American Songwriter’s Top 24 Songs of 2022

From R&B and rock to hip-hop, country, pop, and more alternative compositions, this year, music has returned to its fuller form.

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Throughout 2022, we welcomed music from all your favorite artists, everything from Taylor Swift’s highly anticipated Midnights album to the Renaissance return of Beyoncé, along with the re-emergence of Kendrick Lamar, Florence & the Machine, Bonnie Raitt, Macklemore, and more.

Celebrating music as we close out the year (good riddance), we compiled a list of songs that stood out among the rest.

Check out our 24 Top Songs of 2022.

“Chant” Macklemore

“Chant” is the single from the Seattle-based rapper ahead of his 2023 release, Ben. This song has it all, a funky, quirky beat, an excellent hook, a music video with Pacific Northwest stars, and, most importantly, the heartfelt, versatile, playful lyrics from Macklemore. For the artist who has been putting out solid singles regularly over the past year or two, this one is at the top of the vaunted list. And it talks about the city getting back the Seattle SuperSonics. Bonus points. – JACOB UITTI

“Beggin’”Måneskin

“Beggin'” is as much aesthetically pleasing as it is functional. It can be hard to get motivated at times throughout the day. And if you don’t want to chug another cup of coffee, perhaps just put on “Beggin’” for a jolt of momentum. A cover of the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons song, this rock rendition is rambunctious and satisfying. It’s a growl that will shiver you alert and ready to take on the week, let alone the day. – JACOB UITTI

“We Cry Together”Kendrick Lamar

“We Cry Together” is as much a scene from a Broadway play as it is a song, which only adds yet one more wrinkle to the genius of Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar. When you distill the human experience down to its brutal essence, this song is the soundtrack. It’s love, hate, desperation, lust, resignation, depression, hope, glory, work, and power all wrapped up in one. The song comes from Lamar’s latest album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, it’s a classic comprised of classics. -JACOB UITTI

“Circles Around This Town” Maren Morris

“Circles Around This Town” finds Maren Morris looking back on her beginnings. Against a steady rhythm and sparse beat, she reminisces about taking on Music City in the hopes of making it big, armed with only a few songs and big dreams. I drove circles around this town / Tryin’ to write circles around this town / Tryna say somethin’ with meanin’ / Somethin’ worth singin’ about. And while she’s made it, she assures listeners she still has the pedal down. – ALLI PATTON


“King”
Florence + The Machine

I need my golden crown of sorrow, my bloody sword to swing / My empty halls to echo with grand self-mythology / I am no mother, I am no bride, I am king, goth-pop songstress Florence Welch sings against the building theatrics of “King.” A powerful song about women’s sacrifice, “King” examines identity and desire, wrapped up in an explosive anthem of struggle and triumph. – ALLI PATTON


“Plan B”
Megan Thee Stallion

Rap goddess Megan Thee Stallion viciously spits Popping plan b’s ’cause I ain’t planned to be stuck with ya on “Plan B.” A song with its fair share of disses to an ex, “Plan B” also acts as an anthem, reminding Ladies, love yourself ’cause this shit could get ugly. The Stallion tune came at the perfect time in 2022, a time when reproductive rights across the country are being threatened. If that’s not “real hot girl shit,” what is? – ALLI PATTON

“As It Was” – Harry Styles

“As It Was” re-introduced the world to Harry Styles as someone who could shoulder an indie, new wave sound with ease. On top of being one of the biggest songs of the year (not to mention of all time), the ability to experiment that Styles exhibits here is something to marvel at. Moreover, “As It Was” came right on time. Styles reckons with his past and shakes off his pandemic ills on this track. As the world was walking into one of the most, relatively speaking, normal years we have had in recent memory, Styles gave us one last reminder to look back: You know it’s not the same as it was. – ALEX HOPPER

“Karma” – Taylor Swift

This track became a sleeper hit for Swift after she released Midnights. In many ways, it acts as a thesis statement for Swift’s approach to the music industry in recent years—watching those who prayed for her downfall in the rearview as she rises to unimaginable heights. The oh-so-Antonoff production sweeps the listener in with lulling verses and then rattles the cage with an effervescent chorus. The lyrics are deeply Swift in nature as she sings Karma’s a relaxing thought / Aren’t you envious that for you it’s not? – ALEX HOPPER

“Heated” – Beyoncé

“Heated” was a slow burn for me. When I first dove into Beyoncé’s Renaissance, I brushed off this shadowy floor-filler in favor of shinier offerings like “Cuff It” or “Church Girl.” After having spent many hours with albums since, “Heated” has become an undisputed standout. The bridge of this one is anthemic as anything else on the album. She sings, Fan me quick, girl, I need my glass / Fan me off, my wrist goes click / Dimples on my hip, stretch marks on my tits / Drinkin’ my water, mindin’ my biz. It demands you show up with zero inhibitions and a drink in your hand every time it comes on. – ALEX HOPPER

