Well, that was certainly a year, wasn’t it? Christ.
I had it in my head for some reason that 2019 was shite for pop music – but actually, although there were fewer great songs to choose from, I feel like the stuff that did cut the mustard was generally a bit better than the last few years. (Albums are a different story; God it’s been SLIM PICKINGS compiling my year-end list of those.)
Anyway of course there is an accompanying Spotify playlist to sit alongside this Top 50 – there’s another link at the bottom if you don’t want the spoilers, or for ease you can just click here.
You can also ‘romp’ back through all my previous ones, if you like: here’s 2018 (led by Janelle Monae), 2017 (led by Little Mix), 2016 (led by Ariana Grande), 2015 (led by Taylor Swift), 2014 (led by Kylie Minogue), 2013 (led by Demi Lovato), 2012 (led by Little Mix again), 2011 (led by Britney Spears), 2010 (led by Katy Perry), 2009 (led by Jordin Sparks) and 2008 (led by Gabriella Cilmi).
Will this finally be the year that a male vocalist is at No1? Don’t be ridiculous!
Anyway, I’ll get to albums, films and TV shows of the year over the next few days; and I’m also still drip-feeding the 100 best songs of the decade just here.
50. Lose You To Love Me – Selena Gomez
Look, we all know by this point that Selena isn’t an Adele in the vocal department – she’s barely even a Cheryl – but what she can do is make you feel the exact emotion a song requires. Lose You To Love Me isn’t as forward-thinking as her best work (Bad Liar, Hands To Myself and Good For You say hi), but on sheer ~sadface merit alone, it’s deserved the success it’s had.
49. Broken and Beautiful – Kelly Clarkson
OK so objectively I appreciate that this is only here because I’m an unrelenting Kelly stan and not because it helped in any way to shape the musical landscape of the last twelve months, BUT! For a song from a cheap kids’ film called UGLYDOLLS(?!)…… it’s a bop!! Marshmello is producing, Pink’s one of the main songwriters, and by the time the finale kicks in (the “BRO! KEN! AND BEAU-TI-FUL!” backing vocals are my favourite), you can consider me sufficiently empowered.
48. Adore You – Jessie Ware
Now one of the country’s best podcast hosts and popstars, Jessie released Adore You as an apparent one-off in time for Valentine’s Day, and the only word I can think of to sum it up is… and it’s a bit weird but I mean it in a good way… gloopy. A proper lights-down, slow-moving, writhe-a-long treat; and whenever a new full album does appear, I will be very excited to hear it.
47. All The Songs – Will Young
Ever at the forefront of British boypop, Will Young finally returned with a new era in 2k19 – complete with this anguished, shimmering semiballad. “Can’t escape from these chains, all the songs remind me of you,” he declares on the pre-chorus; and frankly we’ve all been there.
46. New York City – Kylie Minogue
How many popstars do you think put amazing songs in the bin when the album they’re working on heads in a new direction? That’s exactly what could have happened to disco-camp gem New York City when Golden became more of a country-lite affair, but mercifully it saw the light of day anyway – and it’s a gay bar’s wet dream. Big chorus, strut-a-long production, plenty of Kylie-isms in the vocals… a right treat.
45. Let You – Cheryl
After throwing the kitchen sink at Love Made Me Do It in late 2018 only for it to spend a few short weeks in the charts, Cheryl – for whatever reason – didn’t seem to promote Let You anywhere near as much. It’s a shame: while this may, on first listen, sound like it spends a few minutes warming up before abruptly coming to an end, it’s actually a slick, sleek kiss-off that frankly deserved better.
44. Medellín – Madonna feat. Maluma
A whisper of “1… 2… 1… 2… 1… 2… cha-cha-cha”, and another Madge era is begun: Madame X as an album was a little too patchy for me but this is my favourite lead single of hers since Hung Up. Medellín sounds like it was made for the very early hours of the morning; a slick and sweaty gem with a great hook and box-fresh Latin pop production.
43. Don’t Start Now – Dua Lipa
Took me a while to warm up to this one, ‘tbh’, and it’s not the big ball-bursting disco banger I thought she had been teasing ahead of its release; but Don’t Start Now is a promising start to Dua 2.0. It doesn’t properly show its hand until near the very end (in fact my main gripe after my first listen was “OU EST THE CHORUS?!”) but it really does benefit from repeated listens. I have – eventually! – become a fan.
