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The 20 best tracks of 2022

From Burna Boy and Bad Bunny to VTSS and Frost Children, have a look at Dazed’s favourite tracks of 2022

In 2022, we brushed ourselves off after years of enforced solitude and entered back into the world full force – so it’s only natural that we had a soundtrack to reflect this. From raging summer anthems by way of “Titi Mi Preguntó” and “B.O.T.A.” to TikTok breakouts courtesy of Ice Spice and nu-indie slammers from the heart of New York’s Dimes Square, these are the tunes we leaned on and danced to; the ones that made us think and feel. Here are the 20 best tracks of the year (or find the full playlist on our Spotify here).


daine, the Filipino-Australian emo pop artist, dropped “boythots” back in August. They debuted the new track at a London show in June, where they were supporting their mentor, Charli XCX. “boythots” marked a shift in daine’s sound, to something altogether poppier and more colourful – a change that they’ve since said was inspired by Charli. “She definitely made me more keen on pop music,” they said in an interview with Alt Press. “I respect her confidence and swag onstage, and I love how die-hard her fans are. It made me realise you can be at the top but still do what you want and have a really intimate connection with your fans. I’m enjoying writing radio-friendly songs for the first time in my life.”

“I played a new song “boythots” at a few shows recently, and people seem to love it,” they continued. And truly, with daine commanding us to “treat that boy like a slut” over a gloriously bouncy bassline, what’s not to love? (Serena Smith)

19. CLIP, “HURT U”

CLIP is in her feelings. She’s “sitting in [her] room all alone”; she’s “trying to find [her] hope”; she’s got an “ice box where [her] heart should go”. “Hurt U” may be a decidedly emo offering, but CLIP brings a level of flare only New York City rappers know. After gaining attention in 2020 with the viral hit “Sad B!tch”, CLIP dropped her Perception EP this September, of which “Hurt U” is the final track, building on the disruptive, sad girl sound she’s become rapidly known for. A melodious flow and distorted, glitchy production are both tools CLIP uses at her disposal: yes, she’s hurting and vulnerable, but she’s also guarded and cagey, her frank, heartfelt lyrics hiding behind thick layers of vocal manipulation. “How am I supposed to learn how to love/when I keep fucking up?” she deigns to ask. If only we knew. (Elliot Hoste)


When AI supplants the workforce, the human brain and all its capacity for critical thinking will be remembered as a twee, historical quirk – not unlike the steam engine or oil lamps. But what if all those robots, unbound by social etiquette, turned out to be little more than foul-mouthed slags? Only Fire is the musician working at the intersection of machine-learning and fisting, taking TikTok’s text-to-speech function and bewitching it with a pervert’s mind. On “Yoga” – a collaboration with Brooke Candy – Only Fire’s dismembered vocals repeat “Put that dick in my head/ Mouth open pussy spread/ Smack my ass make it red” ad infinitum, propelled by a compulsive bassline of bouncy house beats. With Brook Candy’s voice barely rising above a moan to purr “ooh, it's fitness/ I bet I could fit this”, the track caricatures the obvious “undertones” harboured in the kind of music people like to listen to at the gym – albeit with the raunchy lyricism of CupcakKe and cyborgian affectations of SOPHIE. (Daniel Rodgers)


Burna Boy stands as a giant among contemporary pop stars. His energy, charisma and influence on modern pop music is indisputable – the afrobeats sound he helped popularise has become a mainstay in charts internationally. Back in May, he delivered what could possibly be the best break-up song of the year, “Last Last”. Built around a sample from Toni Braxton’s 2000 hit “He Wasn’t Man Enough”, Burna Boy turns to booze and weed to heal his wounded heart (relatable). The “fuck it, that’s life” attitude the song takes serves a reminder to us all that heartbreak will reach us all at one point, or as Burna Boy puts it himself: “Na everybody go chop breakfast.” (Louis Merrion)


It feels easy to over intellectualise pop music nowadays, but Blaketheman1000, AKA Dimes Square rapper Blake Ortiz-Goldberg, is pure fun. The New York rapper delicately pieces together an amalgamation of genres, creating memey music that finely hangs in the balance of nonsensical ramblings and pop brilliance.

