Hello and welcome to my 13th, yes thirteenth!!!, year-end singles list – my favourite annual waste of time and energy!
You already know by now that pop has been SO MUCH BETTER this year than in recent years, and although I think that’s actually more apparent in the albums department than with singles, I still struggled more than ever to narrow this down to a Top 50 – and could have quite happily done a Top 100. Honourable mentions in particular go to Halsey, Yorke, Becky Hill, Arlissa, Capulets, Megan x Beyoncé, Emily Burns and The Mamas.
Before we get to my absolute faves of the last 52 godforsaken weeks, here’s a RECAP of my No1 songs from years gone by. My lists from 2008-2014 are on blogs that are long deleted ? but there is a Spotify playlist for all of them, even if a couple are missing a few songs because of Spotify deletions and/or me just forgetting what else was on them:
2008: Sweet About Me – Gabriella Cilmi [playlist]
2009: Battlefield – Jordin Sparks [playlist]
2010: Teenage Dream – Katy Perry [playlist]
2011: Till The World Ends – Britney Spears [playlist]
2012: Wings – Little Mix [playlist]
2013: Heart Attack – Demi Lovato [playlist]
2014: Into The Blue – Kylie Minogue [playlist]
2015: Style – Taylor Swift [blog | playlist]
2016: Into You – Ariana Grande [blog | playlist]
2017: Touch – Little Mix [blog | playlist]
2018: Make Me Feel – Janelle Monae [blog | playlist]
2019: Never Really Over – Katy Perry [blog | playlist]
End-of-decade: Teenage Dream – Katy Perry [blogs | playlist]
You can get to the 2020 playlist here if you can’t be arsed to scroll through all of the below.
50. Miss You 2 – Gabrielle Aplin feat. Nina Nesbitt
There was a time at which the very idea of these two collaborating would have sent me into a hundred-year sleep, but I’ve been a huge fan of their more recent output – and this little electro-ballad was a real New Year gem back in January.
49. Take Care Of You – Ella Henderson
The solo comeback song that felt 394 years in the making (2019’s Glorious EP aside), Hendo’s return sounded a bit ~basic to me at first, but over time it’s become a real go-to: playlist-friendly dancepop anchored by a sweet vocal performance that delivers just the right amount of yearning and delicacy. The ad-libs over the final chorus? Ugh!!
48. New Me – Ella Eyre
Back in January I thought this would be Ella’s big moment; her chance to finally earn a genuine smash without being the featured artist on a dance anthem. That… did not happen. New Me still slaps, though; a bit chaotic on first listen, but full of personality (“Ella ain’t here, it’s a new me”) and an insanely addictive “na-na-na-na” bit in the middle.
47. in the afternoon – Josef Salvat
Josef’s Modern Anxiety album was a delight, a DELIGHT goddammit; and this sweethearted little number is one of my very favourites from it. Warm, wistful, wonderful. ?
46. Daydream – The Aces
For some reason The Aces’ latest album didn’t stick with me like their previous one did (maybe it’s just been too much of a crowded field this year), but Daydream miiiiiight just be my new top song of theirs. It is, as Lorraine would say, a JOY.
45. I’m Ready – Sam Smith feat. Demi Lovato
I feel like The Gays At Large aren’t too keen on this, which makes NO SENSE to me! Initially I felt like it ended before it really got going, but it proved to be a right grower. Both Sam and Demi sound great, the video is excellent, and nine months later it still very much does the job for me. ?
44. Boyfriend – Selena Gomez
Witty little lyrics have become Selena’s USP, and “I could phone a friend, use a hotline or something, but that won’t get the job done” is up there with her best.
43. Strike – Call Me Loop
One of two excellent lil’ bops released my Call Me Loop in 2k20 (the other is Downhill From Here), Strike is a great you’re-on-thin-ice-matey warning shot; with a vocal that’s more exasperated than vengeful.
42. Something In Your Eyes – Steps
What The Future Holds didn’t slap me round the face quite like I wanted it to, but a well-executed cover of Jenny Silver’s Something In Your Eyes? Oh this, this reinvigorated my interest in S6 and then some. The candy-coated chorus! The big A*Teens energy! The sight of Lee in a harness!!! The real standout moment of their latest era for me.
41. What’s Your Pleasure? – Jessie Ware
When I first heard it, I was like, “If this becomes a single, it’ll be on my year-end list!!!”. It did, and it is.
40. Bikini Porn – Tove Lo
There was actually a point in Q1 at which it looked like pop wouldn’t deliver the goods this year; and I remember this darkly fun little gem was one of only a handful of songs to cut through. Of course 2020 did end up becoming much more fruitful music-wise, but I haven’t forgotten this January masterpiece.