42. Don’t Leave Me Lonely – Mark Ronson feat. YEBBA
Mark Ronson’s Late Night Feelings album wasn’t the all-out triumph I was expecting, but tracks like this are gorgeous. YEBBA’s vocals are stunning, and we’re in proper teary-eyed-under-the-glitterball territory with the dance-ready beat and melancholy strings.
41. Easier – 5 Seconds of Summer
After mixing up their pop-rock sound a little on the Youngblood era, it seems 5 Seconds of Summer aren’t turning back. Ryan Tedder and Charlie Puth are among the writers on Easier and their fingerprints are all over it: it’s a dark new-wave-y concoction with delicious muted drums, a thumping bass line and angsty multi-octave-spanning vocals. It really suits 5SOS, and I hope its failure to set the charts alight doesn’t prompt a U-turn.
40. Sucker – Jonas Brothers
Jonas Brothers? Releasing a great single in 2019? WHO’D HAVE THOUGHT? Well, anyone with a brain, to be honest: Nick and Joe have both been sporadically putting out decent solo stuff, and they were never realistically going to reunite without some seriously worthwhile material up their sleeves.
39. Too Cool – Emily Burns
After the excellent Cheat in 2018, Emily Burns came out with another slam-dunk in the early stages of this year: Too Cool is about a love interest who’s so chilled-out that it’s verging on the annoying (“You’re so sweet like twelve ice creams, it kinda makes me sick”), but it’s endearing and fun rather than mean and sour. More EmBurns in 2020 and beyond, please.
38. Think Of Me – The Veronicas
A little bit nostalgic, a little bit bitter, a little bit devastating; Think Of Me is a perfectly-formed break-up song. The specificity in the lyrics gives it an extra bite, and the way the production veers from smooth and wistful in the pre-chorus to shuddering and dark in the refrain is a real masterstroke. It’s so good to have these two back.
37. modern anxiety – Josef Salvat
Three years on from the excellent Night Swim album, Josef returned with this frank, toe-tappable song about Just Being Alive in big old 2019. “Last night I was handsome, drunk and young; today I don’t know who I’m trying to be” is maybe my favourite opening lyric of the year.
36. Bounce Back – Little Mix
Bounce Back was a strange Little Mix single: arriving half a year after LM5, and without the fanfare of a lead single from a new record, it felt like it disappeared from the pop radar very swiftly. But that’s a shame, ‘imo’: It’s not as instantly accessible as their biggest hits, perhaps, but with the interpolation of Back To Life by Soul II Soul, some water-tight harmonies and a beat that just keeps giving, it’s an enticing indication of where they might be heading next.
35. Racing Cars – Ruti
I haven’t watched The Voice UK for years but I heard this song – by the winner of the 2018 cycle – soon after its release in April and just couldn’t resist it. Lush vocals, a vibey 3am-in-the-Uber-home chorus, thoughtful go-get-’em lyrics… we finally have our first exciting graduate from that show since the halcyon days of Becky Hill and Leah McFall!
34. A Little Bit Alexis – Annie Murphy
Yes, a song that was intended to be a send-up of 00s pop has gone down as one of the best of the year. How about it. Thing is, it does sound like it was made by people with a genuine affection for the genre (I suspect, anyway, I don’t actually know); and the result is something that is funny, yes, but also fucking slaps. Annie Murphy’s Alexis Rose has become one of the best TV characters of our time.
33. Too Much – Carly Rae Jepsen
With the Dedicated album neither the disaster some made it out to be nor the masterpiece most of us hoped it would be, it’s been easy for the best stuff on it to be forgotten. But there is plenty of Classic Carly on there; not least this excellent single – a sexually-charged bop that sees the cult icon taking the lead in pursuit of a potential conquest. Get that D, Carly!
32. About Work The Dancefloor – Georgia
Inspired by the sheer restorative power of a dancefloor, Georgia’s Twenty Quid Prize-winning banger beautifully mixes dark synths with gliding vocals and a nice-and-easy chorus. The soaring “moment for you” bits towards the end are especially gorgeous.
