40) Lavender Haze – Taylor Swift
The best of the three ‘given a music video’ tracks from Taylor’s monumental Midnights album, I think Lavender Haze is a strange standout for me. Doing a perfect job of reigniting the pop angle we last heard on Lover and Reputation, it’s a slightly predictable entry point for a new record but I think that’s exactly why it feels so comfortable to hear.
39) Looking High – Foals
A few other Foals tracks just missed out on my top 40, 2001 and 2am were also played to death by me this year, but it’s Looking High that hooked me the most. The initial bright and twinkly hook gives way for a thrilling middle section where the song properly builds and builds. The energy on this and the rest of the Life Is Yours record was impossible to resist.
38) This is What I Mean – Stormzy
In a way I feel like This is What I Mean is let down by a surrounding album that doesn’t quite surround its majesty like the best tracks on Stormzy’s last few albums do. This is another killer track from Stormzy though, some of his beefiest bars on the first few verses before Ms Banks joins for a fiery section herself. Front to end it’s a storming track from an artist who we know to expect this from at this point.
37) Used To Know Me – Charli XCX
Objectively a 6/10 but no song has brought me the pure unadulterated joy that this Charli XCX megabop has given me in 2022.
36) Massive – Drake
Yes Drake’s output in recent years has been…mixed at best, but every now and again we get a genuinely standout hit. Massive lives up to the name, his most instantly danceable track since the Views era. Is it worth wading through the rest of the rubbish for one track? For the 5 minutes Massive is on I think so.
35) Happiness – The 1975
Possibly the most chaotic single The 1975 have had in years, at times Happiness feels like the jam session before they get to the proper song. The talking over the top is muffled to the point where it’s unintelligible, it sort of has a chorus but also doesn’t really and then a second hook appears out of nowhere. I kind of like the energy though, it allows Matty Healy to deliver a performance that feels on the edge of falling apart. Can we all agree that a saxophone is essential on The 1975 songs in future as well?
34) Irrelevant – P!nk
Considering how little I have enjoyed the last few P!nk albums, I have consistently enjoyed her stand alone singles in recent years. If there’s a ‘popstar’ we can rely on to not just be seen to say something, but actively join the fight for the causes she cares about it’s P!nk and Irrelevant feels just as honest as the countless other protest songs in her discography. Lyrically it may be a bit on the nose, ‘Girls just wanna have rights’, but sometimes Pop music needs to be a bit more to the point to work. For me Irrelevant does.
33) Grapefruit – Tove Lo
I feel like I’m one of those people who has underestimated Tove Lo for years, but something finally changed for me with the album Dirt Femme and specifically Grapefruit. It’s a gut wrenching description of struggling with body image, taken up a notch to become a synth pop banger by Tove Lo. ‘What I see is not me’ feeling more anthemic by the end than you could possibly anticipate. Sorry it took me so long to get on board Tove Lo.
32) I Want A Love Like This – Everything Everything
Everything Everything are secretly some of the most consistent pop writers in the UK (go and listen to Can’t Do or Distant Past if you don’t believe me) and I Want A Love Like This is one of the biggest bangers of their career. Proper bouncing up and down at a gig energy on this track.
31) Let It Die – Ellie Goulding
Ellie Goulding does it again. Let It Die is another superstar turn from an artist I feel has found her way back to the self confidence of the Halcyon era after being absorbed too far into the mainstream for a few years. This leaves me very excited for the new album in 2023.
30) Maybe You’re The Problem – Ava Max
This song feels like being hit over the head with a sledgehammer in the best way possible.
29) 2 Be Loved (Am I Ready) – Lizzo
Lizzo meeting Max Martin was always going to result in a song as joyous as this wasn’t it? There wasn’t as much I really loved on the Special album than I had hoped, but 2 Be Loved was an obvious standout from the first listen. I love the bit where it goes ‘Girl, is this my boo?’ before Lizzo chimes in laughing at having to ask it as a genuine question. Bonus points for an absolutely wild key change at the very end before a brand new hook casually appears at the end.
28) Delilah (pull me out of this) – Fred again..
I’m not sure I ever actually danced in a club in 2022. But if I had then Delilah is what I would have wanted to dance to. Somehow both a slow burner and an out and out banger in one. A huge tune.
27) Talking to Yourself – Carly Rae Jepsen
That little breath before Carly ends the ‘your…self’ is pop genius and makes Talking to Yourself worthy of a place in this list for that reason alone.
