Just in time for the end of 2022, our editors are revealing their top moments of culture for the year, from the films that rocked their worlds to the television shows that drew them in. For today’s ranking, arts editors Jack, Henry, Odessa and Ellie give their takes for the best albums of 2022. As Ellie notes, her list is “unsolicited and sometimes incorrect opinions from a girl whose No. 2 artist this year was Bo Burnham.”
Jack Clohisy’s top albums of 2022:
10. “five seconds flat” by Lizzy McAlpine
Micro-but-growing artist Lizzy McAlpine released one of 2022’s greatest records when her second studio album, “five seconds flat,” dropped. Intimate songs with personal productions are abundant throughout the body of work, and she scores an easy layup on this list with this record.
9. “Harry’s House” by Harry Styles
Mainstream pop albums may find difficulty picking up critical acclaim. However, for the first time in a few years, Styles has produced a strong record that has proven successful commercially and among listeners with his recent project, “Harry’s House.”
8. “Dawn FM” by The Weeknd
Coming off the high of his previous project, The Weeknd set out to release another conceptual body of work, resulting in the birth of “Dawn FM.” Aided by much of the same successful sonics he employed in “After Hours” (2020), The Weeknd successfully rebounds with this project.
7. “Laurel Hell” by Mitski
Veteran alternative artist Mitski proved that she can dance in the dark. “Laurel Hell” is a testament to her craftsmanship as both a songwriter and a visionary. Though on the shorter side, “Laurel Hell” maintains consistency throughout the tracks that make the experience feel complete.
6. “SMITHEREENS” by Joji
Aided by the explosion of its lead single “Glimpse of Us,” Joji’s 2022 project is a beautiful body of work composed of ballads and cutting lyrics. The tracks individually pack a punch to a degree worthy of a spot on this list.
5. “CRASH” by Charli XCX
After an array of influential and meaningful projects in the 2010s, Charli XCX’s latest album, “CRASH,” is a highlight of her career. Carefully crafted, the album tracks stand out as some of the best on the record in comparison to its pre-released singles.
4. “Midnights” by Taylor Swift
Her milestone 10th original studio album, “Midnights” became the crowning jewel in Taylor Swift’s career as her highest first-week sales for any project. The first body of entirely new work from Swift since her pair of surprise releases in 2020, “Midnights” employs powerful imagery and returns to the pop scene.
3. “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” by Kendrick Lamar
Deeply personal and intimate, Kendrick Lamar opens up on his most recent project. Lamar has always maintained his lyrical prowess, but “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” feels like an elevated release from the veteran artist.
1 (tie). “SOS” by SZA
There was no just way to award the top spot to one of the following two albums, because both deserve the crown. Released just this past Friday, SZA proved that a five-and-a-half year wait for her sophomore album would be worth it. Introspective and solitudinous, “SOS” is a powerhouse second project from the iconic SZA.
1 (tie). “RENAISSANCE” by Beyoncé
Taking influences from the Black queer community and its impact on house music, “RENAISSANCE” is a shining tribute. With interpolations from Donna Summer, references to her Uncle Johnny who died of AIDS and a No. 1 single, Beyoncé proved that her comeback album was worth the wait.
Honorable mentions: “Public Displays Of Affection: The Album” by Muni Long, “Hold The Girl” by Rina Sawayama, “Two Places at Once” by Haley Joelle, “closer to closure” by Lexi Jayde, “emails i can’t send” by Sabrina Carpenter, “CHARLIE” by Charlie Puth
Henry Chandonnet’s top albums of 2022:
10. “MUNA” by MUNA
MUNA had already proved its star power with consistent years of incredible singles and EPs. But, after signing on to Phoebe Bridgers’ record label, the rockstar queer femme group got the push that it needed to excel. MUNA’s self-titled album is its official entrance to the stage.
9. “Stick Season” by Noah Kahan
Oh, to shelter deep in the woods with nothing but a crackling campfire and Noah Kahan’s music. As the ringleader of a latent neofolk movement, Kahan is imbuing pop song structures with a pared down, granola style of writing. Plus, he lives right next door!
8. “Gemini Rights” by Steve Lacy
If you know Steve Lacy from his TikTok-hit “Bad Habit,” there is so much more incredible music to know. Ranging from acoustic slow-jams to writhing R&B smashes, Lacy can do it all. Still, the project is effortlessly cohesive.
7. “Hold The Girl” by Rina Sawayama
Lady Gaga meets Shania Twain meets Avril Lavigne meets, well, I’ll hold myself back. Rina Sawayama has situated herself perfectly within pop music, not only standing at the forefront but finding a future-looking writing lens. Rina is the future of pop.
6. “The Loneliest Time” by Carly Rae Jepsen
Where did that whimsical pop music of yesteryear go? It feels like centuries since Katy Perry was lamenting the one that got away or Jessie J questioned the value of a price tag. Carly Rae Jepsen is reigniting this silly side of pop, one earworm at a time.