“Concrete Jungle” – Carli Brill 

There’s something so enticing about Carli Brill’s “Concrete Jungle” that it’s been lingering in my head since the first time I heard it months ago. Inspired by meeting her husband Jordan in New York City, you’ll feel as enchanted listening to this song as she was by his smile as bright as your tattoos. The doo-wop melody feels like you’ve stepped back in time, while her voice immediately makes your ears perk up. Subtle twists and turns make the song interesting, curious about what she has to say. It’s one of the many examples of how Brill proves she has staying power—and is worth listening to. – CILLEA HOUGHTON

“Victoria’s Secret” – Jax 

“Victoria’s Secret” is equal parts comedic and truth-telling. Its biting honesty makes you laugh and think at the same time, a rare feat for a catchy pop song. Inspired by Jax’s own struggles with eating disorders growing up, the song was written for the young girl she babysits who went home crying after bikini shopping with her friends at Victoria’s Secret. The lyrics are as much a message of encouragement to her younger self as they are to the girl she was babysitting, dissuading her from buying into the idea that women are skin and bones with big boobs. It’ll make you laugh, and cringe, at how true it is when she sings of cashing in on body issues and the penultimate line, I know Victoria’s Secret/She was made up by a dude. Cheers to Jax for writing one of the most striking (and humorous) songs of the year. – CILLEA HOUGHTON

“Nighttime Animal” – Kyshona

Kyshona’s music is good for the soul and challenges you to think, as demonstrated by “Nighttime Animal.” Featured on her new EP, The Parthenon Sessions, “Nighttime Animal” is a mystical tale with its roots steeped in freedom, examining nocturnal animals as they dance in the dew and dark, guided only by the light of the stars against the night sky without anyone to stop or question them. It’s not irrational/To live the life you want/Before you’re dead, she sings, backed by haunting harmonies from Zack Gibson Smith, Maureen Murphy, and Nickie Conley. Though Kyshona repeatedly asks, did you ever want to be a nighttime animal? what makes the song so soul-stirring is that it truly begs the question—are human beings really free? – CILLEA HOUGHTON

“Buy Dirt” – Jordan Davis

CMA Song of the Year “Buy Dirt” has Jordan Davis sharing the lessons he’s learned from his grandfather: You can’t buy happiness / But you can buy dirt. An assist from country superstar Luke Bryan further elevates the track as he shares even more wisdom: Find the one you can’t live without / Get a ring, let your knee hit the ground / Do what you love but call it work. The heartwarming song tugs on the heartstrings and was welcomed by fans and critics alike, as “Buy Dirt” spent two weeks at No. 1 as well as became one of the most popular country songs of 2022, garnering more than 680 million streams to date. – ANNIE REUTER

“Wait in the Truck” – HARDY featuring Lainey Wilson

It’s been a while since country music had a murder ballad break through the way HARDY’s “Wait in the Truck,” featuring Lainey Wilson, has. On “Wait in the Truck,” HARDY shares the harrowing tale of picking up a woman bruised and broke from head to toe on the side of the road. He asks her where the man is and tells her to wait in the truck as he seeks revenge on her abuser. The Top 20 and rising single’s haunting music accompaniment alongside HARDY and Wilson’s powerful vocal delivery strike a chord and help bring the song’s more sinister message home. – ANNIE REUTER

“Everything She Ain’t” – Hailey Whitters

Years after writing songs for other artists, Hailey Whitters finally gets her shot at radio with the feel-good “Everything She Ain’t.” The upbeat song has Whitters boldly telling a man that the woman he’s dating is wrong for him. She then lists all the reasons he should date her instead: I can be the whiskey in your soda, the lime to your Corona / shotgun in your Tacoma, the Audrey to your Hank. Memorable fiddle accompaniment, an ear-grabbing beat, and infectious handclaps further accentuate Whitters’ vocal delivery and clever lyrics. Currently in the Top 40 of the country charts, “Everything She Ain’t” proves more people than Whitters are seeing stars on this track. – ANNIE REUTER

“Tall and Mighty” – Kelsey Waldon

It’s difficult to pick just one song from Waldon’s No Regular Dog album—the title track or the tribute to her mentor John Prine, and “Season’s Ending,” are also worthy candidates—but this bittersweet ballad about the highs and lows of the singer/songwriter’s life perfectly displays her vocal, melodic and lyrical talents. Strains of crying pedal steel bring pathos to the country-infused refrain as Waldon reveals that some days you’re on top of the world, on cloud 9 when others you wanna break down and cry. That cuts straight to the way it is, regardless of your profession. Ultimately she leaves us with an optimistic stance, closing with “Everything’s gonna be alright,” her stirring voice a reflection of the tune’s poignant but hopeful see-saw outlook on life.  – HAL HOROWITZ

