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Photo: Carlijn Jacobs
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The 50 Best Songs of 2022

Dig in, whether you’re hearing these songs for the first time or the hundredth.

No use keeping you all in suspense: The top two songs on our songs of the year list will surprise absolutely no one. Released as the lead singles from two of the biggest albums of the year by two of the biggest pop stars in the world, they ruled the charts, impressed critics, and set social media alight. And hey, when the masses are right, they’re right. See, internet? Maybe we’re not as contrarian as you think we are.

We would be remiss, however, if we didn’t endeavor to catch you up on a few things you might have missed while queuing up Midnights or Renassiance for the nth time. Of course, you’ll find some bona fide hits here, from Rosalía’s disorienting “Saoko” to Zach Bryan’s boldly understated “Something in the Orange” to Drake’s pumping yet ethereal “Sticky.”

But you’ll also find hidden gems from artists who span a similarly broad swath of genres: Sudan Archives, the one-woman band who managed to pack seemingly the entire history of R&B into a dizzying five minutes; Ethel Cain, the Southern Baptist-raised trans woman who somehow fit a fist-raising heartland anthem into a gothic horror opera; and the xx’s Oliver Sim and the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn, who stepped out from the yokes of their road-tested bands to deliver their most graceful and vulnerable compositions to date. So dig in, whether you’re hearing these songs for the first time or the hundredth. Jeremy Winograd

[Editor’s Note: Listen to the entire list on Spotify.]


50. Maggie Rogers, “Anywhere with You”

Like Beth Orton before her, singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers infuses her folk-rock with only the subtlest shades of electronica, employing electro-pop noodling throughout her sophomore effort, Surrender, to highlight rather than obscure her lilting voice and often gut-wrenching songwriting. Case in point: “Anywhere with You,” whose briefly diced-up vocal samples evoke the sound of a pop song devoured by the wind during a car ride. Echoes of the Pretenders’s “I’ll Stand by You” in Rogers’s discovery of the kind of love that makes one brave enough to face the unknown together: “Cruising 95 like we got nothing to lose/I’m praying to the headlights like I prayed to you/Before I found you.” Sal Cinquemani

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49. Catherine Moan & Primer, “My Heart”

Drawing inspiration from the exuberant synth-pop of the ’80s, the deceptively upbeat “My Heart” pulses with a sorrowful nostalgia that belies its glittery production. Exploring an unhealthy relationship dynamic, Primer, backed by Catherine Moan’s exultant warble, sings with a curious lilt that’s at once affected and authentic, her pop-diva caroling both obfuscating and crystallizing the song’s emotions. “And still I give you everything, I don’t know what is wrong with me, it’s just something I do,” she belts out before the track erupts into the sugary sadness of a refrain. Far removed from the cynical, nostalgia-driven cash grabs that have come to dominate pop culture, the song overflows with an exhilarating giddiness that makes for one of the year’s most sweetly cathartic experiences. Fred Barrett


48. FKA twigs, “Ride the Dragon”

“Ride the Dragon” is the freewheeling progeny of FKA twigs’s sultry, skittering early EPs. Whereas we may expect a seductive line such as “If you really wanna kiss me, do it quickly” to be delivered legato, like on 2014’s “Hours,” here it’s sped up so as to indicate just how much of a hurry the singer is in. The framing device of Caprisongs is built into the song, which opens with a spoken introduction about twigs’s artistic motivation before launching abruptly into its characteristically wonky hook and winking come-ons. Mason


47. Chat Pile, “Why”

A photograph of the Oklahoma County Detention Center is pictured on the cover of Chat Pile’s God’s Country, and that harsh industrialism looms large over the album and takes on an especially dystopian dimension when paired with Luther Manhole’s crushing guitar riffs and menacing arpeggiated leads, both of which feature prominently on “Why.” “Why do people have to live outside?” asks singer Raygun Busch, in a simple, straightforward, even prosaic indictment of homelessness. “There are people that are made to live outside,” he continues, punctuating the blunt verse with an accusatory “Why?”—his tone growing increasingly unhinged and desperate. As the song draws to a close, the band delivers a pulverizing breakdown finish, and Busch laments the “Real American horror story” that the unhoused are forced to live through. Why indeed. Barrett


