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Top 25 albums of 2020

The music that soundtracked These Unprecedented Times



I know everyone’s been saying it – including me, hourly – but WHAT a YEAR for pop music!! And what a year specifically for pop albums!! I’m looking back at my Top 25 lists from the last couple of years (2019 in particular) and there are records from those that would barely even be considered in 2k20.

As such, there are a LOT of honourable mentions this time around. For a start, I’d never have thought that Kylie Minogue – one of my favourite artists of all time – would release an album with the name Disco (DISCO, for Christ’s sake!!!) and not make my year-end Top 25. Unprecedented times indeed! (oh boy – see below update). Shout-outs also to Kesha, Annie, Louise, Niall Horan, HAIM, Paloma Faith and Melanie C for releasing top-notch collections that were extremely good, but didn’t quite chime with me as much as the below.

For what it’s worth, here are my past year-end No1 albums (the blogs from 2010-2014 are on now-deleted sites, because I’m an idiot):
2010: Lights – Ellie Goulding
2011: 21 – Adele
2012: Electra Heart – Marina and the Diamonds
2013: Salute – Little Mix
2014: 1989 – Taylor Swift
2015: Breathe In Breathe Out – Hilary Duff [blog]
2016: Lemonade – Beyonce [blog]
2017: About U – Muna [blog]
2018: Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves [blog]
2019: thank u, next – Ariana Grande [blog]

All art is subjective and I’ve tried to strike a balance between ‘critically brilliant’ and ‘gave me what I wanted’, so, er, some of the rankings might seem a bit wild!! But last year, for example, I put Lana Del Rey quite high out of sheer peer pressure and whilst I appreciate that record holds a special place in many peoples’ hearts, one year later I couldn’t hum you a single song from it. So I’ve just tried to be true to ME, ya know?

So with that in mind… strap in, here we go…

[Oh, and if you missed my year-end singles list, you can read that here].

UPDATE: Kylie’s Disco was not originally in this list because… I don’t know, maybe I was having a stroke whilst writing it. But after seeing Infinite Disco on New Year’s Eve, I am making an URGENT addendum, and squeezing her in:

=25. Disco – Kylie Minogue

Release date: November 6
UK chart peak: 1
Metacritic score: 72

When this list was first published, Disco was an ‘honourable mention’ rather than a legit Top 25 entrant because, though I did really like it, it just didn’t leave a mark on me like I thought it would – and if anything, I found some of the songs actively boring and/or irritating. I KNOW, I KNOW. But watching the Infinite Disco gig kind of made the record, as a whole body of work, ~click for me. It’s not a go-out-and-dance kind of disco album, it’s a stay-in-and-fondly-think-about-going-out-to-dance kind of disco album, and actually – in 2020, of all years – there’s something quite lovely about that. So it’s being added to the list as a last-minute correction, but I can’t bring myself to get rid of anything else to make room for it – ergo it is joint twenty-fifth, ‘lol’.

=25. Dear Happy – Gabrielle Aplin

Release date: January 17
UK chart peak: 24
Metacritic score: n/a

Gabrielle properly turned my head with the incredible Waking Up Slow from the Avalon EP a few years ago, and she continues down that same path of singer-songwriter-with-a-dreamy-synth-poppy-twist here. While nothing quite matches the sheer rush of that song in particular, there’s plenty of great stuff, from the rousing Invisible to the loooovely Nothing Really Matters.

24. Love Goes – Sam Smith

Release date: October 30
UK chart peak: 2
Metacritic score: 64

Here, Sam picks up the tempo a tiny bit and shifts the mood from ‘wallowy’ to ‘fiery’ – making for a more engaging and lively listen than their last two records combined. Excellent singles Dancing With A Stranger and I’m Ready are pushed right to the back, but Love Goes is a thoughtful, kinda triumphant experience – and, for me, Sam’s best album by a long shot.

23. Only Child – Sasha Sloan

Release date: October 16
UK chart peak:
Metacritic score: n/a

This was a word-of-mouth discovery; I would never have sought it out it if I hadn’t seen #tastemakers singing its praises over on twitter dot com. It’s the sort of music that would sound spot-on under an emotive scene on Brothers And Sisters or This Is Us; quiet, considered, stripped-back pop with unshowy vocals and thoughtful lyrics.

22. JAGUAR (EP) – Victoria Monét

Release date: August 7
UK chart peak:
Metacritic score: 82

I’ve generally avoided EPs here because it doesn’t seem like a fair fight, but the 9-track JAGUAR could easily be classed as an album – interludes and all. The title track is sublime, and the glistening Experience (produced by SG Lewis and adding a guest vocal from Khalid) is simply one of the best tracks of the year. Give Victoria her things in 2021!

