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Best Songs Of 2022: 20 Hits That Define The Year So Far
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List & Guides

Best Songs Of 2022: 20 Hits That Define The Year So Far

From upbeat retro-pop to dance-inspired indie-rock, the best songs of 2022 so far prove the year is shaping up to be one to remember.

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As the world recovers from COVID-19 lockdowns, it’s heartening to see how 2022 is inviting musicians of all genres to unmask and share joyous and celebratory music for us all to enjoy. From the cathartic rock’n’roll return of Liam Gallagher to the much-acclaimed comeback of electro-pop innovator The Weeknd, we’ve so far been treated to a veritable feast of diverse sounds that have done wonders to inoculate us against the misery of the past few years. Helping us bask in the love of new music, here is our list of the best songs of 2022 so far…

Listen to our Chart playlist here, and check out our best songs of 2022, below.

20: Charlie Puth: Light Switch

New Jersey-born viral sensation Charlie Puth has built a hugely strong TikTok following across the past year, teasing his fans with behind-the-scenes glimpses into his songwriting process. After getting 20 million views in less than 24 hours upon sharing a short snippet of Light Switch, the much-anticipated song was released in full in January, accompanied by a quirky music video in which a bearded Puth is put through his paces by a spandex-clad personal trainer. A sparky little fuse bomb that ignites 80s pop nostalgia and is illuminated by Puth’s R&B-tinged falsetto, Light Switch became an instant hit that peaked at No.27 in the US. With its music video reaching almost 50 million YouTube views in just two months, the single wasted no time at all in asserting itself as one of the best songs of 2022. “I’m so excited, I’m very proud of this,” Puth said. “I know it’s been a very, very long time since I put out music, and it’s all come to this.”

19: Tiesto And Ava Max: The Motto

Oozing with confidence, the Sweet But Psycho singer Ava Max teamed up with Dutch DJ Tiesto to score herself a UK No.12 hit with The Motto. A club-ready dance-pop anthem with a hummable melody and an elastic beat, the song continues Max’s journey into EDM territory following the 2020 banger that was My Head & My Heart. “The Motto is empowering, she told Rolling Stone, “it’s about not caring, doing you, having a good time, and letting the world know!” With dance music bouncing back, Ava Max is ready to leap as high as ever.

18: Dave: Starlight

Built around a sample from a cover of Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me To the Moon, by eclectic Indonesian duo The Macarons Project, London rapper Dave scored the second UK No.1 of his career with Starlight. With the most first-week sales and streams of 2022 so far, it cements Dave’s standing as one of the pre-eminent UK rappers of the decade, with the wordsmith reflecting on his hard-won jet-setting lifestyle (“Countin’ cash with the phone to my ear/I feel like Meek on the private jet”). As a standalone single that follows his much-acclaimed sophomore album, We’re All Alone In This Together, Starlight offers a tantalising prelude to what could well be Dave’s next project. Let’s hope he intends to drop a new album before the year is out – just as soon as he touches down on the runway!

17: Red Hot Chili Peppers: Black Summer

As Red Hot Chili Peppers’ first release since the much-anticipated return of guitarist John Frusciante, the sea-shanty-flavoured Black Summer press gangs listeners into a typically mesmerising funk-rock groove. As on much of the group’s 12th album, Unlimited Love, the lyrics are gleefully bewildering, but this cut yo-ho-hos its way into the best songs of 2022 by virtue of Flea’s dynamic bass-playing and Frusciante’s much-missed signature sound.

16: Griff And Sigrid: Head On Fire

After exploring deep space with one of the best songs of 2021 (Black Hole) and winning the Rising Star Award at that year’s BRITs, Griff teamed up with Norwegian pop star Sigrid to further fan the flames with Head On Fire. Released in January, it’s a fiery collaboration that simmers with lovestruck infatuation. “It’s about that moment when you can’t get someone out of your head,” Sigrid said of the song. “It’s a fun one, melodically.” Peaking at No.44 in the UK but deserving to chart far higher, Head On Fire instantly asserted itself among the best songs of 2022. By striking a match on Griff’s innate grasp of melody and throwing it in the direction of Sigrid’s petroleum-laced pop prowess, it shows exactly what happens when the two most exciting young women in pop collide. Unsurprisingly, the results are truly flammable.