A song about smoking and flirting and crying, “Blake 2” features angsty tongue-and-cheek lyrics combine with melodic indie guitar riffs, which seamlessly transcend into the realms AutoTuned pop, with vocals by fellow NY indie artist May Rio. Its nonsensical irony speaks to the hyper-online scene which Blaketheman1000 runs in – he’s not called the Dimes Square rapper for nothing. So, don’t try and overthink it with a 10,000-word essay, just “Fuck with the vision/ Fuck the the vibe”. (Jessica Langton)


If there’s one statement that can best sum up our feelings toward the post-pandemic technodystopia that looms just beyond the threshold of 2022, it’s Bladee’s refrain on track seven of Palmistry’s TINKERBELL: “I got bad vibes.” Given the spiritual insights dotted around the latest album from the UK artist (AKA Benjy Keating), it wouldn’t come as a surprise if he was issuing a prophetic warning on the song – aptly titled “Bad Vibes” – while channelling the Drain Gang star’s signature melancholy. (Like this? You’ll love the guest appearance from Yung Lean on the previous track, “Brexia”.) At the other end of the song, however, Isabella Lovestory offers us a welcome reprieve, delivering a typically sassy verse about dressing well and behaving badly over thudding bass and skittering synths. Yes, the future’s looking grim, but if it’s soundtracked by collabs like “Bad Vibes”, then the least we can do is go down “bumpin’, bumpin’, bumpin’”. (Thom Waite)

14. A$AP ROCKY, “D.M.B.”

A$AP Rocky is probably the only person in the world who can get away with calling Rihanna his bitch. An abbreviation of the poetic sentiment “Dat’s My Bitch”, “D.M.B.” is Rocky’s 2022 equivalent of Shakespeare’s love sonnets to his “lady” Rihanna, with lines that veer surprisingly earnest (“You’re my angel and my goddess”) while also quintessentially capturing their essence as a pair (“Roll my blunt, be my bitch”/ “Rub my butt, be my slut”). Jay Z and Beyoncé’s “Bonnie & Clyde” for the 2020s, the track came complemented by a hip-hopera worthy visuals of Rih and Rocky frollicking on NY fire escapes, “shar[ing] clothes with my bitch like she my sis,” and even getting married with matching grillz – a cinematic love letter to 2022 pop culture’s preeminent power couple. The art mimicking life timing of Rihanna bailing out her baby daddy was not missed, but as “D.M.B.” reminds us, we “don’t know nothin’,” and – as you do when you’re wrapped up in a love like this – they really DGAF what we think. (Vanessa Hsieh)


Where “Make You Scream” basically blasted you in the face as soon as you pressed play on VTSS’s 2022 EP Circulus Vitiosus, “Incredibly Annoying” was more of a grower – but when it hit, it hit right. All abrasive beats and jagged distortion, the record also marked a big move in a new direction for Martyna Maja, as she dropped her own husky, breathy vocals into the mix – cut to Ibiza club DC10’s closing party, and it was clear it had paid off, as the crowd went ballistic when she dropped it into a particularly energetic set. On a more personal level, the track spoke to me. As an incredibly annoying person myself, it’s really nice to finally have such a banging anthem to call my own. (Emma Davidson)


If 2022 brought us a year of musical delights, then none was more satisfying than the return of Kelela. After the rich and dramatic stylings of first single “Washed Away”, a “Happy Ending” soon followed. Like much of Kelela’s previous work, the song deals in the emotional grey areas within romantic relationships, spaces replete with unspoken truths and shrouded lies. Although she “tried it once, but you don't listen”, Kelela optimistically changes tack, holding that “If you don't run away/Could be a happy ending after all”. The track expertly evokes the blurred lines between honesty, intent and respect in a relationship. LSDXOXO and Bambii take the reins on production, while Kelela’s sultry, gossamer vocal glides effortlessly across the top. (Elliot Hoste)


Rising Glaswegian star TAAHLIAH has been dropping banger after banger for a while now, with her debut 2022 album Whatever The Weather a further revelation, but this year, it was “Fuck It!” that wiggled its way inside my brain and refused to leave. Featuring the similarly wildly talented Loraine James, the earworm-y track reverberates with ricocheting bouncy ball beats and brilliant, brain-melting glitches, clashing shades of classic Chicago house with techno and hyperpop-esque flourishes. Sealing the deal on its staying power is the excited, childlike refrain of “Fuck it!” that pops up all over the place throughout. Press play at your own peril – it will never leave your head. (Emma Davidson)


