in ,

Top 10 Songs of 2022

Kendrick Lamar in the The Heart Pt. 5 video

Following up my top 10 albums of the year list, it’s perhaps easier to single out the best individual songs of the year, as one doesn’t have to weigh entire tracklists against each other. Each of the songs on this list had just a few minutes to, in a single stroke, explore the emotions and ideas the artist was grappling with and emerge as rewarding, exciting, moving and perfectly formed individual works of art, and the 10 I’ve singled out for this list are the ones that achieved this better than any other songs I heard this year. 

I listened to each of these songs on repeat as I wrote about them, and it was always so hard to move onto the next one, and got progressively harder to believe there was a better song than this one still to cover.

10. “Good Will Hunting” by Black Country New Road

Black Country New Road’s sophomore album Ants From Up There narrowly missed out on my top 10 albums of the year. I mentioned wrestling with that number ten spot and the reason was that despite having highlights more rewarding and replayable than any song on the album that replaced it, Ants From Up There had as broad a dynamic range as any album I heard this year and sadly, the lows captivated me less than the highs. Those highs include some of the best tracks of the year though, including “Chaos Space Marine” which might have taken this spot had it not dropped as a single in the waning weeks of 2021, the album’s spine-prickling climax “Snow Globes”, and this, my favorite and most replayed song from the album, “Good Will Hunting”. 

Telling an anguished tale of a relationship that was likely a lot less significant to the woman involved than to the male narrator, “Good Will Hunting” follows this man as he descends into a spiral of self-delusion, over-romanticizing their every interaction and convincing himself she’s just waiting for his call. The delicate harmonies, chugging rising drumbeat, arpeggiated acoustic riffs and above all the unhinged dramatic vocals portray a doomed romantic personality in free-fall, and boast some of the album’s most memorable and quotable lyrics too. With imagery ranging from the cosmic to the fleetingly domestic, “Good Will Hunting” explores the full dynamic range of Ants From Up There, encapsulating everything great about the album in a single track.

9. “Selfish Soul” by Sudan Archives

Sudan Archives’s progressive and experimental R&B album Natural Brown Prom Queen took a mainstream and traditionalist genre and brought it to its knees, reshaping it as she sought to wield it in a fresh, wild and emancipatory fashion. Like many black women, she’s experienced the ways social pressure and anxiety localize on her hair of all things. “Selfish Soul” is an original, breathtakingly fun and cathartic satirization and rejection of the insecurity society enforces on black women, singing “stay hair, stay straight though we feel ashamed, by the curls, waves and natural things” and resolving to “feed [her] selfish soul” and cut off the hair that requires so much constant upkeep in order to conform to standards of black beauty.

Beyond the subversive themes, “Selfish Soul” is a true example of how avant-garde music can feel catchier and more vivacious than the trendiest mainstream pop. With an earth-rumbling bass melody and persistent clap percussion, it blends its peppy eccentricity with a brash and defiant sense of groove and swagger that the vocals ride faultlessly. It’s such a fun and breezy listen with enough of a subversive and left-field edge to stay exciting.

8. “oh my love” by FKA Twigs

I could’ve chosen any number of tracks off of FKA Twigs’s CAPRISONGS to take up a spot on this list, they’ve all endured, but for the sake of keeping a varied list I’m just picking one and my favorite right now is “oh my love”, a fun, flirty number where Twigs encourages her lover to be more open with his feelings and start putting as much into their relationship as she is. It’s a simple light trap beat, but the atmospheric melodies and Twigs’s sweet, warm vocal presence make it blossom into one of the most enchanting pieces of music you could hope to hear. Bookended with spoken word portions that reinforce the song’s ultimate message of cutting off relationships that aren’t rewarding your efforts to nurture them, “oh my love” is a blissful expression of the ‘girl-talk’ atmosphere of sugar cocktails and nail polish that makes CAPRISONGS such a soulful, nourishing experience.

7. “cbd” by brakence

I think brakence is what Drain Gang evangelists think Drain Gang sounds like. With glitchy electronic production, downbeat, untrained vocals, and lyrics expressing self-loathing and neurosis, with the narrator beating themselves up for failing to properly maintain their relationships and allowing them to fail, brakence is the sad boy bedroom vibe you’ve been looking for, expressed with more creative and dynamic sounds and song structures, better singing, and more articulate lyrics. 