15: Charli XCX: Beg For You (featuring Rina Sawayama)

Reviving a UK garage sound and borrowing the vocal melody from the heavily-memed house hit Cry For You, by September, Charli XCX’s duet with Rina Sawayama, Beg For You, was a mouth-watering dollop of 2000s nostalgia that peaked at No.24 in the UK. “It made me feel extremely nostalgic but also euphoric, and there’s that garage kind of vibe,” Charlie XCX said. “The sample is something that I feel my fans really connect with, that kind of Eurodance-pop thing.” As the most successful hit to emerge from her fifth album, Crash – which itself has provided us with one of the best album covers of 2022 – Beg For You proves why Charli XCX is one of Britain’s most inspirational pop stars of the past ten years, and it fully deserves its place among the best songs of 2022 so far.

14: Arcade Fire: The Lightning I, II

Following a five-year hiatus, Arcade Fire resurfaced with The Lightning I, II, the lead single from their sixth album, WE. A stunning return to form, it sees the Canadian indie icons recapture the baroque magic of their debut album, starting out as a piano ballad before erupting into a blistering Springsteen-esque anthem that gives blue-collar woes biblical import. Amid the swell of stormy synths and the song’s emboldening message of perseverance, The Lightning I, II captures the best of Arcade Fire’s sound, reminding us why they remain one of the most influential indie-rock groups of the 21st century.

13: Florence + The Machine: My Love

Released as the third single from Florence + The Machine’s fifth album, Dance Fever, My Love began life as a “sad little poem” about writer’s block, only to be transformed into an uptempo, dance-influenced anthem by Glass Animals producer Dave Bayley. Peaking at No.51 in the UK, My Love has become a regular feature on BBC Radio 1 playlists thanks to Florence Welch’s impassioned vocals and naturalistic lyrics which long for creative rebirth (“I pray the trees will get their leaves soon”). With a music video containing choreographed dance in the manner of performance art, Welch has once again bewitched us with her indie art-pop gypsy persona, easily making My Love one of the best songs of 2022 so far.

12: Rex Orange County: Keep It Up

Hotly tipped by US rap star Tyler, The Creator, British singer-songwriter Rex Orange County’s Keep It Up dreamily combines indie-flavoured pop with lushly-arranged songcraft akin to 70s-era Elton John and Randy Newman. Tackling themes of depression but coming across like it belongs on a Disney soundtrack, the song has been played regularly by BBC Radio 1, and was named by DJ Clara Amfo as the station’s Hottest Record of January. With a music video shot with a retro camcorder on the canals of Amsterdam, the song was produced by Dutch producer Benny Sings and acted as the lead single for Rex Orange County’s fourth record, Who Cares? – itself an early contender among the best albums of 2022. At only 23 years old, the singer seems to have merely revealed the tip of his talents, but if he can – ahem – keep it up, there’s no doubting he could well emerge as one of the best pop songwriters the UK has to offer.

11: George Ezra: Anyone For You (Tiger Lily)

The indie-pop brain behind gargantuan hits such as Paradise and Shotgun, George Ezra seems to have perfected his knack for sunny optimism with Anyone For You (Tiger Lily), which is easily one of the best songs of 2022 so far. As the lead single from his third album, Gold Rush Kid, the song peaked at No.12 in the UK and continues Ezra’s mission to inject a sprightly breed of folk-pop charm into the UK singles chart. “Anyone For You is a patchwork of lyric ideas found in old notebooks and chance moments shared between musicians in the studio,” Ezra has said. “It’s joyous and infectious, and I can’t help but smile every time I sing it.” Warm-hearted and giddy-headed, it’s yet to be seen whether the song paves the way for further summer anthems from Ezra, but, quite frankly, his track record speaks for itself.

