After spending nearly two years in a “out-of-studio vortex,” most artists were unable to record properly in 2020 and the majority of 2021; 2022 is expected to be a year of new music’s “coming out.” This year, music has returned to its fuller form, introducing the public to some earworms (and candy) within pop, from Harry Styles’ long-awaited pulses around Harry’s House to Lizzo’s more assertive singing of I’m not the girl I was or used to be on the hit “About Damn Time” to Doja Cat’s tribute to Big Mama Thornton on her Elvis soundtrack offering “Vegas.”
Pop has accepted the experimental throughout 2022, including Charlie Puth’s TikTok compilation of songs for his upcoming third album, Charlie, the fictional Disney-Pixar boy band 4*Town, Beyoncé’s epic Renaissance comeback, Kendrick Lamar, Lauv, Maggie Rogers, Sky Ferreira, and more.
Here are 10 songs that have attracted our interest in 2022 so far, celebrating all the emotive aspects of pop music.
“Nobody Like U,” 4*Town
The popular song from the most recent Pixar movie, Turning Red, was written by current pop sensations Billie Eilish and brother FINNEAS and is reminiscent of the boy band frenzy of the late ’90s and early ’00s. The song appears in a particularly significant scene in the animated film, which is about a young girl who transforms into a red panda and the problems that result. If you’re emotionally invested in the story, a tear may even fall to your eye at this point (don’t judge us!).
2. “Mother I Sober,” Kendrick Lamar, featuring Beth Gibbons (Portishead)
What a work of art. Everything—the song, the album, the performer. Kendrick Lamar writes well. He is an event. He offers you a sound feast that is good for you. He is an amazing, contemporary miracle. This song is representative of his most recent album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, which is an immediate classic. It makes you shiver. With its flawless production, subtle nuances, and human behavior, it entertains while also making you think.
3. “Light Switch,” Charlie Puth
Charlie Puth is capable of creating music from anything. Puth used the actual sound of a wall switch being turned on and off for the danceable single “Light Switch,” which was released earlier in 2022. Following up on his 2018 album Voicenotes, Charlie, Puth detailed the songs from it on TikTok, including sound effects (such as the light switch), demonstrations of the keys used, and other musical tutorials in the hopes of convincing his fans that anyone can create music. Charlie will be released on October 7.
4. “Cuff It,” Beyoncé
In the midst of the pandemic, Beyoncé’s Renaissance was inspired by a disco daydream about returning to the club. The album’s 16 tracks of pure vibes, which are delightfully adventurous and intensely allusive, belong in a steamy, sticky club at one in the morning when things are just getting going.
5. “Daylight,” Harry Styles
For his third album, Harry’s House, Harry Styles departed from his pastiche of old rock. Instead, he draws inspiration from more recent pop artists, offering fans a glimpse of the new, happier Styles. With Styles drifting through the air throughout the lyrics then falling back to earth for a hammering guitar line in the chorus of “Daylight,” the song spearheads the movement towards tranquility. It unites the old and new Styles while also being a ton of fun.
6. “Anywhere With You,” Maggie Rogers
Maggie Rogers’ summer 2022 full-length release, Surrender, has us believing we can accomplish anything. She released a magnificent album in 2019 as a follow-up, and it had to have been divinely inspired. (Interestingly, Rogers’ divinity thesis, which she wrote for her Harvard Master’s degree in Religion and Public Life, was titled Surrender.) The brutally elegant “Anywhere With You” is a highlight track from this album, but since we are required to choose just one song, that will have to do.
7. “All 4 Nothing (I’m So In Love),” Lauv
Lauv is coming in hot with “All 4 Nothing (I’m So In Love),” one of the most effervescent love songs this year (and probably in several years). This song has the power to chase away any hint of gray skies since it is blatantly in love and shouting it from the rooftops. Do you realize how much I love you? Did you know that Lauv never stops singing? When he sings, “I don’t ever want to say goodbye/Then all of those nights, they’d just be for nothing,” there is a brief pause. This is why we admire Lauv the writer and how human the song is because of that sentence.
8. “Don’t Forget,” Sky Ferreira
On the snide anthem “Don’t Forget,” Sky Ferreira provides a deeper shade of synth ’80s pop and rock, singing I’ll catch your disease, It’s such a raw deal world, I don’t need to fool you, and I’m the real bad girl. “Don’t Forget” is Ferreira’s first new song since “Downhill Lullaby” in 2019 and the lead single from her long-awaited second album, Masochism. It was co-produced with Jorge Elbrecht and co-written with Tamaryn. Little disturbed girl, you see / Burnin’ down your house of surety / Ferreira, on “Don’t Forget,” is marching straight into the fire of a semi-dystopian universe. Tears of fire in the sky make me feel happy to be alive. I once believed that God was a part of each and every one of us.
9. “Vegas,” Doja Cat
“Vegas,” which was taken from Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis soundtrack, is much more than just a summertime hit single. Doja Cat raps in her own style—technically proficient, oozing energy and confidence, and possessing a marvelously lyrical quality—over a beat evocative of bright slot machines and glittering showgirls. The rapper honors the fiery-voiced Big Mama Thornton by including samples of her 1952 classics “Hound Dog” and “Vegas.” This fits in with the Baz Luhrmann style of history-meets-hip-hop, but the song has all the makings of a 2022 pop hit, movie or not.
10. “About Damn Time,” Lizzo
Returning, Lizzo is returning us to terrible bitch o’clock. Lizzo’s first top-charting single since 2019 begins with a shoulder shrug that mirrors an infectiously upbeat bass groove as she channels her inner ’70s disco. The repeated refrain of “I’m comin’ out tonight/about it’s damn time” is a nod to Diana Ross’ era-appropriate LGBT anthem as well as a throwback retro Chic style zinger that has heavy funk. It’s one of the most difficult-to-ignore songs of the year and pure dance floor ear pleasure.
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