The 11 Best Songs and Albums of Summer 2022

This summer has seen so many excellent releases from artists across all genres that picking a singular “song of the summer” is as difficult as ever. Early contenders for the top spot came from former One Direction heartthrob Harry Styles with his comeback single “As It Was” and from Lizzo, with her disco-funk track “About Damn Time.” The former featured bright production and a carefree vibe, juxtaposed with the not-so-subtly depressing lyrics, all packed into a bite-size track coming in at just over two minutes and forty seconds. “About Damn Time,” Lizzo’s second and superior single off of SpecialTikTok’s dance craze, which was perfect, was the right choice.

And we can’t forget the reigning king of Latin music, Bad Bunny, with his sprawling 23-track album Un Verano Sin Ti rife with summer hits from the infectious “Tití Me Preguntó” to “Me Porto Bonito.” Then there was Beyoncé’s glistening seventh studio album, Renaissance, Traumazine by Megan Thee Stallion, parts of Sabrina Carpenter’s emails I can’t send, and, yes, the TikTok-famous girl group FLO’s fabulous EP, The Lead, whose song “Feature Me” contains Timbaland-esque syncopated beats reminiscent of some of the best girl groups of all time.

Luckily, the sounds of summer don’t have to be distilled to one choice. Below are TIME staffers’ selections of the best songs and albums from summer 2022.

Renaissance, Beyoncé

Disco-influenced pop songs have been attempted by artists in the recent past. But they all pale in comparison to Beyoncé’s shimmering salute to sweaty discotechques and bodacious queer spaces. Listen to the podcast musical analysis Pop PantheonHost DJ Louie XIV talked with New Yorker staff writer Doreen St. Félix about what stood out to them on this album. “Disco music—real disco music—is tinged with darkness and sadness… it’s one of the things I felt was missing from [Dua Lipa’s] Future Nostalgia,” DJ Louie XIV said. “If pop culture’s current disco revival is personified by [this record], [it’s missing] the sleaze, the darkness, the underbelly.” Aside from making a great record and helping resuscitate disco, Beyoncé showed us she’s still down to experiment, while reviving and highlighting queer icons of yore.—Moises Mendez II

Surrender, Maggie Rogers

As the resident Sad Girl and self-proclaimed Taylor Swift scholar of the group, how could I pick anything other than Maggie Rogers’ new album? Surrender, which had the perhaps unfortunate fate of sharing a release date with Beyoncé, sounds like the backdrop to a coming-of-age movie—it’s explosive and moody and so angry. The 12 songs are a lot less folksy than the ones from Rogers’ 2019 album You heard it in your past lifeThey are not, however, a reflection of an artist who is struggling with the painful emotions of longing and love in a more cathartic manner. It’s like she’s been bottling up her feelings forever and finally let them go (very literally, in the case of the song “Shatter”). “Anywhere With You” is a standout—an escapist adventure about that feeling of driving with someone special, windows rolled down, without a care in the world. I look forward to sitting in a car and listening to it and giving into all the wistfulness that comes with a line like “Cruising 95 like we got nothing to lose.”—Annabel Gutterman

ResetSonic Boom, Panda Bear, and Sonic Boom

Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) has been on a roll this year with the release of Animal Collective’s excellent album Time Skiffs and vocals on Braxe + Falcon’s brilliant “Step By Step.” Now he and Sonic Boom (Peter Kember of Spacemen 3) have released Reset , the collaborators’ first official album as a duo. Working off of samples by artists from the ‘50’s and’ 60’s like The Drifters, Eddie Cochran, The Everly Brothers and The Troggs, the duo create a psychedelic love-letter to pop music that feels both retro and modern. Lennox’s signature Brian Wilson-loving melodies and experimentation and Kember’s lifelong knack for simple but hypnotic compositions result in an album that’s melodic and tight, while still offering an open-air quality that you can drift away with. While you might recognize some of the material they use, it is completely theirs. It’s a warm hug of an album with hooks galore.—Chris Grasinger