21. Brightest Blue – Ellie Goulding

Release date: July 17
UK chart peak: 1
Metacritic score: 74

I listened to this when it came out and, er, totally forgot about it a few days later. But!!! I rediscovered it a few weeks ago and I’ve fully gone through a whole-ass ~phase~ with it ever since. It’s less hooky and radio-y than Ellie’s previous work, which I know is often code for “boring”, but luckily that isn’t the case here. And on the gorgeous Woman she proves that even when she’s not gunning for big hit singles, no-one does a ballad quite like her.

20. What The Future Holds – Steps

Release date: November 27
UK chart peak: 2
Metacritic score: n/a

The lead single left me a bit cold and the instant grat songs had me outright worried; but luckily WTFH comes together super-well; full of tour-ready delights that fit these vintage hitmakers like a glove. Compared side-by-side with 2017’s incredible Tears On The Dancefloor, I accept that it feels a bit “same again, then?” – but for a legacy act like this, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Obvious highlights are To The Beat Of My Heart, To The One, Heartbreak In This City and sparky second single Something In Your Eyes.

19. Gaslighter – The Chicks

Release date: July 17
UK chart peak: 5
Metacritic score: 82

Fiery, honest, reflective… Gaslighter is one hell of a break-up album, produced to perfection by Jack Antonoff. Natalie Maines is on sensational form; confronting the ugliness of her divorce with bravery, nerve and – at times – disarming vulnerability. Sleep At Night is the best moment for me, but damn, there’s something about the petty glee of Tights On My Boat that’s so delicious it warrants a massive honourable mention.

18. Positions – Ariana Grande

Release date: October 30
UK chart peak: 1
Metacritic score: 72

Have you noticed that every time an Ariana Grande album comes out (with the exception of thank u, next), there are a load of gays who declare it boring/a flop/disappointingly patchy – and then time passes and they’re still talking about it months later? I have! I’m not sure if Positions will have the same longtail impact as the initially divisive Sweetener, Dangerous Woman and My Everything (full disclosure, I was one of the people shrugging their shoulders at the former) – but it’s still a fab record. It’s let down a little by the fact that she doesn’t do anything especially new and fresh with it, but she does give us more of what she’s very good at: elegant, sparkling R&B/pop hybrids that flit between sexed-up, heartfelt and introspective.

17. Plastic Hearts – Miley Cyrus

Release date: November 27
UK chart peak: 4
Metacritic score: 75

Younger Now veered between ‘dull’ and ‘bad’, so I was extremely happy to give Plastic Hearts a spin and find Lesley’s one-time BFF back on her absolute A-game. This is the sound of someone who’s taken a while to figure out what kind of artist she feels most comfortable being, and letting loose accordingly. The glam-rock-pop lane she’s made for herself is a great fit, and though the album isn’t without its dips, A+ stuff like Gimme What I Want, Bad Karma and the mega Midnight Sky really bring it home.

16. After Hours – The Weeknd

Release date: March 20
UK chart peak: 1
Metacritic score: 80

One of few albums in 2020 to boast some Max Martin production, After Hours is yet another slam-dunk for The Weeknd; a moody, cohesive record with a bit more emotion and vulnerability than much of his earlier work. The runtime is almost Swiftian (over an hour in its 17-track Deluxe form) and could do with a little trim in its few fuggy, less engaging moments – but there’s no denying the artistry and talent.

15. Seeking Thrills – Georgia

Release date: January 10
UK chart peak: 24
Metacritic score: 78

Singer-songwriter-drummer Georgia earned a well-deserved Mercury nomination for this electric album of hedonistic but razor-sharp electropop; led by the likes of About Work The Dancefloor, 24 Hours and the slightly calmer Till I Own It. She supported Carly Rae Jepsen in concert at the start of the year and it was brilliant to hear some of it played for an enthusiastic crowd.

14. CALM – 5 Seconds of Summer

Release date: March 27
UK chart peak: 1
Metacritic score: 70

Famously angering the gays when it beat Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia to No1 on both albums’ first week of release, CALM got a bit of a bad rep right out the gate – despite being another strong collection from a deceptively enduring and under-rated band. It’s an emotionally complex set, this: we’re taking jabs at social media on No Shame, finding hope in carnage on (my personal fave) Best Years, and enjoying a rare moment of pure feelgood lust on Wildflower. Bottom line, all of it slaps!!

13. modern anxiety – Josef Salvat

Release date: May 15
UK chart peak:
Metacritic score: 75

After the title track became one of my favourite singles of 2019, I was treyc_cohen_im_ready.gif for this album – and it did not disappoint. Ten tracks of gay, heartfelt, emotionally LaYeReD pop music. A dream!!

12. Euphoric Sad Songs – Raye

Release date: November 20
UK chart peak:
Metacritic score: n/a

This is technically classed as a “mini-album” apparently, but – at nine songs long – it counts for me! Everything here lives up to the title; not least the slept-on singles Natalie Don’t and Please Don’t Touch, plus the aaaaabsolutely breathtaking Change Your Mind. Dance collaborations have kept her streaming numbers topped-up, but I’m desperately hoping for some solo superstardom in the very near future.

