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Top 50 singles of 2021

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Last week saw the second annual Electric Angels Singles of the Year survey, in which I was THRRRRILLED to see what everyone else has been loving this year. Now, it’s time for my own choices!

This is my 14th annual year-end Top 50 (Christ), and I actually found it quite hard to compile this year, especially versus 2020. There was plenty of good pop to pick from, but not as much really, really amazing pop. Still, I adore these 50 songs – and you can find the obligatory Spotify playlist here or at the bottom of the post.

My year-end playlists from 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008 are also all on Spotify (for various reasons, some of the older ones are incomplete).

This year’s best albums to follow!


50. Build It Better – Natalie Imbruglia

I can’t say I was waiting with bated breath for Natalie’s first album since 2015 (her first of original material since 2009), but when this single dropped, WHEW! I remembered how much I used to love her. Her voice, the gentle Radio 2 instrumentation, the lyrics about letting things go to shit so they can be duly reborn… it’s like a lovely cuddle.


49. Anyone – Justin Bieber

Released on New Year’s Day, Anyone was the First Good Song of 2021, and another excellent track from a popstar I keep forgetting is capable of brilliance.


48. Come Through – Priyanka feat. Lemon

The usual mid-and-post-Drag-Race-song lyrics about “slaying all day” etcetera are elevated in this case by the sheer star quality of Priyanka; not to mention the turbo-charged guest rap from Lemon that probably deserves some sort of Grammy.


47. Je me casse – Destiny

Whispers about alleged funny business at Eurovision totally passed me by, so I was free to fully buy into the hype on this. Destiny is a star, the bilingual hook is a neat touch, and really I just had it in my head for fucking WEEKS.


46. Dancing With The Devil – Demi Lovato

The title track from a massively under-rated album, Dancing With The Devil might not be Demi’s most memorable lead single but the brutal honesty of the lyrics and the !!EMOTION!! of the vocals give it one hell of a bite. And that BRIDGE, good Lord. Demi’s voice feels like it’s ready to break as the instrumentation swells around “I thought I knew my limit, yeah, thought that I could quit it, yeah…”, but by the time the final chorus kicks in, they’re back to their defiant, glass-shattering best. It may have become cool to dunk on them over the last couple of years but they’re still highly capable of being excellent.


45. Hope – Arlo Parks

WHAT a YEAR for Ms Parks!!!! Collapsed In Sunbeams is a gorgey album, and this song – serviced as a single around the time of its release – is one of its most glorious moments. It delivers what its title promises; mixing beautifully written and intricate verses with a chorus that simply reminds us, over and over, “you’re not alone like you think you are”.


44. Heartbreak In This City – Steps feat. Michelle Visage

One of the stronger moments on 2020’s What The Future Holds got a bit of a glow-up for its single release here; including slightly glossier production and a guest appearance from – who else? – Michelle Visage. It’s catchy, it’s danceable, it’s got a tinge of sadness running underneath the boppery… it’s classic Steps.


43. Overdrive – Conan Gray

Only one lone person gave this song some love in the Singles of the Year poll, which tells me y’all have been massively missing out and need to get this injected into your veins FAST.


42. On The Ground – RosĂ©

Jesy Nelson’s launch prompted a lot of chat about the best and worst solo debuts from girlband members over the years, and to be frank I did not see enough love given to this! RosĂ©’s first non-Blackpink release is an electropop stomper packed with great vocals, addictive melodies and ground-shaking production. A moment!


41. Have Mercy – Chloe

This chorus will NEVER! LEAVE! MY! HEAD!


40. Sacrifice – Bebe Rexha

Bebe went back to the 90s for this surprising Greg Kurstin-produced megabop from the Better Mistakes album; all big thudding hooks and attention-hungry lyrics. 2021 may not have been… shall we say commercially satisfying for Bebe or her label, but at least it spawned a song this great.


39. Life’s A Bitch (LAB) – Nina Nesbitt

“Life’s like a bitch, I hate her but I love her”. A 10/10 central lyric from a 10/10 best-of-times-worst-of-times bop.


