The 100 Best Songs Of 2022 (60-41)
It took 50 people to make this list of 2022's 100 best songs. Why put in that much effort, when algorithmically generated playlists can give a listener what they already know they want? Because there's more to a year than the insulated corners that, in the streaming era, can feel so cozy. That's especially true in a year like this one, whose thrills, even with hindsight, are tough to organize into neat categories or hierarchies. For the staff and contributors of NPR Music, making this list felt messy, but there's an upside to the effort: We got together. We talked. We listened. We ended up making a ranked list of 100 songs that reflects the sprawling, energetic messiness of 2022. Because the end of a year is a nice moment to celebrate what you love, but it's the perfect time to listen to something outside your comfort zone. A guarantee: You'll find something here that does the trick. (And while you're at it, be sure to check out our 50 Best Albums of 2022.)
Björk's latest project positioned her as a seeker of new kinds of life on Earth. On "Atopos," a warped dembow-ish backbeat and dark clarinets provide the soil as they puzzle her questions together and apart. Her exhortation of hope thrums through all kinds of life, and an all-connected human biosphere. —Stefanie Fernández
Hayden Dunham, aka Hyd, was one of SOPHIE's dear friends and collaborators, so when they sing, "I never meant to leave / It wasn't up to me / If I could, I would have stayed / Close to you," it's hard not to imagine the groundbreaking producer sending love from afar. Caroline Polachek's production completes the spectral séance. —Otis Hart
While the throwback '80s synth sound has been done to death, it really shines on this jam of a song. Ferreira's first new song in years expertly builds and haunts around the synths and rewards with each listen. —Russ Borris, WFUV
"Up The Mountain"
While much of Regina Spektor's music can fit comfortably with simply her voice and piano, this intense tune was built over months of long-distance dialogue between her and producer John Congleton. Featuring orchestral arrangements by Jherek Bischoff, "Up the Mountain" has the feel of a thriller and a classic noir. —Bob Boilen
Tommy McLain feat. Elvis Costello
"I Ran Down Every Dream"
The flicker in the octogenarian Louisiana soul crooner's voice is incandescent as he shares a lifetime of hope and disappointment in this gorgeous ballad, written with an assist from his longtime fan Elvis Costello. —Ann Powers
Yahritza y Su Esencia
"Estas En Mi Pasado"
Leveraging the naïveté of a young heart and the depth of an ancestrally fortified soul, Yahritza Martínez and her brothers have produced a smooth, gripping interpretation of Ivan Cornejo's "Estas en mi Pasado" that is sure to leave the iciest of souls in shambles. —Anamaria Sayre
Schumann: "Study in Canonic Form, Op. 56, No. 1"
This is music by Robert Schumann doing his best impersonation of J.S. Bach. Cascades of notes tumble down like a waterfall, flowing together in a streamlet of pure joy. It helps that the pianist here is Víkingur Ólafsson, who displays his signature precision, transparency and warmth. —Tom Huizenga
For a brief but amusing moment this year, the culture was transfixed by 83 seconds of idiosyncratic novelty: Lil Yachty's garbled narrative of moving cough syrup across country lines. It's the type of simple, near-rudimentary melody that burrows into your brain and leaves you with more questions than answers — but it's just whimsical enough that you don't really mind. —Reanna Cruz
"Afraid to Feel"
It's impossible to listen to LF SYSTEM's "Afraid to Feel" and not feel the urge to get up and dance. The Scottish production duo pays tribute to house music and '70s disco by speeding up the BPM from Silk's 1979 song "I Can't Stop (Turning You On)" to create an addictive beat while maintaining that old R&B sound. —Teresa Xie
As descriptions of lust go, "Whenever you want me I'll be around / I'm a bullet in a shotgun, waiting to sound" doesn't come across as the most empowered. But Sophie Allison has proven again and again that she writes with a clearer eye and a sharper pen than most. The details here — the coiled guitar line, the cool confidence of the melody, the silvery shimmer that wells up over drums thundering like a heart beating up into your throat during the chorus — give it away: This is what it sounds like to own your desires. —Jacob Ganz
