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Best songs of 2022
Image: Steve Beech / Time Out

The 22 best songs of 2022

Refresh your listening with the finest tracks of the past 12 months – as chosen by our writers and editors

Edited by
Chiara Wilkinson
Written by
Time Out editors
Time Out contributors

It’s been a whirlwind year for music. Not only did we have a full, uninterrupted year of gigs and festivals, we also saw TikTok start to become a major player in the game. There were more breakout artists from the app than ever before, with its algorithm bringing a whole new meaning to the word ‘viral’ as it hurled DIY tracks high into the charts. 

And it wasn’t just Gen-Z bedroom musicians that have been doing bits. To the delight of fans (and to the dismay of Ticketmaster), we also saw the comebacks of major superstars like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Kendrick. But, sadly, it’s not been smiles all round – it’s also been a tricky year for the industry. There have been reports of artists cancelling shows due to spiralling costs and low mental health, and our much-loved grassroots music venues have taken a hit and need our help

Still, if there was anything good to come out of the year, at least we’ve had some bangers to get us through it all. We asked Time Out writers and editors to scan their music libraries to select their one (and only one) favourite track of the year: that anthem they had on repeat, the tune that pumped them up in the mornings, or maybe just a song that made them feel a particular way. Keen to refresh your playlists? In no particular order, here are 22 of our favourite songs of 2022.

🎥 The best films of 2022 (so far)
🎵 The 20 best albums of 2022
📚 The best books we read in 2022

Best songs of 2022

‘This Hell’ – Rina Sawayama
Image: Courtesy of the artist

1. ‘This Hell’ – Rina Sawayama

This infectious anthem is sure to get even the most reluctant pop fan yelling along. Maybe it’s because it samples ABBA’s ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’, or maybe it’s because the idea of living through hell resonates so much right now. Who knows? The main takeaway is that Rina is an absolute icon, masterfully flipping anti-LGBTQ+ language and twisting it into an unapologetic celebration of love in all its forms. ‘Get in line and pass the wine bitch, we’re going straight to hell’ are truly words to live by. Georgia Evans, Deputy Commercial Editor

‘Ask Me How I Sleep at Night’ – Eiko Ishibashi
Image: Courtesy of the artist

2. ‘Ask Me How I Sleep at Night’ – Eiko Ishibashi

An avant-jazz concept album about a character in Law & Order wasn’t what I thought I’d have on repeat in 2022, but then Eiko Ishibashi showed up with a whole record of surprises. The first two tracks pass by in a bit of an abstract blur, but then the final song hits, and it’s a slice of tender jazz perfection, with floaty melodies, swirling guitars and saxophones, and an aching sadness that has you listening to it wistfully on loop for days. Eddy Frankel, Art & Culture Editor, London

‘too dead inside’ – yeule
Image: Courtesy of the artist

3. ‘too dead inside’ – yeule

It takes quite a lot to be obsessed with something for an entire year – but, ever since it was released back in January, that’s been me with yeule’s ‘too dead inside’. From the track’s thumping bass and delicate synths to its kicking jungle beats and nihilistic, disassociated lyrics, and then the final third, when the words arch into affirmation, the scuzzy textures overspill and the dance-pop beats double down, I’m all too ready to go again. Eleven months on, I’m still hooked. Ed Cunningham, contributing writer

‘B.O.T.A’ – Eliza Rose & Interplanetary Criminal
Image: Courtesy of the artist

4. ‘B.O.T.A’ – Eliza Rose & Interplanetary Criminal

‘Dooooo you wanna dance, baby?’ was the chorus that soundtracked pretty much every summer festival and rave this year. ‘B.O.T.A’ (an acronym for ‘baddest of them all’), is an air-punchingly-good empowerment anthem, blending together elements of UK garage and 90s dance music to create a slightly trashy dubstep sound (in a really good way). Eliza Rose became the first female DJ to top the UK singles chart in more than 20 years, representing a rare instance when a dance track is stripped of its peripheral status and welcomed into the mainstream. Ellie Muir, contributing writer

‘Pink Venom’ – Blackpink
Image: Courtesy of the artist

5. ‘Pink Venom’ – Blackpink

I’ve been a BLINK since the beginning, so truth be told, any song by Blackpink would have made its way to the top of my list, regardless. Although ‘Pink Venom’ was only released in August this year, the song’s catchy melody and visually stunning video with vibrant sets and stylish outfits meant I had this tune on repeat every day. Jenny Leung, Digital Editor, Hong Kong

‘Runner’ – Alex G
Image: Courtesy of the artist

6. ‘Runner’ – Alex G

I revelled in the first basically entirely normal summer we had since 2019 by sticking to my home city, filling my days with long walks and pub trips and stuffing the gaps in between with one song on a loop: ‘Runner’ by Alex G. Like all the best tracks by this prolific musician (we’re talking nine near-perfect albums in a little over a decade), it goes from light to dark, loose to tight, smooth to shouty in an instant. The lyrics are as cryptic as always, but there’s something very purely emotional to the bit when he goes: ‘They hit you with the rolled up magazine.’ Does it even matter what it means? Huw Oliver, UK Editor

