It’s the fusion of sound and emotion that elevates a song into the memory banks of our minds. In 2022, with a true bounty of releases to explore and unpack, there was no shortage of good songs to listen to — but it’s only the great ones that we’ll carry into the next year with us.
Like Beyoncé’s “Alien Superstar,” which delivered the confidence we needed to keep our asses on the dance floor, and Bad Bunny’s “Me Porto Bonito,” which defined the sound of busy bars and cocktails being shaken for one NYLON writer. There was also Ice Spice’s breakout hit “Munch,” which arrived exactly when we needed an ego boost, and Big Thief’s “Simulation Swarm,” which was there when we needed a reminder of the plain beauty and elegance only truly masterful musicians can deliver.
Below, read on to find NYLON’s top songs of 2022, and stream the playlist on
Spotify. “ALIEN SUPERSTAR” - Beyoncé
This is one of those songs that instantly gives you a confidence boost and makes you start to dance completely involuntarily, making it the perfect song to get a night out started. —
Sam Neibart, beauty editor “American Teenager” - Ethel Cain
“American Teenager” makes me feel like I'm tapped into the sweeping, melodramatic collective unconscious, and it has the best chorus of the year. —
Layla Halabian, culture editor “Anti-Hero” - Taylor Swift
The first time we all heard this song, it was clear “It's me, hi/ I'm the problem, it's me” was going to be the anthem for all self-saboteurs. At least this makes toxic behavior sound upbeat and fun, in a way only Taylor can. —
Never before has intense self-reflection in such a public forum been so much fun — or sounded so catchy. —
Alyssa Vingan, editor-in-chief
This is the song that kicked off
MUNA's stratostophic year, and for good reason. In this breakup anthem we get no heartbreak or pettiness (okay, maybe just a little pettiness), but rather a levelheaded kiss off to the one who didn't treat you right. — Lauren McCarthy, executive editor “Born With Horns” - Machine Gun Kelly
The opening track of MGK's second pop-punk album,
Mainstream Sellout, is one of its strongest — a sucker punch complete with angsty lyrics ideal for scream-singing and a signature Travis Barker drum solo. — Alyssa Vingan, editor-in-chief “Die Hard” - Kendrick Lamar
We can always count on Kendrick Lamar to give us a hard-hitting album and
Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers was no different, with “Die Hard” being one of the best tracks on the artist’s explosive project. — Kelly Reed, social media editor
At a party hosted by the NYC-focused newsletter Perfectly Imperfect, I lost count of the number of times people around me said The Dare, the project of Harrison Patrick Smith, was going to be famous. After watching The Dare’s high-wire, horny set, which brought me back to the 2007 indie sleaze scene I experienced only from scrolling through Tumblr, I got it. A dead ringer for early Julian Casablancas in a suit and tie, The Dare and his single “Girls” is a night out in two minutes: energizing, glitchy electro-clash pop that captures the decadence and depravity of 2022 hedonism. —
Sophia June, staff writer
It’s rare for a rookie K-pop group to dominate the charts with its debut release, but
NewJeans, HYBE’s fresh-faced ‘00s-core quartet, managed to do it with “Hype Boy.” A fizzy rush of ‘00s R&B with brazen lyrics like, “'Cause I know what you like boy (ah-ah)/ You're my chemical hype boy,” it’ll make you feel like you’re experiencing puppy love all over again. — Steffanee Wang, associate music editor “Invincible (feat. Daniel Caesar)” - Omar Apollo
As soon as you listen to this song once, you won’t be able to stop. Omar Apollo’s lyrical genius and ethereal voice (alongside a Daniel Caesar feature) make for vulnerable banger. —
KR “Mastermind” - Taylor Swift
In my personal pantheon of best Taylor Swift songs, “Mastermind” lies at the top. The genius of the bubbling last track of
Midnights lies in its subtlety: its slow crescendo, Swift’s sly narration, and its undercurrent feminist message masked in a retelling of how she hook, line, and sinker-ed her man. Zoom out, though, and the song could perfectly double as the coveted blueprint to her career.