11. Rare – Selena Gomez

Release date: January 10
UK chart peak: 2
Metacritic score: 76

Honestly I’ve rarely(!) had as strange a relationship with an album as I do with Rare. Sometimes I listen to it and think it’s the most underwhelming set of featherweight air I’ve ever heard; other times it gives me absolutely everything I need and then some. Make it make sense! The latter feeling is far more prominent, though; and with stuff like Fun, Dance Again, Rare and Boyfriend, Selena is on captivating form at all times – even if my mind occasionally craves something with more firepower.

10. Chromatica – Lady Gaga

Release date: May 29
UK chart peak: 1
Metacritic score: 79

This era obviously didn’t blaze a groundbreaking new trail in quite the way that, say, The Fame did – but after a few years away from this sort of adrenaline-pumping enormopop, it was just so, so heartening to hear Gaga back in this lane again. Chromatica finds hope and power in trauma; whether it’s in that Ariana collab, the utterly wild Elton duet Sine From Above, or pace-setting opener Alice. There’s a lot of fun to be had too: you only need to listen to a minute or so of Babylon to understand the comparisons to Vogue, and that segue from Chromatica II into 911? Add it to the Religious Education syllabus!!

9. Ungodly Hour – Chloe x Halle

Release date: June 12
UK chart peak: 80
Metacritic score: 81

It says a lot that Do It – one of the year’s best singles – doesn’t rank as one of the greatest tracks on this album. Chloe x Halle take themselves up a gear on this; an R&B record so watertight and confident it’s… well, ungodly. The title track – as performed at the MTV VMAs – is my favourite, but it’s got tough competition: Lonely is a late-album highlight, second single Forgive Me sees the girls properly let rip vocally, and Tipsy is a reaaaal catchy earworm. A triumph!

8. Crave – Kiesza

Release date: August 14
UK chart peak:
Metacritic score: 77

From the strut-a-long opening bars of Run Renegade to the slightly bizarre 90s-esque closer Dance With Your Best Friend, Crave is MAGNIFICENT; a spunky pop album throbbing with thick synths and gorgeous big vocals. The almighty title track is in my Top 10 singles of the year, and All Of The Feelings and Can’t Be Saved similarly flirt with perfection. Get Kiesza back to the top of the charts where she belongs, and do it now!

7. Black Country Disco – Tom Aspaul

Release date: September 14
UK chart peak:
Metacritic score: n/a

Tom’s been putting out top-drawer pop for a few years now, so it was no real shock to learn that his first full album is a skipless wonder. His West Midlands routes are obviously a recurring theme (one song’s even brilliantly named after a Wolverhampton area code), and the explorations of complex emotional ~feelings~ are really bloody affecting; particularly on the heartbreaking Tender and my personal fave, the deceptively bouncy Traces. Production, melodies, lyrics… everything’s at 100!

6. Strangers/Lovers – Dagny

Release date: October 2
UK chart peak:
Metacritic score: n/a

The rollout of this was a bit confusing – I thought the first half was a standalone EP when it was released in the first half of the year, before suddenly another few songs appeared in Q4 and apparently we had a full album. But however it came to be, Strangers/Lovers is pop excellence; a charming set of luminous songs that range from subdued (Paris, Coast To Coast) to hands-in-the-air uplifting (Somebody, Come Over, Bye Bye Baby). I love it all, and I can’t wait to see it performed live.

5. What’s Your Pleasure? – Jessie Ware

Release date: June 26
UK chart peak: 3
Metacritic score: 84

Jessie’s always been great, but she really took herself up a notch with this slinky, shimmering, shoulder-shimmy-y album; deservedly her highest-charting release to date. Her airy vocals are perfectly matched to the early-hours-of-the-morning club beats; the likes of Save A Kiss, Soul Control and What’s Your Pleasure? exhilarating enough to make you physically weep over the fact you can’t writhe to them in your nearest sweaty gay bar.

4. Confetti – Little Mix

Release date: November 6
UK chart peak: 2
Metacritic score: 74

It obviously hasn’t been the smoothest year for Little Mix, but in terms of the actual music, they’ve got their mojo back and then some. If it felt like the excitement and smash-hit-potential started to drop a bit mid- and post-LM5, Confetti brings it all surging back; the trio of 10/10 singles (Break Up Song, Holiday, Sweet Melody) all ranking among the year’s best, and songs like A Mess (Happy 4 U), Happiness, Breathe and Nothing But My Feelings dripping with Repeat One potential. Long story short, it’s nothing more and nothing less than a mainstream commercial pop album that’s all killer, no filler. My Love Won’t Let You Down hits a bit too hard after Jesy’s departure, not gonna lie; but I’m extremely excited to see the rest of it come to life on tour – whenever that may be.