31. Don’t Worry Bout Me – Zara Larsson
You know those songs in which someone’s singing about how they’re over something and how so-and-so means nothing anymore, and you’re listening to the lyrics and you’re like “…hun, this is clearly still very fresh”? Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me is not one of those songs. Zara is totally and utterly DONE with whichever fucker inspired this: the vocal delivery is steady, the production understated… and honestly, I pity whoever this is about.
30. SICK – CXLOE feat. gnash
Conventional romance won’t cut it on this hornbanger: CXLOE just wants a messy, sexy, complicated affair with someone who agrees that “love that’s shiny, that’s a lie”. CXLOE has been an excellent maker of good pop in 2019 and this, as far as I’m concerned, is her best track yet. Next stop: chart stardom?
29. i’m so tired… – Lauv feat. Troye Sivan
Noted sadboys Lauv and Troye came through way back in January with the most relatable song title of 2019. These two are a bit too low-energy for some, and I get it, but I really like this: their voices complement each-other nicely, they both sound suitably exhausted by life and love, and there are some nice backing vocal ad-libby-things over the end. Job done.
28. Glad He’s Gone – Tove Lo
With consistently smart output over the last few years, Tove Lo has easily become one of my favourite popstars of the decade; and even though Sunshine Kitty isn’t my favourite album of hers, I really like this lead single. And the video? Best of the year, and really deserved its Grammy nomination.
27. Old Town Road (Remix) – Lil’ Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus
26. Now I’m In It – HAIM
It felt at first like HAIM were on the verge of becoming a huge band. You know when Florence teamed up with Calvin Harris a couple of times, or when Ellie Goulding collaborated with Ryan Tedder on Burn, it seemed like they levelled-up a bit? Something like that. Now, though, for this lot it feels like the potential for that moment has passed, which is a shame – but it doesn’t mean the stuff they are doing isn’t brilliant. Summer Girl was a miss for me but Now I’m In It is amazing, especially in how it morphs towards the end from a juddering, layered electro song to something much… smoother. Love it.
25. Dancing With A Stranger – Sam Smith with Normani
The gays’ disdain of Sam Smith has always felt a little over-the-top, ‘imo’. Even if they have said some extremely stupid things in the past and, y’know, made pretty boring songs, the vitriol has occasionally been a bit uncomfortable to see. But! It feels like something’s changed in 2019: Sam’s really come into their own a bit more, and The Masses, in turn, seem to be more on board. Dancing With A Stranger is my fave songs of theirs to date; a mid-tempo disco-lite jam with a much-appreciated dose of Normani.
24. Last Night Every Night – Hannah Jane Lewis
I just love how giddy this song is. Two years on from the excellent Raincheck, HJL is still quietly putting out some excellent, gloriously simple pop with great hooks, great vocals and great replay value. I listened to this a LOT in the first few months of the year.
23. Trainwreck – KELLA
By the looks of Spotify, this was KELLA’s debut single, and… what a start, tbh. Understated but instantly catchy, Trainwreck is another great song about the irresistibility (is that a word?) of a romance that’s highly likely to end in tears (“This could all end bad, and we know it”). I can’t remember how I first came across this song but I’m so glad I did.
22. Please Don’t Touch – RAYE
The newest song of the bunch, Please Don’t Touch came out earlier this month on A) my birthday, and B) the aftermath of that shitshow of an election. Excellent time for RAW EMOTION. Honestly RAYE is continuing to put out some truly fantastic work, and I very much hope she starts to see the chart positions she deserves in 2020.
21. 7 rings – Ariana Grande
Almost as meme-ready as its predecessor thank u, next; 7 rings is another slam-dunk for Imperial Phase Ariana. Confident, catchy, cool and all about the CASH, this song – which I can only assume is a homage to Big Brovaz – seemed to get a bit of a mixed reaction at the time of its release, but to me it’s still a big win.
20. Slide Away – Miley Cyrus
After the slapdash Younger Now era, it was great to have Miley Cyrus back on strong form in 2019. Mother’s Daughter was great (it very nearly made this list too) but I just love Slide Away. Obviously inspired by her split from Liam Hemsworth, it’s a mournful but assured ballad that nails heartbroken sorrow without ever sounding over-wrought. Sure, very few of us can relate to the specifics of some of the lyrics (“I want my house in the hills” – omg same), but Miley’s delivery ensures we still feel every note.