5. “MOTOMAMI” by Rosalía
2022 was Rosalía’s year. Writing club hits that reverberate through your brain, Rosalía has a special talent for energizing you. “MOTOMAMI” is an incredible album by itself but is so much better in its element. Listen to it at the club, listen to it at the pre-game, listen to it while dancing with your friends.
4. “Surrender” by Maggie Rogers
Inquiring minds want to know how Maggie Rogers became a songwriting virtuoso so quickly. Was it her time at Harvard Divinity School or her songwriting soirées with Joni Mitchell? Either way, the work can speak for itself, and “Surrender” is utterly inspired.
3. “CRASH” by Charli XCX
Charli XCX is in her pop sellout era, and we are oh-so grateful. “CRASH” is hit-after-hit, forming a club masterpiece in its own right. After the more outwardly prestigious “how i’m feeling now” (2020), “CRASH” proves Charli’s versatility.
2. “Dance Fever” by Florence + The Machine
Let’s go dance ourselves to death! Florence Welch is a spell-crafting, potion-brewing witch, and the listening public is deeply under her spell. Plus, one of the few COVID-19-themed albums to not feel out of touch.
1. “RENAISSANCE” by Beyoncé
Beyoncé takes on disco-pop … need I say more? From the buttery runs of “PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA” to the downright infectious beat of “CHURCH GIRL,” “RENAISSANCE” blows all of the other albums this year out of the water. America has a problem, and the problem is that not enough people are streaming its best album of the year.
Honorable Mentions: “Being Funny In A Foreign Language” by The 1975, “age/sex/location” by Ari Lennox, “five seconds flat” by Lizzy McAlpine, “Everything I Know About Love” by Laufey, “001” by Maude Latour, “Can You Afford To Lose Me?” by Holly Humberstone
Odessa Gaines’ top albums of 2022:
10. “NewJeans 1st EP ‘New Jeans’” by NewJeans
Rookie group NewJeans made waves with their unique debut style, dropping music videos for three tracks before releasing their entire album. A clear Y2K vision associated with the group, each track plays its part in laying the groundwork for the group’s ‘style,’ and none miss.
Must-listen-to track: “Attention”
9. “Superache” by Conan Gray
“Superache” is most definitely the album everyone needs in their ‘late-night cry’ playlist. Gray is a master at bringing that small voice we have in our heads out into the forefront. From the fear of messing up a friendship in striving for a relationship to feeling as if you heal slower than others, Gray puts it all out there. In need of a strong cry? This is your album.
Must-listen-to track: “Family Line”
8. “Metamorph” by The Score
I know what you’re thinking — alternative rock? Odessa? Yes, The Score has me by my throat with their music, the perfect songs to blast in the dead of night, to use for all your superhero fan edits and to play while you try to cram out a 15-page philosophy paper in five hours. “Metamorph” as an album is perfect for all these and more, with tracks that get your blood pumping.
Must-listen-to track: “Pull The Cord”
7. “minisode 2: Thursday’s Child” by TOMORROW X TOGETHER
Thursday’s child most definitely has far to go, and good boys most definitely go bad. An EP full of heartbreak, rebellion and so much passion it bleeds out your earbuds.
Must-listen-to track: “Lonely Boy (The tattoo on my ring finger)”
6. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Original Score)” by Ludwig Göransson
Now, I know what you’re thinking — Odessa really is just throwing whatever onto this list. But no, hear me out because the “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (2022) score is literally a musical masterpiece. The third track, “Sirens,” alone deserves a Grammy for how Göransson is able to create such intense feelings of fear. From track to track, he not only lines up the score to the scenes perfectly, but he makes it so that even just listening to the soundtrack alone pulls you through the whirlwind of emotions the movie does. Literally — a masterpiece.
Must-listen-to track: “Sirens”
5. “Jack In The Box” by j-hope
“Jack In the Box” balances the gritty rap talents of j-hope with production styles that are easy to get lost in. A clear change from what we usually hear from j-hope, “Jack In The Box” is a great introduction to the more idol hip-hop style branch of K-Pop.
Must-listen-to track: “Pandora’s Box”
4. “emails i can’t send” by Sabrina Carpenter
Throughout this album, Carpenter gives us an update on her side of a drama-filled love triangle, while also giving us the most ridiculously, amazing fun tracks of the year. With lyrics like “forks are f—ing everywhere” and “tell me who I am, guess I don’t have a choice,” Carpenter easily put out one of the most enjoyable listening experiences this year.
Must listen to track: “Nonsense”
3. “BETWEEN 1&2” by TWICE
TWICE, a group that never misses, reminded everyone why they are the girl group with their hit EP “Between 1&2”. If you want a K-Pop girlie to know you have taste, do the full “Talk that Talk” choreo — no questions asked. An EP with no skips, you can never go wrong with TWICE.
Must-listen-to track: “Queen of Hearts”
2. “Boy Alone” by Omah Lay
A hit debut album, Lay has created such a smooth listening experience where the lyrics hit deep and the music production will keep your attention. An Afropop artist that deserves more hype, Lay will have you in his clutches after just the first track.