“Running Up That Hill,” Kate Bush

As much as I’ve had “Break My Soul” and “Tití Me Preguntó” on repeat this summer, the song of the season has to be Kate Bush’s otherworldly 1985 hit, “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God),” which has found a new audience, become a viral sound on TikTok, and broken its way into the Top 5 on U.S. charts for the first time, thanks to a significant feature in the fourth season of Stranger ThingsNetflix might have sparked its revival, but it shouldn’t surprise that this synth-laden banger is still a hit, almost 37 years after its original release. The romantic, and very queer, anthem is also a great song! Melodrama in song. It’s thrilling, emotion-laden and all you can ask for in a summer song. For me, it’s become a song that can rise to any occasion warm weather presents: a late night bike ride, a jaunt to the beach, the playlist for the cookout, a spin on a crowded dancefloor—at any- and everything, I’ll be playing (and singing along at the top of my lungs to) “Running Up That Hill.”—Cady Lang

ElectricityIbibio Sound Machine

Ibibio Sound Machine is like a time-travelling dance party. To create their signature grooves, the London-based group draws from decades of Nigerian Afrobeat and U.K. Drum-and Bass music. Their newest album was produced by the prominent ‘00s synthpop group Hot Chip, and accordingly, there are lots of rasping synthesizers and full-bodied basslines. Over the top, frontwoman Eno Williams belts out furious incantations, including the promise of “spiritual, invisible, protection from evil.”—Andrew R. Chow

Coco Badass,” Ric Wilson featuring Kiéla Adira

Ric Wilson wrote “Coco Badass,” his first song of the year, in 2019 about “being unapologetically Black in a very weird anti-Black world.” The 27-year-old genre-defying Chicagoan collaborated with newcomer Kiéla Adira to pen a buoyant anthem about Black joy—and the importance of preserving it. “They just want yo coco flavor,” Adira croons in the chorus, “So best protect yo magic, baby. ‘Cause it don’t fade, don’t age.” In between, Wilson layers in funk-infused rap, poignant and playful at the same time. “I’m Blacker than the 79th bus, Blacker than the Popeye’s line rush,” Wilson lets loose. “Ace of spades, Biggie face, Wesley Snipe luck—and one narrative don’t define.”—Laura Zornosa

Super Freaky Girl,” Nicki Minaj

“Super Freaky Girl” is a triumphant return to the rap game for Nicki Minaj. However, some of his singles were not well received. But then, an unreleased song by Minaj began making its rounds on TikTok and started taking over the app—appearing in over 265,000 videos. This sound was used multiple times and it became more popular, which led to a greater demand for the entire song. Minaj finally released the full song Aug. 19 and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100—marking her first ever single to achieve this feat, and it’s the first No. Since Ms. Lauryn Hills’ 1998 debut, 1 is the first female rapper to make a hip-hop album.—Moises Mendez II


During her MOTOMAMI World Tour, ROSALÍA began performing a new song in some cities that was teased about being released soon. This track was met with criticism by Latinx people who felt she was culturally adapting merengue from her performance. People also noted it sounded exactly like a song Dominican mambo singer, Omega, would be on — which was originally the plan, according to him in an Instagram Live. Despite the controversy, it is still a great song and makes for a perfect soundtrack for any summer event.—Moises Mendez II

LAST LAST,” Burna Boy

With his Afro-fusion songs that are unavoidable, this African titan is gradually taking over the world. One of his current hits, “Last Last,” weaves a sample of one of Toni Braxton’s most popular songs, “He Wasn’t Man Enough,” onto the track as Burna’s husky yet gentle voice reflects on past relationships. Burna, one of the best afrobeats performers in the world, recently headlined Madison Square Garden’s first Nigerian show.—Moises Mendez II

STICKY,” Drake

People were thrown off by Drake’s latest album, Honestly, Nevermind,Because it is different from his usual routine. One of the standouts, however, was “Sticky.” Drake takes us through his mind as a thumping house-inspired beat drives the sonic path, and while the music makes it perfect for a club setting, he sticks to his usual sad-boy antics as he raps about his life.—Moises Mendez II

It is not Verano Sin Ti” Bad Bunny

Bad Bunny’s fans love the feeling of knowing him. The Puerto Rican rapper shows love and support for his island of origin, as well as calling out injustices that are faced there. He does so when he talks about femicide on “Andrea” and “Me Porto Bonito.” Songs like “Titi Me Preguntó,” “El Apagón,” and “Despues de la Playa” are sure to make anyone get out of their seats and dance. We’re all just thanking Bad Bunny we didn’t have to go through this summer without him.—Moises Mendez II

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