Which tracks got you going in 2022? It was a year of big dance anthems, celebrations of the world’s new-found freedom, and melancholic gems that wrestled with the lingering anxiety of the last few years. If you feel like you missed out on new music in 2022, we guarantee there’ll be a song you will like amongst these: the best tracks of the year, as voted by The Forty-Five writers.
45. piri & tommy – ‘On & On’
TikTok stars turned IRL hype favourites piri & tommy’s first single of 2022 cemented their knack for bringing UK garage-inspired beats into the modern age. Lacing relatably shit-faced lyrics (“Big night, lost my weed, but the beat goes on and on and on and on…”) over the sort of track that neatly lined the pair up alongside fellow d’n’b-acolyte PinkPantheress, 2023, you suspect, should see piri & tommy achieving similar levels of success. Alison Craig.
44. NIKI – ‘High School in Jakarta’
On the surface, NIKI’s ‘High School In Jakarta’ is a simple encapsulation of teen years gone by – tales of friendship, young love and regretful dye jobs. But each listen unravels new layers to the musician’s story, punctuated by lyricism so brilliant it’ll absolutely floor you (“High school in Jakarta, American summer / Had no chance against the Marxist girl with marijuana”, a great case in point). Rhian Daly.
43. Wallice – ‘Little League’
A neuroses-filled dissection of her fears and flaws (competitiveness, over-anxiety and the rest of the all-too-familiar set), ‘Little League’ was the flip-side to the confidence and ambition that filled much of 2022 EP ‘’90s American Superstar’. Swelling from glitchy mumbles to a cathartic exhalation on the chorus, it posited the LA singer as a distinctly relatable author: riddled with contradictions and able to translate them with gusto. Alison Craig.
42. Flowerovlove – ‘Hannah Montana’
A carefree, summer ode to the double life of being both a 16-year-old student and a buzzy hype artist, running round the globe strutting in fashion shows, ‘Hannah Montana’ would have been insufferably smug were it not so charming. Such is the beauty, however, of Flowerovlove – an artist who already makes the kind of breezy, effortless music that Hilary Duff could only dream of. Alison Craig.
41. Kehlani – ‘Any Given Sunday
On ‘Any Given Sunday’, one of the highlights from Kehlani’s third studio album ‘Blue Water Road’, the R&B singer exhibited total control and confidence over a laidback instrumental. “Call me daddy in front of all your bitches in the lobby,” they sang, effortlessly playing with gender roles in a subtly empowering way. Rhian Daly.
40. Lime Garden – ‘Marbles’
The only new track to come from the Brighton quartet this year, ‘Marbles’ picked quality over quantity, showing a Warpaint-esque knack for gauzy melody before descending into a deft and catchy chorus that made slowly losing your mind sound remarkably fun. Yet again, it was proof that Lime Garden’s bag of tricks were many and varied. Alison Craig.
39. Let’s Eat Grandma – ‘Happy New Year’
Steeped in that uniquely end-of-year mix of nostalgia and potential, ‘Happy New Year’ used Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingsworth’s lifelong friendship as the backbone for a track that bottled both feelings – creating something sweet and sepia-tinged, but full of joy at the same time. Kicking off an album filled with heartbreak and loss, it was a moment of pure happiness. Alison Craig.
38. Enny – ‘Champagne Problems’
As one of the most exciting newer voices in UK hip hop, Enny has provided a consistent stream of razor-sharp singles since her breakout track ‘Peng Black Girls’ in 2020. Speaking of this year’s ‘Champagne Problems’, the rapper noted “It’s nice to just get back to freestyling and rapping as an art” and that is exactly what made it such an exceptional release. Aside from the slick and smooth instrumentals, the track placed Enny’s rapid-fire wordplay and immense lyricism front and centre. Arusa Qureshi.
37. Lizzo – ‘About Damn Time’
Following up turbo-smash album ‘’Cos I Love You’, endlessly struttable comeback anthem ‘About Damn Time’ both nodded to the hype and catwalked all over it. Picking up the empowering mantle that Lizzo’s become queen of, it took a ‘70s funk-filled swagger and proved that you can be vulnerable and extremely fierce at the same time: “I’ve been so down and under pressure/ I’m way too fine to feel this stressed.” Alison Craig.
36. Aespa – ‘Girls’
With their impeccable choreography and A.I. aesthetics, Aespa are fast rising through the K-Pop ranks. 2022 single ‘Girls’ threw a little Nu-metal into their eclectic mix, with a stomping girl power chorus that sounds like Destiny’s Child if they’d spent all their spare time hanging around their local skatepark in the early noughties. What’s not to love? Jenessa Williams.
