2022 Playlist: Collegian staff picks for top songs of the year
The best tracks of 2022
December 31, 2022
“The Place Where He Inserted the Blade” by Black Country, New Road, “Ants From Up There”
Kelly McMahan, Head Podcast Editor
Best Lyric: “Oh, that every time I try to make lunch / For anyone else, in my head / I end up dreaming of you / And you come to me / Good morning!”
“Ants From Up There,” is the sophomore album from experimental rock group Black Country, New Road. Released in February, it’s a heroic breakup album. The band’s frontman, Isaac Wood, soars with the highs of infatuation and writhes in the tragic crash of abandonment.
Besides standard rock instrumentalists, Black Country, New Road also features a classically trained saxophonist, pianist and violinist. “The Place Where He Inserted the Blade” glows with these unique instrumentals.
Piano and saxophone join to add a gorgeous virtuosity throughout. It’s a cinematic final soundtrack to Wood’s monologue of self-destructing confusion. It’s a dizzying flight that floats and spirals with symphonic splendor. You’ll find yourself crying out with the band during their chorus of, “Good morning!”
“Grapejuice” by Harry Styles, “Harry’s House”
Jenna Arruda, Collegian Staff
Best lyric: “Sittin’ in the garden, I’m a couple glasses in / I was tryna count up all the places we’ve been / You’re always there, so don’t overthink / I’m so over whites and pinks.”
Nominated for Album of the Year, “Harry’s House” was released in May of this year and broke records with its top single “As it Was.” My favorite song off the album was the unhurried “Grapejuice.” I love the slower tempo, with the incorporation of subtle synths throughout the song.
It also features Styles’ lesser shown high-range singing, giving it a completely different feel from the rest from the album. This song reflects Styles’ relationship with not only the person in the song, but his changing relationship with his wine of choice. The song creates the same feeling as popping open a bottle of wine and getting to know someone.
“Growing/Dying” by The Backseat Lovers, “Waiting to Spill”
Saliha Bayrak, Editor in Chief
Best Lyric: “Why does the wall insist I have my back against it? / Why does the wall / Why don’t you call me out for leaving all the lights on / Why don’t you call.”
This song was released as part of a string of singles for the second album, “Waiting to Spill,” by The Backseat Lovers, a Salt Lake City based alternative rock group. “Growing/Dying” is a song of pure yearning and frustration alongside more nostalgic tracks like “Morning in the Aves” and “Close your Eyes.”
The opening lines, “why does the plan on the windowsill reflect my state of mind?/growing and dying all the time,” embeds hope throughout the desperately sung lines like, “searching for a sliver/just enough to tell the forest from the fire.” The narrator is in the “dying” period of his life, inspired partly by a person the narrator has lost touch with, or is trying to reach.
As the song carries on, the desperation becomes more intense and simultaneously the instrumentals become more energetic and vocals become raspier. Maintaining the promise of hope that the listeners were invited to believe in from the beginning, the song closes with mellow acoustic guitar, echoing drums and the line, “I think it’s time to grow.”
The ending reminds the listener of the transient and cyclical nature of time, the greatest tragedy yet salvation of our lives. With this track and album, The Backseat Lovers prove they have not lost their authentic indie sound since signing to Capitol records. In just their four short years of being a band, they have also proven that they are not just the set-list staples of indie cover bands, but they can produce raw, complex music that mirrors life.
“Mariella” by Khruangbin and Leon Bridges, “Texas Moon”
Shanti Furtado, Assistant Video Editor
Best Lyric: “Nothing here changes, seasons go by / You said hello, you said goodbye.”
Leon Bridges and Khruangbin teamed up once again at the start of 2022 for their second collaborative EP titled “Texas Moon.” The five-track ensemble complements the four songs of the group’s initial 2020 work, “Texas Sun.”
Khruangbin’s bassist, Laura Lee, describes the works as “two sibling pieces” each rooted in smooth, easy-listening, the hallmark of both artists. “Mariella” stands alone as the takeaway song of “Texas Moon,” sending home the melancholy blues ever present throughout the EP’s 23-minute duration.
Lyrically the track speaks of longing for the one you love, Bridges’ sweet singing contrasts with ‘Mariella’s’ unwavering position, and it lingers long after their physical presence has expired. Not only does the song achieve a lasting ambiance in this respect, but through its’ soulful, haunting instrumentation. “Mariella” is one of those pieces of music that itches your brain just right, leaving you yearning for more.