3. Future Nostalgia – Dua Lipa

Release date: March 27
UK chart peak: 1
Metacritic score: 88

Late last year, Don’t Start Now hinted that Dua could be a massive player in 2020… and she certainly fuckin’ was. Future Nostalgia may as well be retitled NOW! DUA – it’s bursting with blockbusters; from Hallucinate and Levitating to grade-A deep cuts like Cool and Love Again. Physical is clearly its ace, though; bursting as it is with gay-baiting euphoria and the kind of power-pop excitement that tickles the top end of the Richter scale. The album’s not totally skipless – I’d argue that the last two tracks bring the quality down juuuust a tad – but the highs are beyond stratospheric enough to compensate.

2. Folklore (and Evermore) – Taylor Swift

Release date: July 24
UK chart peak: 1
Metacritic score: 88

I went into Folklore ready to be a naysayer (perhaps I’m still salty that Lover highlights like Cruel Summer and I Think He Knows never got their shining moments), but fuck it, it’s an incredibly smart and natural move for Taylor; and really not that much of a curveball when you look back on her journey up to this point. If anything, it’s a culmination of everything she’s been doing since day one; she’s just not as laser-focussed on coming up with radio-ready hit singles anymore (looking at Me! and You Need To Calm Down, maybe that’s for the best).

Her trademark country-influenced storytelling has never been better: August, My Tears Ricochet, This Is Me Trying, Peace and Epiphany are 10/10 cases-in-point; the bridge of that first one in particular is one of my favourite moments of the whole year. As for Evermore, in my opinion it works best when viewed as an expansion pack or a sort of ‘Side B’-type situation: Ivy, Long Story Short, ‘Tis The Damn Season and the title track are currently hitting hardest for me. Overall, I really didn’t think I’d be here for Taylor taking a step in this direction; but I absolutely unequivocally am.

1. Sawayama – Rina Sawayama

Release date: April 17
UK chart peak:
Metacritic score: 89

Trailblazing singles STFU!, Comme Des Garçons and XS are just the start: on Sawayama, the year’s most exciting popstar explores notions of identity, belonging, friendship, and the general fucked-up-ness of our binfire world – accompanying it all with big melodies, sharp lyrics and relentlessly infectious energy.

It’s an album unafraid to take big swings: it’s pop with flashes of nu-metal, of early-2000s album-three-era Britney, of EDM, of R&B, of trap… and it all works so well; it just comes together perfectly as one gloriously thrilling package that – despite its vast range of influences – sounds like absolutely nothing else.

Bad Friend! Tokyo Love Hotel! Dynasty! Every single track is richly written and stunningly produced; and the recently-released deluxe version – with BloodPop banger Lucid and almost Samantha Mumba-meets-LittleMix–like We Out Here – only extends the fun (that 1975 cover? UGH!!!). A total masterpiece.


Top 25 albums of 2022



I’ve been more of a Singles Guy this year (something something, decline of the album, something something) but there have still been more than enough great LPs to fill a year-end Top 25! And they follow below.

This is my 13th annual album round-up, and the previous No1s were:
2010: Lights – Ellie Goulding
2011: 21 – Adele
2012: Electra Heart – Marina and the Diamonds
2013: Salute – Little Mix
2014: 1989 – Taylor Swift
2015: Breathe In Breathe Out – Hilary Duff [blog]
2016: Lemonade – Beyonce [blog]
2017: About U – Muna [blog]
2018: Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves [blog]
2019: thank u, next – Ariana Grande [blog]
2020: Sawayama – Rina Sawayama [blog]
2021: Magic Still Exists – Agnes [blog]

The Top 50 singles list came yesterday – that’s here. And there’s a playlist of one of my favourite songs from each album here.

25. Humble Quest – Maren Morris

Beautiful, occasionally witty, with a bonus ode to tall guys… Maren was comfortable and confident on this really lovely album. Top hint: play Background Music if you want to see me weep!

24. HOLY FVCK – Demi Lovato

While initially I found lots of this to be a bit of a racket, HOLY FVCK is Demi at her most lively. Deep, honest and bold; but at its best when it’s a bit more playful, as it is on stuff like City Of Angels.

23. Harry’s House – Harry Styles

Not skipless! But Harry’s House is very definitely the sound of someone properly finding their stride as a singer-songwriter; and while Fine Line probably edges it for me as an album, it’s still a lot of fun to hang out at Harry’s House.

22. Night Call – Years & Years

Olly’s first album as a solo Year & Year, Night Call doesn’t feel quite as boxfresh as its predecessors but there are moments of pure pop perfection, peppered with singles like Crave that deserved far more attention.

21. Being Funny in a Foreign Language – The 1975

It’s the sound of the group doing what they do best, at their best: huge hooks, clever and insightful lyrics, melodies that are infuriatingly hard to forget… I imagine it’ll be great live.

20. Special – Lizzo

Just a brilliant pop album: big-hearted, witty and radio-ready from start to finish. Everybody’s Gay is brilliant, Special is the stuff of merch slogans, and I Love You Bitch is a midtempo ballad done the quintessentially Lizzo way.