No other song this year reflects K-pop's unique, dizzyingly ability to ensnare and mutate global sounds into something fantastically new quite like "ANTIFRAGILE." The rising girl group LE SSERAFIM mixes K-pop's bombastic style with Motomami-style reggaeton in a forward-thinking hit that should make American stars scared. —Hazel Cills
On her album You Still Here, Ho?, Flo Milli promises she's more bite than bark. Her lyrical audacity is undeniable on "Bed Time," with quick-witted bars that aim to elicit reaction, including the standout line "My mama'll beat a b**** up, this s*** is genetic." Flo lets it be known that she's not the one to play with. —Kiana Fitzgerald
"The Heart Part 5"
Before Kendrick Lamar challenged his own myth with Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, he looked beyond himself, embodying other prominent entertainers for "The Heart Part 5," an incisive appraisal of Black masculinity's cultural standing. His lyricism is lacerating, clicking into place amid hand drums and prickly strings. The song's deepfaked video — in which Kendrick transforms into O.J. Simpson, Kanye West, Jussie Smollett, Will Smith, Kobe Bryant and Nipsey Hussle — drew much of the attention, but more staggering is his head-spinning wordplay, taking the culture to task for all the toxicity embedded within it. In the wake of "The Heart Part 5," his album can be read as an attempt to reckon with his own complicity perpetuating these generational curses. —Sheldon Pearce
"Home Maker" is all about building a place for love to reside. You can almost feel the greenhouse warmth of a plant-filled cottage in the track's thrumming synths. With shape-shifting instrumentation, Brittney Parks mirrors the way that at-home feeling can move from a place to a person to something harder to name. The single is an invitation as much as an anthem for the nesters among us: "You can be yourself with me." —Sam J. Leeds
"Love Song (Come Back)"
Fly Anakin swooped through with wings and sticky-icky flows on Frank, his proper album debut in 2022. And the opening number, "Love Song (Come Back)," stayed on perpetual repeat, thanks in large part to producer Foisey's mood-setting sample of David Oliver's timeless, purring pleas on "Can I Write You A Love Song." —Rodney Carmichael
Get used to hearing the name Julius Rodriguez. The 24-year-old multi-instrumentalist and producer's "Dora's Lullaby" is a beautiful piece that feels instantly comfortable and familiar. What begins as a piano journey with a determined sense of adventure spins off into a deceptively lush dream world with a hint of whimsy. —Nikki Birch
"That's Where I Am"
Every note you sing is a choice. "That's Where I Am" spends four minutes in a go-for-broke acrobatic pop strut, but we most feel Maggie Rogers' unrequited desire start in her chest ("You never touched me"), then consume her entire being ("but I felt you eeeeeverywheeeere") in a vocal run that'll make you blush with a knowing grin. —Lars Gotrich
"Gotsta Get Paid"
The bubblegum trapper turned rage rapper Rico Nasty loves taking twisted sounds and making them sassy. She was one of the first MCs to embrace hyperpop and, in doing so, she brought zip to her more pugnacious songs. Co-produced with 100 gecs, "Gotsta Get Paid" is like Cypress Hill on gummy edibles — trippy rap repackaged for a sugar-trap audience. As the beat whines and wheezes, she struts through as if untouchable. —Sheldon Pearce
In terms of composition, bassist Anna Butterss seems to shadow-chop through her songs, finding weak spots in their otherwise sparkling walls to pound a hole for peeking through. This is maybe most evident on "Doo Wop," from the delightful Activities. With a springly, a cappella ooh-wa (the titular doo wop) as its main character, Butterss wraps around and through in solid steps and tinny twinkles, creating a bright Sunday morning with nothing on the schedule. —Andrew Flanagan
The conservatory-trained Scottish guitarist has shed his traditional nylon-strung instrument for a sleek black Mexican Stratocaster. While Shibe can fire up plenty of fuzz and feedback on his album Lost & Found, more often he coaxes diaphanous, colorful ribbons of sound from his instrument. An elegant example is a cover of Bill Evans' "Peace Piece," where an electric guitar has rarely sounded so featherlight. —Tom Huizenga
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