‘on & on’ – piri & tommy
Image: Courtesy of the artist

7. ‘on & on’ – piri & tommy

By now, the pop-drum-and-bass sound has become something of a TikTok cliché, epitomised by the success of artists like Pink Pantheress. But there’s still no denying that this particular track is a banger and a half. Soft vocals roll over a liquid DnB beat and textural garage-esque synths, with the hook, ‘Big night, lost my weed, but the beat goes on,’ swallowing you up into mellowed-out dancefloor bliss. It’s unpretentious, it’s irresistibly catchy, but most importantly, it’s funChiara Wilkinson, Chief Features Writer, UK

‘Wet Dream’ – Wet Leg
Image: Courtesy of the artist

8. ‘Wet Dream’ – Wet Leg

Not many UK charting singles manage to reference masturbation in the very first line, but the jaunty second single from Isle of Wight duo Wet Leg manages exactly that. The two-minute-long track is a break-up song, and reaches proper ear-worm status thanks to its playful riffs, sing-song guitar melodies and wry lyrics referencing soft bois (‘Baby, do you want to come home with me? I've got Buffalo ’66 on DVD’) and cartoonish sexual fantasies. You’ll have heard its staccato disco-rock intro ringing out everywhere this year: without us noticing, it’s embedded its way into our heads and become one of the staple sounds of 2022. Alex Sims, contributing writer

‘Head Splattered in Seven Ways’ – Undeath
Image: Courtesy of the artist

9. ‘Head Splattered in Seven Ways’ – Undeath

Unnerving, slightly wrong time signatures. Extremely guttural vocals. A pleasingly intense and old-school production style. If these phrases don’t sound like gibberish to you, chances are you’ll enjoy New York’s ‘skull-crushing death metal’ band Undeath. This retro-but-modern headbanger has lyrics that, as far as I can tell, focus on a (possibly psychic?) murderer being interrogated by the police. Not sure. What I do know is this four-minute aural assault, with its rumbling bass lines and swirling riffs, makes me bizarrely happy as I walk to work in the morning. Joe Mackertich, Editor, London

‘Holiday’ – Confidence Man
Image: Courtesy of the artist

10. ‘Holiday’ – Confidence Man

This is the ultimate summer banger. ‘Holiday’ has got everything a dance-pop track needs: euphoric 90s synths, extremely catchy vocals and sufficiently shallow lyrics about going on holiday, getting paid and getting lit. This Orbital-inspired tune encapsulates everything we love about Confidence Man. It’s the band’s signature combo of absurdity and abounding joy that offers the perfect tonic for the mood in 2022. This track screams ‘fuck it’: as the world turns to mush around us, we may as well have a good time among the wreckage. India Lawrence, contributing writer

‘Beach House’ – Carly Rae Jepsen
Image: Courtesy of the artist

11. ‘Beach House’ – Carly Rae Jepsen

Having a five-year-old really shifts the dial on what constitutes a banger for me. Where once it was: ‘Will this make me want to storm the dance floor at Fabric’, now it’s more ‘can I listen to this 17 times consecutively in the car without wanting to open the door and roll into the sweet embrace of the A41?’ This year, Carly Rae Jepsen’s zippy, witty, stupidly catchy takedown of terrible dates was that tune. Phil de Semlyen, Global Film Editor

‘봄여름가을겨울 (Still Life)’ – BIGBANG
Image: Courtesy of the artist

12. ‘봄여름가을겨울 (Still Life)’ – BIGBANG

Legendary K-pop boy band BIGBANG returned to earth after four years off with ‘Still Life’: a slow, swaying ballad with heartfelt lyrics interspersed with rap and catchy chanting. Taking a trip down memory lane and bidding farewell to the past, it’s a perfect song to listen to as we (hopefully) wave goodbye to the pandemic. Cara Hung, City Life Editor, Hong Kong

‘Head on Fire’ – Griff & Sigrid
Image: Courtesy of the artist

13. ‘Head on Fire’ – Griff & Sigrid

For me, 2022 was defined by a return to a more normal level of bopping around town. With more frequent commutes, a larger number of in-person events and an overall return to a roughly pre-pandemic level of socialising, I also found a lot of ‘sidewalk jams’ gravitating to the top of my Spotify most-played lists. This song comes close to what I think of as the platonic ideal of a walking-around-the-city soundtrack. It’s upbeat, just emotional enough to add an enticing level of drama to your errand-running, and catchy enough that it will get you through a few subway delays without you completely losing it. Will Gleason, Director of Content, North America