46. Tomberlin, “Tap”

Tomberlin’s “Tap” uses its titular, introductory smash of the “like” button to incite a roundelay of stunning drum sounds that would be cause by themselves for placement on this list. Throughout its exquisite four-and-a-half minutes, a casual shuffle of a hand-drummed beat persists, underlaid at first by distant stomping, eventually supplemented by the gentle rattle of what sounds like glimmering beads. That the song also unfolds as a knotty manifesto about the imprisoning nature of social media, the simultaneous mystery and claustrophobia of the city, and the sometimes unbearable intimacy of art is something of a marvel. Charles Lyons-Burt

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45. Yeule, “Bites on My Neck”

The music on Yeule’s 2019 album Serotonin II was largely cloaked in atmospheric, almost heavenly haze. But on the titanic “Bites on My Neck”, the Singaporean artist takes a less distanced approach, fully embodying their hybrid morbid-sweet-liberated persona with menacingly sensual lyrics: “You know that I could have loved you with my bare hands/You know that I could have killed you with my bare hands.” After the verses come alive with electronic glitches provided by hyperpop forefather Danny L Harle, the chorus’s towering electric guitars capture both sides of the double-edged sword of passion. Eric Mason


44. Lee Bains & the Glory Fires, “Rednecks”

Lee Bains surveys a tapestry of common folks going about their day in Birmingham, Alabama—from the cleaning lady waiting at the bus stop, to the weary warehouse shift worker lighting up a blunt, to the weird-looking kids outside a punk show—and being met with invective and bigotry. In response, he cries out for class consciousness: “Don’t call them trash, buddy, they’re my kinfolk/You ain’t no better than them or anybody else.” A rousing coda colored by twangy guitar licks and Bains’s soulful exhortations underscores the righteousness of his open-hearted and open-minded words. Winograd


43. Black Country, New Road, “The Place Where He Inserted the Blade”

The emotional apex of one of 2022’s most self-evidently masterful albums, Black Country, New Road’s Ants from Up There, “The Place Where He Inserted the Blade” rumbles with desperation. Lead singer Isaac Wood’s guttural vocals are theatrical, not like an aria, but like the most moving of monologues. Equally dramatic is the instrumentation, a gradual accumulation of keys, strings, and horns encircling an impassioned Wood as he sings, “I’ll praise the Lord, burn my house/I get lost, I freak out/You come home and hold me tight/As if it never happened at all.” Mason


42. Bad Bunny, “Tití Me Preguntó”

On the infectious “Tití Me Preguntó,” Bad Bunny answers his auntie’s question about whether he has a girlfriend by enumerating just how many women he has at his beck and call, but his monotonous boasts are cleverly scored by a churning, almost robotic percussive shuffle that indicates that all of the anonymous fucking is starting to bore him. Indeed, he stages a heel turn by the song’s end, declaring that he can never fall in love and doesn’t want to be a mindless lothario anymore. Lyons-Burt

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41. Alvvays, “After the Earthquake”

“After the Earthquake” is prime power-pop jangle, blasting out of the gate like Reckoning-era R.E.M. before, suddenly, everything drops out and we’re left with just muted electric piano and Molly Rankin’s gentle cooing. It’s a brief but profound moment of clarity amid a torrent of chaos and noise—a balance of fire and zen on Rankin’s part that the rest of us can only aspire to. Winograd


40. Kane Brown, “Grand”

There’s a hairline fracture just below the surface of Kane Brown’s crystalline club-pop banger “Grand.” “The voices in my head used to make me wanna break down/Had me hella weighed down,” he sings at the start of the second verse, recasting the song and its good-life parochialisms as an act of willful liberation, a psychological reflection of the stigmatism a half-Black country chart-topper had to struggle against just to embrace the full spectrum of his musical savvy. Sam C. Mac


