why Kendrick Lama is still one of the premier artists making Hip Hop music in 2022.
HARRY STYLES – LATE NIGHT TALKING
Harry Styles’ Harry’s House is yet another record that has a lot of great songs that could be considered close to being the best on the record. But in my opinion, ‘Late Night Talking’ takes the cake above these other songs. This is the song that I have gone back to the most from this record. It is the kind of track I can turn on to put me in a good mood. ‘Late Night Talking’ has a sound that makes me smile and feel good whenever I hear it. As with most of Harry’s House , it is apparent that Harry was inspired by 70s Pop-Rock and Disco music on this track. When I hear ‘Late Night Talking,’ I immediately think of artists like Kool and The Gang, Earth Wind and Fire, or KC and The Sunshine band. This song has a super fresh and warm melody that is so fun and groovy. It is paired with an upbeat drum pattern that makes me want to move my feet and hips when I hear it. it is the kind of instrumental that is so fun to dance to. Like on a lot of the songs from Harry’s House, Harry’s vocals are excellent on this track. He doesn’t push himself vocally as much as he does on some other songs from the record, but he does ride this melody in a way that fits the melody well. ‘Late Night Talking’ is a sweet Bop that I’m positive will be popular among young Pop-Rock fans for years to come.
BETTY – YUNG GRAVY
I do not think there would ever b a situation where anyone expected that a sample of Rick Astley’s song ‘Never Gonna Give U Up’ could end up being a part of one of the biggest songs of 2022. The world that we live in is just so weird and crazy and funny, though, we are now at the point where that is the case. Yung Gravy has had a meteoric rise over the last couple of years. After going viral a few times and gaining a modest following in the late 2010s, he has taken the world by storm since the decade turned. ‘Betty’ is his biggest song to point, and as I mentioned, it literally contains a sample from Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up.’ In fact, because of the way the sample is used, ‘Betty’ just feels like a straight-up remix of this song. As silly as this seems, it is pretty cool how catchy this song is. Yung Gravy’s deep and rich tone sounds so well on this instrumental, and his flow sounds so smooth and clean over this beat. With ‘Betty,’ Yung Gravy created one of the biggest songs of the year, and he cemented himself as a rising star in the Rap game that needs to be reckoned with.
LAST LAST – BURNA BOY
As I mentioned earlier in this article, Afro-Pop music has been taking the world by storm over the last several years. After originally becoming big because of its use by major American Pop and Hip Hop artists, the artists who are from where this music originated are finally starting to gain notoriety. Out of all the Afro-Pop artists that have emerged lately, none of them is bigger than Burna Boy. He has been featured in a bunch of songs by prominent British artists recently, and this has shined a light on his solo music. ‘Last Last’ was the first single from his 2022 album Love, Damini. You may not have heard this song if you are from the United States, but it was huge internationally. ‘Last Last’ has a fun and vibrant sound that always make me smile. The melody for this song is so warm and cozy, and the beat is so relaxing and easy-going. It is the perfect song to play at a kickback with friends or family because it has such a positive and good feeling. I enjoy the way the vocals are arranged on this track. The female vocals provide a nice contrast to the heavy and deep tone that Burna Boy has, and the way Burna Boy’s vocals are layered has a choral sound to them. If you do not know ‘Last Last,’ please check it out because it is a great song to start of your Afro-Pop journey with.