‘Father Time’ – Kendrick Lamar
Image: Courtesy of the artist

14. ‘Father Time’ – Kendrick Lamar

This track has it all: arresting, breathless verses, lyrics that delve into Kendrick’s personal demons (notably his relationship with his father and the pervasiveness of toxic masculinity in his community) and a gorgeous hook from Sampha, deemed catchy enough to earn trending sound status on TikTok. What higher indication of success is there in 2022? TikTok-famous or not, it’s a perfect song. Grace Beard, Deputy Travel Editor

‘Anti-Hero’ – Taylor Swift
Image: Courtesy of the artist

15. ‘Anti-Hero’ – Taylor Swift

Pre-‘Midnights’, Taylor Swift’s last two albums gifted us with soul-searching lyrics, pared-back acoustics and free therapy sessions. But what was noticeably absent was a ‘22’ or ‘Bad Blood’-style banger. Enter ‘Anti-Hero’, a bop if ever I heard one. Essentially a self-loathing anthem exploring the singer’s deepest insecurities – from ghosting to body dysmorphia – it encourages you to drag your dark thoughts onto the dance floor so you can laugh at them while dad-dancing. The master strikes again. Jess Phillips, Senior Social Media Editor

‘Running Up That Hill’ – Kate Bush
Image: Courtesy of the artist

16. ‘Running Up That Hill’ – Kate Bush

I hate to be that person that gets their music from TikTok. Really, I hate it. But TikTok made me love Kate Bush all over again this year, and that’s the truth. Some Gen-Zer in their feels made up a dance one day, and suddenly ‘Running Up That Hill’ was back at the top of the charts after being first released in the 1980s. And let’s be honest, it was amazing. All hail the Kate Bush revival. Ella Doyle, contributing writer

‘About Damn Time’ – Lizzo
Image: Courtesy of the artist

17. ‘About Damn Time’ – Lizzo

It’s not the first time that Lizzo hasn’t encouraged, so much as shoved us onto the dance floor – do you remember ‘Good as Hell’? ‘About Damn Time’ is the definitive good-vibes anthem of 2022: pure disco music with funk touches that make it irresistible as soon as the first bass string is plucked. The Detroit singer celebrates our ability to put bad times behind us in her own way: things are sure to get better, so in the meantime, let’s party. María José Gómez, Editor-in-Chief, Barcelona

‘Let’s Do It Again’ – Jamie XX
Image: Courtesy of the artist

18. ‘Let’s Do It Again’ – Jamie XX

After being MIA for two years, Jamie XX returned with this made-for-the-radio banger that immediately transports you to a sweaty summer music festival. Whenever I’m in need of a bit of escapism, I pop my earbuds in, close my eyes and turn this banger up to max volume. With its pulsing synths, pounding drum pattern and warped euphoric vocals, it’s chock-full of Jamie’s signature moves — and hopefully signals a new album coming out in 2023. Adena Maier, Lifestyle Editor, Melbourne

‘Simulation Swarm’ – Big Thief
Image: Courtesy of the artist

19. ‘Simulation Swarm’ – Big Thief

For a long time I thought US indie collective Big Thief were too twee for my tastes. Then I actually listened to them. ‘Simulation Swarm’ is a delightful swirling jacuzzi of a song; all bubbling, overlapping melodies and a complicated but cosy folksiness that stays just the right side of pumpkin-spiced-latte pop. Leonie Cooper, Food & Drink Editor, London

‘Cuff It’ – Beyoncé
Image: Courtesy of the artist

20. ‘Cuff It’ – Beyoncé

On ‘Cuff It’, the second single off her latest album, Beyoncé delivers the year’s catchiest earworm. Blending elements of disco, R&B and funk, the track effortlessly compels us to get up and start moving – a phenomenon that culminated in a viral dance challenge on TikTok. Whether you’re a part of the Beyhive or not, one listen is all it takes to feel like you’re fallin’ in love. Jeffy Mai, Assistant Editor, Chicago

‘In the Water’ – Gretel Hänlyn
Image: Courtesy of the artist

21. ‘In the Water’ – Gretel Hänlyn

‘Smells like day-old Eau Sauvage, get off in a lay-by in your car’ – the stand-out track of Londoner Gretel Hänlyn’s 2022 ‘Slugeye’ EP is a hungover Blur tune circa ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’, married to her doomy Nico-slash-Buffy Sainte-Marie vocals. Hänlyn writes some great lyrics and the whole thing has an oblique shithole cool to it, like a Lynne Ramsay film: ‘Heyyyy, drown them in the water, heyyyy, fuck ’em all. Chris Waywell, Deputy Editor, London

‘Otro Atardecer’ – Bad Bunny & The Marías
Image: Courtesy of the artist

22. ‘Otro Atardecer’ – Bad Bunny & The Marías

Bad Bunny is known for his reggaeton hits, but ‘Otro Atardecer’ speaks to a softer side of his music. The perreo king gives us a dreamy love song, combining soft guitar twangs and light drums to brighten the serious heartbreak discussed in the lyrics. In typical Bad Bunny fashion, it’s cheeky – but it’s also fun, and the perfect background music for just cracking on with whatever. Glendalys Medina, contributing writer

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