39. Holiday – Little Mix
Holiday didn’t reaaaally click with me at first, maybe because it’s not the obvious earth-shaking summer anthem I expected. But it is a breezy, slick slow-burner with a fabulous double chorus, some excellent vocals from Leigh-Anne in particular, and – as a lovely bonus -an epic MNEK remix.
38. Falling – Harry Styles
For me this was a standout fave from 2019’s Fine Line album anyway, but when it was used over the top of one of my Hollyoaks episodes (clang) and reduced me to a BLUBBERING WRECK, its legendary status was cemented.
37. Do It – Chloe x Halle
Somehow managing to be both a smooth laid-back bop and a get-up-and-go party anthem, Do It was the perfect launchpad for the excellent Ungodly Hour era, and the best thing about it is that it just sounds so effortless. These two have had A YEAR!
36. If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know) – The 1975
As with The Aces, the latest 1975 era didn’t cLiCk with me quite like the last one did, and I wonder if that’s just because I was too busy stanning other stuff. But! If You’re Too Shy is still a magnificent addition to their repertoire; deservedly their highest charting single to date.
35. Hallucinate – Dua Lipa
I feel like you’re either a Levitate kinda person, or a Hallucinate kinda person. I’m the latter.
34. Friends In The Corner – Foxes
“All of my friends in the corner, everybody’s looking like they need someone.” Hashtag 2020, amiright? Foxes took a bloody long time to come back with new material, and when she did… to quote her own seminal 2015 album, it was glorious.
33. Addicted To Blue – Grace Davies
“I don’t wanna lose you, but I don’t wanna get used to you” is just one of many 10/10 lyrics in this stunning midtempo number about being a secret angst junkie. It’s the standout moment from one of the year’s best EPs, and more new material can’t come soon enough.
32. Diamonds – Megan Thee Stallion feat. Normani
Savage and WAP deserved all the fuss they got, but Diamonds? Diamonds should have been up there with them! And as Normani’s only output in 2020(!!!!), we should be SOAKING IT UP.
31. Say Something – Kylie Minogue
I wouldn’t say I was underwhelmed when this came out, but I was… whelmed. As time’s gone by, though, it’s really stuck with me – a lush, wistful song that doesn’t drop-kick you in the balls with killer hooks, but does give you a quiet little lift when you need it most.
30. Crazy – Kelly Rowland
Deliriously addictive, Crazy is my favourite Kelly Rowland track for ages – and one of her absolute best altogether, in my opinion. Between this and Coffee, that fifth album can’t come soon enough!
29. Make U Cry – Torine
I heard this on a PopJustice New Music Friday playlist at the start of the year, and I’ve been a big Torine cheerleader ever since (keep an ear out for Stupid Things if you like this). Make U Cry sounds like something Karmin or Avril would have released in 2013, and it’s extremely my shit.
28. Sleep At Night – The Chicks
I’m a complete newbie to The Chicks, and their Gaslighter era has been exceedingly good – particularly this post-anger, pre-forgiveness smackdown. Like many songs with one foot in country music, the lyrics are veeeery specific (“Remember you brought her to our show at the Hollywood Bowl? She said, ‘I love you, I’m such a fan'”), but the sheer steady-eyed emotion of the delivery means the relatability factor doesn’t suffer one bit.
27. Rare – Selena Gomez
The Selena album feels like it came out a lifetime ago, but it was the first properly great record of 2020 – and its title track cemented her status as a reliable provider of slightly offbeat (not literally offbeat) whisperpop. “Saw us getting older, burning toast on the toaster”… poetry!
26. Head & Heart – Joel Corry feat. MNEK
MNEK scoring one of the biggest hits of the year? LOVE to see it.
25. Lifetime – Romy
I was never a big The xx stan, so I didn’t run to hear Romy’s big solo outing – but whew! A Eurodance-esque anthem for the ages.
24. Married In Vegas – The Vamps
Some of you aren’t ready to have the conversation about how The Vamps have always been great, but that’s okay! I can do enough stanning for all of us! Married In Vegas is their best song since their early pop-rock days; Lostboy’s production and Bradley Simpson’s vocals making one sweet, sweet partnership. It just goes off, I don’t know what else to tell ya!
23. Joan Of Arc On The Dancefloor – Aly & AJ
These two just keep on giving, don’t they? As angstbangers go, this doesn’t tread much new ground lyrically – but the title alone is enough to give it a certain je-ne-sais-quoi, and frankly it’s just a bloody huge tune.