19. Unwanted – Pale Waves

For some reason this passed me by a little bit, whereas their last album really didn’t – but Unwanted is Pale Waves really getting into the swing of things: bigger, bolder and more concise than Who Am I?, and by this point the group really feels like it has its own clear identity.

18. The Loneliest Time – Carly Rae Jepsen

It’s still Carly as you know her, but trying out a few slightly different directions: see the breezy Western Wind, funny Beach House and the gorgeous Bends. Not her best – but when your best is so fucking iconic, even a solid album is fantastic.

17. Circles – LÉON

I feel like I’ve slept on this album too much: I heard it earlier in the year and LOVED it, then totally forgot about it until very recently. The production, the songwriting, the general ~vibe… all stellar. This is an excellent one to just get lost in.

16. Islands – Josef Salvat

Josef is going THROUGH IT on this record, but the result is another stunner. Particularly the second half is just gorgeous: Happy, Changes – Without You, Honey on the Tongue… he just gets it!

15. Life In Plastic – Tom Aspaul

Tom really dove deep into the Y2K vibe for the follow-up to Black Country Disco, and it’s so much fun: gloriously gay, packed with wall-to-wall bangers, and with plenty of depth behind the irresistible, glossy production. Effigy is a real standout.

14. How To Let Go – Sigrid

Singles Mirror, Burning Bridges and It Gets Dark were great indicators of what the album has in store: A Driver Saved My Night is a right toe-tapper, Thank Me Later makes a break-up sound euphoric, and High Note is simply a very well-sung ballad. We must treasure Sigrid!

13. Dawn FM – The Weeknd

Nobody does manpop quite like The Weeknd, and the fluorescent Dawn FM was the first great album of 2022. It feels like he’s covering slightly different ground lyrically compared to his last couple of releases, but the production (much of it still with HRH Max Martin) remains perfection and the highlights (Sacrifice, Gasoline, Less Than Zero) are 11/10s.

12. Tilt – Confidence Man

I got into Confidence Man purely by word of mouth, and while I wasn’t that fussed to begin with, I was soon powerless to resist!! Tilt nails the joy and escapism of the dancefloor, with a bonus dose of fun and ridiculousness.

11. 5SOS5 – 5 Seconds of Summer

The deluxe version (19 tracks!!) is almost overwhelmingly long, but the boys have really entered a more introspective phase (much of this is produced in-house by their own Michael Clifford) and I love it. The highlights are the more wistful, emotionally-charged songs (Take My Hand, Complete Mess, Carousel, Easy For You To Say), but they can still have fun too (Best Friends, Blender).

10. About Last Night… – Mabel

Look, I Love Your Girl is doing a lot of the work here – but About Last Night has plenty of other bangers to make it worth a visit: Animal, Definition, Let Love Go, Overthinking and Let Them Know among them. More please!

9. SOS – SZA

Feels weird to judge this based on only a couple of weeks’ worth of listening, but SOS feels epic already – granted, perhaps not an instant classic in the way of Ctrl, but still a triumph. I like how… almost messy it is?! Like, almost exhaustingly so? She’s so good at laying! it! all! out!, and there’s plenty of variation on this very long album to stop it dragging. Shout-out to F2F!

8. Love Sux – Avril Lavigne

It’s a back-to-basics Avril album, and I mean that in the best possible way. The lyrics are on-the-nose, the songs sound like they’ve been transported from 20 years ago… and yet! I lapped up every single one of the 33 brief minutes. All I Wanted, Bois Lie, Love Sux… Avril doesn’t sound like she’s had this much fun in the studio in years.

7. Hold The Girl – Rina Sawayama

If on the one hand it’s not quite as slap-you-in-the-face as 2020’s Sawayama, on the other it’s a confident pop album that sounds totally mainstream and also fantastically queer. This Hell is one of the singles of the year, Imagining has a real bite, and To Be Alive is a beautiful, sweeping, extremely moving closer. A megastar!!

6. Dirt Femme – Tove Lo

Finally free of major label interference, Dirt Femme proves Tove remains one of our most interesting popstars even when left to her own devices without big budgets. Grapefruit is her most emotionally arresting song yet, Call On Me is a banger of colossal proportions, and No One Dies From Love is the kind of cry-dance gem that she’s always done best.

5. Crash – Charli XCX

It could be her best or worst album depending on which die-hards you talk to – but to this basique pop fan, Crash is a whole lot of fun from top to bottom. Charli was trying to make a big, commercial record with all the trimmings, and she succeeded – the bangers bang, the collabs feel properly exciting, and the more emotional moments hit hard. Shout-out to the 10/10 deluxe edition bonus tracks, too.

4. Midnights – Taylor Swift

Taking Folklore and Evermore’s sensibilities and mixing them with the more introspective moments of Reputation and Lover, Midnights is lacking in !HITS! – but such is Taylor’s fame that she doesn’t need to try in that department anyway (she filled the entire Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 on release week). Some of this takes a few listens to get to grips with (the 3am edition is 20 songs long) but once it’s in, it’s in. Beautiful, heartfelt, immaculate. Now release Hits Different on streaming!