39. Gunna, “Poochie Gown”

For Gunna’s “Poochie Gown,” superstar beat maker Metro Boomin—along with co-conspirators Southside and Allen Ritter—lift the quivering mandolin filigrees from 2Pac’s “Life of an Outlaw” and refashion them as chilling paranoiac accents amid a menacing atmosphere and thunderous 808s. The Atlanta rapper weaves through the exemplary sonic scenery with more nimbleness than we’ve come to expect from someone known for his slurry phrasing and floating disposition. While it’s strangely tense and propulsive, “Poochie Gown” is also genuinely funny, both in its phonetic spelling of Italian designer Emilio Pucci (which links back to mentor Young Thug’s classic mixtape track “Givenchy”) and because Gunna makes sure to sneak in a totally leftfield and unprovoked Freddie Gibbs diss. Lyons-Burt


38. Cardi B featuring Kanye West and Lil Durk, “Hot Shit”

Cardi B’s “Hot Shit” offers an abundance of her characteristic braggadocio—“Either way you slice it, bottom line, I’m the top bitch/New Chanel, I rock it twice and it ain’t even out yet”—all while referencing pro wrestling finishing moves, Marcia Griffiths’s “Electric Slide,” and 2Pac’s famous bathtub photoshoot. Unsurprisingly, guests Lil Durk and Kanye West deliver as well, the former’s in-your-face energy, and the latter’s laidback, melodic flow complementing the filthy, bass-heavy trap beat. But even among her gifted collaborators, Cardi’s boastful delivery reigns supreme. Barrett

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37. Kehlani, “Wish I Never”

A delight of mixed metaphors—describing romance with cars, card games, and war—Kehlani’s “Wish I Never” expresses a regret for getting involved with a trifling former lover. Yet as its narrator looks back, it slyly gives over to its own forward motion with each passing, cherubically sung verse. There’s an inexplicability to the power of this sneaky, slender R&B number, akin perhaps to the bewilderment that Kehlani—and by extension us—feel about why we got with a partner in the first place. Lyons-Burt


36. Nilüfer Yanya, “Midnight Sun”

The verses of Nilüfer Yanya’s “Midnight Sun” are meant to throw the listener off balance, but its triumphant chorus offers relief, tracking the shift from the destabilizing effects of isolation to the comfort of connection. And still, Yanya doesn’t give us the satisfaction of a rosy outlook, instead opting for slyly profound pessimism: “Love is raised by common thieves/Hiding diamonds up their sleeves/Always I did it for you.” While the song’s underlying intensity is unleashed on the final chorus, with walls of noise enveloping the singer’s tender falsetto, she doesn’t let her guard down, her skepticism remaining as insistent as her ardent love. Mason


35. Jack White featuring Q-Tip, “Hi-De-Ho”

The weirder Jack White gets, the better. On Fear of the Dawn, he remains committed to ensuring that even his most outlandish ideas are synthesized into effective earworms. “Hi-De-Ho,” for instance, assembles a Cab Calloway sample, guest verses by Q-Tip, and a meditative acoustic interlude and somehow manages to make it cohere, thanks in large part to its infectious bassline. Winograd


34. Destroyer, “June”

At their best, Dan Bejar and company twist familiar elements into something unexpected. “June” sounds like an extended dance remix of an ’80s pop hit as imagined by a deranged street corner preacher who has somehow found himself DJing at a nightclub. Bejar decries “fucking idiots someone made in the snow,” croons his way through a heavenly breakdown with some of his signature self-aware wordplay (hilariously, an absurdly literal rhyme of “moon” and “June” is involved), and eventually breaks into a pitch-shifted spoken rant as the band’s silky and controlled groove grows increasingly frenzied. Winograd

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33. Black Sherif, “Kwaku the Traveller”