26) CHICKEN TERIYAKI – Rosalía
‘Pa’ ti naki, Chicken Teriyaki’ has been in my head every day since I heard this song back in February. It’s like Rosalía had plugged herself into my brain with the ‘hmm hmm’ hook and it’s the reason I found myself constantly listening to the album MOTOMAMI all year. An undeniable monster hit.
25) Lights Out – Fred Again.., Romy & HAAi
The elegant subtlety of the other Fred Again.. single I mentioned earlier goes out of the window pretty quickly on this ridiculous record. You get a hint of the Romy we all know from The xx, maybe she’s a little freer on the first verse here, but it’s what we expect. Then it’s almost like you can hear a DJ say ‘ HERE WE FUCKING GO’ when it all goes off. The last minute of this track is unrelenting and exhausting and I absolutely love it.
24) Waterfall – Disclosure & RAYE
There’s a section near the end of Waterfall where RAYE raps alongside what sounds like a 00s Garage track. Waterfall is the Mis-Teeq comeback single we deserved in 2022. Disclosure’s best track in years and a star moment for RAYE.
23) Nobody Knows (Ladas Road) – Loyle Carner
The emotional centerpiece of the hugo album, it was watching Loyle Carner perform this on Jools Holland earlier in the year that made me completely rethink who I had thought he was as an artist. The echoes of choir that surround the song, slightly distorted, gives everything such an intense atmosphere while also literally singing ‘Glory’. It’s a song of juxtapositions and contrasts which is entirely the point, Loyle dives deep on this track and it’s an absolute standout in 2022.
22) Her – Megan Thee Stallion
2022 was probably the year I finally sent off my application form to be part of the ‘Hotties’ as I went from casual Megan Thee Stallion fan to Stan. Her doesn’t have to do much to work as a song, it’s effortless in its intent and impact. Megan is Her, Megan is She and I wouldn’t dare to disagree.
21) What I Want – MUNA
MUNA were in tremendous form with all of the music they released in 2022 and What I Want is the biggest statement record of them all. Everyone picks out the ‘I want to dance in the middle of gay bar’ but I think Katie’s delivery of ‘I want that girl right over there to wanna date me’ is even more of a thrill. A song so carefully constructed to sound effortless, MUNA deserve everything they want after this.
20) Free Yourself – Jessie Ware
It almost feels pointless me trying to explain why Jessie Ware has made it into my top 20 singles of the year. Free Yourself is the campest, most joyous and infectious track of Jessie’s career. It feels like What’s Your Pleasure was supposed to be a one time thing, ‘I’ll drop a record where I have to dance on stage every night just once’. If Free Yourself is any indication, I think Jessie wants to keep dancing. Personally I’m here for it.
19) When You’re Gone – Shawn Mendes
Shawn’s best song yet When You’re Gone absolutely floored me the first time I heard it. The moment the second chorus kicks in and Shawn takes it up the octave? This song just hits so hard. I hate making the tired comparison, but can you imagine if Harry Styles was releasing records as well constructed and well performed as this? Shawn deserves the world after this track.
18) Here For You – Wilkinson & Becky Hill
The chokehold that Becky Hill has on my Current Tunes playlist. This woman can be ‘between albums’ and release 6 singles that end up in my top 20 most played of the year. In 2022 my clear favourite was Here For You. I love how delicate Becky is with her vocal on this track, giving herself space to breathe before really going for it in the final chorus. A steady build of a song, I love that it holds just enough back to leave a lasting impression.
17) Home By Now – MUNA
Home By Now is the sort of song it seems like MUNA can just throw out into the world as if it’s nothing. Think Stayaway or Pink Light or Crying On The Bathroom Floor, songs so devastating that you couldn’t possibly make them joyous experiences. Somehow MUNA does and Home By Now is yet another of those records that feels timeless. It’s so beautifully written and produced, and gut wrenching from start to finish.
16) American Teenager – Ethel Cain
The ability to release an album stacked with 8, 9 even 10 minute songs that somehow feels necessary is one thing, but to be able to also deliver a song that stands alone so perfectly is mad. Ethel Cain does that with American Teenager, a song that feels like a piece of music history someone has unearthed. There’s no sense of pastiche when those Springsteen guitar lines appear, it’s the real deal. Emotive and massive in scale, American Teenager only gets better with every listen.
15) DESPECHÁ – Rosalía
One thing that Rosalía said she wanted to do with her album MOTOMAMI was to have more fun. Deluxe version track DESPECHÁ is the most obvious result, an impossible to resist Mambo track that’s the most danceable thing Rosalía has ever released. Watching a bar full of people following her gig in London up on their feet screaming along to this and basically salsa dancing around the bar was probably one of my happiest memories of 2022. Effortlessly enjoyable track.