Must-listen-to track: “soso”
1. “Indigo” by RM
A late entry but one that needs more attention — “Indigo.” From the acoustic, slow song “Forg_tful (with Kim Sawol)” to the disco-style “Hectic (with Colde),” RM shows, again and again, his lyrical and production talent. Half the songs will make you want to cry, half will make you want to dance, but the entire album will have you appreciating the artistry of RM on a whole other level.
Must-listen-to track: “Lonely”
Ellie Lester’s top albums of 2022:
10. “From 2 to 3” by Peach Pit
I feel obligated to include this on my list because Peach Pit is an all-time favorite of mine. That said, I didn’t think this was exceptionally good. They had a few good tracks — “Give Up Baby Go,” “2015,” … and that’s really it, in my opinion — but otherwise pretty unmemorable. Unlike “You and Your Friends” (2020) and “Being So Normal” (2018), which I would call no-skip albums, Peach Pit’s latest is little more than a nice ceramic or two stuffed in a whole bunch of styrofoam and bubble wrap.
9. “SMITHEREENS” by Joji
Okay, so I also thought this one was lowkey just a bunch of music you’d hear in a dentist’s office (but, like, a good dentist’s office). Anyways, there were some hidden gems; “Die For You” and “Glimpse of Us” were personal favorites of mine (if not deliciously hurtful enough to join my list of sad girl songs). Not to mention, “Glimpse of Us” is so backhanded (imagine a man saying you’re just a warm body compared to the girl he fantasizes about?) that I wouldn’t wish that kind of insult on my worst enemy.
8. “Dawn FM” by The Weeknd
Remember when we all made intimate eye contact with The Weeknd during the Super Bowl LV halftime show? I personally thought this album gave a solid showing. Until this year, I’ve only ever dabbled in his music; this album was a great addition to the hits from “Beauty Behind the Madness” (2015) and “Starboy” (2016) that attracted me in the first place.
7. “Harry’s House” by Harry Styles
You guys aren’t going to like this (which I’d imagine is true of pretty much everything I’m saying here, considering I left Taylor Swift off my list), but I honestly thought this one was only okay. No offense, but I think we as a society are giving Harry Styles a little too much credit; if you don’t agree, watch “Don’t Worry Darling” (2022) and tell me I’m wrong. I would describe this as above-average elevator music. That said, I do think that “Late Night Talking” earns the album its hype.
6. “HEROES & VILLAINS” by Metro Boomin
To be quite honest, until this album, Metro Boomin was just that guy who had something to do with “Ric Flair Drip” in my mind. I’ve since gained new opinions. “Creepin’” and “Niagara Falls (Foot or 2).” That’s all.
5. “SOS” by SZA
This album, along with the rest of SZA’s music, reminds me of the color periwinkle. Its tracks provide the perfect occasion for hating men (don’t we all?) and deciding you’re the hottest person in the room. Though some songs are better than others — “Kill Bill,” “Good Days” and “Open Arms (feat. Travis Scott)” are personal favorites — the collection is a pleasant and fitting younger sibling to “Ctrl” (2017).
4. “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” by Kendrick Lamar
I’ve seen this one get mixed reviews, but I think it’s solid. I like to listen to “We Cry Together” and pretend I’m in a passionate fight. Lamar’s fifth album was a tad uneven in terms of song quality, but I definitely think it holds as a whole.
3. “Her Loss” by Drake and 21 Savage
POV: You lost a man from Canada, I guess. Tiktok trends aside, I did enjoy this one (and I’m not a terribly enthusiastic Drake fan). My favorites include “Major Distribution” and “On BS.” I don’t have much else to say other than, what on Earth can 21 do for Drake?
2. “Waiting to Spill” by The Backseat Lovers
I’ve never been a giant Backseat Lovers girl, but this was great stuff — perfect for dissociating while staring at the ceiling or maybe driving but probably not driving because you should really be paying attention to the road probably. I would definitely give this no-skip status; my favorites include “Snowbank Blues,” “Words I Used” and “Follow the Sound.” Frankly, I feel like The Backseat Lovers fall squarely on the ~indie darling~ (do you listen to Tame Impala?), ‘everything I wear is thrifted’ brand, which means that a solid chunk of you should love this.
1. “Dance Fever” by Florence + The Machine
Another no skip album. I listened to this one on repeat while attempting to write a 10-page research paper in one day (which was incredibly un-fun, but I digress). My favorites from the collection are “The Bomb,” “Back in Town” and “Girls Against God.” Really a wonderful listen and the exact opposite of Passion Pit’s “‘From 2 to 3,” which mostly fed us a bunch of background music. According to a friend of mine and the 20 seconds I spent on pitchfork.com, Florence Welch uses the album to interrogate “her relationship to performance and public image.” Even if you’re not a big Florence + The Machine fan, I’d recommend you listen to “King” at the very least.