38. Message In A Bottle (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault) – Taylor Swift

I can see why this was left out of the original release of Red: even though it pulls Taylor in a poppier direction than her first three albums, it lyrically feels a little…… juvenile compared to her other stuff? It’s as if, back in 2012, this was her testing the Max Martin-y waters, and the material that did make the album (22, WANEGBT, IKYWT) was her fully diving in. Still, there’s something about her wheeling it out nine years later, dusting off that dangerously addictive sugar rush of a chorus, that just feels so good. A time machine back to when we were all younger, more innocent and more easily swept up in the romance of it all.


37. John Hughes Movie – Maisie Peters

Essentially a trip back to every naive crush and petty heartbreak that once upon a time felt like the end of the world, John Hughes Movie perfectly captures the crush-related angst and hurt we all felt before we knew better. You would think Maisie’s delicate voice would be totally swallowed by production this big, but actually it all just adds wonderfully to the drama. A triumph!


36. Toothbrush – Grace Davies

The highlight of Grace’s 2020 Friends With The Tragic EP was the almost Robyn-esque Addicted To Blue, so it’s been amazing to hear her leaning into more of that electroballadry throughout 2021. Toothbrush is a right stunner; a midtempo feelings-fest that culminates in an explosive finale that begs to be howled along-to in full voice.


35. All Your Exes – Julia Michaels

There’s been a lot of adoration for the way Billie Eillish’s Happier Than Ever morphs from subtle acoustic number to full-blown ragebanger, but I actually think Julia Michaels gifted us with a fine example of that too. Irrational jealously has rarely been this fun.


34. Altar – Kehlani

A beautiful reflection on those who’ve been lost, Altar is emotional but never mopey; it’s gripped by grief but packed with love. A really, really lovely song.


33. Mirror – Sigrid

Sigrid said a firm NO to self-doubt on this slick pick-me-up; complete with an impossibly catchy “ah-ah-ah” chant in the bridge that lingers in the brain for weeks.


32. That’s What I Want – Lil Nas X

Lil Nas X’s near-flawless year was such a triumph because not only was he so unapologetic horny, but he was also unafraid to show a bit of heart and vulnerability. This impossible-to-dislike bop sees him yearning for something more than a quick dicking, and it’s also catchy as hell.


31. Bouncin – Tinashe

Remember those terrible years when we had to wait ENDLESSLY for a Tinashe album? Nowadays she simply will not let us breathe! Bouncin is an irresistible little song, and the video? Art!


30. No – Little Mix

The annual resurgence of Christmas songs in mid-November meant that No spent only two – TWO!!! – weeks in the UK Top 100; an abominable way to round out the current chapter of the Little Mix story. No is a natural successor to Sweet Melody; punchy, confident, catchy as Omicron… it’s Little Mix doing what they do best.


29. Wild Side – Normani feat. Cardi B

The wait for Wild Side was borderline barbaric, but what a display of excellence! An assured single from a woman who remains one of music’s most promising talents, and the video was – in a surprise to nobody – a total blockbuster. Let’s keep the momentum up!!


28. Shade of Yellow – Griff

Black Hole gave this megastar-in-waiting a well deserved hit in 2021, but it’s Shade of Yellow that stands out for me; a lyrically rich, understated track with writing and production by Griff and Griff alone. Consider me PUMPED to see her go from strength to strength in 2022.


27. Crave – Years & Years

It doesn’t sound like a hit (and sure enough, it wasn’t) but Crave does sound like the kind of darkly brooding pop song that Years & Years do best. I enjoyed Starstruck, but this was what properly got me excited for the Night Call era.


26. I Want Love – Jessie J

A serve? From Jessie J? In 2021? These really are unprecedented times!!


25. Sister Ray – Foxes

Her Friends In The Corner EP was a brilliant reintroduction, but the first three singles from upcoming album The Kick have been total slam-dunks; this one in particular. Foxes = the British Carly Rae? Perhaps!


24. Here Comes The Night – Agnes

It’s so obvious from the opening bars of Here Comes The Night that Agnes is going to fully punch you in the face with a balls-to-the-wall discobanger, and OH MERCY, punch you she does. The title lyric is not so much a warning or a premonition as a call-to-arms.


23. Hot Hot – Bree Runway

Bree Runway No1 for 12 weeks when?? After her excellent 2000and4eva mixtape last year, Hot Hot was another check-mate from this potential titan of British music; a summer-ready jam that soars with or without all the Busta Rhymes sample drama.


