I thought it might be fun to do this year’s Popjustice singles list — The Top 45 Singles of 2022 — in a Substack, rather than faffing around with the website like I do most years. I was wrong, it wasn’t fun at all, it’s been horrible, as writing lists always is, but on the upside I’ve been able to use artificial intelligence to do some of the entries.
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One plan had been to send this at 11:30am on Saturday, following an observation from reader Grace that ‘the CD:UK hour’ might be a good time for people to receive emails about pop music. In the end I went to buy a Christmas tree instead.
Anyway, here’s the Top 45. If you’d like to listen along the playlist is right here.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
by Let’s Eat Grandma
I hoped, when this sparky electropop belter was released at the start of January, that Let’s Eat Grandma were (AND THIS IS A VERY GOOD IDEA FOR ANY POPSTARS READING) going to approach the 2022 calendar as the basis of a conceptual pop project, starting with Happy New Year then going through various other noteworthy events (Valentine’s Day, Easter, The First Day Of Q4, Halloween, ‘etc’), before finishing with a Christmas single and pulling the whole thing together into an album-length yearbook. They did not do that, but they did make a tennis-themed video. Swings and roundabouts.
“‘LOVEU/LOVESICK’ is puppy love vs deep obsession,” Melbourne-based singer of song yergurl told The Brag earlier this year in a quote that looks suspiciously like it was copied and pasted out of a press release, and has now been copied and pasted here for your reading convenience. “I explored memories of my past crushes-turned-obsessions and really wanted to exaggerate just how insane I have felt and how intense my feelings have been. This song is almost my twisted little way of reclaiming my “insanity” and accepting myself as a boy-crazy hopeless romantic.” Anyway, if you like the idea of music somewhere between Charli XCX and Lana Del Rey, this is probably up your street.
IN THE DARK
by Purple Disco Machine and Sophie & The Giants
Two years after PDM and Sophie created total pop magic with Hypnotized, this new collaboration came as an encouraging sign that the pairing is on course to become the Italo Pitbull & J.Lo, coming together to deliver a huge banger a) precisely when it suits them but also b) when the world most needs it.
by Camila Cabello and Ed Sheeran
(I did laugh at the AI going rogue and inserting “while it may not win any awards for artistic merit”.)
ALL BY MYSELF
by Alok, Sigala and Ellie Goulding
ALL I EVER ASKED
by Rachel Chinouriri
CHARMING. That’s what this song is. Very charming indeed.
HOUSE ON FIRE
by Mimi Webb
The acceptable face of arson.
by Charli XCX
Top Baby songs:
1: …Baby One More Time by Britney Spears
2: Baby (Stand Up) by Melody Club
52,727: Baby It’s Cold Outside by Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews
UNTIL THIS YEAR. Baby by Charli XCX is now the 4th best song about a baby.
by Sky Ferreira
It wasn’t a hit but it sounded like one one one one one one one
by Mabel and 24kGoldn
Not as good as Mabel. Not bad though.
WHAT I WANT
Are MUNA the best pop band in the world? Hard to say, I mean I think I said that about Confidence Man a few weeks ago and it would be nice to have some consistency here but I suppose these things fluctuate and right now, as I write this and listen to What I Want, I’m thinking that if we really do need to have bands — and that’s a big ‘if’, given that more than two people in a group is generally overkill — then at least half of those bands should be like MUNA. (I’ve just realised that their cover of Britney’s Sometimes, which also came out this year, should probably have been somewhere in this list, but I’ve done the numbers and formatting now and I’m not doing the whole lot again.)
Okay that’s that sorted out.
by Rose Gray
It’s been fun watching Rose’s piano house ravepop ‘thing’ grow over the last couple of years. “I wake up one day and want to be a skater girl, then I want to be Kylie,” she told The Face earlier this year, going on to say that she enjoys cooking fish and was born in a paddling pool.
FUCKING WIZARDY (BLOCK THEM EDIT)
by Self Esteem
by Fred again…, Romy and HAAi
If you were a popstar right now, Fred again… is who you’d be getting in to make your songs sound good, right? Producing, I believe, is what it’s called in muso circles.
I'M IN LOVE WITH YOU
by The 1975
The best type of The 1975 song, ie the type they include one of on every album as a treat for daytime radio listeners.