19. Raising Hell – Kesha feat. Big Frieda
The Rainbow era was fucking magnificent for Kesha, but it’s so great to hear her back on fun territory on Raising Hell; a song that takes her iconic party-starting hitmaking and plonks it firmly in 2019. “I don’t wanna go to heaven without raising hell” is an excellent lyric, and Big Frieda’s guest appearance suits it to perfection.
18. I Wish – Hayley Kiyoko
I really enjoyed Hayley’s Expectations era last year, and she’s continued delivering the goods in 2019 too, albeit to a bit less fanfare (from what I’ve seen, anyway). I Wish is brilliant, and has one of my favourite middle-8s of any song on this list. It feels like she’s still getting better and better.
17. If Looks Could Kill – Lauren Aquilina
Every bit as good as last year’s Psycho, If Looks Could Kill is another ace song in which Lauren takes aim at an absolute dickhead and somehow makes it sound like enormous fun. My favourite thing about If Looks Could Kill is that the harmonies on the chorus actually remind me of a Disney showtune. Imagine!!
16. Church – Aly & AJ
I wasn’t, for my sins, especially familiar with Aly & AJ before this year, but Church hit me riiiight in the feelings. Direct hit. A beautifully sad song about being at rock bottom (“For all the times I can’t reverse, for all the places where it hurts, I need a little church”), it makes endless self-indulgence sound incredibly traumatic. SOMEONE HUG THEM!
15. Adore You – Harry Styles
I think it was PopJustice who said Harry’s solo music has jumped up a notch since he’s started sounding more like The 1975, and I agree 100%. Adore You is top-to-bottom perfection; allowing Harry to sound like one of those ~cool ~musicians he loves so much whilst also, yaknow, being fun and Not Boring. I’m hooked on this at the moment.
14. So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings – Caroline Polachek
Best song title of the year? It’s definitely a contender. So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings is one of the boppier bops on the new Caroline Polachek album, and it’s excellent: cool and goofy, self-assured and self-effacing. One of many, many songs on this Top 50 that should have been a big commercial hit.
13. Gone – Charli XCX feat. Christine and the Queens
I have never really ~connected with Charli XCX like I know loads of other pop stans have, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know a fucking great song when it slaps me square in the face. She and Chris are a fantastic double-act; Gone a big, angsty, dramatic slice of pop excellence. Potentially my new favourite song ever from either artist.
12. Love Me Again – RAYE
God, everything about this is just so great, isn’t it? Despair you can dance to, Love Me Again wisely takes a ‘less is more’ approach to emotional devastation: from the production to RAYE’s vocal, it’s steady and just-about-together on the surface, with the tears simmering underneath. Wonderful.
11. Ritual – Tiesto, Jonas Blue & Rita Ora
Despite being inescapable on TV and the radio for a few months, and despite taking up residence at the top end of the iTunes rankings for fucking ages, this song never made it higher than No24 – but that’s The Charts Nowadays for you, eh? Ritual is a massive, massive banger with a chorus the size of a tank and a great star vocal from Rita. It is, for want of a more meaningful platitude, A TUNE.
10. Thinkin Bout You – Ciara
Ciara’s Beauty Marks album era felt a little bit blink-and-you-miss-it in comparison to, say, the Ciara and Jackie campaigns; but this excellent track is – I think! – one of her best ever. It’s just so fun and uplifting and lovely, and if the global hellscape of the year 2019 ain’t the time for tracks like that, I do not know when is. Give me this over a Can’t Stop The Feeling any day of the week.
09. All The Time – Zara Larsson
Zara’s last three ~main singles – Ruin My Life, Don’t Worry Bout Me and this – have all been absolute perfection. All The Time is a bright, uplifting, good old-fashioned pop song about falling in love(/lust), with a properly buoyant chorus and the sort of playful energy that so much contemporary pop is sorely lacking. This could easily be the subject of one of those “remember when X tried to save pop?” memes in a few years’ time.
08. Stretch – Louise
Louise? Returning to music after years of Generally Just Being A Celeb with one of the best bops of the year? OKAY THEN!! So many artists return after years and years away with an independent record that’s all MOR guitar-y fluff, but not Louise, no ma’am! Stretch is confident, smart, sexy and impossible to sit still to. An excellent power move from a veteran hitmaker many had written off.