Fox bop, high score, I just hit the high score/ Sand lot, brain rot, I just hit a trickshot” rising duo Frost Children yelp at the start of “Fox Bop”, which is apt for a track that makes you feel like you’ve been sucked into some sort of mad, technicolour 8-bit video game (perhaps a bit like the one they collaborated on with bonkers NY designer Collina Strada circa 2020). The Dazed cover stars’ breakout banger is an assaulting blend of glitchy bleeps and wobbles, bratty yelped lyrics, and fizzing energy, and perfectly embodies why they’re one of the most exciting names among a new gen of underground New York dive bar dwellers. With this track, alongside debut album Spiral, though, it’s unlikely they’ll be lurking around the depths for a whole lot longer. (Emma Davidson)


If there was one single question, one defining, devastating query that rose above the parapets of virtue, honour and grace, obliterating anything and everything in its path – it came from the only person brave enough to ask: “You thought I was feeling you?” The opening bar of Ice Spice’s “Munch (Feelin’ You)” sliced through the minds and souls of the fragile egos it so casually mocked, while lengthening the lives of those who gleefully screamed it on social media accounts around the globe. The New York native has only been releasing music since 2021, but looks set to rule the world (or at least Tiktok’s For You page) after the runaway success of her viral hit. It’s the combination of Ice’s unhurried, dismissive flow, and the thoughtlessness with which she regards men that sets ‘Munch’ out as one of the year’s best. So, make like Spice, look them dead in the eye, and repeat after me: “YOU THOUGHT I WAS FEELING YOU???!” (Elliot Hoste)


How can I be homophobic, my bitch is gay” were the words that seemed to reverberate on TikTok for what seemed like forever this year. From the risqué refrain to the nostalgia driven “Blow Your Mind” sample, the song is the perfect example of how to achieve TikTok virality. Coming in at less than two minutes, Central Cee manages to list off his sexual fantasies, how shooting a man is gay, and even reflects on his career thus far as he spits, “​​Gotta kick back sometimes and wonder/ How life woulda been if I never did take them risks/ And would have I prospered?. The track is brilliant, unconventional and does exactly what great pop has historically done: confuse your parents and engrain itself firmly in the minds of the younger masses. Whatever you think of “Doja”, it solidified Central Cee as a superstar for the TikTok generation. (Louis Merrion)


We did it, we finally bullied SZA into releasing “Shirt”. Sure, the teaser for it may have originally dropped in 2020, but as her stans will tell you, SZA is the embodiment of better late than never. While S.O.S. came out a little too late to have marinated enough to put on an end of year list, the long-demanded release of “Shirt” in full (complete with visuals featuring Atlanta’s LaKeith Stanfield again) was a watershed moment, an oasis in the desert this year for fans constantly searching for signs that the follow up to Ctrl might actually be imminent. The line, “Damn, bitch, you so thirsty,” is as much an acknowledgement of these rabid fans, as it is a self-admonishment for “going back on [her] word” by returning to an old flame. This confessional writing – “letting you all in my mental” – is what has endeared her fans to her and kept them loyal through the slow drip-feed of new material over the past half-decade. “How I’m ’posed to trust?” is a healing chorus sung for and with the crazy sexy sad girls in all of us surviving off infinitely looping the snippet of “Shirt” and the end of “Good Days” for two years, “simmer[ing] in [our] skin” as we navigate our shared trust issues in relationships but also with the industry that has kept this album from us for so long. Who needs therapy when you have new SZA? (Vanessa Hsieh)


An innocent guitar line, then a record scratch, and an ear-worm chorus made up of luscious, layered harmonies that swell over snarled 808s. “Cardboard Box” is not the embattled ‘fuck him, dump him’ anthem that’s dominated mainstream music over recent years, but an angel-faced confessional reminiscent of early-era Sugababes or Destiny’s Child. All honeyed vocals, fluttering R&B runs, and pre-canned finger snaps, the track plots petty revenge against two-timing fuckboys (and their mums) as Jorja, Stella, and Renée vow to block numbers and flush Rolexes down their sinks. “You may be crying / But boy I’m not” etc. Barely out of their teens, FLO entered the popscape at a time when many were lamenting the demise of the girl group – the chemistry, the symmetry, the hair flicks – but in less than nine months, the girls have managed to land the BRIT’s Rising Star Award and are now rumoured to be supporting Beyoncé on her Renaissance world tour. A destiny (perhaps) fulfilled. (Daniel Rodgers)