AS IT WAS
by Harry Styles
It’s scary how most male popstars — and even some others, it’s 2022 after all!! — wear trousers, and yet it’s really only Harry we think of as an actual trouser-wearer. Where does Harry end and where do the trousers begin? When does the mask become the face; are the trousers, one wonders, actually wearing Harry? If I were still doing proper freelance journalism I reckon I could get at least 500 words out of this, possibly more depending on how much I was being paid per word.
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WHEN YOU’RE GONE
by Shawn Mendes
This was released the same week as the Harry Styles song and basically exists as a parallel universe Harry Styles comeback single.
by Alan Walker and Sophie Simmons
I still think, purely in name terms, Alan Walker sounds like an estate agent, but in fairness not many estate agents have the daughter of Gene Simmons from Kiss on speed dial. Although I’m sure they’d tell you very firmly that they did, if they were trying to sell you a house and thought a bit of celebrity interaction might distract you from the fact that they were neglecting to mention, oh and I’m just plucking this hypothetical scenario from the air here, that there might be asbestos in the roof of a garden shed. “Look at me!” they would scream as you walked towards the shed, “look directly at me while I phone Sophie Simmons, no don’t look over there, there’s nothing to se—STOP POKING IT.” While I was on Wikipedia trying to find out if Walkerverse Pt I & II (which this song comes from) was a proper album or some stupid mixtape project I discovered that Alan’s fans apparently have “concerns over his … departure from his typical production style, most notably in his recently released songs”. I’ve never been closer to passively-aggressively adding ‘citation needed’ to a Wikipedia page. Who are these fans and why are they such silly sausages? Do they exist in the same ‘walkerverse’ (???) as the rest of us? Does the fact that these people are incapable of hearing Alan’s obvious genius present the possibility of a multiwalkerverse, where Alans make good music and bad music at the same time? And does that mean there is indeed a ‘walkerverse’ in which Alan actually is an estate agent?
GET HIM AWAY FROM ME
Listening again now this thundering single from (Norwegian) Grammy-nominated singer SKAAR should have been in the Top 15 but, as mentioned earlier, there is absolutely no way I’m re-doing the numbers on this countdown now. This song’s video is quite odd.
LET’S DO IT AGAIN
by Jamie xx
In 2022 all three members of The xx released music that I like more than anything by The xx. Which was very kind of them.
A new Xenomania girlband is almost always cause for celebration and CuteBad’s third single of 2022 was my favourite, although their fourth single Man Down was pleasingly batshit.
“The aim,” Suffolk-born-but-London-based superstar-on-the-precipice Dylan said earlier this year in another quote that absolutely came out of a press release, “was to write an anthem for the late-night drives with the windows down, the shouting at the sea because LIFE, and the screaming crying throwing up heartbreak moments.” I’m quite interested in this idea of heartbreak-induced vomiting and would like to write extensively on the topic but Substack is telling me I’m “near email length limit” (I’m writing these entries out of order) so this will have to be a discussion for another day. That said, if you’ve actually ever been properly physically sick through heartbreak, particularly if it happened spontaneously at the actual moment you split up with someone, and especially if this took place in public, please do email me.
LOVE ME MORE
The only song on this year’s list to have been inspired (apparently???) by Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells.
by Nathan Dawe and Ella Henderson
This would have been about ten places higher on the list if they’d gone all-in on the counting. The first verse includes reasons 1 and 2 for loving someone (you make me happy, you set me free), but also notes frustration regarding moods, hating the partner’s friends, and the partner doing things Ella doesn’t like. That takes the total number of reasons down to -1. The second verse is a shambles (“three is the way you hold me, that's what I waited for, five shots we're getting naughty” — reasons ‘for’ and five aren’t reasons at all) and the middle eight counts to ten but doesn’t even attempt to explain what reasons six through ten are, still less attempt to make up for the reasons subtracted in verse one. A fiasco.
SUMMER REALLY HURT US
A song about getting drunk in the summer and kissing assorted people. When I first heard this I thought an element of the song sounded like a sample/interpolation that I couldn’t quite place. Perhaps something off a late-1980s TV show or, perhaps, an advert? Trying to locate the source sent me on an enjoyable but increasingly deranged YouTube expedition that climaxed with the Ski Sunday theme (banger) and the theme from Howard’s Way, so it was slightly disappointing when someone on Twitter pointed out that the song I was thinking of was actually by Daft Punk.
