This summer has seen so many excellent releases from artists across all genres that picking a singular “song of the summer” is as difficult as ever. Early contenders for the top spot came from former One Direction heartthrob Harry Styles with his comeback single “As It Was” and from Lizzo, with her disco-funk track “About Damn Time.” The former featured bright production and a carefree vibe, juxtaposed with the not-so-subtly depressing lyrics, all packed into a bite-size track coming in at just over two minutes and forty seconds. “About Damn Time,” Lizzo’s second and superior single off of Special, was perfect for TikTok, where a dance craze helped make it popular.
And we can’t forget the reigning king of Latin music, Bad Bunny, with his sprawling 23-track album Un Verano Sin Ti rife with summer hits from the infectious “Tití Me Preguntó” to “Me Porto Bonito.” Then there was Beyoncé’s glistening seventh studio album, Renaissance, Traumazine by Megan Thee Stallion, parts of Sabrina Carpenter’s emails I can’t send, and, yes, the TikTok-famous girl group FLO’s fabulous EP, The Lead, whose song “Feature Me” contains Timbaland-esque syncopated beats reminiscent of some of the best girl groups of all time.
Luckily, the sounds of summer don’t have to be distilled to one choice. Below are TIME staffers’ selections of the best songs and albums from summer 2022.
In recent years, artists have tried their hands at disco-influenced pop records. But they all pale in comparison to Beyoncé’s shimmering salute to sweaty discotechques and bodacious queer spaces. On the musical analysis podcast Pop Pantheon, host DJ Louie XIV spoke with New Yorker staff writer Doreen St. Félix about what stood out to them on this album. “Disco music—real disco music—is tinged with darkness and sadness… it’s one of the things I felt was missing from [Dua Lipa’s] Future Nostalgia,” DJ Louie XIV said. “If pop culture’s current disco revival is personified by [this record], [it’s missing] the sleaze, the darkness, the underbelly.” Aside from making a great record and helping resuscitate disco, Beyoncé showed us she’s still down to experiment, while reviving and highlighting queer icons of yore.—Moises Mendez II
Surrender, Maggie Rogers
As the resident Sad Girl and self-proclaimed Taylor Swift scholar of the group, how could I pick anything other than Maggie Rogers’ new album? Surrender, which had the perhaps unfortunate fate of sharing a release date with Beyoncé, sounds like the backdrop to a coming-of-age movie—it’s explosive and moody and so angry. The 12 songs are a lot less folksy than the ones from Rogers’ 2019 album Heard It in a Past Life, but reflect an artist grappling with the pain of love and longing in a much more cathartic way. It’s like she’s been bottling up her feelings forever and finally let them go (very literally, in the case of the song “Shatter”). “Anywhere With You” is a standout—an escapist adventure about that feeling of driving with someone special, windows rolled down, without a care in the world. I look forward to sitting in a car and listening to it and giving into all the wistfulness that comes with a line like “Cruising 95 like we got nothing to lose.”—Annabel Gutterman
Reset, Panda Bear and Sonic Boom
Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) has been on a roll this year with the release of Animal Collective’s excellent album Time Skiffs and vocals on Braxe + Falcon’s brilliant “Step By Step.” Now he and Sonic Boom (Peter Kember of Spacemen 3) have released Reset , the collaborators’ first official album as a duo. Working off of samples by artists from the ‘50’s and’ 60’s like The Drifters, Eddie Cochran, The Everly Brothers and The Troggs, the duo create a psychedelic love-letter to pop music that feels both retro and modern. Lennox’s signature Brian Wilson-loving melodies and experimentation and Kember’s lifelong knack for simple but hypnotic compositions result in an album that’s melodic and tight, while still offering an open-air quality that you can drift away with. And while you may recognize the source material, they completely transform it into something entirely their own. It’s a warm hug of an album with hooks galore.—Chris Grasinger
“Running Up That Hill,” Kate Bush
As much as I’ve had “Break My Soul” and “Tití Me Preguntó” on repeat this summer, the song of the season has to be Kate Bush’s otherworldly 1985 hit, “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God),” which has found a new audience, become a viral sound on TikTok, and broken its way into the Top 5 on U.S. charts for the first time, thanks to a significant feature in the fourth season of Stranger Things. While Netflix may have instigated its resurgence, it should come as no surprise why this ethereal banger of all bangers still hits, 37 years after its initial release: the synth-laden anthem is a romantic (and very queer!) melodrama in song, thrilling and emotion-laden, everything you could ask for in an epic song of the summer. For me, it’s become a song that can rise to any occasion warm weather presents: a late night bike ride, a jaunt to the beach, the playlist for the cookout, a spin on a crowded dancefloor—at any- and everything, I’ll be playing (and singing along at the top of my lungs to) “Running Up That Hill.”—Cady Lang
