What song did I need to immediately play in the morning to start my day on the right note? What track did I have to replay after hearing it because it’s that damn good? What helped motivate me at the gym? Or clean the bathroom?
Those thoughts lingered in my head as I thought of my favorite songs of the year.
What also helped? Spotify’s annual Wrapped feature!
1. Beyoncé, “Heated”
With enough Instagram captions to battle any Drake album, Beyoncé’s “Heated” is a lyrical thesis on being a confident bad bitch. She kicks off the song singing smoothly over a mid-tempo beat — but then she goes into Super Saiyan mode, spitting 34 bars and delivering snappy one-liners that will make you dance and laugh, and will boost your self-esteem. From dusting off naysayers to reminding you to drink more water to shouting out her late Uncle Johnny, Beyoncé’s disco inferno burns in all the best ways. Ten, ten, ten across the board!
2. Bad Bunny, “Tití Me Preguntó”
Bad Bunny turned his aunt’s plea for him to settle down with one girl into an undeniable, irresistible, international anthem about his active single life.
3. Ella Mai, “DFMU”
Direct, matter-of-fact lyrics plus Ella Mai’s strong vocals over a crisp beat make “DFMU” the perfect song. Interpolating Donell Jones’ R&B classic “Where I Wanna Be,” Mai is open to love but also issues a fair warning to her boo: “Don’t fuck me up, don’t let me down.” Listen up, potentials.
4. Kendrick Lamar, “Rich Spirit”
Introspective and daring, Kendrick Lamar goes on a spiritual journey and we’re here for the ride.
5. Harry Styles, “Cinema”
Lead single “As It Was” is the aHa-inspired Harry Styles song that makes you dance, but “Cinema” is the silky Harry Styles song that will make you drop your drawers.
6. Muni Long, “Hrs & Hrs”
Muni Long has spent over a decade writing songs for your favorite singers, including Rihanna, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, Madonna, Kelly Clarkson, Mariah Carey, Chris Brown, Demi Lovato, Mary J. Blige and many more. She could write hits for hours and hours, but what’s even better? Finally seeing her name next to the song on top of the charts. Those hours and hours spent behind the scenes have not only paid off but made a career that could last a lifetime.
7. Joji, “Glimpse of Us”
An A-star piano ballad that has all the feels and will have you in your feelings.
8. FLO, “Cardboard Box”
Sounding like the part two to Beyoncé’s kick-your-ass-to-the-curb hit of 2006, “Irreplaceable,” British girl group FLO — graduates of the School of Destiny’s Child — bring the vocals while packing your shit into a cardboard box on this kiss-off anthem. They also bring on the petty, with lyrics like: “Never liked your momma, so I guess she’s blocked.”
9. Coco Jones, “ICU”
From its opening line, Coco Jones’ “ICU” feels like an out-of-body experience thanks to her deep and rich vocal tone. It’s like traveling to the smoothest R&B oasis. And if she keeps this up we’ll be calling the breakthrough star of Bel-Air, the spin-off of the hit ‘90 TV series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the fresh princess of R&B.
10. Durand Bernarr, “Mango Butter”
Bad bitches to the front. Press play, and dance.
Honorable mentions: Because of the way we mainly listen to music today — streaming services and TikTok — what might sound like “new” music may not be new at all. A year, or years, after their release, older songs continue to trend, and this list is dedicated to those tunes that lived in my head this year but were released before 2022.
— Tems, “Replay” (2021)
— VanJess featuring Lucky Daye, “Slow Down” (2021)
— Alex Isley, Lucky Daye, Masego and Jack Dine, “Good & Plenty [Remix]” (2021)
— Tems featuring Brent Faiyaz, “Found” (2021)
— Tems, “Free Mind” (2020)
— Tems, “Damages” (2020)
— Tems, “Interference” (2020)
— Chris Brown, “Under the Influence” (2019)
— Tems, “Looku Looku” (2019)
— Tems, “Try Me” (2019)