3. The Kick – Foxes

Foxes’ first full album in six years was a glistening, sparkly-eyed masterpiece, if you ask me!! God, it was so good to have her back. From the pounding beats of Sister Ray to the understated beauty of Too Much Colour, The Kick was straightforward electropop at its brightest – Louisa is an ever-likeable presence, and she sure knows her way around a chorus.

2. Renaissance – Beyoncé

My God, what a moment. And this is only Act 1! Renaissance is a rich tapestry of disco/house/dance-inspired music, packed with clever samples that always add to the songs rather than distract from them. It’s clever and important and stunning but it’s also FUN! Beyoncé sounds like she’s having the time of her life, and it’s so brilliant to hear. Every song earns its place; every line, every bar, every second is meticulously thought-out. Visuals now!


Anyone who saw my singles list won’t be surprised by this placement – but MUNA’s third album is truly the record of the year for me, the perfect amalgamation of, and progression from, everything they brought to the table with their first two. Katie Gavin’s songwriting is just gorgeous all the way through; from the determination of What I Want to the introspection of Loose Garment; the horniness of No Idea to the pure queer joy of Silk Chiffon. Their first independent release and their first to actually chart? It’s what they deserve.

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Top 50 singles of 2022



My 15th year-end singles list! Time is brutal.

This year, I think, has been pretty good for music – and yet! I found this list quite hard. Am I, an extremely online gay man, losing the will to rank things? Surely not!

Anyway, I really enjoyed doing the third annual poll of your favourite songs of the year – now here are mine.

My year-end playlists from 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008 are also all on Spotify, and the 2022 one is here.

Here we go. Albums to follow.

50. Bad Life – Sigrid feat. Bring Me The Horizon

Sigrid’s very good album felt like it didn’t really get the love it deserved – make up for it by indulging in this excellent cheer-up-hun ballad with manly howls from Oliver Sykes.

49. Who’s Gonna Love You Tonight? – Snakehips feat. Tinashe

Tinashe put her name to a few excellent songs this year (my other fave being Scandalous with Gryffin) but the heartfelt vocal on this one just edges it for me.

48. Run – Becky Hill & Galantis

Pass me a blue WKD – after Heartbreak Anthem and Sweet Talker, Galantis teamed up with Becky Hill for a safe-pair-of-hands banger that gave me everything I needed back in deepest, darkest February.

47. Boyfriend – Dove Cameron

Dramatic, dark, delicious… I’m not surprised this became a huge breakout hit for Dove, and I’m excited for more!!

46. Taste So Good (The Cann Song) – VINCINT, Hayley Kiyoko, MNEK, Kesha

Would this be quite as iconic if the context of its release wasn’t so… random? Probably not, but it is, so here we are!

45. Overthinking – Mabel feat. 24k Golden

All she had to do was make I Love Your Girl a single and she’d easily be Top 5 on this (nay every) list – but she didn’t, so No45 with this one will have to do.

44. Ghost of You – Mimi Webb

Accepting that a lot of great popstars these days were born post-2000 isn’t getting any easier to swallow, but goddamn I thought the big ~mainstream Capital-FM-ready popstars didn’t make songs like this anymore.

43. Hot In It – Tiësto feat. Charli XCX

Blink-and-you-miss-it at 2:10, Charli’s brilliantly droll vocal adds a darker edge to what could have been a pretty basique dance hit, and it’s so damn addictive.

42. Adult – Sasha Alex Sloan

‘I used to hope one day I’d be rich, but now I’m happy if I have somewhere to sit.’ These, friends, are what they call relatable lyrics.

41. Kiss It – Tom Aspaul

I tossed and turned over whether to have this one or Listen 2 Nicole – both, at the end of the day, are gay-as-hell Y2K-esque belters with sublime choruses. 10/10.

40. Breathe – Grace Davies

I’ve become obsessed, for some reason, with pointing out when David Sneddon has a writing credit. And here, David Sneddon has a writing credit! But obviously the star of the show is Grace; our ever-reliable Queen of EMOTIONS.

39. THAT GIRL – Bree Runway

Bree released three tracks this year that all deserved to be huge; this one was arguably the biggest serve. World domination must surely be imminent.

38. Let It Die – Ellie Goulding

This year there have been numerous reminders that when Ellie’s great, she’s great. Let It Die makes me very excited for her new album.

37. As It Was – Harry Styles

Did pretty well, this, didn’t it?

36. Slow Song – The Knocks with Dragonette

I can’t imagine anywhere I’d fare worse than at a rollerdisco, but if that wasn’t the case, this would be my first song request.

35. I’m In Love With You – The 1975

I swear ‘the boys’ deliver a song or two like this every single era, but I am very happy to lap it up every single time. An earworm!