35. Charli XCX & Rina Sawayama – ‘Beg For You’
A much-anticipated chance to hear two of pop’s biggest left-field innovators join forces – with the bonus of a ‘Cry For You’ interpolation by September – ‘Beg For You’ wasn’t the girlboss middle finger to an ex that such a collab might suggest, instead finding the stars in a vulnerable place of yearning for departing lovers (“Don’t you leave me this way / Don’t make me beg for you”). Hollie Geraghty.
34. NoSo – ‘Parasites’
The opening track from Abby Hwong’s rich and luscious debut ‘Stay Proud of Me’, ‘Parasites’’ airy vocals and echoey drums landed like if Lucy Dacus decided to go down an ‘90s Sinead O’Connor wormhole. An effective paean to living your truth, its lyrics, meanwhile, burrowed down to the essence of honesty: “It’s your life/ Take off the drag… It’s so lovely to meet you again”. Alison Craig.
33. Florence + The Machines – ‘King’
Perfectly capturing the opposing pulls of career vs family, the lead single from Florence’s fifth album was a strong, potent flag planted in the ground for any 30-something woman grappling with the choices in front of them. Crowning herself with a traditionally male position of power, it found the star shaking off the shackles of expectation with guts and gusto: “I am no mother/ I am no bride/ I am king.” Alison Craig.
32. Megan Thee Stallion – ‘Plan B’
Jumping on a ballsy 90s west-coast flow, ‘Plan B’ was part diss track (“the only accolade you ever made is that I fucked you”) part rallying reminder to always maintain self-worth. “Ladies, love yourself/cause this shit could get ugly,” she warned, taking on a bolshy big-sister role. Would we expect anything less from the Hot Girl coach? Jenessa Williams.
31. Holly Humberstone – London Is Lonely’
Holly Humberstone kicked off 2022 in brilliant, if melancholy, form with ‘London Is Lonely’, an ode to feeling isolated in the big city. Sonically perfect for wintry wanderings reflecting on brighter days, it cemented the rising star’s place as one of the UK’s most incisive and exciting talents. Rhian Daly.
30. Sky Ferreira – ‘Don’t Forget’
While fans are still waiting for Ferreira’s long-delayed second album ‘Masochism’, the artist’s first song in three years was a cinematic synth-rock moment, powerfully pairing ascending horns and pounding drums to mark a purposeful comeback – a track that wouldn’t be out of place at the end of a John Hughes flick. Hollie Geraghty.
29. Tomberlin – ‘Happy Accident’
Tomberlin sought some clarity over an ambiguous relationship on ‘Happy Accident’, taken from their second album, ‘I Don’t Know Who Needs To Hear This’. Over buddy, Cass McCombs electric guitar, the song builds from woozy grunge track to rousing indie anthem, an impossibly infectious riff providing the backbone to the song’s almost six minutes. Charlotte Gunn.
28. Confidence Man – ‘Holiday’
Everyone’s favourite two-man Aussie dance troupe, Confidence Man, dropped heady beach party bop ‘Holiday’, this year and nothing, we repeat nothing, has ever made us want to spin around, arms wide, on the sand as much as this track. You can practically smell the Ambre Solaire. Charlotte Gunn.
27. Billie Eilish – ‘TV’
“The internet’s gone wild watching movie stars on trial/ While they’re overturning Roe v. Wade“, sang Billie over FINNEAS’ pared-back acoustic guitar. It’s rare that you get art that reflects the real world at the pace of this track, but first debuted at her Glastonbury headline slot – on the night of the Roe V Wade ruling – Billie proved yet again to be a pop star with an awareness of what’s really important outside of chart hits and streaming numbers. Charlotte Gunn
26. DEJA – ‘Mulan’
Birmingham’s DEJA presented her own take on the legendary Disney character with her first track of 2022, ‘Mulan’. “Much like Mulan, DEJA will ignore all rules to stand up for what she believes in,” she explained of the feisty R&B/pop song. “Long story short, don’t get in a bad bitches way.” Arusa Qureshi
25. Special Interest – ‘(Herman’s) House’
The breakthrough track that brought New Orleans’ Special Interest to a wider audience, ‘(Herman’s) House’ was the 2022 update of ‘House of Jealous Lovers’ (aka one of the greatest indie disco songs of all time) that we all sorely needed. The twist? Lyrically, it was about Black revolutionary Herman Wallace, but whether you engaged on a deeper level or just revelled in its filthy sonic throb, there was oh so much to love. Alison Craig.
24. IAMDDB – ‘Fucked Uppp’
Manchester rapper IAMDDB returned in 2022 with a track that perfectly encapsulated her fiery energy and always on-point bars. ‘Fucked Uppp’ is an anthem aimed at the haters and enemies, with particular vitriol directed at the industry and men who disrespect women. Arusa Qureshi.
23. Phoebe Green – ‘Crying In The Club’
Pushing her burgeoning electronic pop sensibilities a further ten leagues on from the indie roots that defined her early career, on ‘Crying In The Club’ Manchester’s Phoebe Green answered the question of what an MGMT track redefined for a nihilist Gen Z audience would sound like. The answer, it seemed, was a banger but y’know, a fraught one. Alison Craig.
22. Phoebe Bridgers – ‘Sidelines’
Written in the throes of her – if you’re to believe the internet – now defunct relationship with Paul Mescal, ‘Sidelines’ was the most-straight-up love song we’d heard from Phoebe in a while. “Watch the world from the sidelines/ Had nothing to prove/ ‘Til you came into my life/ Gave me something to lose“, she sang about the type of love that builds you up and urges you to succeed. Charlotte Gunn.
21. Dolores Forever – ‘Funeral’
A delicious slice of synth-pop might not be everybody’s funeral choice, but for Hannah Wilson and Julia Fabrin (aka Dolores Forever), the best way to soothe an unhealthy fixation on friendship is to conjure up the kind of fist-pumper that recalls the rush of Dua Lipa’s megabop ‘Physical’. With their debut EP on the way in 2023, they’re doing a pretty good job of sounding very much alive. Jenessa Williams
20. Grace Ives – ‘Loose’
‘Loose’ was Grace Ives’ first new single since her 2019 album ‘2nd’ and also her first since signing to True Panther/Harvest. Co-produced by Yves Tumor/Charli XCX/Sky Ferreira collaborator Justin Raisen, it provided a taste of the pop mastery that would be found in the New York songwriter’s second album ‘Janky Star’.
19. Weyes Blood – ‘It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody’
Weyes Blood’s Natalie Maring has long been considering the end of the world but on ‘It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody’, she can say with confidence that she’s not the only one. A beautiful gift to all those struggling or feeling lost in this world, it’s an anthem of unity at a time when we all need it. Charlotte Gunn.
18. Caroline Polachek – ‘Billions’
Caroline Polachek’s ability to create otherworldly music is her superpower. On the hyperpop, ethereal masterpiece that is ‘Billions’, she questions love and capitalism over Danny L Harle’s epic production, proving yet again, that she’s in a lane of her own. We cannot wait for the album. Charlotte Gunn.
17. FLO – ‘Cardboard Box’
British trio FLO are representative of a thrilling new generation of R&B-influenced girl groups, and with their debut single ‘Cardboard Box’ (produced by MNEK), they proved that their formula works. Reminiscent of the music of 90s groups like Destiny’s Child and 3LW and with sassy lyrics about cheating partners, ‘Cardboard Box’ was a punchy and soulful introduction to FLO’s sound. Arusa Qureshi.
16. Doechii – ‘Persuasive’
If it’s not a baller enough move to make your major label debut with a slinky ode to the seductive power of smoking a fat ol’ joint, then future-queen-of-everything Doechii followed up the OG ‘Persuasive’ with a slam dunk: recruiting SZA to guest on a second version. If the track itself seemed decidedly more chill than some of the Florida rapper’s previous offerings meanwhile then, well, we told you what it was about, right? Alison Craig.
15. Sudan Archives – ‘NBPQ (Topless)’
Sudan Archives is a wholly singular talent, recognised for her amalgamation of hip hop, electronic and otherworldly pop, as well as her skills as a violinist. The reflective ‘NBPQ (Topless)’, the second track on her sophomore album ‘Natural Brown Prom Queen’, included these trademark elements, with handclapped-rhythms, sporadic violin crescendos and a choral break underlining her multifaceted aspirations.
14. Wet Leg – ‘Ur Mum’
“I’ve been practising my longest and loudest scream,” informed Rhian Teasdale on this debut album standout, before deploying a hefty yell not normally associated with someone wearing a cottagecore tea-dress. And such is the idiosyncratic genius of Wet Leg – subtle weirdos who can sweetly tell you to “suck my dick” in a song so undeniably infectious and joyful, your actual mum was probably humming along to it all summer in the car. Alison Craig.
13. The Big Moon – ‘Wide Eyes’
“All your world looks small when you’re standing 10 feet tall,” Juliette Jackson sang on ‘Wide Eyes’, an ode to her new baby and the magic of becoming a mum. Her bandmates reinforced her words with melodies that gently rise from a glittering glide to soaring high into the stratosphere. Rhian Daly
12. Samia – ‘Kill Her, Freak Out’
“I hope you marry the girl from your hometown/ and I’ll fucking kill her, and I’ll fucking freak out”. Vocalising her darkest (and most terrifying) internal thoughts, Samia’s return with a new confidence to speak her mind was a sign of great things to come. With her second album, ‘Honey’ due for release in January, the indie star is building on her already cult fanbase, one freakout at a time. Charlotte Gunn.
11. Shygirl – ‘Shlut’
The alluring ‘Shlut’ from Shygirl’s full-length debut ‘Nymph’ was the final taste we were given of the album, providing an empowering anthem of sexuality and desire. The Sega Bodega and Bloodpop production coupled with Shygirl’s brazen messages of sexual liberation made it a jewel in the crown that is ‘Nymph’. Arusa Qureshi.
10. Rina Sawayama – ‘This Hell’
A perfect pop song should be many things: an immediate earworm; a true moment in pop culture; a track that feels timeless and yet oh-so-now. The cowboy-stomping, Paris Hilton-referencing ‘This Hell’ was all these things and more; a classic ‘90s Kylie-esque effervescent anthem, riddled with easter egg moments and a backbone of queer pride. It was, ironically, pure heaven. Alison Craig.
9. Paramore – ‘This Is Why’
After five years away, Paramore returned in October with ‘This Is Why’. Subscribing to the same hooky synth-pop of 2017 album, ‘After Laughter’, was a song about avoiding the world outside, Hayley Williams, explaining that the band’s pandemic downtime was essential for their mental health. With a jumbo tour and a new album on the way in 2023, it was an enticing sign of things to come. Charlotte Gunn.
8. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – ‘Spitting Off The Edge Of The World’
Proving that they can do sweeping sonic grandeur just as well as antsy punk fun, never have Yeah Yeah Yeahs sounded more transcendent than on this Perfume Genius-featuring first cut from ‘Cool It Down’. Tackling big themes of climate panic with resilience and a fist held high, its slow burn defiance felt weighty and important: a call to arms from three of music’s finest. Alison Craig.
7. Taylor Swift – ‘Anti-Hero’
For an artist who so often plays with themes of revenge, ‘Anti-Hero’ is Taylor Swift looking inwards, truly breaking the fourth wall. From the nod to the impossible “sexy baby” dichotomy that the entertainment industry promotes, right up to the Tik-Tok optimised brilliance of “it’s me, hi”, this was Taylor at her self-deprecating best, reflecting on her own insecurities while also proffering wider food for thought. Jenessa Williams.
6. Jockstrap – ‘Greatest Hits’
A standout within an album full of them, ‘Greatest Hits’ showcased Jockstrap’s boundaryless cut-and-paste approach with giddy abandon, cribbing an ‘80s sample, lacing it with strings and old-school grandeur, popping in a theatrical monologue that references Marie Antoinette and Madonna in the same breath and making the whole thing sound groove-laden and effortless. It might have been a potentially lofty title, but ‘Greatest Hits’ lived up to its name. Alison Craig.
5. Sam Smith & Kim Petras – ‘Unholy’
Arguably 2022’s answer to ‘Montero (Call Me By Your Name)’, ‘Unholy’ was not only a solid gold banger that wore its lust for all to see, it also presented Sam Smith in an entirely new light – bringing Kim Petras on board to lure out the formerly-beige star’s naughty side. Undulating and fuelled by a choir-bolstered chorus that’ll cause many pearls to be clutched in Sunday service, let’s hope it marked the start of a whole new blasphemous era. Alison Craig.
4. Femes – ‘Voices’
London-based Finnish-Taiwanese newcomer FEMES (AKA Elina Lin), blew our minds with the soaring ‘VOICES’ – her debut solo release. Previously a touring keyboardist for Courteeners, the rousing synth-pop track is a world away from the band’s indie belters. August’s ‘A Shadow Of Dreams’ EP, showed further promise from an exciting new talent. Charlotte Gunn.
3. Beyoncé – ‘Cuff It’
“I feel like falling in love / I’m in the mood to fuck something up,” Beyoncé sings at the start of what was arguably one of 2022’s most dance-floor ready, disco anthems. The fourth track on ‘Renaissance’, with guest songwriting from Nile Rodgers, was the ultimate fun, carefree and intoxicating party song. Arusa Qureshi.
2. SZA – ‘Kill Bill’
Fame may not sit comfortably with SZA, but she better get used to it if she insists on dropping tracks as good as the Tarantino-inspired ‘Kill Bill’. “I might kill my ex, not the best idea/ His new girlfriend’s next, how’d I get here?” SZA asks. Much like Samia’s ‘Kill Her, Freak Out’, it’s a song that vocalises the record-breaking star’s darkest, innermost thoughts with buttery-sweet perfection. Charlotte Gunn.
1. Ethel Cain – ‘American Teenager’
If not for it being released as a single, this burst of Southern sunshine would’ve come as quite a surprise on Cain’s (real name Hayden Silas Anhedönia) moody debut album ‘Preacher’s Daughter’. A nostalgic, stadium-sized anthem about the futility of the American Dream, ‘American Teenager’ showed just how high the enigmatic artist could soar. Hollie Geraghty
Listen to our tracks of the year on this playlist