Thousands of songs appeared on streaming sites and the radio in 2022, with TikTok driving the search for the next big viral hit. The Complex Music staff looks back at the songs that we couldn’t get enough of this year as we turn the corner and prepare to dig into a new year of further stretching and more boundary-pushing to stimulate music fans. It’s a difficult task to reduce such a vast output to a list of ten. However, these are a few of the year’s winners.
1. “Alien Superstar” by Beyoncé
The third song from Beyoncé’s seventh studio solo album, Renaissance, is titled “Alien Superstar.” Although Beyoncé’s Renaissance project consists of 16 tracks, it flows like a single experience. It’s difficult to choose a favourite, but “Alien Superstar” is undeniably popular.
2. ‘As It Was’ by Harry Styles
The lead single from Harry’s House, his third album, debuted at number one right away. While “As It Was” is a sensuous dance-floor synth-pop hit, it’s also his most frank and exposed song to date. His goddaughter’s irate voice, complaining about a missed call, opens the recording. “Come on Harry, let’s bid you good night!” The breathy closeness in his voice, though, gives the impression that this is a shared story between two people even when he is depressed. Harry is playing “tubular bells” during the jubilant chimes that resound at the conclusion. Complete genius, finished in three minutes.
3. ‘Anti-Hero’ by Taylor Swift
Swift’s “Midnights” album is a musical feast, much to Beyoncé’s “Renaissance.” The album’s best songs, including “Karma,” “Lavender Haze,” and “Snow on the Beach,” continue to be played over and over. However, “Anti-Hero” finds the perceptive lyricist in top form with its merciless excavation of regrets and apologies. I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror is a phrase from a song that this year included more heartbreaking reflection than any other.
4. ‘Tití Me Preguntó’ by Bad Bunny
You won’t be able to find a global star bigger than Bad Bunny in 2022 because of his chart supremacy (Billboard named him Top Artist of the Year), a stadium tour that sold out, and his overall ubiquity. One of seven songs from his “Un Verano Sin Ti” album that reached the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Latin Songs charts is the sarcastic “Tit Me Preguntó” (“Auntie Asked Me”). The Puerto Rican wunderkind has evolved into a magician of sound and style thanks to the teasing lyrics about explaining to his aunt why he has so many girlfriends and the trap-meets-reggaeton rhythmic swings.
5. ‘Break My Soul’ by Beyoncé
Even while Queen Bey’s seventh studio album, “Renaissance,” featured a number of songs deserving of year-end praise, the sultry bop “Cuff It” and Donna Summer-sampling “Summer Renaissance” being among them, the lead single is still the one that won’t leave our minds. The pounding “Break My Soul,” which borrows rhythmically both Big Freedia’s “Explode” and Robin S.’s 1993 dance floor anthem “Show Me Love,” transforms self-reinvention (“I recently quit my job/I’m going to discover a new drive”) into success.
6. ‘Free’ by Florence + The Machine
On the outstanding “Dance Fever” album, a remarkable track that fidgets with frantic energy as it rises to its captivating climax. Listening to the shifting voice of London-born singer Florence Welch is reason enough to be enthralled. She moves between throaty concern and upper-range ecstasy with such ease.
7. ‘Despechá’ by Rosalía
The song is a significant step forward for the Barcelona native as it fuses electropop elements with more conventional Latin mambo. It debuted in the middle of the summer, the ideal accompaniment to sweaty club nights or beachy sunbathing, and quickly became a global hit. Despechá is Spanish for “to spite,” but thanks to Rosala, it also means to get up and dance.
8. ‘Less Than Zero’ by The Weeknd
Only one significant success, “Take My Breath,” was produced by The Weeknd’s underappreciated concept album “Dawn FM.” However, with its pulsating pace, stunning synth ascent, and earworm-inducing hook, this single—which didn’t make the top 40—is the album’s highlight. We gain from The Weeknd’s misery even if he self-destructed during the romance that is portrayed in the song.
9. ‘Unholy’ by Sam Smith featuring Kim Petras
Some songs just sound downright filthy, and this one starts out with sinister piano stabs that relish their filth. How amusing to hear Petras add some delightful camp and the often depressing Smith forego their signature ballads in favour of a greasy chorus that slinks as much as it pulses. Extra props go to the duo for becoming the first openly nonbinary and trans performers to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
10. ‘Bad Habit’ by Steve Lacy
With this readily palatable fusion of R&B and pop, Lacy has finally made his mainstream breakthrough after more than a decade in the business, first with his band, the Internet. The song’s melancholy undercurrent is concealed by the bouncy synths and thundering pace as he investigates a squandered chance.