Those dynamics are shown at their best on this song though, where, out of a backdrop of haywire synth bleeps and brakence’s own drunkenly drawl, the song suddenly transitions into the funkiest groove of 2022, lifting the song out of its melancholic wallowing and into a chic, debonair kind of unkept freedom. It’s the perfect articulation of the song’s theme of loving yourself and continuing to seek self-fulfillment, defiant in the face of your own messiness, repeated failures and other people’s judgement. 

6. “K Hole” by Alex Cameron

Styling out your self-loathing is a theme that continues onto the next song on our list (hope that trend doesn’t say too much about me). Alex Cameron‘s specialized in such weird, oddball character portraits of perverted losers finding themselves in moments of clarity for many years now, and although his latest album Oxy Music doesn’t feel as dense with fresh ideas as previous albums, it still boasts some phenomenal singles, with “K Hole” being one of his best songs ever.

A dreamy, lounge-bar crooner’s soft rock ballad, “K Hole” narrates the self-interrogation and self-deception of a man at rock bottom. That the chorus kicks off with this guy singing “I don’t wanna sound like an a– hole” should tell you all you need to know about the kind of sleazeball Cameron writes about. 

But this self-deception is enchanting, largely because of Cameron’s acerbic, self-deprecating wit,  comparing himself to a “wet TV left on the street in the rain”, and of course his very real gift for melodic phrasing, and this is indeed one of the strongest choruses he’s penned yet. Though, also because of the altruistic, unvarnished honesty from which he sings. Even here, his protagonist is clearly lying not just to himself, but to someone who has come to offer him guidance, and whom he fears dragging into his addiction, knowing that he’s feeling good now, but when he’s feeling bad, he’ll exploit their charity. There is, after all, “only room for one in a K hole”, and addiction can’t be overcome from the outside.

5. “All I Ever Asked” by Rachel Chinouriri

Rachel Chinouriri is one of those critically acclaimed artists whose work I had struggled to get into. Despite her evident vocal talents and the undeniably fine tuned production of her work, there’s a life, romance and energy I found sorely lacking from her debut Four Degrees In Winter. However, 2022 was the year I found myself able to truly love quite a few artists I’d been lukewarm on in the past and Chinouriri was no exception, thanks primarily to this one song.

Sometimes all you’re missing is that one right hook to get you coming back often enough for the rest of the song to sink its claws into you, and if you’ve heard this song already, you know what I’m referring to. One listen to that opening “whoo-hu-hoo-hoo, whoo-hu-hu-hu-hoo-hu-hu” and you’ll be whistling it all week (if you can whistle, I can’t). 

There’s plenty of catchy songs though and they don’t all make top ten songs of the year lists. “All I Ever Asked” is one of those ‘come for the tune, stay for the heartbreak’ songs. Through the bouncy beat, glossy synths and heavenly harmonies, “All I Ever Asked” narrates the aftermath of a big fight, or maybe even a breakup, as Rachel makes a seductive plea for another chance to make things okay and heal each other’s broken hearts. It’s an emotional dynamic that ensures Rachel’s vocalizations hit just as hard the 100th time a the first.

Okay, so…so far these songs have been amazing, incredible tracks. But now we’re getting to the point where I really, really just adore every single second of all of them. My praise is going to start getting kind of irrational now as I just gush, but you’ll have to believe that there’s not a word of hyperbole in it. I’m still just obsessed with these songs, so you’ll have to forgive me as I move onto the top four, starting with:

4. “Church Girl” by Beyoncé

Few artists could switch lanes with as much confidence and success as Beyoncé did when she stepped into the house music lane this year. Of course an artist with the resources of Beyoncé was going to have the right people behind her and in the case of this uplifting booty shaker, the unmistakably exquisite soul chops of producer No I.D. blend with the stuttering house beat to perfectly complement the song’s free-spirited narrative of good god-fearing girls getting loose at the club.

Rich with memorable and funny quotable lyrics, and of course a stellar performance from Beyoncé, it’s a celebratory and transcendent invitation to lose your inhibitions and embrace the freedom of the dance floor without fear of judgement. It’s a resounding success as a feel-good empowerment anthem, once again making perfect use of Beyoncé’s conviction, credibility and natural authority. If Ms. Carter says you can praise god by twerking, it must be so.