34. Sometimes – MUNA

Gonna need a whole ABBAMANIA-style album of sadpop Britney covers, stat.

33. Me, Myself & I – 5 Seconds of Summer

5SOS5 was full of gorgeous songs (shout-out also to Take My Hand) but this was the standout for me. Those falsetto bits over the climax? Oh they just do something to me!

32. Maybe You’re The Problem – Ava Max

How absolutely typical that Ava’s chart performances should start to suffer just as the music becomes immeasurably better?!

31. Treat Me – Chlöe

Manifesting Halle becoming one of the world’s biggest movie stars and Chlöe becoming one of the world’s biggest musicians in 2023. Treat Me was yet another sign that the latter’s upcoming solo debut is going to SLAP.

30. Closer – Saweetie feat. HER

HER’s luscious choruses and the bouncy production really elevate this – and the best thing is, it sounds like another Dr L*ke song without actually being a Dr L*ke song song!

29. 2 Die 4 – Tove Lo

There was a lot of talk about how baffling it is that one of the year’s biggest songs sampled Eiffel 65’s Blue, but a moment also for the fact that one of the best bangers of 2022 utilised Crazy Frog’s 2005 cover of Gershon Kingsley’s Popcorn. Wild! But also extremely Tove Lo.

28. Black Mascara. – Raye

Escapism. could, with all fingers and toes crossed, be the first non-Xmas No1 of 2023, but a shout-out too to Black Mascara; the detached, matter-of-fact delivery of the verses making the scathing lyrics all the more brutal.

27. Summer Really Hurt Us – ALMA

Was there a more perfect way to end the summer months than with a shimmering little bop about how crap it was? I mean I didn’t have a crap summer, I had a great one, but that’s never stopped me having a good angst-a-long before.

26. Don’t Say – Gabrielle Aplin

Her best song since Waking Up Slow; Don’t Say is a euphoric masterstroke that really does sound like the first glimmers of hope after a rough patch. First time I heard those repetitions of ‘I can feel it, I’m getting better’, I could have sobbed!!

25. Catch Me In The Air – Rina Sawayama

Not a million miles away from 2000s-era Kelly Clarkson, and for that it must be treasured and celebrated.

24. Something About Your Love – SG Lewis

SG Lewis could well be en route to becoming an A-list pop super-producer and I for one welcome our new overlord. This was the perfect little summer song.

23. Beg For You – Charli XCX feat. Rina Sawayama

If at first it feels like it wraps up before it really gets going, Beg For You – with its yearning vocals, slick production and well-deployed September sample – soon embeds itself at the front of the brain and refuses to budge for weeks and weeks and weeks.

22. About Damn Time – Lizzo

‘It’s bad-bitch o’clock, yeah, it’s thick-thirty’ – and lo, the idea of Lizzo being a one-era-wonder properly went up in flames.

21. Cardboard Box – Flo

With honourable mentions to Not My Job and Losing You, Cardboard Box soundtracked the most promising girlband launch for years – and with Little Mix now officially on hiatus, we’re in safe hands going into 2023. More, more, more!

20. Kind of Girl – MUNA

The melodies are nice and the production beautiful, but – as is often the case with MUNA – it’s the lyrics that’ll sucker-punch you right in the face: this is a gorgeous ode to evolving – or at least trying to evolve – past being a calamitous emotional wreck, and it’s just perfect.

19. Her – Megan Thee Stallion

One of the simplest choruses of the year, and one of the most impossible to resist.

18. Free – Florence + The Machine

Oh it’s been YEARS since I’ve stanned a Florence track this hard. Her lyricism and vocal stylings marry beautifully with Jack Antonoff’s knob-twiddling, and this song about finding escapism in music is just wonderful.

17. Western Wind – Carly Rae Jepsen

Potentially Carly’s least… hooky lead single so far? And yet, Western Wind is a beaut of a sway-along-able little treat, and frankly – even from the most vocal of pop stans – it deserved more love.

16. Head on Fire – Griff and Sigrid

It sounds exactly how you’d expect a Griff and Sigrid duet to sound, which essentially means it’s really really good.

15. Cupid – Rose Gray

Piano on an uptempo pop-girl electro-banger? Truly the fast-track to my heart.

14. 2 Be Loved (Am I Ready?) – Lizzo

Excellent deployment of 1) call-and-response backing vocals, and 2) brackets in a song title.

13. Nothing Lasts Forever – Dylan

One of my favourite lyrics of the year: ‘You think that we’re falling into love. I’m not. So get off.’

12. No One Dies From Love – Tove Lo

No one gives you a cry-dance quite like Tove Lo, and No One Dies From Love was one helluva way to properly launch her first independent era. An all-time great popstar tbh!!

11. Free Yourself – Jessie Ware

This debuted on one of those absurdly hot heatwave days, and brought me a brief four minutes of respite from wanting to melt down to a sludge.

10. Anti-Hero – Taylor Swift

First time I heard this, I was like, ‘oh, okay.’ Then suddenly I’d played it a billion times. Like most Taylor lead singles, it’s catchy as fuck – but it’s also a deceptively neat encapsulation of what it’s like to lie awake at night and think everything’s a blazing mess because of your own clownery. This one’s for the monsters on the hill!

9. SloMo – Chanel

Would it feel like such a Big Song without those epic performances in Turin? Perhaps not, but SloMo was pretty much all I was listening to for the early months of the summer, and playing it while DJing – seeing a packed room full of gals, gays and theys attempting that dance break – remains an unmatched joy. Not quite Fuego, but pretty damn close.

8. Circles Around This Town – Maren Morris

Post-The Middle, I wanted everyone’s favourite transphobe-battler to go Full Pop, but actually I’m glad she didn’t. Circles… is a glorious little song about never really feeling like you’ve ‘made it’, and it was one of my first favourites of the year when it landed way back in early January.

7. What I Want – MUNA

A huge, huge song about getting out there and living your unabashed best life (‘I want the full effects, I wanna hit it hard’), What I Want is about seizing liberation, refusing to live in shame, and drinking/dancing/shagging to your heart’s content. Where are the remixes?!

6. Call On Me – SG Lewis and Tove Lo

I first heard this on a rainy morning in Liverpool and listened to it more-or-less non-stop all the way back to London. Tove’s latest album may be slightly more low-key than we’re used to, but on this song she just wants to ‘grab your chain dangling from above’ – and it’s an E-N-O-R-M-O-U-S banger that I hope gets more of a push in the next few weeks/months.

5. Hold Me Closer – Cornelia Jakobs

SloMo and Space Man may have been bigger ~moments in performance, but – on record, at least – it’s Hold Me Closer that truly stands out as the best of Eurovision 2022; and one of the most affecting tracks of the year. Keep these angstballads coming, Cornelia my love!

4. Break My Soul – Beyoncé

Easily the song of the summer, and comfortably one of the most euphoric floorfillers of the year, Break My Soul launched the Renaissance era with energy, power and hope. Big Freedia is an exceptional cheerleader, the Robin S sample is sublime, and the fact this *just* missed No1 in the UK will forever be a stain on our history. Release your motherfucking wiggle!

3. This Hell – Rina Sawayama

Her 2020 era brought a whole new wave of fans on board, so in 2022 a lot more eyes and ears were on the Hold The Girl campaign from the word go – and This Hell has huge Lead Single Energy. A masterful queer enormobop with nods to early-2000s Shania Twain, it just doesn’t get any less galvanising, no matter how many times it’s played. Get in line, pass the wine BITCH!

2. Home By Now – MUNA

Listen properly to Home By Now and it might just reduce you to a wailing wreck. An exceptional semi-ballad about looking back on someone who’s no longer in your life – and questioning whether parting ways really was the right thing to do (spoiler, it probably was) – it pairs restrained, low-pitched vocals with a heartbreaking chorus and deceptively buoyant instrumentation. Absolutely devastating.

1. Anything But Me – MUNA

By the end of the first verse (‘you’re gonna say that I’m on my high horse, I think that my horse is regular sized’) I knew this was one of the best songs of the year. But the end of the second verse (‘you’re gonna say I asked for the moon, I…’) I had a very strong feeling it was the best song of the year. How can a parting-of-the-ways song sound so optimistic, so assured, so hopeful, so glistening? Because it’s MUNA, that’s fucking how!!! What a moment, what a triumph, what! a! song! from truly the best band in the world.

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POLL: Top 40 Beyoncé

Let me hear you say heeeey Ms Carter



The Top 40 Beyoncé poll aired on Sunday, 18 December 2022, with 254 ballots cast.

Voters could back up to 10 songs: one to receive 3pts, three to receive 2pts, and six to receive 1pt.

The Spotify playlist is here, and the full results breakdown is here.

And the Top 40 was:

  1. Crazy In Love
  2. Formation
  3. Love on Top
  4. Deja Vu
  5. Break My Soul
  6. Sweet Dreams
  7. Cuff It
  8. Countdown
  9. Partition
  10. All Night
  11. XO
  12. Alien Superstar
  13. Telephone
  14. End of Time
  15. Halo
  16. Beautiful Liar
  17. Drunk In Love
  18. Irreplaceable
  19. Heated
  20. Baby Boy
  21. Pure / Honey
  22. Green Light
  23. Naughty Girl
  24. Sorry
  25. Hold Up
  26. Run The World (Girls)
  27. Daddy Lessons
  28. Schoolin Life
  29. Blow
  30. Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)
  31. Freedom
  32. Freakum Dress
  33. Flawless
  34. Listen
  35. Upgrade U
  36. Summer Renaissance
  37. Don’t Hurt Yourself
  38. Get Me Bodied
  39. Ring the Alarm
  40. Best Thing I Never Had

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