22. Transparent Soul – Willow feat. Travis Barker

Olivia Rodrigo deservedly got a lot of hype for her pop-punk sound; a subgenre that was as prominent in 2021 as it was in the early 2000s. But Willow was also serving guitar-crunching angst this year, and Transparent Soul – which returned her to the UK and US charts for the first time in a decade – kicked off her whole new era perfectly.


21. Easy on Me – Adele

She just sounds so GOOD, doesn’t she?! The vocals are as crystal clear as… well, crystal on Easy On Me; a quintessential Adele ballad and one that makes the most of her ability to deliver both technical perfection and an emotional sucker-punch. May we all drink wine and cry to this for years to come.


20. Good Ones – Charli XCX

Honestly I come and go with Charli XCX; flitting sporadically between ‘gosh what a clever artiste’ and ‘gosh what kind of RACKET is this?!’. On Good Ones she’s squarely in unpretentious pop belter territory, and I just cannot help myself. What a riot.


19. Priorities – L Devine

With not one but two EPs out over the course of the summer, L Devine really planted herself firmly on my Ones To Watch radar, and with Priorities – in which she sings about a new squeeze who’s not putting in the hours – she’s on perfect form; giving big hooks, moody synth-laden production and a vocal that nails the perfect balance of hurt and pissed-off.


18. Heartbreak Anthem – Galantis, David Guetta and Little Mix

As a dance banger, this may not re-invent the wheel, but Christ I was mainlining it from the second I first heard it. With buoyant production, great vocal work from all of Little Mix and lyrics about refusing to dwell on troubled times, it was easily top of my Spotify Wrapped – and hey, you lot voted it your favourite track of the year too.


17. Call on Me – Raye

Given all the fuckery Raye spoke about around the time of this song’s release, I hope it doesn’t go on to represent a bad time for her – because LORD, what a great single. The Song of the Summer contender that (like much of Raye’s work) deserved better.


16. Save Your Tears (Remix) – The Weeknd and Ariana Grande

Ariana has rarely sounded better than she does on this; a song that enables her to play around at the bottom of her range as well as at the very top of it. Save Your Tears was an exceptional song in its original form. This remix kicks it up even further.


15. Church Girl – Laura Mvula

Pink Noise was S!U!C!H! a great era for Laura, and each pre-release single was better than the last. Church Girl is simply impossible to sit still to; it’s an immaculately written, performed and produced song for which everyone involved deserves some sort of plaque.


14. Glam! – Allie X

A song so massive it can probably be seen from space, Glam! is a fist-in-the-air scream-a-long anthem made for stadiums; and the fact Allie originally scrapped it from her debut EP back in 2015 is a crime for which she should absolutely stand trial.


13. Let Them Know – Mabel

All you need to know about Let Them Know is the fact it was put together by Mabel, Raye, MNEK and SG Lewis. If that doesn’t immediately tell you how much it slaps, really nothing will. (Also – bouquet of flowers for whichever of them came up with “up here the haters look teeny tiny”).


12. Used To You – Grace Davies

Grace has developed quite a knack for heartbreak-laden torch songs and Used To You is, for me, her best yet. Beginning with a low vocal over synthy chords so quiet you can barely hear them, the song builds and builds like an unstoppable panic attack; reaching a devastating crescendo in its beautifully raw bridge – the sort of gutteral outpouring that comes when you can only keep a restrained lid on your emotions for so long.


11. Good 4 U – Olivia Rodrigo

Drivers’ License was a great lead single but it was on Good 4 U that Olivia’s MO really became clear. It’s a modern pop-punk classic that wears its anger on its sleeve – and though Olivia may cite Taylor Swift as a major influence, here she brilliantly shuns any Swiftian poetic imagery and sticks to songwriting that’s brutally straightforward, to-the-point and… yes, teenage. ‘Good for you, you look happy and healthy, not me, if you ever cared to ask.’ A star is born!


10. Big – Rita Ora, Imanbek and David Guetta feat. Gunna

Releasing a song about lavish partying at a time when her fondness for a party was all over the papers… Bold! But when the material’s this irresistible, why the hell not?! The highlight of a very good EP, Big is a taut, expensive-sounding banger made for strutting down the travelator at Waterloo; and I was fucking addicted to it back in February.