14) My Love – Florence + The Machine
What feels like a lost track from the 2012 era of Florence Welch releasing dance records; My Love is spectacular. There’s something incredible that happens when you take the high drama of Florence’s lyrics and vocal performance, surround it with harps and strings and finish it off with a thudding bassline. Pure theatrical magic.
13) Sacrifice – The Weeknd
This time last year I wondered if Take My Breath would mark a shift for The Weeknd even further into pure pop. Literally days later we were presented with Dawn FM, which managed to both defy and confirm my suspicions. The standout track for me being Sacrifice, a pure funky, soulful and incessantly catchy song that is hardly a surprise from The Weeknd anymore. The vocal harmonies are stunning, while Abel absolutely kills it vocally. The least shocking thing on this list, The Weeknd releasing great pop music.
12) This Hell – Rina Sawayama
It’s hard to pick out the most iconic moment of This Hell. Is it the opening Shania reference? Maybe ‘Wow…That’s hot’? Or maybe it’s ‘fuck what they did to Britney, to Lady Di and Whitney’. The talky bit in the middle 8? Or maybe just the amazing way Rina sings ‘that makes two’. No matter what, This Hell felt like the true breaking point for people wondering if Rina Sawayama is ‘going to be a star’. After This Hell it’s very clear that she already is one.
11) Happy New Year – Let’s Eat Grandma
The first truly great song of 2022 it feels strange to sit here just before New Year celebrating how I’ve listened to a song called Happy New Year all year round. Without doubt the band’s most euphoric song yet, synths and hand claps make it impossible to not feel deep in your chest. But then lyrically it really dives hard into the duo’s fractured relationship in between albums. It’s the greatest example of the duo’s unique spin on pop music, there’s certainly other songs that pull from the same kinds of sounds as Happy New Year, but no one sounds like Let’s Eat Grandma do here.
10) About Damn Time – Lizzo
Saying that About Damn Time is basically ‘Juice 2’ is meant as the highest possible complement. The best Lizzo tracks showcase her personality from start to end and About Damn Time does exactly that. It’s a song that works entirely because of how fun Lizzo clearly is as a person. ‘I’m not the girl I was or used to be…Bitch I might be better’ is probably my favourite Lizzo lyric ever, you can hear the hysterics they must have been in writing these verses in the studio. Infectious and joyous, 2022 would have been boring as hell without Lizzo.
9) BREAK MY SOUL – Beyoncé
I love that in 2022 all of us fell in love with a song where we are supposed to suspend our disbelief that Beyoncé…BEYONCÉ is working a 9 to 5 job. Is it in an office? Does she work at a bank? Maybe she works in sales? Either way Break My Soul manages to be so inspiring and enjoyable that I can ignore that thought for 4 whole minutes. It’s chaotic in a way only Big Freedia can deliver and is the poppiest track Beyonce has released since I Am…Sasha Fierce. Special shout out to the Vogue sampling remix which is worthy of a spot on this list by itself.
8) Plan B – Megan Thee Stallion
No song has ever summed up everything I admire, respect and love about Megan Thee Stallion as perfectly as Plan B does. The lyrics are pure filth, but in a way that adds even more credence to everything that Megan says. ‘Dick don’t run me, I run dick’ that’s a mood. ‘He submerged in it, like a baptism’ had me in stitches while ‘My pussy is the most expensive meal you’ll ever eat’ made me genuinely howl at the way Megan delivers the line. For me I think Megan doesn’t get enough respect for how funny she is in her verses, the line between being serious and funny is so blurred that it makes for one line after another that’s a classic. Without doubt the best record of Megan’s career so far.
7) This Is Why – Paramore
‘If you have an opinion, maybe you should shove it’ Hayley WIlliams doesn’t mince her words on This Is Why, for me the best single that Paramore have ever released. It feels like the perfect blend of every era of a band who have been doing this for decades. The energy in each chorus builds from the last, Hayley almost becoming angrier and angrier that she’s having to explain this over again. So damn catchy, but delivered with such an intensity that it’s truly thrilling to hear. More of this please for the full album.