“Thoroughfare” by Ethel Cain, “Preacher’s Daughter”
Molly Hamilton, Assistant Arts Editor
Best Lyric: “Hey, do you wanna see the West with me? / Cause love’s out there and I can’t leave it be.”
On her debut studio album, “Preacher’s Daughter,” Ethel Cain paints a portrait of American life that is at once haunting, beautiful and deeply disturbing. A concept album about a girl who runs away from home only to be murdered by one of her lovers, the record sits somewhere between Bruce Springsteen’s nostalgic Americana and the abject Southern horror of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
“Thoroughfare” tells the sprawling story of a young, Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque couple trying their best to navigate the uncertainties of love and loss. At ten minutes long, the track feels shockingly succinct — it’s hard to imagine that a shorter version of this narrative would do it justice.
The backing electric guitar riffs are clearly inspired by Southern rock and a lone harmonica gives the whole song an authentic, unpolished quality. “Thoroughfare” is a pleasant bright spot on an otherwise grim record. It’s quite romantic, that is, if you can ignore the album’s cannibalistic ending.
“Plan B” by Megan Thee Stallion, “Traumazine”
Shannon Moore, Assistant Arts Editor
Best Lyric: “F*** you, still can’t believe I used to trust you / The only accolade you ever made is that I f***ed you.”
Released as a single for her second full-length album, Megan delivers a song packed with female empowerment to the greatest extent. Over an old school 90s style type beat, with flow reminiscent of Biggie and Tupac, Megan recounts a failed relationship through which she learned her worth.
Her lyrics are crass and hard hitting (they always are) as she tells the listeners directly to love themselves and to be wary of what men have to offer. This was my personal top song of the year on Spotify, for a reason. Megan Thee Stallion never fails to remind me of my worth.
“End of Beginning” by DJO, “DECIDE”
Shannon Moore, Assistant Arts Editor
Best Lyric: “And when I’m back in Chicago, I feel it / Another version of me, I was in it.”
DJO’s second full length album, “DECIDE,” is one of the most cohesive and complex albums I’ve heard all year. DJO, better known as actor Joe Keery from “Stranger Things,” utilizes a pop-synth psychedelic rock style to deliver life lessons and reflections on youth. “End of Beginning” is my favorite track off the album, a crescendo of emotion over a groovy synth track. Listen to this song when you go back to your hometown for break, and I think you’ll understand his emotions.
“The Flag is Raised” by Bladee & Ecco2K, “Crest”
Jackson Walker, Collegian Staff
Best Lyric: “Suddenly / everything turns gold for me / suffering / isn’t anymore / gold wash over me / shining like the sun / nothing’s ugly / white light cover me / in this world and her majesty / number one in reality.”
The opening track to the Swedish duo’s first full-length collaboration immediately sets the tone. Lilting synths and delicate 808s back up the falsetto of Ecco and the monotone yet hopeful melody Bladee brings.
The first song embodies the sound of the album, as well as the themes of spirituality and religion that the album explores. References to Saint Maria (the patron saint of forgiveness) litter the second verse, as Bladee and Ecco2K bring in the spring with these sunny melodies.
“Sunshine (feat. Fousheé)” by Steve Lacy, “Gemini Rights”
Ashviny Kaur, Collegian Staff
Best Lyric: “I would do it one more time / I would let you cut the line / Just so I could be right where you are”
“Gemini Rights,” Steve Lacy’s sophomore album, is one I consider having no skips. It’s confident and bold, traits that lacked in his previous works. “Sunshine” is a personal favorite, with an indie-inspired beat and a slow, harmonic melody.
Lacy’s voice flows beautifully alongside R&B singer Foushee, coming together to create a track that sounds exactly how the sunshine feels.
“Dream Girl Evil” by Florence + The Machine, “Dance Fever”
Ashviny Kaur, Collegian Staff
Best Lyric: “You think of me in bed / But you could never hold me / And like me better in your head.”
On Florence + The Machine’s latest album, there are a few overlooked songs. With “My Love” dominating the radio, other tracks on the album, such as “Dream Girl Evil,” are criminally underappreciated.
A product of female rage, this track is as Florence Welch as Florence Welch can get. Her vocal range is best showcased on tracks in which she sings of being too bold and too confident for men in her life, and “Dream Girl Evil” is no different. The song is powerful but understated enough, so that it can be easily digested by everyday listeners.