“Of course I fucked up/Who never fucked up?/Hands in the air/No hands?” Ghanaian drill artist Black Sherif quips on “Kwaku the Traveller.” In a period where we’ve become aware of the amount of awful behavior committed by celebrities but have no consensus about how to enforce accountability, Black Sherif’s tale of a man trying to take responsibility for his actions while still mythologizing himself strikes a potent nerve. Steve Erickson


32. Hercules & Love Affair featuring Anohni, “One”

Andy Butler and Anohni’s “One” is the pièce de résistance of Hercules & Love Affair’s In Amber. It’s a doom-y kind of house music—forceful yet ethereal, done up with flighty woodwinds, a stomping drumbeat, and the insistent ringing of a triangle. Anohni’s theatrical, commanding, and singular vocal articulates every syllable of the enigmatic yet evocative lyrics—“Mouth and volcano, one…feeding upon my own flesh”—whose confounding nature only teases us to return to the song over and over. Lyons-Burt


31. M.I.A. “Zoo Girl”

M.I.A.’s “Zoo Girl,” which leaked online last year as a sedated demo, came out in full force once properly released on Mata. The explosive track sees M.I.A. embracing her status as a self-described “zoo girl straight out the wild, wild East,” before building to an eventual battle cry against all who still doubt her: “Imma start a revolution.” With her flippant attitude and tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, M.I.A. turns what could be a bloody insurrection into one of the more buoyant pop anthems of the year. Paul Attard


30. Imperial Triumphant, “Merkurius Gilded”

New York death metal outfit Imperial Triumphant dug their heels into the Art Deco-draped apocalyptica with which they made their name on Spirit of Ecstasy, taking their metal metropolitanism to new heights on tracks like the towering opus “Merkurius Gilded.” Blending cinematic strings with ferocious blast beats and ghostly choir voices, the song serves as an ambiguous ode to urban development, and all the good and bad that it’s brought with it. “Currency flows through electric streets, feeding the avenues opportunity,” sings Zachary Ezrin, a menacing cacophony blossoming around him. Iconic smooth jazz saxophonist Kenny G and his son, guitarist Max Gorelick, make an appearance during the particularly chaotic middle section, their rapturous chops lending the track an air of twisted, Jazz Age decadence. If there was ever a band that could pull off a stunt like this without resorting to cheap irony, it’s Imperial Triumphant. Barrett

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29. Drive-By Truckers, “Every Single Storied Flameout”

On “Every Single Storied Flameout,” Mike Cooley faces down his own reckoning as he wonders if he even has the right to warn his teenage son against going down the same path. “All those well-intentioned lies that I myself romanticized,” he ponders before realizing, “If I’d been my example I’d be worse.” It’s ironic, then, that a song about fatherhood, responsibility, and the empty and damaging promises spun by generations of guitar slingers is one of the most invigorating blasts of rock ‘n’ roll that the Drive-By Truckers have ever made. No matter how convincingly Cooley begs for resistance, the band’s pummeling guitar attack, anchored by the subtly brilliant drumming of Brad Morgan and topped off with a triumphant horn section, will have you believing the same lies all over again. Winograd


28. Björk, “Atopos”

Björk has described her 10th album, Fossora, as being “about bass, heavy bottom-end…and punchy sub.” But despite the suggestion that she might be returning to dance music, or something like it, the closest thing to clubby here is the adoption of gabber, the percussive hardcore techno subgenre defined by its furious assault of distorted kickdrums. You hear the influence on the album’s opening track, “Atopos,” which features Kasimyn of Indonesian electronic duo Gabber Modus Operandi. Björk and her collaborator curiously tweak gabber’s typical breakneck tempo so that it almost resembles reggaeton, at least until a final intense stretch that speed-ramps the song’s beat and ping-pongs it against a drunk-sounding sextet of bass clarinets. Mac