22. One Touch – Julie Bergan
I still can’t quite figure out if this counts as an official single or not (her Wikipedia discography doesn’t list it, but it had a video and got the big push from the EP so SURELY IT’S CANON?!). In any case, One Touch is an absolute belter; with an adrenaline rush of a chorus that’s all layered vocals and eardrum-splitting instrumentation. Check out her Seeb collaboration Don’t You Wanna Play? as well.
21. No Shame – 5 Seconds of Summer
A song that earnestly tries to take aim at the attention-seeking nature of social media frankly sounds like my idea of hell; but No Shame manages to win me over by virtue of just being a fucking brilliant earworm. The lyrics are great too, avoiding preachiness and on-the-nose clichés with lines like: “I only light up when cameras are flashing, never enough and no satisfaction”. Je suis seen!
20. BLACK PARADE – Beyoncé
A surprise Juneteenth release, the Queen Of Everything delivered a track that was not only timely and superbly written lyrics-wise, it was also fantastically performed: no-one can pull off a call-to-action quite like Beyoncé, and all things considered, Black Parade felt like a real Moment.
19. Easy – Troye Sivan; with or without Kacey Musgraves and Mark Ronson
There are, of course, two versions of this – and to be honest, either of them would be this high on the list in their own right. The original is a quietly brilliant work of boppy devastation; the Musgraves/Ronson-ified remix achieving the same emotional impact with slightly more sparkly-yet-melancholy production.
18. Natalie Don’t – Raye
Raye does not know how to release bad songs. She just doesn’t! Natalie Don’t is an excellently dramatic, Jolene-referencing track that – like everything else she’s put out recently – should have been enormous. Let us all form a prayer circle and hope she gets a megastar moment ASA-fucking-P.
17. Black Dog – Arlo Parks
Arlo will have been a teenager – a TEENAGER! – when she wrote this breathtakingly gorgeous depression-themed lifeline of a song. To think, when I was that age I could barely string together a MySpace bulletin!
16. Love Me Land – Zara Larsson
After her last few singles struggled to catch on, Zara took a bold swing with Love Me Land – and though commercially it absolutely did not pay off (at least not outside of her homeland), it’s another fantastic track to add to her collection. I really hope bigger things are coming her way in 2021.
15. Fingers Crossed – Agnes
A lot of people have already said that this sounds like the sort of thing ABBA would make if they were coming through in 2020, and if I may be so bold as to join them: this sounds like the sort of thing ABBA would make if they were coming through in 2020.
14. Somebody – Dagny
Dagny has had a fucking great year, releasing straight-up God-tier (sorry, Tier 4) pop music. Come Over narrowly missed a place on this list, and Strangers/Lovers is one of my fave albums of 2020. Somebody is a joyful, heartwarming diamond of a love song that secures her place as one of the genre’s most engaging talents.
13. Save A Kiss – Jessie Ware
Jessie’s managed to hit new personal bests with her music in 2020; and for me, Save A Kiss was the real crowning moment. I want a dancefloor, I want strobes, I want to be surrounded by sweating gays!!
12. React – The Pussycat Dolls
Is React really that good? Or was it just an exciting pop culture moment right before everything properly turned to shit? I think it’s a bit of both: while I do think this song would benefit from Going Off a bit more in the final chorus, it’s one of those tracks that you don’t realise you’re enjoying that much until you’ve had it on repeat for three weeks and you’re going “AH! AH! AH-AH-AH-AH-AH-AH!” in your sleep. And the CHOREOGRAPHY!
11. Wildflower – 5 Seconds of Summer
A lot of 5SOS’s most popular output over recent years has been on the dark and moody side, but Wildflower is a burst of light; a stadium-sized chorus wrapped in bright, euphoric production. In substituting cheeky words in the chorus with pointed blank spaces, it takes on a nice playful energy, too.
10. Midnight Sky – Miley Cyrus
It’s not that Miley hasn’t been making good stuff over the last few years (I loved Slide Away!), but 2020 saw her biggest commercial flourish since the all-out chaos of 2013’s Bangerz era; Midnight Sky propelling her back onto the A-list with melodic synths, a massive chorus and a vocal performance full of pure drive. There are many who’ll never be won over by her, no matter what sound she opts for – but this is a masterfully executed, career-redefining moment from one of our most complicated popstars.
9. I’m Coming – Tove Lo
An English language cover of the Swedish Jag kommer by Veronica Maggio, this is just further proof – if further proof were needed! – that Tove Lo is one of the greatest popstars of her generation; and that reputation-amongst-the-gays-wise, she should be right up there with Carly Rae. This was only cobbled together as part of Spotify’s Studio It’s Hits (?) project, but it’s utterly glorious – and perfect for the last kilometre or so of any run.