10: Sam Ryder: Space Man

Achieving the near impossible by ensuring the UK finished in second place at the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest, it’s easy to see why Space Man helped Sam Ryder’s fortunes skyrocket. Co-written with Ed Sheeran songwriter Amy Wadge, the Britpop-esque pop-rock song mixes the starriest elements of David Bowie with the rocket fuel of Elton John to enable Ryder’s galaxy-scraping voice to truly soar. Peaking at No.2 in the UK, Space Man has already gone down in history as one of best Eurovision songs, so now the dust has settled on its success, it’s only fair we also recognise it as one of the best songs of 2022.

9: Gang Of Youths: in the wake of your leave

Australian alt-rockers Gang Of Youths seem to be blooming into mid-adolescence, particularly since the angel of 8th ave. became a US hit in 2021. In January of this year, in the wake of your leave – the third single to be released from their third album, angel in realtime. – took a refreshingly intelligent leap into Arcade Fire-esque indie rock. “I wanted a sunny, bright and melodic indie pop track with an angular, repetitive hook,” said lead singer David Le’aupepe. “I wanted to reflect on how I became dependant on grief for solace and inspiration.” Inspired by the death of Le’aupepe’s father, in the wake of your leave reached No.33 on the US Adult Alternative Airplay chart and taps into the same spiritual vein of uplifting stadium rock as U2, with a touch of Bruce Springsteen thrown in for good measure. Enlisting the backing of The Auckland Gospel Choir, the song is an emotionally rousing gem and almost certainly won’t be the last we hear from Gang Of Youths as they spread their wings on the festival circuit.

8: Denzel Curry: Walkin

Boasting a lavish sci-fi Western music video shot in Peru, Walkin, by Floridian rapper Denzel Curry, pairs a sample of Keith Mansfield’s The Loving Touch to a beguiling boom-bap beat. With Curry rapping about life’s struggles under the forces of capitalism, he roams like a cyberpunk Django exploring this “dirty, filthy, rotten, nasty little world we call our home” while on a journey to redemption (“I’m killin’ off my demons ’cause my soul’s worth redeemin’”). A key track from Curry’s fifth album, Melt My Eyez See Your Future, Walkin is not only one of the best songs of 2022, but is also one of the most hypnotic and engrossing tracks alternative rap has to offer.

7: Liam Gallagher: Everything’s Electric

With Everything’s Electric, the lead single from Liam Gallagher’s third solo album, C’mon You Know, the former Oasis frontman cranked up the voltage with one of the best songs of 2022 so far. With a BRIT Awards performance and this No.18 hit already under his belt this year, Gallagher looks set to continue his blistering solo career with no-holds-barred rock’n’roll. Everything’s Electric’s producer, Greg Kurstin, even went to the trouble of getting ex-Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl to play drums on the song, making it a heady trip for any fan of 90s alternative rock. “He’s an amazing singer and he’s a fucking rock star,” Grohl said of Gallagher. “He is one of the few last remaining rock stars.” Needless to say, Gallagher agreed: “He’s correct,” he proclaimed on Twitter, “the rest of them are useless.”

6: The Smile: Free In The Knowledge

As the brainchild of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood – joined, on this occasion, by Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner – The Smile is exactly the kind of project fans have been hoping for. Mostly ditching Yorke’s love of glitch-pop in favour a post-punk-inspired guitar sound, the acoustic ballad Free In The Knowledge is arguably the most affecting song Yorke has written since Fake Plastic Trees. With a more conventional song structure than anything Radiohead have done post-Kid A, it’s also the kind of tune Radiohead fans had all but given up hope of hearing again from the singer. Easily one of the best songs of 2022, Free In The Knowledge perfectly straddles the line between Radiohead’s 90s alt-rock outings and the ghostly and apocalyptic feel of their pioneering electronic experiments.

