The 10 best songs of 2022

From disco-trap to deconstructed techno to Dolly-style country, we rank our favorite tracks this year.

Selecting the best songs of the past 12 months was hardly easy (you could even say things got heated). But without further ado, here they are: EW’s top 10 favorites, from disco-trap bangers to deconstructed techno to the best new Dolly Parton song not by Dolly Parton.

10. Amanda Shires – “Lonely at Night”

You wouldn’t be crazy to think Amanda Shires sounds like Dolly Parton, or is heavily influenced by Carole King. That’s especially the case on “Lonely at Night,” off her seventh solo album, Take It Like a Man. Like those legends before her, Shires (a member of the country supergroup the Highwomen) is her own commanding force, a singer-songwriter who elevates raw, almost too-real storytelling with her vocal prowess. On “Lonely,” the last word of each line of the verses is accentuated with an anguished, trembling run before the music — brassy and desperate — swells to punctuate her pleas in the chorus: “Can you just stop with theses little wars?/Can you just hold on and hope a little longer?” You can’t help but root for her. —Gerrad Hall

9. Arctic Monkeys – “There’d Better Be a Mirrorball”

Where do you go when you’ve already released at least two of the aughts’ biggest rock records? Back to the first-class lounge of a 1978 moon base, apparently. “Mirrorball” shows Monkeys frontman Alex Turner reaching into his louchest bag of Tranquility tricks, even as the lyrics paint a picture of something much more somber: the end of a love affair. “How’s that insatiable appetite for the moment you look them in the eyes/And say ‘Baby it’s been nice’?” he intones wearily over sparse piano, shuffling percussion, and strings so sad they sound like they need Paxil. It’s all pretty far from a mirrorball, but then there’s that voice, rich with falsettoed longing and regret: the debonair prince of doomed romance, twirling heartbreak into mellow gold. —Leah Greenblatt

8. Steve Lacy – “Bad Habit”

In movies, the hero always makes exactly the right move and gets the girl. In the real world, we are no such smoothies; we stumble and stutter and walk away cursing all the things we couldn’t say. Lacy, the 24-year-old bedroom-R&B darling who ascended to main-stage stardom (SNL gigs, a Song of Summer VMA) with his second solo studio album, Gemini Rights, earlier this year, isn’t too cool to own that insecurity. In fact, radical honesty is kind of his brand, and the loping, low-key beauty of “Bad Habit” is how perfectly it captures the heady mix of hey-girl bravado and crippling self-doubt that anyone who’s ever been confronted with an unrequited crush knows so well — biscuits, gravy and all, babe. —Leah Greenblatt

7. Taylor Swift – “Anti-Hero”

What do you do when the monsters under your bed materialize? If you’re Taylor Swift, you grab a pen and write “Anti-Hero,” a vulnerable examination of the singer’s worst witching-hour fears compiled into one snappy, irresistible pop song. Nothing is off limits as Swift constructs an all-too-relatable house of horrors: self-hatred, depression, anxiety that leaves her “screaming from dreaming” deep into the night. The track’s nostalgic ’80s drum loop brings levity to one of her darkest singles yet — and the most quotable hook of the year: “It’s me. Hi. I’m the problem, it’s me.” —Emlyn Travis

6. Kendrick Lamar – “The Heart Part 5”

There’s a reason this man has a Pulitzer Prize. Over a moody interpolation of Marvin Gaye’s sumptuous 1976 funk masterpiece “I Want You,” the Compton native mines the generational ache of coming from a place “where murder is minor,” and the emotional landmines implicit in representing that pain to the world. The music video, in which Lamar uses deepfake technology to morph into the form of divisive Black icons (O.J., Kanye, Kobe), is its own marvel, but it’s the rapid-fire torrent of words that stays; a personal manifesto forged in fire. —Leah Greenblatt

5. Rosalía – “CUUUUuuuuuute”

It shouldn’t work, but it does. Over two and a half chaotic minutes, “CUUUUuuuuuute” spans genres, continents, and centuries, with Spanish superstar Rosalía weaving a patchwork of ear-tingling mayhem. First, a sample of Vietnamese social-media star Soytiet counting to 21. Next, a fusillade of pummeling techno and some rattling martial beats courtesy of Argentinian DJ-producer Tayhana that sound like a fork trapped in a garbage disposal. Then it all comes to a grinding halt for a stirring slab of torch balladry inspired by the Kate Bush classic “Wuthering Heights.” In that moment — as she beckons a loved one to ditch the fake friends, stop the doomscrolling, and come outside to watch some butterflies (remember nature?) — Rosalía sounds utterly divine, like some fierce mother goddess beamed down to save us from ourselves. —Jason Lamphier

4. The Weeknd – “Less Than Zero”

Tucked away in the dark, neon-drenched alleyways of the Weeknd‘s afterlife soundtrack, Dawn FM, is its hidden bittersweet gem. “Less Than Zero” — in which Abel Tesfaye mourns a romance he has sabotaged — juxtaposes its twinkling, interstellar synths and heavy kick-drum heartbeat with the singer’s poignant prose. And while the Weeknd is no stranger to documenting how his self-destructive tendencies have led him astray, this time his subdued, well-worn vocals cast a new pall over the proceedings. Even with the best of intentions, even though he knows he’s gotta change, even on the other side, his next goodbye is inevitable. —Emlyn Travis

3. Alex G – “Runner”

If Alex Giannascoli were a visual artist, he’d paint in wild, suggestive daubs that seem to change with the light. “Runner,” the highlight off September’s God Save the Animals, plays with shifting images and moods, and at less than three minutes doesn’t have an ounce of fat on it. Over balmy guitar and teasing piano, the Pennsylvania singer-producer alludes to large sums of concealed cash and “a couple bad things” — flashes of menace that are as concise as a highlight reel, yet still rich and enchantingly unpredictable. —Owen Myers

2. Beyoncé – “Heated”

On a record overflowing with bangers — truly, more than half the songs from Renaissance could have made this list — “Heated” serves as B7’s thesis statement. Not only does it make overt references to the ballroom community whose influence clicks and clacks its way through the album, but it pays homage to Beyoncé‘s queer uncle Johnny, an early mentor and curator who helped shape the diva’s impeccable musical tastes. Controversial lyrics aside, “Heated’ also manages to encapsulate the sound of her career best with a single line: “On my MPC making disco-trap.” This is dance music for dark times. —Lester Fabian Brathwaite

1. Harry Styles – “As It Was”

Ask not for whom the internet’s boyfriend sings; he sings for thee. Okay, fine: Maybe his muse was Olivia Wilde, or some other gorgeous siren whose name we’ll never know. But with his Dixie-cup dimples, wry smile, and whimsically bedazzled onesies, Styles seemed to tap into something both universal and brand-new on Harry’s House — the sound of the world’s biggest male pop star giving an extremely chill discourse on vulnerability. “Answer the phone/Harry, you’re no good alone/Why are you sittin’ at home on the floor?/What kind of pills are you on?” he coos wistfully on the album’s inescapable lead single, “As It Was,” a man calling out from the house-pants purgatory of pandemic ennui. But there’s a sneaky, unsinkable joy in all that prettily syncopated melancholy: The synths gallop like excitable ponies while his warm-wash vocals swoop and dip, a sweet little slice of life-support disco for the lonely. —Leah Greenblatt

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