6) Hideous (feat. Jimmy Somerville) – Oliver Sim
I clearly wanted to dance in 2022, it’s taken for us to reach #6 for something more emotional and mid tempo, but it’s obvious why Hideous is so high on this list. The xx have been such a pivotal band for me over the last decade. An openly queer band, with Romy and Oliver being out without it dominating every festival bill they get asked to do, or every conversation about them; it meant a lot for me. The most striking thing about Hideous is that Oliver is so open and honest about not feeling truly out and having to hide his HIV status from the world out of shame. The moment when Jimmy Somerville joins in 3 minutes in is a gut punch, almost a passing of the torch from a vital gay voice in music to someone just as vital from my generation that wants to say and do more. Musically it’s one of the most beautiful few minutes of music in 2022, Oliver singing from a place deeper than ever before. As a fan it’s incredible to see someone share themselves so openly as he does here.
5) Circles Around This Town – Maren Morris
Where is all of the country music on my list this year? Perhaps Nashville just didn’t deliver in 2022. Maren Morris says otherwise with the song of her career. Circles Around This Town feels like the song she was born to write, years of writing in Nashville, never quite happening before it did through sheer determination; it feels like a celebration of her own hard work. There’s something so dynamic about the way that Maren delivers these lyrics to a listener, the extra bar added on after the bridge each time delivered with a knowing glance that says ‘this is for the real music fans’. There’s delicate and tiny production details everywhere that Greg Kurstin is renowned for and yet the whole song feels so rootsy and grounded. On first listen Circles Around This Town may seem less impressive than the more chaotic and exciting songs that surround it on this list, but for me it feels like home, and is one of the best country songs of the last few years.
4) SAOKO – Rosalía
There’s almost a thrill I get whenever I tell someone to listen to Rosalía’s MOTOMAMI album that I know the first thing anyone will hear is the chaotic and baffling SAOKO. This is what I imagine Reggaeton sounds like in a post apocalyptic world. An end of days take on the biggest genre in the world that manages to casually drop a free jazz piano section before crashing back in. The bassline feels dangerous, like all hell is set to kick off at any minute, while Rosalía raps with a nonchalance like it’s nothing to worry about. I have no other comparison to make because SAOKO is truly a singular moment in music. Rosalía is playing by her own rules and I am so glad that a song like this was the result.
3) Anything But Me – MUNA
The best MUNA song in a year where all MUNA songs were pretty much the bar for whether a song was great or not. Anything But Me is a triumph, start to end it’s a staggering pop record tinged with sadness like just about every MUNA song, but so focused on being free of that. We are on the other side in this song and it’s why Katie’s performance feels more alive than ever before. The moment near the end where her singing melts into a saxophone line makes me smile every time I hear it. The lyric ‘Say I always had one foot out, well baby I’ve got two now’ is incredible, while of course the opening verse has the most iconic lines of MUNA’s career so far. Anything But Me has been my most played song of 2022 since the day it was released and it’s so easy to understand why.
2) Black Mascara. – RAYE
There’s a moment around 3 minutes into Black Mascara. where RAYE sings ‘Try to understand just what you’ and the floor drops out of the vocal and beats right on the final two words before the record smashes back in. It makes my heart drop every time I hear it and is by far my favourite moment in music in 2022. The whole of Black Mascara. feels like it has been building and building inside RAYE for years, a song this well constructed and effortlessly written appearing at the time when she finally found her voice and became an independent artist. The hook changing from ‘What you done to me, done to me’ to ‘you’re done to me’ is so simple and yet elevates this record far beyond anything we’ve heard from RAYE before. It’s a masterclass making a dance record, written and performed by someone behind some of the biggest dance records of the decade. Here RAYE finally gets to shine as a singular artist, in what feels like her true debut single of her new career. When I typed the song titles for this list out, Black Mascara. was at number 1, it was so close between the top 2 for me, but I changed my mind at the very last minute. It would be a joint winner if that didn’t seem like a massive cop out.
1) Free – Florence + The Machine
There’s an energy that can only be found on Florence + The Machine records, Florence Welch herself probably thinks of it as a spiritual thing and my tiny brain can’t fathom any other logical explanation. Dog Days Are Over, Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up), What The Water Gave Me, Spectrum, Ship To Wreck, Hunger there’s just something in the energy these musicians create that lodges itself deep within you. Free is like the distillation of what that feeling means to us the fans, but most importantly Florence herself. I feel so much emotion whenever I hear this song, it’s a direct conversation between Florence to her fans. It’s both of us who need this music and feel that same energy as it builds and builds. Musically it’s deceptive in its simplicity before becoming more euphoric than anything else Florence has ever released before. I believe every word, I feel every word and when the song lifts on the second ‘When I’m dancing I am free’ literally nothing else matters. I can’t remember having heard a song that so vividly describes the thing it literally achieves itself, I feel free when I hear this. Free is a spectacular song from one of the artists of my life and in 2022 nothing else made me feel like this song did.