5: The Weeknd: Sacrifice

Quite literally ushering in a new era with his fifth album, Dawn FM, Canadian R&B/pop innovator The Weeknd (aka Abel Tesfaye) further honed his visionary brand of electro-pop with Sacrifice. Built on stabs of funk guitar and 80s-style synths, this particular song was co-produced with house trio Swedish House Mafia, who perfectly conjure the swirling sonic ambience of nightclub disorientation. Reaching No.10 in the UK, Sacrifice was accompanied by a music video in which Tesfaye is subjected to a trippy initiation ritual on a dancefloor, implying that club-goers risk losing a part of their soul. By doubling down on his fusion of retro pop with experimental synthwave inspired by French EDM artists such as Kavinsky, The Weeknd can rest assured that he has turned in one of the best songs of 2022.

4: Foals: 2am

Released as the second single from Life Is Yours, 2am fully lived up to indie-rockers Foals’ promise that their seventh album would dive deeper into dance-pop. Immediately taking its place among the best songs of 2022 so far, its marvellous hybrid of funk-inspired grooves and angular guitar riffs sailed into BBC Radio 1’s A List. “Musically 2am is one of the poppiest songs we’ve ever written. It’s about repetitive cycles of destructive behaviour, which I think lots of people can relate to,” said Foals singer Yannis Philippakis. “There’s something cathartic about putting that to this joyous, upbeat song that’s got a sense of release.” As one of the finest British indie-rock bands of the past 15 years, it’s quite possible that tracks such as 2am, and their previous single, Wake Me Up, could bring Foals to the attention of a new, younger generation of fans. Perhaps it’s finally time for the group’s colourful blend of indie and dance to have another moment in the sun. We can but hope…

3: Kendrick Lamar: N95

Fully embracing his role as the voice of a generation, West Coast wordsmith Kendrick Lamar once again defined our cultural moment in the music video for his hip-hop banger N95. Referring to the face masks worn during the COVID-19 pandemic, the song sees Lamar lyrically explore people’s coping mechanisms, stripping back the “designer bullshit” to expose the hypocrisy it obscures, and lambasting the twin threats posed by clout-chasers and cancel culture. More socially attuned than ever, Lamar’s trajectory has been nothing short of miraculous since his first broke through with Good Kid, M.A.A.D City in 2012. With deeply meaningful and poetic lyrics such as those found on N95, it’s reassuring that an artist of this stature has made such significant inroads into the mainstream. Conscious rap artists rarely become megastars, but Lamar continues to prove that the tide is turning.

2: Harry Styles: As It Was

With its mixture of synth-pop and indie-pop-inspired catchiness, As It Was has wasted no time in becoming one of the best songs of 2022. Peaking at No.1 in both the UK and the US, it’s been a crossover smash hit that far eclipses anything Harry Styles has done to date, seeing him mine 80s art-rock from the likes of a-ha and Peter Gabriel to set himself far apart from other pop acts of his generation. With a melody that lodges itself in the ear, plus a memorably sunny guitar riff, As It Was is an unforgettably upbeat tune that boasts melancholic lyrics in which Styles reflects on loneliness. With 200 million YouTube views and counting, it’s a song that’s clearly going to take some beating.

1: Lizzo: About Damn Time

Re-emerging in the spring of 2022 with one of the best feel-good songs of the modern era, everybody’s favourite plus-sized goddess, Lizzo, dropped her infectious hit About Damn Time, once again infusing the pop charts with a sense of disco-influenced fun and a freewheeling focus on body positivity. Recalling Nile Rodgers’ funky guitar work for Chic, the song shares a similar 70s soul vibe to Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak’s work as Silk Sonic, upping the ante with a retro sound that complements Lizzo’s idiosyncratic lyrics. Peaking at No.3 in the UK and No.4 in the US, About Damn Time once again marks Lizzo out as an eccentric and truly irrepressible talent – and that’s why it tops our list of the best songs of 2022 so far.

You’ve heard the best songs of the year, now find out our best albums of 2022.

Original article: 20 April 2022

Updated: 25 July 2022

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