There hasn’t been a summer song so near-universally adored like “B.O.T.A.” for years. Capturing the attention of Dri-Fit groovers and Berghain movers alike, the infectious house anthem began as a festival staple, before making its way onto the radio and soaring to the top of the charts. Not only did Eliza Rose become the first female DJ in 22 years to have a number one hit since Sonique’s “It Feels So Good”, the duo – composed of Interplanetary Criminal and Eliza Rose – went from underground faves to viral stars. Combining elements from dance subgenres such as Eurohouse and UK Garage, its timeless sound perfectly captures the euphoria of summer. (Louis Merrion)


Just like the rest of the internet, I’d originally found out about The Dare through a post on the Indie Sleaze archive Instagram account. I was trying to convince myself that wearing black tights with holes in was actually a vibe and not just me being lazy. Then this bloghouse banger “Girls” dropped into my life and validated that there’s no one way to be a hot girl. The song essentially lists off all the kinds of women Harrison Patrick Smith would like to bone, tapping into a specific mentality of male sluttiness that’s fallen behind in recent years whilst straight men face an ongoing PR crisis. Obviously, it slaps. If you’re a girl that smokes cigarettes in the back of the club or are simply a fan, stick it on. (Hatti Rex)


“It’s a fucking break-up album,” Steve Lacy told me (lmao sorry) in an interview for AnOther Magazine. “I was just in the studio, grinding and writing through all the anger, all the sadness.” Despite the undercurrent of heartbreak, Gemini Rights and its breakout single “Bad Habit” are by no means morose.

Featuring New Jersey-born soul singer Fousheé, the second single from this album “Bad Habit” topped the charts (actually it topped five Billboard charts, simultaneously, knocking Harry Styles from the top of US Billboard Hot 100 following a 14-week run with “As It Was”). And even if for whatever reason you didn’t listen to it directly, you’re bound to have heard it on TikTok, where it went viral. Essentially, the song is about fancying someone and wondering what could have happened if you’d told them that you fancied them – a tale as old as time. “I wish I knew/ I wish I knew you wanted me,” he laments. (Ted Stansfield)


Marking 100 gecs’ triumphant return after the success of their 2019 debut 1000 gecs, “Doritos and Fritos” came accompanied by a music video featuring the LA duo whizzing through the sky like paper aeroplanes in starry wizard robes – a colossally dumb and fun premise for a tune that counts eating a burrito with Danny Devito among its lyrics. Opening with a discordant and fiendishly catchy guitar hook, the track is as moreish as its name suggests; a scuzzy slammer that sees the pair move away from the hyperactive pop of their previous record towards… ska? Clocking in at just under four minutes, the track is uncharacteristically long for gecs, but don’t get it twisted: it’s an intense jolt of dopamine, like cracking open an Elf bar and injecting it straight into your veins. (Günseli Yalcinkaya)


With Un Verano Sin Tin, Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny achieved his second album at the top of the Billboard 100, which also happens to be the second Spanish-language album ever to reach this position. But one track rose above the others to become a definitive song of the summer: “Titi Mi Preguntó” (“my auntie asked me”). The track is essentially about someone who dates a string of women while never settling down, much to the dismay of the Dominican tía who reprimands him for his hedonistic lifestyle in a spoken interlude midway through the track. As well as being a great song, it also give rise to one of the most enjoyable music videos of the year, in which Bad Bunny charges through the bodegas and barber shops of New York, before being bundled into a van, forced to swap his street wear for a fancy suit, and then get married to an angel (his IRL girlfriend) who descends from heaven.

Even if you don’t understand Spanish, there is something wildly compelling about Bad Bunny’s flow (try to get the refrain “Vamo' a tirarno' un selfie’’ out of your head – I don’t know what he’s saying but girl, I am living!) Perhaps the song’s most addictive element, however, is its innovative and propulsive beat, which fuses together contemporary trap and dembow. Titi Mi Pregunta proves that Bad Bunny’s status as a global superstar – and one of the most impactful Spanish-language artists of all time – is only on the ascendant. (James Greig)

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