“Memories” by Conan Gray, “Superache”
Juliana Yacoubian, Collegian Staff
Best Lyric: “So there’s no good reason in make believing that we could ever exist again / I can’t be your friend, can’t be your lover / Can’t be the reason we hold back each other from falling in love / With somebody other than me.”
Conan Gray is an artist who quickly grew into his status as a musician and his talent as a performer. “Memories” is a beautiful song that reflects on the particular boundaries of heartache.
Off the album “Superache,” the song dances with changes in melody and tempo. The above lyric is sung at a faster pace, which parallels the race of emotions in the words spoken. Yet, the track starts off with a slower tune, maintaining the slow beat quintessential to heartbreak anthems.
You don’t have to be heartbroken to listen to this album. Though often exploring feelings toward former romantic relationships, Conan Gray’s music can be relatable and soothing for any individual. It might even make you want to dance or sing as loud as you can, wherever you are.
“NEW SHOES” by BROCKHAMPTON, “TM”
Kelly McMahan, Head Podcast Editor
Best Lyric: “Don’t play yourself, that’s a suicidal sport / Clout, but don’t know yourself, what a curse / Clouds never block my shine, records show / Why lie? Contract from Diablo.”
“TM,” the final album from hip-hop collective BROCKHAMPTON, immediately followed the release of frontman Kevin Abstract’s mercurial and self-deprecating solo project, “The Family.”
While “The Family” felt like a lonely final bow, “TM” is an unexpected encore. It’s a matured summary of BROCKHAMPTON’s soundscape — equal parts mischievous and soulful.
“NEW SHOES,” which features an iconic punchy verse from band member Merlyn Wood, evokes the joy of romping around town with a tight gang of best friends. We’re back at BROCKHAMPTON’s golden era where unabashed hype is king.
BROCKHAMTPON ultimately closes the curtain in the album’s final track, “GOODBYE,” but that doesn’t stop them from having an absolute blast along the way.
“Believe Me” by James and the Shame, “Human Overboard”
Sierra Thornton, Collegian Staff
Best lyric: “But I don’t think it’s true / I’m not asking you to agree / I’m just asking you to believe me.”
This debut song from James and the Shame truly defined the latter half of 2022 for me. The song, “Believe Me,” was a pre-release and uploaded on July 15 with overwhelmingly positive reviews.
Utilizing his music persona, Rhett McLaughlin used this album to tell his complex relationship with complicated topic. Growing up Christian, Rhett began to question his faith as he grew up and explored much of the world.
This song speaks about the issues and distance that arise when you start questioning and denouncing the faith. As someone who also grew up in a Christian environment and questioned many of the teachings, the song resonated with me.
The instrumentals that back this track help the listener fall in love. The folk-based backing is both soothing and gut-dropping, making a melancholic space for the song to flourish in. This song was one of my favorites of the year, and its timeless enough to be a favorite for the years to come.
“Anti-Hero” by Taylor Swift, “Midnights”
Colin McCarthy, Video Editor
Best lyric: “I have this dream my daughter in-law kills me for the money / She thinks I left them in the will.”
“Midnights” by Taylor Swift is one of the best albums of 2022, and “Anti-Hero” is quickly becoming my favorite song on the album. It’s a creative, vulnerable, expressive song and unique in many ways.
I haven’t heard many songs where the artist compares themselves to an anti-hero, somebody that people want to root for even when it might be difficult to do so. I think some people view Swift in that way and she seemed to fully embrace that mentality for the song.
On top of its deeper meaning, the song itself is extremely catchy. Swift knows how to make pop hits and “Anti-Hero” is her latest example of that. She gives her fans and the broader pop community exactly what they want.
“It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody” by Weyes Blood, “And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow”
Thomas Machacz, Collegian Staff
Best lyric: “Can’t hold on to much of anything / With this hole in my hand / I can’t pretend that we always keep what we find / Oh yes, everybody splits apart sometimes.”
Weyes Blood’s latest album is an ode and a response to the ways we find ourselves lost in an aggressively modern time. “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody” is an exploration of the loneliness that comes amidst a polarized, ever-informational era.
Set to a steady, ethereal beat like some sort of psychedelic Joni Mitchell song, Weyes Blood suggests that maybe the thing that joins us all is our sense of loneliness. It’s hard to see the future optimistically. Guessing our futures before it happens can lead us only deeper into despair. “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody” is a frank and deceptively hopeful story that couldn’t have come at a better time.