8. I Love You’s – Hailee Steinfeld
I’ve loved a lot of what Hailee has put out over the last few years, but in my view this is the closest she’s ever come to matching the absolute perfection of 2015’s Love Myself. Making great use of that iconic Annie Lennox hook, it’s the exact territory Hailee flourishes in: midtempo heartfelt ~feelings. (Fun fact: Jess Agombar of early-2010s girlband Parade is a co-writer!).
7. Crave – Kiesza
Have you ever belted Crave at the top of your lungs while driving up the M11? No?!?! Then you haven’t LIVED! Favourite bits include the soft “gimme your loooove”s underneath the massive “GIMME YOUR LOVE!!!!”s; that utterly euphoric middle-8; and the ad-lib she does in the final 10 seconds, where it’s all “GIMME GIMME YOUR LOVE! BABY GIMME YOUR LOVE!!” Yes reader, I love.
6. Experience – Victoria Monét feat. Khalid and SG Lewis
That this wasn’t a colossal star-making behemoth is a national – NAY, INTERNATIONAL! – disgrace. Monét has given us countless phenomenal moments as a songwriter (she’s basically Ariana Grande’s most trusted co-writer), and her bid for success as a performer on the excellent Jaguar EP was never more impressive than on this pulsating, glistening, disco-infused piece of bittersweet delight.
5. XS – Rina Sawayama
When did you first hitch your cart to the Rinawagon? Were you one of the clever ones who was well aware of her genius pre-2020? I… was not. She first came onto my radar properly with the slick Commes Des Garçons, but it wasn’t until XS came along a short while later that I was like, “oh…. OH!!!”. An anti-capitalism banger with production that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early-2000s Britney album, it’s EVEN BETTER in its Bree Runway-ified remixed form. All things considered, this song is the big shining moment from one of the defining artists of the year.
4. Break Up Song – Little Mix
I keep talking about this song like it flew under the radar, which obviously isn’t true: it debuted and peaked in the UK Top 10, hung around the Top 20 for nine weeks, and had plenty of mainstream radio play. But! In a better timeline, this – as a lead single from the country’s biggest girlband – would have had way more bells-and-whistles fanfare. Choreo-heavy TV performances! International promo! A music video that didn’t have to be made with felt! The chorus is huge, the production is glorious, and on my Spotify Wrapped this was comfortably my most listened-to track of 2020. A happysad masterstroke!
3. Rain On Me – Lady Gaga feat. Ariana Grande
How wonderful that Lady Gaga, twelve years after her breakthrough, is still able to provide one of the biggest hits of the year?! Rain On Me, with a magical guest turn from Ari, came along in truly The Darkest Days, reminding us to dance through the angst and keep our “hands up to the sky”. “I’d rather be dry, but at least I’m alive” is a corker of a lyric; and BloodPop and Burns’ production is magnificent. I’d go for my government-sanctioned daily runs with this on repeat.
2. Sweet Melody – Little Mix
The group’s final single as a quartet (I’m saying No Time For Tears doesn’t count!), and WHAT a BANGER with which to close the Jesy Chapter!!! Landing somewhere between Touch and DNA, Sweet Melody demands pyro, it demands hair flipping, it demands Choreography with a capital C… and the video provides all of the above. The beat is huge and the vocals are perfection, but its the lyrics (sorry, the Golden Bop Award-winning lyrics!!) that are its real trump card: a delicious, playful narrative that chucks a couple of conversational “anyways” into the opening verses, before reaching that instantly iconic couplet: “He would lie, he would cheat, over syncopated beats.” Almost ten years in, and still providing big blockbusters like this? The history books must recognise Little Mix among the girlband greats; they MUST!!!
1. Physical – Dua Lipa
Yes, the best song of 2020 came out before January had even finished. It was the smart and cool Don’t Start Now that got the attention of the critics and the Serious Music lovers, but it’s Physical – almighty, unconquerable Physical – that delivered big on excitement, euphoria and bursts of sweet, sweet serotonin; an energetic power-pop workout as subtle and delicate as a herd of bison thundering across the plain.
That rollerdisco-ready chant-a-long chorus is the perfect pay-off after those tantalising verses; but it’s the middle-8 that sends you up to a big, gay cloud in the sky. Dua’s guttural roars of “BABY KEEP ON DANCING!” land like commands you’ll obey as if your life depends on it, and I’m just thankful we had at least a couple of months of nightlife with this utter beast of a homobanger before everything shut down. A classic!!
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