27. Bigbang, “Still Life”

Bigbang’s “Still Life” is a ravishingly sullen, impeccably melodic slab of orchestral soft rock that pays some lip service to an imagined relationship—“I miss the boy and girl who cried and laughed”—but doesn’t do much else to disguise just how much the song is actually about the boy band itself, its members licking their emotional wounds after a 2019 scandal that resulted in the ouster of one of the quintet’s original founders. “Four seasons with no reason,” sneers G-Dragon, which may leave you wondering if he and his three cohorts are those seasons in question. Leave that to the biographers to sort out, and instead appreciate that however personal “Still Life” feels, it’s always forthcoming with its attempts at catharsis. The song’s cacophony of strutting electric guitar, grandly dramatic piano, crashing drums, and a euphoric singalong all coalesce and gradually build out into something that’s about as close as 2022 came to a platonic ideal of stadium-filling pop. Mac


26. ODESZA featuring Bettye LaVette, “The Last Goodbye”

A soul sample-driven electronic anthem in the mold of Moby’s watershed 1999 album Play, ODESZA’s sprawling “The Last Goodbye” pairs vocals from Betty LaVette’s swooning R&B hit “Let Me Down Easy” with a concoction of funk bass, lush strings, and electro hiccups. LaVette’s voice is given space to flex, but it’s also chopped up and processed throughout the six-minute track, imbuing the singer’s heartfelt performance with a haunting, otherworldly quality. Cinquemani

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25. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Wolf”

A balance between defiance and hope infuses Yeah Yeah Yeahs’s Cool It Down, the band’s first album in nine years. “I’m hungry…I’m lost and lonely,” Karen O sneers over a dark, strutting beat on the simultaneously gritty and sleek “Wolf.” The song, which climaxes with a towering synth riff that takes full possession of your brain, is about trying to hold onto salvation from a brutish world that she’s already found, rather than reveling in that brutality: “Don’t leave me now/Don’t break this spell/In heaven lost my taste for hell.” Winograd


24. Taylor Swift, “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve”

On much of Midnights, Taylor Swift turns her negative emotions toward herself. But “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve,” from the deluxe 3am Edition, finds the monster in someone else. Revising her 2010 song “Dear John,” she directs her anger at a man who took advantage of her youth and naïveté. “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” rages openly, with steadily building guitars and synthesizers as Swift demands, “Give me back my childhood.” Erickson


23. Carly Rae Jepsen, “Western Wind”

Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Western Wind” rides in on a groove of chill keys and conga drums, as the singer enjoys little bursts of energy from her half-recollected memories of a love affair. Like “Call Me Maybe” and “Run Away with Me” before it, “Western Wind” is meant to be felt rather than fully understood, and Jepsen articulates that feeling with the music: Just as things seem to be winding down, Rostam Batmanglij’s billowing electric guitar blows through, and with it the song finds its second wind. Mac


22. Lil Uzi Vert, “Cigarette”

Continuing where 2017’s “Neon Guts,” left off, “Cigarette” is perhaps the first Lil Uzi Vert song that one could call a cool-down jam. The usually hyperactive MC seems to be floating back down to Earth in slow motion, rapping unhurriedly and backed by drums that have some give to them, as dazed voices comfortingly swirl in the background. He seamlessly flows between English and patois—“Just like the river, my neck, it’s gon’ pond up (Pon di river)”—proceeding to interpolate Elephant Man’s “Pon de River, Pon de Bank.” Lyons-Burt

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21. Drake, “Sticky”

It was perhaps inevitable that Drake would one day helm a song written around a cheeky double entendre involving the word “sticky,” but at least when he finally did so on Honestly, Nevermind, he did it with the charisma and forceful determination of this track. Like no other summer smash from 2022, “Sticky” feels like a massive genre-crossing event transpiring in real time, with one of the world’s biggest pop stars gleefully living up to his illustrious title over only the slickest of Baltimore club beats. Attard