Electricity, Ibibio Sound Machine
Ibibio Sound Machine sounds like an international, time-traveling dance party. The London-based band pulls from decades of Nigerian Afrobeat, U.K. drum-and-bass and electro funk music to create window-shaking grooves. Their newest album was produced by the prominent ‘00s synthpop group Hot Chip, and accordingly, there are lots of rasping synthesizers and full-bodied basslines. Over the top, frontwoman Eno Williams belts out furious incantations, including the promise of “spiritual, invisible, protection from evil.”—Andrew R. Chow
“Coco Badass,” Ric Wilson featuring Kiéla Adira
Ric Wilson wrote “Coco Badass,” his first song of the year, in 2019 about “being unapologetically Black in a very weird anti-Black world.” The 27-year-old genre-defying Chicagoan collaborated with newcomer Kiéla Adira to pen a buoyant anthem about Black joy—and the importance of preserving it. “They just want yo coco flavor,” Adira croons in the chorus, “So best protect yo magic, baby. ‘Cause it don’t fade, don’t age.” In between, Wilson layers in funk-infused rap, poignant and playful at the same time. “I’m Blacker than the 79th bus, Blacker than the Popeye’s line rush,” Wilson lets loose. “Ace of spades, Biggie face, Wesley Snipe luck—and one narrative don’t define us.”—Laura Zornosa
“Super Freaky Girl,” Nicki Minaj
“Super Freaky Girl” is a triumphant return to the rap game for Nicki Minaj. Earlier this year, the rapper released some forgettable singles. But then, an unreleased song by Minaj began making its rounds on TikTok and started taking over the app—appearing in over 265,000 videos. The sound was used in multiple ways, and as its popularity grew, so did the demand for the full song. Minaj finally released the song in its entirety on Aug. 19, and it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100—marking her first ever single to achieve this feat, and it’s the first No. 1 debut by a female hip-hop artist since Ms. Lauryn Hill in 1998.—Moises Mendez II
During her MOTOMAMI World Tour, ROSALÍA began performing a new song in some cities that was teased about being released soon. It saw flack from the Latinx community who said she was culturally appropriating merengue due to its influence on the track. People also noted it sounded exactly like a song Dominican mambo singer, Omega, would be on — which was originally the plan, according to him in an Instagram Live. Controversy aside, the song is still enjoyable and the perfect soundtrack to any summer activity.—Moises Mendez II
“LAST LAST,” Burna Boy
This African giant is slowly taking over the world with his afro-fusion bangers that are inescapable. One of his current hits, “Last Last,” weaves a sample of one of Toni Braxton’s most popular songs, “He Wasn’t Man Enough,” onto the track as Burna’s husky yet gentle voice reflects on past relationships. Burna is one of the most successful afrobeats artists in the world and recently became the first Nigerian artist to headline a show at Madison Square Garden.—Moises Mendez II
People were thrown off by Drake’s latest album, Honestly, Nevermind, because it diverts from what he normally does. One of the standouts, however, was “Sticky.” Drake takes us through his mind as a thumping house-inspired beat drives the sonic path, and while the music makes it perfect for a club setting, he sticks to his usual sad-boy antics as he raps about his life.—Moises Mendez II
“Un Verano Sin Ti” Bad Bunny
Bad Bunny fans love that they feel like they know him. On his albums, the Puerto Rican rapper makes sure to show love for the island that raised him and to call out the injustices faced by the people who live there. He does so when he talks about femicide on “Andrea” and “Me Porto Bonito.” Songs like “Titi Me Preguntó,” “El Apagón,” and “Despues de la Playa” are sure to make anyone get out of their seats and dance. We’re all just thanking Bad Bunny we didn’t have to go through this summer without him.—Moises Mendez II
- TIME's Top 100 Photos of 2022
- I Tested Positive for COVID-19 Right Before the Holidays. What Should I Do?
- Column: How To Create a Sense of Belonging In a Divided America
- How to Survive the Holidays if You're a Scrooge
- Life Expectancy Provides Evidence of How Far Black Americans Have Come
- The 10 Best Albums of 2022
- Iran Has a Long History of Protest and Activism
- 6 Ways to Give Better Gifts—Based on Science