When it comes to pop music (and life), we like to pretend great things happen spontaneously, are kismet, fated or accidental — but that’s not true. Women, especially, are harpooned for exhibiting business acumen or a sharp eye. On “Mastermind,” Swift glorifies — and justifies — all of those qualities. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” She also delivers one of her best Swiftian lyrics yet: “I’m only cryptic and Machiavellian ‘cuz I care.” Thank god she does. —
SW “Me Porto Bonito” - Bad Bunny
Bad Bunny will always sound like the year 2022 — not only because he is the most-streamed artist in the world according to Spotify, but also due to the fact he’s most-played artist at the Caribbean-American restaurant where I bartend. Bad Bunny is the sound of people partying: “Me Porto Bonito” will always sound like cocktails being shaken, people taking shots of guava and rum, and being compelled by forces greater than their own to move their bodies. —
SJ “Munch (Feelin’ U)” - Ice Spice
The lyric “Pretty as fuck and he like that I'm mean” succinctly reflects my entire ethos. Thank you, Ice Spice! —
Layla H. “Nervous At Night” - Charlie Hickey
An emotional companion to Taylor Swift's “Delicate,” here Charlie Hickey takes the anxiety of a new relationship to new heights, exploring that moment before you even meet — before you have the chance to mess it up. As he sings in repetition on the outro, “I like the way that I seem before I say anything.” —
LM “Shinigami Eyes” - Grimes
This hypnotic club track not only references a supernatural Japanese spirit that invokes death, but also makes me feel like I'm a video game character ready to embark on the journey of a lifetime when I'm just, like, doing my laundry. —
After what felt like an eternity, SZA’s “Shirt” was properly released after two long years of teasing. It proved to be worth the wait. “Shirt” explores a darker, even more introspective side of SZA. With “Shirt,” SZA continues to be the reigning queen of self-sabotage, betrayal, and unrequited love. —
Lindsay Hattrick, senior designer
Accurately capturing the euphoric highs and excruciating lows of a budding relationship is one of Sophie Allison's songwriting superpowers, and the first single from Soccer Mommy's third album,
Sometimes, Forever, is a prime example. —AV “Simulation Swarm” - Big Thief
No one does cryptic songwriting like Adrienne Lenker. How she manages to string together such turns of phrase so effortlessly — both in her writing and delivery — remains both a mystery and a marvel.
—LM “Strong” - Romy & Fred again...
The best dance song of 2022 came courtesy of two of the genre’s biggest hitters: Romy and Fred again… Euphoric, tender, and emotional like a punch in the gut, it encapsulates the universal purpose of dance music: to provide full body comfort. “You carry so much on your own/ If you need someone to lean on/ You don’t have to be so strong.” Yeah, I’m hitting that repeat button while I’m crying on the dance floor. —
A synth-y, '80s-inspired beat and catchy lyrics make this song heart-pounding and addictive, just like the early stages of a relationship the song describes. —
Remi Wolf’s melodic voice and catchy lyrics in “Sugar” are infectious — leaving me in a silly mood with each listen. —
“Talk” has managed to stay stuck in my head for nearly a full calendar year. Bea Kristi’s sugary sweet voice and lyrics over indie rock guitar come together in a song that sounds meant for a teen movie soundtrack. One can’t help but be overwhelmed with nostalgia for ‘00s pop-punk, young love, and all the bad decisions of yesteryear while listening. —
In their first song in 5 years, Paramore returns with biting, melodic shouts of desperation. “This Is Why” is the anthem for our never-ending pandemic. Paramore are masters at the reinvention of sound, and this track propels them forward while leaving us all in anticipation for their
upcoming full album in February. — Lindsay H. “Working For The Knife” - Mitski
Mitski’s “Working for the Knife” is a song told in droning synths as crushing as the weight of capitalism. It might be a song about the claustrophobia of expectations but it's ultimately a song about longing and, therefore, some hope. —
Charli XCX’s “Yuck” is a breezy pop-funk anti-anthem that captures the ecstasy and disappointment of dating a man who is way too into you. “Yuck, that boy's so mushy/Sending me flowers/ I'm just tryna get lucky,” she sings. Take the hint! —
SJ Stream the 2022 top songs playlist on Spotify. See NYLON’s top albums of 2022.