20. Craig Finn, “Messing with the Settings”

Craig Finn is one of the most skillful storytellers in rock music, but he’s never penned a narrative that feels as profoundly, heartbreakingly real as “Messing with the Settings.” There’s no Catholic allegory, no killer parties to recount. Finn conversationally recites, rather than sings, the verses, recounting a few random memories of a down-on-their-luck friend that he’d probably rather forget. Like most of Finn’s songs, it’s largely fiction, but this is one instance where the little details are so specific, the characters so finely drawn, and Finn’s delivery so disarmingly free of affect, that one could easily be fooled into thinking otherwise. “Rachel did her best with the deal she’d been dealt/And that’s what I’ve got for a eulogy,” Finn offers, and when the angelic voices of Cassandra Jenkins and Annie Nero enter the mix shortly thereafter to sing Rachel into the afterlife, the deep feeling of loss doesn’t seem remotely faked. Winograd


19. Rosalía, “Saoko”

On Motomami’s more confrontational tracks, Rosalía dabbles with the abrasive sounds characteristic of PC Music artists like Sophie and Charli XCX. But despite this maximalist sonic approach, tracks like the irreverent “Saoko” belie the singer’s introspective and even melancholy lyrical focus. The song finds Rosalía confronting the changes that she’s undergone in the past several years since her rise to fame, deliciously reveling in their contradictions and possibilities: “Cuando pone’ perla’ en el collar de Vivienne/E’ diferente, ya no son perla’.” Thomas Bedenbaugh


18. Bladee & Ecco2k, “5 Star Crest (4 Vattenrum)”

Clocking in at nearly nine minutes, Bladee & Ecco2k’s “5 Star Crest (4 Vattenrum)” is a kaleidoscopic crash course in everything Drain Gang. The shimmering five-part odyssey finds our two Eurydice-like leads praising natural beauty in a world consumed by ego, while paying tribute to Vattenrum, a Drain Gang associate who passed away in 2019. Throughout this progressive cloud-rap epic, they both directly reference church cantatas, the Noble Truths of Buddhism, and the Mahabharata, before closing on two separate mantras: “Death is beautiful,” as cooed by a blissed-out Bladee, and “I love you,” as murmured shortly after by a bashful Ecco2k. Attard

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17. Big Thief, “Simulation Swarm”

On the cusp of indie stardom, Big Thief turned inward and dragged an 8-track recorder to a cabin in the woods for a jam session. “Simulation Swarm” is the most immediately accessible song on their double album, New Warm Dragon I Believe in You. Acoustic guitars and drums establish a steady groove. Adrianne Lenker’s lyrics are cryptic and deeply personal, but the yearning to embrace the brother, given up for adoption by her mother, she’s never met courses through her performance and ripples to the surface. Erickson


16. Alex G, “Miracles”

This stripped-down take on faith, fatherhood, and life as an artist feels like a respite from the serpentine experimentalism of Alex G’s God Save the Animals. “You and me, we got better pills than ecstasy,” he sings, referring to “miracles and crosses.” The song’s belief in love, forgiveness, and empathy is deeply affecting: A lyric like “Baby, I pray for the children and the sinners and the animals too, and I pray for you” is a powerful sentiment in a world where empathy often seems to be in short supply. Barrett


15. Zach Bryan, “Something in the Orange”

Although country singer Zach Bryan released almost three hours of new music this year, including the two-hour American Heartbreak and the EP Summertime Blues, he’s best taken in small doses. But that’s not a slight. The percussion-free “Something in the Orange” shrugs off obvious genre signifiers, stripping heartbreak down to the essentials: staring at headlights that turn into a sunset as the singer faces an even lonelier future—one that seems unimaginable in the moment. Erickson


14. Caroline Polachek, “Billions”

The successor to “Bunny Is a Rider,” her slinky ode to independence from last year, is an understated exhibit of Caroline Polachek’s vocal prowess and increasingly brilliant, if oblique, lyricism. The singer-songwriter renders modern romance with a painterly touch and a timbre that captures the thrill of lust, singing of “Sexting sonnets…tangled in cables.” Then the song makes its boldest and most unexpected move, swapping out its Danny L Harle-assisted alt-R&B instrumentation for a choral outro. Much like the giggling baby on “Bunny Is a Rider” and the lyrics about loss of innocence on Polachek’s most recent single, “Sunset,” the youth choir here brings a purity and naïveté that do not undermine, but rather underscore her desire. Mason

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13. Yeah Yeah Yeahs featuring Perfume Genius, “Spitting Off the Edge of the World”

“Spitting Off the Edge of the World” at first sounds almost like Yeah Yeah Yeahs’s version of doom metal, unfurling at an agonizingly slow crawl with a crushing, dissonant synth drone. But then Karen O offers a harsh whisper of “And the kids cry out…” before launching into a fist-raising chorus. “Never had no chance/Nowhere to hide,” she sings, ostensibly lamenting the seemingly insurmountable nature of the various crises the modern world faces, but doing so with Gen-Z-inspired defiance and even hopefulness rather than Gen-X doomerism. Winograd


12. Soccer Mommy, “Shotgun”

Soccer Mommy’s gossamer indie rock and Oneohtrix Point Never’s cinematic electronic music are at first glance an incongruous pairing, but “Shotgun” proves their collaboration to be effortlessly dreamy. Likening her eager devotion to a loaded weapon, the singer transforms an image that threatens violence into a vision of endearment. While the verses are portentous and deceptively calm, with a guitar riff that slinks like a tuxedo-clad figure in a Bob Fosse routine, the chorus fires off into a gauzy, deeply layered earworm that invites—no, demands—infinite listens. Mason


11. Mitski, “Love Me More”

“Love Me More” feels like an assemblage of Mitski’s best songwriting tricks: Combine the yearning repetition of “I Bet on Losing Dogs” (“My baby, my baby/You’re my baby, say it to me”), the indelible synths of “Why Didn’t You Stop Me” and “Nobody,” and the climactic catharsis of “Your Best American Girl,” “Geyser,” and “Carry Me Out”—any number of her best songs, really—and you get pop that’s rich in desire. Mitski has continued to grow as a vocalist, and her performance lands somewhere between the rawness of the indie rocker we know her to be and the bravado of a Broadway diva. Mason


10. The Beths, “Expert in a Dying Field”

The Beths’s Expert in a Dying Field is bookended by songs that serve as a woozy, insomniatic recollection of good times long gone, as if half-remembered from a dream. But singer Liz Stokes doesn’t sound bitter. On the album’s title track, her voice glides smoothly into her upper register, producing an oddly soothing effect as she ruminates, “And I can close the door on us/But the room still exists.” She can’t just lock those painful, messy parts of herself away, as they’ll always be there. Winograd

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9. Lil Baby, “Right On”

Over a typically spectral and epic-sounding ATL Jacob beat, Lil Baby spits a run-on-sentence equivalent of a rap song, rushing through the track’s hook to get straight back into the next verse of rude, charismatic bragging. If it’s not the most lyrical of Baby’s songs, it’s one of the most formally satisfying—a tight-as-a-drum flex that, divorced of the streaming era bloat that a full-length rap album seems to necessitate, proves just how breathlessly captivating his rhyme schemes and preening vocals can be at their most concise and unencumbered. Mac


8. Ethel Cain, “American Teenager”

On its surface, Ethel Cain’s “American Teenager” is a swaggering, anthemic pop song, with huge drums and vocals drowned in reverb, that could play alongside Taylor Swift on Top 40 radio. But the contrast between the song’s lyrics (in which girls get drunk to attend church services they don’t believe in and jocks join the army only to return home in a coffin), melody, and production creates dissonance. It’s a corrosive bop. Erickson


7. Sudan Archives, “Home Maker”

“Home Maker” begins by cycling through a number of different drumbeats before it locates its preferred tempo, which is brisker than devotees of Sudan Archives have come to expect from the American artist. The lyrics find Archives, née Brittney Parks, trying to make a partner feel comfortable at home while impressing upon them her status as the “baddest bitch,” but her tone quickly shifts into pleading desperation. “Don’t you feel at home when I wait on you?…Now that we’re alone, don’t you feel better?” she chant-sings as handclaps sound off like an anxious twitch. When Parks’s signature violin finally swoops in at the tail-end of the track, it feels like the Sudan Archives that fans have known all along—and we finally feel at home. Lyons-Burt


6. Hikaru Utada, “Somewhere Near Marseilles”

How far away from London is Paris? About 200 miles, give or take. Yet, on the groovy and globe-trotting “Somewhere Near Marseilles,” Hikaru Utada and producer Floating Points prove that the distance between these two cultural capitals—and, by proxy, between two lost souls longing for human connection—is all but negligible. Especially when meeting halfway, perhaps “somewhere near Marseilles,” becomes an available option. Attard

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5. Jnr Choi, “To the Moon”

One of the few U.K. hip-hop songs ever to become a major hit in the U.S. (no doubt helped by a remix featuring Gunna), “To the Moon” lives up to its name, floating by on hazy percussion and a sample of Sam Tompkins covering Bruno Mars’s “Talking to the Moon.” Tompkins’s extended, warbly “oooo” matches up perfectly with the track’s stuttering drums to create an uncanny ambience. Out of the three versions, the drill remix (featuring Fivio Foreign, G Herbo, M24, and Russ Millions) stands out, balancing posse-cut energy with the original’s spaciness. Erickson


4. Lil Yachty, “Poland”

Harkening back to the rapper’s early days, Lil Yachty’s unlikely viral hit “Poland” evokes the simple and addictive cloud rap that first earned him a cult following. The immediacy of the not-quite-90-second track, coupled with the now-iconic vibrato yodel on the hook, is infectious and mysterious in equal measure, the inscrutability heightened by its fleeting, temporary aura. The tune sticks around for exactly one verse and two hooks before retreating back into the ether it spawned from, but the sparse allure of Yachty’s romantic cough-syrup psychedelia is the stuff that the repeat function was designed for. Barrett


3. Oliver Sim, “Hideous”

Oliver Sim’s solo debut, Hideous Bastard, marks a second coming out for the openly gay singer-songwriter: When the single “Hideous” dropped back in May, the xx singer-bassist revealed that he’s been HIV-positive for 14 years. “Radical honesty might set me free,” he sings on the track. “Been living with HIV since 17.” His rich, emotive voice and anguished vulnerability are complemented by a stripped-down arrangement of whining synth tones and warm strings and a stirring bridge in which Bronski Beat’s Jimmy Somerville serves as a guardian angel. Erickson


2. Taylor Swift, “Anti-Hero”

On what sounds most like a pop radio hit than anything Taylor Swift has released in years, producer Jack Antonoff creates a purposeful contrast between the song’s verses and chorus, which opens with one of the singer-songwriter’s most memorable and meme-able lines: “It’s me. Hi. I’m the problem, it’s me.” Antonoff downplays the verses, which admittedly scan like undergrad poetry, and punches up the chorus, leaning into what Swift does best: pop hooks that ooze pathos and bathos in equal measure. Jonathan Keefe


1. Beyoncé, “Break My Soul”

Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul” marks, if not a cultural reset—a term that’s been rendered meaningless in its ubiquity—at least a musical shift for the R&B icon. The song samples liberally from both Robin S.’s 1993 hit “Show Me Love” and Big Freedia’s “Explode,” following in the tradition of ’90s house music with a driving kick drum, bouncy keyboards, and gospel flourishes. Lyrically, the song finds Beyoncé revisiting the familiar theme of self-empowerment—“Motivation/I done found me a new foundation/And I’m taking my new salvation/And imma build my own foundation”—as Big Freedia hypes, “Release your anger/Release your mind,” throughout. Emblematic of early house music’s sampladelic pedigree, “Break My Soul” serves as literal and figurative fashion plate, as evidenced by myriad mash-ups like the clever “Queens Remix,” featuring Madonna’s “Vogue.” Cinquemani

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