07. Lover – Taylor Swift
The Shawn Mendes remix is unnecessary, but Lover really is Taylor’s finest love song to date – and after the disappointment of Me! and You Need To Calm Down, a single like this was just what we needed. Of course she’s firmly parking her tanks on Thinking Out Loud’s lawn here, but the echo-y vocals, the simple chorus and a return to the heartfelt, endearingly specific lyrics of Vintage Taylor make it a true gem in its own right. And the fact it’s inspired by what is ostensibly her most secure, comfortable and (in the best way possible) ‘unremarkable’ relationship to date really shows.
06. break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored – Ariana Grande
Avril Lavigne’s Girlfriend, but make it 2019! The best song from – spoiler – the best album of the year, BUWYGIB gave Ari her fifth UK number one (and her third in the space of a few months), and deservedly so: she’s at the height of her powers here, riding the trap-pop wave but keeping it fun and exciting. Her voice is so well suited to this; from the layered backing vocals (“yuh yuh” fans are well catered for) to the silky smooth ad-libs over the finale. Video’s ace, too.
05. Juice – Lizzo
‘Old’ songs Truth Hurts and Good As Hell have had some much-deserved success this year, but the actual new stuff Lizzo’s released in 2019 has also been stellar. Juice, in an alternate universe, should have at least matched the sales and cultural omnipresence of Uptown Funk. But who knows – evidently that could happen in, like, 2023?! KEEP FAITH!
04. Rainbow – Kacey Musgraves
A highlight from last year’s Golden Hour album but only serviced as a single in February of this year, Rainbow is… *The Vivienne voice* stunning. A extremely straightforward piano-and-vocal recording, it’s a very easy song to hook personal significance on to: anyone who’s been going through a tough time of it, anyone who knows anyone who’s been going through a tough time of it, anyone queer (hello, the title!!!)… ugh, the TEARS!
03. Number One Fan – MUNA
Best Band In The World MUNA returned with their second album this year, led by this 10/10 song about self-sabotage and self-love; taking dark inner thoughts like “nobody likes me and I’m gonna die alone” and trying extremely hard to overpower them. This lot do Matters Of The Brain extremely well, and this is one of their best-ever tracks. “So iconic, like big, like stan, like.”
02. Motivation – Normani
After establishing her huge potential in Fifth Harmony and laying strong solo foundations with featured appearances for Khalid and Sam Smith (see above), Normani was finally ready to blast off on her own on Motivation. A huge pop moment from this summer, it’s one of the best HELLO HERE I AM!!! singles I can remember for a very long time; with everything from the video to the single artwork screaming “megastar”. It’s fun, catchy, vibrant and energetic; and I can’t wait to hear more from this icon-in-waiting next year.
01. Never Really Over – Katy Perry
Honestly, I thought Katy’s single-of-the-year days were long gone – but this Dagny-inspired, Zedd-produced enormobop is her best since Teenage Dream.
That slightly frantic chorus (or is it the post-chorus?) might take a couple of listens to get used to, but WHEW once it gets you, there’s no going back. After all these years, her vocals are weirdly comforting, aren’t they – especially when she’s giving us The Feelings during moments like the pre-chorus and the middle-8, and the points at which she flips (as only Katy Perry can) in and out of her ‘head voice’.
This song is great for shouting along to in the car, for howling along to whilst hanging up the laundry, for wheezing along to whilst running… Spotify says it’s my most-played of the year, and it’s also my favourite. Thought my Katy stan-dom was done… but… *slow look to camera* I guess it’s never really over.
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!
1. MUNA – MUNA
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.
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.
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.
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.
And the Top 40 was:
- Crazy In Love
- Love on Top
- Deja Vu
- Break My Soul
- Sweet Dreams
- Cuff It
- All Night
- Alien Superstar
- End of Time
- Beautiful Liar
- Drunk In Love
- Baby Boy
- Pure / Honey
- Green Light
- Naughty Girl
- Hold Up
- Run The World (Girls)
- Daddy Lessons
- Schoolin Life
- Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)
- Freakum Dress
- Upgrade U
- Summer Renaissance
- Don’t Hurt Yourself
- Get Me Bodied
- Ring the Alarm
- Best Thing I Never Had