Joey’s Top Ten Songs of 2022

I had a blast with music in 2021, and for most of 2022 I figured I couldn’t bring the same heat to this year’s lists. And though I’ve done a bit more December cramming than usual, I’m pleased to say that I’m pretty satisfied with what I’ve got here, especially because now it’s become more difficult than ever to stay on the pulse of popular music, especially without immersing myself in TikTok. Maybe I’ll have to take the dive in 2023.

As always, I’m featuring my top ten songs and then giving you some further listening after, complete with Spotify playlists.

10. “Simulation Swarm”
by Big Thief

On an album with so many directions and so many standouts, this is the one that stops the show. Originally unveiled in an Instagram Live the first month of the pandemic, “Simulation Swarm” eagerly takes the “Shine A Light” position as the emotional climax in the album’s seventeenth slot. Three vivid yet vague verses start to come into focus before the reveal: Adrianne Lenker is thinking about Andrew, the older biological brother she’s never met. It’s quite the twist that Lenker has dedicated her sweetest, most tender love song not to a lover, but to a brother.

9. “Pharmacist”
by Alvvays

One of the finest moments in music this year was the instant the guitars hit on “Pharmacist,” letting loose Alvvays’ dreamier, louder sound five years after their last album. Short, sweet, to the point, “Pharmacist” is the despair at someone else’s happiness, trying to go home only to realize it’s a time, not a place. Then the self-reassurance “it happens all the time” – the wilting “happens” another of the year’s finest moments, as Jeff Tweedy noticed – ultimately only giving way to an even more tragic thought: “I know I never crossed your mind.” Alvvays has other more impressive lyric sheets this time out for sure, but “Pharmacist” just lands such a punch.

8. “ALIEN SUPERSTAR”
by Beyoncé

I didn’t expect to be up for more Beygency propaganda, but she’s pulled me back in. No longer satisfied with her command over this world, she’s making like Goku and taking on the universe. Though she keeps the WhoSampled page fresh throughout, it’s that close encounter with the hovering synth over the chorus that puts this into orbit, those “Oh baby, I’m…” bits enough to make one never doubt her again.

7. “Speeding 72”
by Momma

Narrowly defeating yet another worthy entry from Maren Morris, “Speeding 72” is the driving anthem of the year. Funny enough, I less hear the direct influences in this than I hear ghosts of ’90s revivalists past Yuck, but of course I’m won over by the Pavement shout out, even if “Harness Your Hopes” and Beabadoobee mean they’re en vogue anyway. But at its heart, “Speeding 72” is about the excitement of moving to the next thing, coming from a complicated place (at best) but then finding someone clamoring “keep me in your car.”

6. “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)”
by Hitkidd & GloRilla

A breakup?! No way. A block party. If there’s discussion at all about GloRilla’s ex-as-of-ten-seconds-ago, it’s purely incidental. “F.N.F.” is focused on the freedom: “Hoppin’ out in red lights, twerkin’ on them headlights.” Finally, a breakup anthem to pump you up.

5. “Cate’s Brother”
by Maisie Peters

Trial ballooned on TikTok, “Cate’s Brother” was so ferociously beloved by Maisie’s fans (even before they’d heard its incredible refrain) that she was pressured into pumping this song out ASAP. And it’s catnip, the gushing ’80s guitars perfectly carrying a three minute diatribe about the millisecond you get a little too obsessed with someone before even hearing a word. Taylor Swift: This could be you right now, but you playin’.

@maisiehpeters

i played cate the verse i wrote about her brother and it went like this u gotta watch til the end #originalsong #bestfriends #livelaughlove

♬ original sound – maisie peters

4. “Bad Habit”
by Steve Lacy

Steve Lacy’s name has definitely been out there for a while, obviously with his band The Internet but also with a few odd features, but this was usually as a secondary figure. So it’s pretty shocking that he’s front and center in the pop song of the year, but it also makes sense that said song is about a guy in the background. “Bad Habit” is just too broadly relatable, a moment of romantic fright focused less on the missed opportunity and more on the mental situation that will create more of them. The year’s most inescapable yet undeniable song.

3. “American Teenager”
by Ethel Cain

Not since “Merry Go ‘Round” has a great song been so biting about small town USA, but Ethel Cain sets “American Teenager” apart by instead sending things skyward, putting together such an emotionally convincing piece of heartland rock that Obama missed the implications. The point is actually that the hopefulness is the tragedy, the character begging “Jesus, if you’re listening, let me handle my liquor” and fighting off doubt with promises of better things to come: “Just give it one more day, and you’re done,” “It’s just not my year.” Like the next one will be.

2. “Happy New Year”
by Let’s Eat Grandma

In addition to genius collaborator SOPHIE dying in 2021, co-lead Jenny Hollingworth’s boyfriend Billy Clayton died after a battle with cancer in the spring of 2019, after which the childhood best friends canceled their US tour and found themselves living apart for the first time. Communication between the two broke down, and they struggled to get to the bottom of their rocky period. And despite all that, through multiple deaths and hardship, here we are. Two Ribbons is one of the year’s most underrated albums, an emotional wallop, and its finest song is its opener by Walton about how the two found each other again: “I’d wanted the old us back,” “and now we’ve grown in different ways.”

“Because you know you’ll always be my best friend, and look at what we made it through.”

Happy new year to you.

1. “Expert in a Dying Field”
by The Beths

Sometimes you hear a song and think, okay that’s the best thing they’ll ever write. “Expert in a Dying Field” is such a moment, Elizabeth Stokes absolutely stuffing the thing with heartstabbers: “I can flee the country for the worst of the year, but I’ll come back to it,” “All of my notes in a desolate pile I haven’t touched in an age,” “I can close the door on us but the room still exists,” “Love is learned over time!” And then she repeats that desperate, mocking HOW DOES IT FEEL as rueful and haunting as Bob Dylan’s.

With this, Stokes puts herself in the company of today’s greatest songwriters. “Expert in a Dying Field” is the best rock song of the last several years.

The Next 15

11. Beyoncé: “CUFF IT”
12. Emperor X: “False Metal”
13. The Mountain Goats: “Training Montage”
14. The Beths: “2am”
15. MUNA: “What I Want”
16. FKA twigs (ft. Shygirl): “papi bones”
17. Ashley McBryde, Caylee Hammack, Brandy Clark, & Pillbox Patti: “Bonfire at Tina’s”
18. Special Interest (ft. Mykki Blanco): “Midnight Legend”
19. The Regrettes: “Barely on My Mind”
20. Maren Morris: “Circles Around This Town”
21. MUNA: “Anything But Me”
22. Camp Cope: “Running with the Hurricane”
23. The Beths: “Knees Deep”
24. Baby Queen: “LAZY”
25. The Weeknd: “Take My Breath”

Honorable Mentions

Alex G: “Runner”
Amanda Shires & Jason Isbell: “Not What You Want”
Beyoncé x Ellie Goulding: “BREAK MY SOUL (Girl Talk Remix)”
Chat Pile: “Why”
Megan Thee Stallion: “Plan B”
Phoenix (ft. Ezra Koenig): “Tonight”
Plains: “Problem With It”
SASAMI: “The Greatest”
Sudan Archives: “NBPQ (Topless)”
talker: “Don’t Want You To Love Me”
The 1975: “Part of the Band”

And as always, here are Spotify playlists to go with this feature, first of all the songs listed and then of just the top ten.

Published by Joey Daniewicz

Joey Daniewicz is a 30-year-old who graduated from the University of Minnesota Morris with a degree in mathematics. His passions are politics and popular media.

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