Pop music in 2022 is a place of possibility, even if someone’s perfect pop song might be harder to find in the chaos of streaming services than it was in the aisles of record stores. But great songs are out there—whether they’re brightly hued power-pop pebbles, wrenching R&B ballads, or roller-rink-ready disco-funk cuts. These 10 songs will give you an idea of what pop bliss 2022 offers.
Anorak Patch, “Paris Will Be Paid For”
Hailing from Essex in England, this quartet of teens shows a beyond-its-years dexterity in making off-kilter indiepop on “Paris Will Be Paid For.” The track, which appears on the debut EP By Cousin SamThe album, combines wobbly analog synths with insistent guitar arpeggios and a menacing chorus that crashes through key signatures and time signatures. It seems to be figuring out itself in real-time and enjoying the process.
Bad Bunny, “Otro Atardecer”
Bad Bunny is a Puerto Rican multihyphenate who released his fourth album Un Verano Sin TiIt was just in time to make it into summertime playlists. This delicate collab with the Los Angeles psych-soul outfit The Marías is an ode to summer love (and lust) that floats along on gentle handclaps, barely plucked guitar, and the intertwined vocals of Bad Bunny and Marías leader María Zardoya.
Eddie Benjamin, “Weatherman”
Aussie singer-songwriter Eddie Benjamin fronts “Weatherman,” a catchy neo-powerpop gem that turns the guy doling out the daily forecast into a soothsayer for better days. Benjamin’s precise delivery on the verses turns the song’s gooey chorus into a highly concentrated dose of sunshine.
Jazmine Sullivan, “Hurt Me So Good”
Heaux Tales, the first release in six years from Philly soul belter Jazmine Sullivan, was one of 2021’s best releases, its deeply honest portraits of 21st-century life as a Black woman showcasing her growth as a songwriter and vocalist. Sullivan published a number of songs this year. Heaux Tales, Mo’ TalesThe album expands upon the original, adding new songs and interludes. “Hurt Me So Good,” one of those new tracks, finds her struggling with her feelings for someone who she can’t seem to drop, with her bravura vocal giving the listener a full idea of her emotional torments.
Mall Girl, “Lilies’ Dew”
For the past few years, the Norwegian outfit Mall Girl has been playing with the Scandopop formula in thrilling ways—adding crushing guitars to candy-coated choruses, obliterating and then rebuilding the verse-chorus-verse structure. “Lilies’ Dew,” a standout from their debut album Superstar,Opening with fast riffing. Then, it settles into an elegant but sneakily assertive cut.
A percolating soul-pop gem that should soundtrack hotel lobbies in heaven, Montreal-based singer-songwriter Marci’s debut single “Entertainment” shuffles together ideas borrowed from the shiniest ‘80s pop—smooth saxophones, glittering guitars, and Marci’s quivering vocal—into a slightly anxious, very sticky meta-love song.
Mark Ronson feat. Lucky Daye, “Too Much”
Superstar DJ and producer Mark Ronson hooks up with New Orleans R&B crooner Lucky Daye on “Too Much,” a slick slice of robo-funk accented with disco-string zaps and woodwind flutters.
Muni Long, “Hrs and Hrs”
R&B singer Muni Long lit up streaming services with “Hrs and Hrs,” a slow-burning love song that knots up the words “hours” and “ours,” the concepts of devotion and desire, and the ways that past hurts can be smoothed over by present pleasures—all over a sumptuous groove that doubles as a dead giveaway to the fact that Long’s emotions are the real thing.
Sofia Bolt, “Secret Memories”
Paris-born, Los Angeles-based musician and songwriter Amelie Rousseaux’s pop project Sofia Bolt exhibits an unending capacity for restlessness on the past-wracked “Secret Memories,” which begins with rolling acoustic guitars then shape-shifts into different modes—thrumming Krautrock-inspired verses, a jagged-guitar-led pre-chorus, and a prog-pop outro that indicates the angst being expressed might soon be a thing of the past.
Wednesday, “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles)”
Asheville Americanafuzz’s Wednesday release was earlier in the year. Mowing the Leaves Instead of Piling ‘em Up, a salute to their influences—shoegazing bands like Smashing Pumpkins, pop savants like Big Star’s Chris Bell, country songsmiths like Vic Chesnutt. Their cover of Gary Stewart’s honky-tonk lament “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles)” not only introduces one of Nashville’s greatest song titles to a new generation, it wrings out the song’s pathos with layers of guitar distortion and an emotional performance from vocalist Karly Hartzman.
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