3. “The Loneliest Time” by Carly Rae Jepsen 

The title and closing track from Carly Rae Jepsen‘s latest pop masterpiece, “The Loneliest Time” crystallizes the album’s narrative of rediscovering love, absence having had its chance to make the heart grow fonder. Showing impeccable chemistry with her duet partner Rufus Wainwright, Carly goes back and forth with him sharing their feelings of longing and dissatisfaction since they last saw one another, and their resolution to set deeper, more complex emotions aside, and make tonight all about indulging in the comfort of their established connection. 

It might not sound like the best or most constructive idea on paper, but that is one hell of a persuasive disco groove, and be damned if Carly and Rufus don’t make you believe it’s gonna work out for them. When they harmonize on the last chorus, it’s sheer bliss. But as far as iconic duos go though, Rufus is playing third wheel to that heavenly string section, and my God that bridge! I could gush over every single element of the production on this track, from the tasteful echo on the verses to the pitched vocals on the post-chorus, it’s all just exquisite. This is how you make a perfect pop song! 

2. “The Heart Pt. 5” by Kendrick Lamar

After Kendrick Lamar’s long near-silence coming off the back of, in my opinion, a pretty underwhelming and inconsistent release in DAMN., I was starting to let the contrarian, skeptical side of my brain win out. Of course I was still curious to hear what he’d do next, but we all know it, no artist has three albums as good as To Pimp a Butterfly or Good Kid m.A.A.d City in them right? 

And then, it finally arrived, a new Kendrick single, the fifth entry in his “The Heart” series, and…well, he sure shut me up. 

This might be Kendrick’s best ever single. In a lyrical tirade backed by captivating orchestration, he  somehow manages to say on one track everything he’d been struggling to find the right words for for years. From his incisive, bleak breakdown of the way cycles of poverty, bureaucracy and oppression foster violence within communities, to his anger at people succumbing to that violence and numbing themselves rather than dealing with it, and with rap culture’s culpability in fostering an environment of hypermasculinity where violence meets violence: “in a land where hurt people hurt people, f—k calling it culture!” it’s all so powerful and articulate.

Yet, when he pauses to take a long breath, he prepares to deliver the kicker: a final verse from the perspective of his long term friend and peer Nipsey Hussle, another rapper who spent his life in community work trying to use his newfound means to improve the prospects for those growing up in Los Angeles, whose life was tragically ended by one of those people. Kendrick explores the questions in his own head, says a farewell to Hussle’s family on his behalf, and examines the possibilities that he regretted investing in a community that ultimately claimed his life, eventually finding none. It’s a sobering, provocative and magisterial performance that stands as the defining statement of the latter half of Kendrick’s career. 

1. “Alive Ain’t Always Living” by Quelle Chris

You can keep the feast and wine, I just want my peace of mind. 

My favorite song of the year is “Alive Ain’t Always Living” by Quelle Chris. 

The opening track to his album Deathfame, this song is soul food in it’s purest form. It’s just impossible to describe how happy this song makes me feel whenever I listen to it. It’s a song of love, gratitude, altruism, reflection and serenity. Rather than spouting hollow platitudes about living for the moment or taking joy in the little things, Chris’s wizened and enlightened performance makes you feel and believe every single word. The deeper you dig into the lyrics, the more darkness there is in this song, as it touches on depression, grief, alcoholism, abandonment and poverty, but that just makes its euphoric expressions of well-being, appreciation and resolution to show love and gratitude to all those around you hit all the harder. I can’t imagine a more beautiful or positive sentiment to send out into the world. It’s pure grace and only gets more perfect every time I hear it. 


Written by Hal Kitchen

Primarily a reviewer of music and films, Hal Kitchen studied at the University of Kent where they graduated with distinction in both Liberal Arts BA and Film MA, specializing in film, gender theory and cultural studies. Whilst at Kent they were the Film & TV sub-editor and later Culture Editor of the campus newspaper InQuire and began a public blog on their Letterboxd account.
Hal joined 25YearsLaterSite as a volunteer writer in May 2020 and resumed their current role of assistant film editor in November 2020.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *