This year was a big one for name-brand pop stars, and out-of-the-blue success stories — some of which made songs from the not-so-recent past ever present in the here and now.
The best-of song list below contains its fair share of superstars like Harry Styles and Kendrick Lamar along with personal favorites, Philly standouts and 2022 discoveries of mine, some of which will hopefully also be new to you, dear reader and listener.
The tracks are numbered, but not ranked. The 28 songs are sequenced as a playlist below. Feel free to hit shuffle though, I won't be offended.
1. Steve Lacy, "Bad Habit": One of the most heartening musical stories was the rise of this angular nugget from Steve Lacy, the alt-R&B and hip-hop guitarist and singer. TikTok fueled it, with scads of memes being built around its self-critical hook: "I bite my lip, it's a bad habit."
2. Sudan Archives, "Home Maker": On her album "Natural Brown Prom Queen," songwriter-producer-violinist Brittney Denise Parks nurtures a creative environment. "Won't you step inside my lovely cottage, feels so green, it feels like f— magic." It does.
3. Beyoncé, "Break My Soul (The Queens Remix)": Beyoncé followed up the initial version of this song of resilience by mashing it up with Madonna's "Vogue," with new lyrics that shout out Black women in music history including Philadelphians Tierra Whack, Jill Scott and Santigold.
4. Rosalía, "Despechá": A hyper-infectious hybrid of mambo, meringue and electropop that typifies the frisky risk-taking that makes the Catalan avant-pop singer so thrilling.
5. Harry Styles, "As It Was": The song that Lacy knocked off of No. 1 (after 12 weeks) is this synthy confection from Styles. The breeziness masks the melancholy: "In this world, it's just us/ You know it's not the same as it was."
6. Bad Bunny, "Ojitos Lindos": The Made in America headliner who turned Jay-Z's annual Labor Day music festival into a Latin dance party was a dominant force in 2022. For the third year in a row, he's the most streamed artist in the world. "Ojitos Lindos" is a collaboration with Colombian psychedelic cumbia duo Bomba Estéreo, a lively electrofusion romance.
7. Wet Leg, "Ur Mum": "When I think about what you've become," Rhian Teasdale sings, "I feel sorry for your mum." Even when putting an ex-friend down, few musicians sounded like they were having as much fun as Teasdale and her partner, Hester Chambers, who went from Isle of Wight obscurity to indie pop sensations.
8. Kendrick Lamar, "N95": The most propulsive and biting track on "Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers." It's not COVID-19 masks the Compton rapper wants us to take off — it's the self-deceiving lies he hopes we can shed, to find a measure of peace.
9. The Beths, "When You Know You Know": A subtle consideration of doubt and fate from the New Zealand indie band's "Expert In A Dying Field."
10. Pusha T, "Diet Coke": Yet another taut, on-point drug rap, from the rock-solid "It's Almost Dry." The song features production from Kanye West, whose antisemitic rhetoric Pusha has criticized.
11. Tyler Childers, "Can I Take My Hounds To Heaven?": The title track to Kentucky country singer Childers' 2022 triple album.
12. Weyes Blood, "It's Not Just Me, It's Everybody": Los Angeles songwriter Natalie Mering ponders big questions about interconnectivity and isolation. From the sumptuous "And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow."
13. Pillbox Patti, "Eat Pray Drugs": Country songwriter Nicolette Hayford uses her Pillbox Patti alter ego to write unvarnished hip-hop friendly songs about small town life. "Here's the church, here's the steeple," she sings, "Becky dropped out, graduated to the needle."
14. Taylor Swift, "Anti-Hero": The centerpiece of "Midnights," Swift's return to unabashed pop after the bucolic "Folklore" and "Evermore." Self-doubt is lurking, adulthood is getting complicated. "It's me," Swift sings, "I'm the problem, it's me."
15. Alex G, "Runner": An addictive earworm from Philly indie hero Alex Giannascoli's "God Save The Animals." It starts earnest and nice — "I like people who I can open up to" — then takes a sinister turn.
16. Kate Bush, "Running Up That Hill": Thanks to the Netflix teen drama "Stranger Things," Kate Bush's 1985 synth driven "Hounds of Love" track became a song of the summer, 37 years later.
17. Robyn, "Dancing On My Own": Swedish alt-pop star Robyn's 2010 song of longing was a gay anthem long before it became the soundtrack to the Philadelphia Phillies' World Series run. Sorry, Calum Scott: I'm going with Robyn's original, superior version.
18. Ibibio Sound Machine, "Protection From Evil": The electronic Afrobeat band teams with English production crew Hot Chip as British Nigerian singer Eno Williams chants about what she really wants.
19. Burna Boy, "Last Last": A kinetic burner from the Nigerian pop star who calls his cross-cultural sound "Afro-Fusion."
20. GloRilla with Cardi B, "Tomorrow 2": The Memphis rapper's rapid ascent is underscored by Cardi B on this follow-up to "F.N.F." (Let's Go)," her equally good breakout debut with Hitkidd.
21. Charli XCX, "Baby": British songwriter Charli XCX has had success writing grabby pop hits for Icona Pop and Selena Gomez. Here she distills her own music to its dance-pop essence.
22. Diana Ross and Tame Impala, "Turn Up The Sunshine": A blissed out 1970s disco homage from the unlikely duo of the Motown great and Kevin Parker of Australian psych band Tame Impala, produced by Jack Antonoff, for the soundtrack to "Minions: The Rise of Gru."
23. Bonnie Raitt, "Just Like That": A tearjerker about a woman who meets the man who received her late son's heart in a transplant. A reminder that Raitt, who often records other musicians' songs, is a powerful writer.
24. Billie Eilish, "TV": A hushed, intimate confidence, partly inspired by watching the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial. "The internet's going wild watching movie stars on trial, while they're overturning Roe v. Wade."
25. Armani White, "BILLIE EILISH.": The West Philly rapper's hit isn't so much an ode to the titular singer as much as it is an appreciation of what baggy clothes could conceal.
26. Spoon, "The Hardest Cut": Tight, inventive single from "Lucifer on the Sofa," yet another uncommonly consistent effort from Britt Daniel-led Austin, Texas, rock outfit.
27. Nikki Lane, "First High": The Nashville singer-songwriter chases thrills in hopes of matching the kick of teenage self discovery, though she knows she'll never quite get there.
28. Angel Olsen, "Big Time": On "Big Time," Olsen leans into country as she chronicles coming out as queer and grieving for her parents. "I'm loving you big time," she sings with new clarity. "I'm loving you more."