“John Wayne” –  Whiskey Myers

The iconic titular cowboy never appears in the lyrics of this, the first single and most streamed track from Whiskey Myers’ 2022 album Tornillo. The musical debt to Lynyrd Skynyrd is clear, especially as Cody Cannon’s voice replicates the inflections of Ronne VanZant. The thumping Southern rocker with its edgy blues harmonica solo and gospel female backing vocals is told in the voice of an apparent shut-in protagonist who is locked up by myself watching the world go up in flames. It’s a tough, swaggering vibe, reminiscent of John Wayne’s larger-than-life persona.  – HAL HOROWITZ

“Made Up Mind” –  Bonnie Raitt

The lead-off song from Raitt’s first album in six years is not the more popular Tedeschi Trucks swamp rocker of the same name, but rather a deep track from The Bros. Landreth’s 2015 release, Let It Lie. There’s no denying the Little Feat quality of the supple, loping melody featuring Raitt’s smooth, soulful vocals and her trademarked slide guitar. She keeps the original’s arrangement intact, but her emotional voice singing the lyrics of a broken relationship with one member leaving, already having a “made up mind” with The quiet behind a slamming door/The break of a heart that won’t break no more conveys the hurt, doubt, and vulnerability of the person left behind.  – HAL HOROWITZ

“Anything”Sharon Van Etten

“Anything” is Sharon Van Etten’s unresponsiveness to war and the deterioration of the environment and anxiety—Can’t stop thinking ‘bout peace and war. Up the whole night / Right before / The sun takes everything / It could’ve been anything / I didn’t feel anything. Off her sixth album, We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong, “Anything” builds as Van Etten still struggles with the reality of her ending refrain of I couldn’t feel anything. – TINA EVES

“Personality Disorder” – Suede

There’s something eloquently Suede in the charging punk of Personality Disorder, off the band’s ninth album, Autofiction. The words we use are like future ghosts / And our lives too will fall apart like this moment / Gone like the birthday cards on the windowsill / Brief as the pale light on the bedroom walls sings Brett Anderson, like a sly apparition looking in on things.  

“Sometimes songs take years to reveal themselves, even to the writer,” said Suede singer and songwriter Brett Anderson, “Clearly I’m playing around with vulnerability, complexes, cracks in the psyche, but lots of it is painted in broad brushstrokes, the imagery and the sounds taking precedence over the narrative. I wanted this album to be raw both musically and emotionally, I suppose if anything this song is trying to reveal the more broken person behind the persona.” – TINA EVES

“Spitting Off the Edge of the World” featuring Perfume Genius Yeah Yeah Yeahs

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ first new single in nearly a decade, “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” drips in YYYs synth with its lyrics more laser-focused on the plight of the environment and the damage mankind has done to the Earth with Karen O singing Cowards! / Here’s the sun / So bow your heads / In the absence of bombs / Draw your breath through the refrain of And the kids cry out / We’re spitting off the edge of the world / Out in the night / Never had no chance /Nowhere to hide / We’re spitting off the edge of the world. Off the band’s fifth album, Cool It Down—the album title pulled from the 1970 Velvet Underground Loaded track of the same name—is the band’s first release since Mosquito in 2013. – TINA EVES

“Make It Out Alive”War Hippies

This song, culled from the War Hippies’ debut album, shares the renewed faith that comes when one is given a second chance to show appreciation for the people in their life. Brief instrumental snippets of “Amazing Grace” and “The Star Spangled Banner” underscore that spiritual sensibility, making for a powerful testament to powers of optimism and determination.  – LEE ZIMMERMAN

“Circling the Drain”Dan Navarro

Dan Navarro shares life lessons well worth heeding, underscoring the music with an added embellishment. In effect, Navarro creates his own musical mantra, one that focuses on maintaining a positive perspective and overriding optimism. It leaves an indelible impression and elevates the emotional imprint overall. – LEE ZIMMERMAN

“Monk”Brian Lisik

Culled from Lisa’s latest album Hotsy Totsy, “Monk” channels the Stones’ “Live With Me,” while exemplifying a blend of attitude and exuberance. Even so, the abject humor and sarcastic asides give the music its distinct personality. Being the good son, Lisik also takes the time to thank his mom for literally making it all possible. – LEE ZIMMERMAN

Let us know if you agree or disagree. Leave your favorites in the comments below.

Photos: Harry Styles by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images; Megan Thee Stallion by Amy Sussman/Getty Images for MRC; Taylor Swift by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

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