09. I Do This All The Time – Self Esteem

The whole Prioritise Pleasure era was clearly a total success for the ingenious Rebecca Taylor, and on I Do This All The Time, her ability to make you really stop in your tracks is on full display. Spoken-word verses that revisit an array of micro-aggressions and life lessons are delivered almost exasperatedly over a simple beat; interspersed with choral reminders to “look up, lean back, be strong”. The final act, when the orchestra swells and the chant-friendly vocals burst into cries of “I’ll take care, I’ll read again, I’ll sing again” is nothing short of euphoric.


08. 24 Hours – Agnes

Agnes confidently struts away from the remnants of a shattered relationship on this almighty stomper; allowing herself very briefly to look back at the darkness she’s leaving behind before declaring on the bridge “here and now, I choose my future”. God help anyone or anything that stands in her way.


07. Confetti – Little Mix feat. Saweetie

Confetti sounds so good in this slightly remixed, Saweetie-fied, Jesy-less form that it’s so incredibly jarring now to listen back to the 2020 original. The girls sound poised, assured and whole; switching between cool, unphased harmonies and powerful ad-libs with the ease of pros who’ve been nailing this popstar thing for a whole-ass decade. And the video? Oscars!!


06. Dover Beach – Baby Queen

Bella Latham appeared in 2020 with a highly promising string of singles, and in 2021 she unleashed her superb The Yearbook – led by this eardrum-bursting bop about having someone on the brain 24/7. The bridge (“it’s deep! Red! My broken dream!”) is a proper hands-aloft moment, and the clearest sign yet that the Baby Queen bandwagon is one we should all want to be on.


05. No Words Needed – Rebecca Ferguson feat. Nile Rodgers

Ten years on from Album Of The Century contender Heaven, R-Fergz returned with this shimmering, undeniable song that finds her in her most playful territory yet. No Words Needed is a lusty-eyed dream of a track with a gorgeous vocal and sparkling production; and if – as Rebecca has indicated – her next album will indeed be her last, it certainly seems like she’ll be leaving us wanting more.


04. Got Me – Laura Mvula

Got Me invites – nay DEMANDS – dancing; anything from a subtle shimmy to full-on hip-swinging. It’s the jewel in the Pink Noise era’s glistening crown; a sexy, joyful, neon-lit confection that pairs breathless, almost spoken-word verses with one hell of a satisfying chorus. I believe in a Mvula supremacy!!


03. Silk Chiffon – Muna feat. Phoebe Bridgers

Is there a better hook this year than “SIIIIIIILK!!!!!!… Chiffon”? Perhaps not! Over their first two albums Muna perfected heartbreak (Crying On The Bathroom Floor), community strength (I Know A Place) and a wry twist on the empowerment anthem (Number One Fan); but on Silk Chiffon it’s all about the pure, unfiltered joy of connecting so perfectly with another human being. It’s a queer love song that shuns angst entirely and just revels in happiness; a lighter-than-air thrill that’s as gentle as… well, silk chiffon. “It feels good to me… oh, why wouldn’t it be?”


02. Don’t Shut Me Down – ABBA

I Still Have Faith In You was the emotional reintroduction, but Don’t Shut Me Down was the song that fully reminded listeners the world over that nobody – NOBODY!!! – does pop music quite like ABBA. Emotional vocals, intricate instrumentation, exquisite storytelling (is it about a former couple coming back together, or a world-conquering pop group coming back together? Why not both!)… this is an act still at the height of their powers after almost four decades apart, and how lucky we all are to have had them back in these miserable times!


01. Montero (Call Me By Your Name) – Lil Nas X

Every now and then a song comes along that not only slaps, that not only is hugely successful, that not only lifts its performer to a new level of stardom; but also feels like it properly shakes-up the pop cultural landscape. The fact a mainstream gay artist – let alone a mainstream gay artist with roots in hip-hop – was this explicitly horny, on such a global stage, playing with the kind of religious imagery that could only infuriate those already out to get him… it was brave, bold, iconic, and – lest we forget – also a shitload of fun. Montero (Call Me By Your Name) is a brilliant song even without all that it represents, but it’s also an unforgettable ~moment; a megastar-making ace that will be referenced and talked about for generations to come.


And here’s the playlist:

Music

Top 25 albums of 2022

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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 – BeyoncĂ©

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! BeyoncĂ© 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.


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Music

Top 50 singles of 2022

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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 – TiĂ«sto 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 – BeyoncĂ©

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

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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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