12 Best Albums of 2022
All creative industries bound by trends. Hollywood has superhero blockbusters. Its seasonal divine fashion world. Silicon Valley loves a troublemaker. Before the era of excessive streaming, hit dramas have become all the rage on television. Increasingly, the conspiracies that help drive success in the music business — beyond sheer talent, of course — are dictated by digital launchers: a virality. TikTok hits, placements on streaming playlists, or professionally mapped hype cycles.
Thankfully, in a year of phenomenal creative output, some of our most inspired artists have chosen not to play by those rules. Great music is all about deviation. It doesn’t worry about crowds by itself. It doesn’t hijack the moment by optimizing the artistry to the winds of social media. Featured albums of the year are neither trend-setters nor trend-followers. In fact, what brings their remarkable uniqueness together is their dissonance with expectations. Each rejects the sweet zest of the algorithm. Each suggests the most valuable resource available to us: possibilities.
As reality moves closer to social automation and machines that determine a lot of the way we live, the following 12 albums are like supernovas. Some genres broke. Others have made a house in it. All are unique reflections of what the past year has called for: the need to foster joy—above all, locate clarity—among the enveloping darkness. Call it survival. Call it a reason to keep going.
twelfth. Eternal story, JID
The torchbearer of a new avant-garde rap in the south. Georgian son. The heir apparent. Graduated from Andre 3000 and Goodie Mob School. There is no other way to say: JID is next.
11. black girl magic, Dijon honey
Honey Dijon is more than just a DJ. She is the godmother of the Chicago house. Queen of the dance floor. A mage and summoner of the gods. As the protagonist of the strange nightlife, she has a knack for rekindling the primordial desires that have been dormant in all of us. black girl magic is her sparkling tribute to the community and a call to celebrate. As the lyrics of “Downtown” affirm: “Leave your worries and troubles on the floor.”
ten. Luv 4 HireSmino
Imagine this: a movie about a millennial in love who goes on a supernatural trip through the midwest. It was directed by Terence Nance and produced by A24. The film stars Jerrod Carmichael, Keke Palmer, and Sheryl Lee Ralph. You’re told it’s the underdog to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, which you scoff, of course, because you’re quick to recognize its steady, subtle splendor and say with anyone willing to listen. When the victory is over, everyone is in shock and all you can think is, “Wow, okay.” It’s a Luv 4 Hire.
9. Un Verano Sin Ti, bad bunny
Seamless fusion of reggaeton, dembow, bachata and cumbia, all while never losing sight of his pop sensibility, the Puerto Rican hitmaker delivers a summer spell of traditional love songs cold. Un Verano Sin Ti is the most streamed album of 2022 on Apple Music and Spotify. It is a light work of sound and place, meaning and message, joy and play. The math — or rather Bad Bunny’s magnetism — speaks for itself.
8. shape, leikeli47
The fierce cry of “Chitty Bang.” The hypnotic storytelling of “Secret Service.” The great ballroom bass of “BITM.” The mesmerizing R&B tune of “Baseball”. The utter bravery of “Carry Anne.” In an era where everyone wants to be seen, liked, and famous on TikTok, Leikeli47 enjoys a newfound anonymity — literally (she’s always wearing a mask). Her thrilling stories of Black woman are not related to genre or structure. She does what she wants. What’s not to love?
7. fantasy getaway, cuco
It’s easy to underestimate Cuco. His sound oscillates between soothing stoner pop and searching psychedelic rock, occasionally drifting into the cozy grooves of his soul. (The trumpets that end in “Artificial Intelligence” are really subtle.) His musical effect is like being on an acid excursion, a slow simmering build followed by a sense of overflow. flooded at the same time. This time, with the help of Kasey Musgraves and Adriel Favela, the Mexican-American ballad artist explores a more murky emotional scene. But even when the romance turns into regret and what-ifs, it’s still about the journey. The end product is something like dreamlike happiness.
6. Spirituality, Santigold
There’s only one title that encapsulates the dazzling, sometimes counterintuitive beauty of Santaigold’s musical genre: futurepop. At once cosmic age, mysticism, and teleportation, Philadelphia’s high priestess returned in September after a year-long absence with a fitting title. Spirituality. The album, like Santi White’s best catalog, comes from somewhere we’ve never been but have always yearned to reach.
5. 11 and No title (Lord), sauce
In November, the UK’s collective Sault released five albums via a password-protected WeTransfer file on their website. The albums differ in approach and consensus seems to be air is a fan favorite. It makes sense, naturally; the group released its companion piece in early April—a similar sonic arrangement of orchestral excellence titled Air (originally spelled with an “i”)—received critical acclaim. But I’m part of 11 and Anonymous (God), a decorative blend of funk, R&B, and gospel. The songs complement each other in a way that suggests the true meaning of Sault’s calling: the work of bringing people together and, in doing so, showing us that we are more alike than we think we are. any.
4. Um, hello, LAYA
Out of all the artists on this list, I was most surprised by LAYA, whose debut EP is a great mood-setter that takes the best R&B and turns it into an exciting new whole. taste. In June, she released the single “Sock It 2 Me,” an ambient cover of the Missy Elliott classic, and delivered: It’s a evocative rhythmic flip. feel of the original. The vibes are immaculate.
3. Gemini RightSteve Lacy
The Austrian writer Robert Musil once remarked that “no thing, without self, without form, without principle, is secure; everything undergoes an invisible but non-existent process of transformation. stopped, the unstable holds more future than the stable.” Gemini Right, Lacy’s sophomore year solo effort, continues in that direction: happily flipping between genres, exploring uncertainties with eager ears. The album — about heartbreak and love and the sticky metamorphosis of relationships — exists between and beyond the binaries that often define Compton crooner’s musical brand, just as slippery as other identities. each other that he wears.
2. Ramona Park broke my heartVince Staples
This is the best rap album of the year that includes one of the best songs of the year and it’s not even over yet. Like me written in April, Staples navigates complex realism while growing up in North Long Beach, and “the result is a remarkable feat in an aesthetic project that has long been concerned with locating meaning in inevitable realities are trapping us.” So yeah: Best rap album of the year!
first. Renaissance, Beyoncé
Tragedy happened. Exaggerated death. Gloom is always present. Now call us to the dance floor. Now calls us to move and release. To shake off all the burdens for us. Above Renaissance, Beyoncé not only asked us to join the renewal process ahead, with the promise of brighter days and tender nights, she wanted it. Let’s be clear: This isn’t just an album, it’s not just a well-ordered collection of songs, not just a tribute to disco and house music, to exotic heavens. strange has long been relegated underground. Her mission is bigger, more majestic in scope. Beyonce is on her way to healing. Renaissance not intended to reflect the moment, as music often does. It did something different, something necessary. It reminds us of all the possibilities that we hold. It gave us hope.
And because it’s been a great year for music, eight more albums (in alphabetical order) are worth your time:
- age/gender/location, Ari Lennox
- cometNick Hakim,
- dance fever, Florence + machine
- God save the animalsAlex G.
- Honestly, it’s nothingDrake
- Mr. Morale & the Big SteppersKendrick Lamar
- My shadow, Quinton Brock
- Natural brown prom queenSudanese Archives