HOT IN IT
by Charli XCX and Tiësto
Strictly speaking this is Tiësto and Charli but I feel like Charli deserves to go first.
by Ava Max
Do you think they put the battlefield lyric in the intro before or after they realised the “never gonna shoot me down” part of the chorus sounded like part of Battlefield by Jordin Sparks? Like, which led to which? And does your answer to that question change when you consider that the drums are quite similar to Pat Benatar’s Love Is A Battlefield? It’s a puzzle that needs to be solved. I spent a solid ten minutes considering all this in November, and then I moved on with my life.
LESS THAN ZERO
by The Weeknd
Less Than Zero, or as I like to think of it ‘the number of reasons supplied in the first verse of 2022’s 22nd best pop single’.
If MUNA had released this it would have been medium-to-massive.
ANYTHING BUT ME
If SIIGHTS had released this it would have been small-to-medium.
TWICE IN A LIFETIME
I don’t know how close this actually got to representing the UK at Eurovision but the final 45 seconds, accompanied by the right quantity of pyrotechnics, could have been quite a moment.
SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR LOVE
by SG Lewis
There’s something pleasingly 2004 about jazzing up an old bit of Jam & Lewis and chucking a new songy bit on top. And when I mention 2004 I’m specifically thinking of what Uniting Nations did to that Hall & Oates song. Simpler times.
I was only half-listening when I first heard this and couldn’t believe someone was singing a song about doing a shit in a cardboard box. Fair enough, I thought, when someone’s taking too long in the bathroom you need to improvise, but even in these heavily autobiographical pop times, do you really need to express all this in a song? This is pop music, not Fesshole. Anyway, the best popstars make the whole thing look incredibly easy — so easy, sometimes, that you forget to ask the question: if it’s really this easy, why isn’t everyone else doing it? I’m sure we’ve all lost count of (ie mostly forgotten) the number of groups who’ve attempted to do what FLO are doing right now; at the time of writing the trio’s shortlisted for the BBC Sound Of 2022 poll and have just been announced as winners of the Brits Rising Star award. No idea what any of that really means in the streaming era, but nice to have anyway. I’m expecting at least one Flo song to be Top 5 in next year’s singles list.
(Note re above statement about popstars being good when they make things look easy: actually, some of the best popstars are also brilliant when they make the whole thing look incredibly difficult — Lady Gaga etc etc etc.)
SHE’S ALL I WANNA BE
by Tate McRae
An example of the genre I like to call ‘Songs Kelly Clarkson Would Absolutely Demolish If She Were Properly Going For It In 2022’.
HOLD ME CLOSER
by Cornelia Jakobs
This should have won Eurovision and the sooner we all accept this fact, the sooner we can move on. Let’s see if we can get to the bottom of that whole debacle.
No help at all.
2 BE LOVED (AM I READY)
Good to see this one repopularising the idea of putting a song’s obvious title in brackets after the song’s actual but less obvious title. I think they used to do this so you could find the song in eg Woolworths after you’d heard it on the radio, but I don’t know where this really fits in now that radio has been replaced by Spotify and Woolworths has been replaced by, er, Spotify. Oh well!!
NOTHING LASTS FOREVER
Another one of those songs Kelly Clarkson would have absolutely annihilated.
NO ONE DIES FROM LOVE
by Tove Lo
by Jessie Ware
Surely the most conga-friendly chorus on this year’s Top 45 list, as well as being a song big enough to yank J.Wa back from the lure of Just Having A Nice Chat About Food and proof, once again, that it’s always a good idea to see what Stuart Price thinks things should sound like.
ANOTHER BROKEN HEART
by Tove Styrke
Tove’s 2022 album HARD was one of the year’s best [usual disclaimer here about albums generally being boring and a waste of busy people’s time] and the centrepiece is Another Broken Heart, which was accompanied by a promotional clip (above) purporting to be a lyric video when in fact it featured footage of the popstar in question singing the song, and so in actual fact was simply A Video With Words On It.
MAYBE YOU’RE THE PROBLEM
by Ava Max
Is there a single song in this countdown that wouldn’t be better with Ava Max banging her way through it with all the subtlety of a bucket of beef? I’ve been thinking a bit about CD:UK while I’ve been writing this (as I thought I’d be sending it out on Saturday morning) and this song would have absolutely dominated that show back in the day. It’s worth seeing the absolutely crackers videos if you haven’t already — it contains some nice jumpers although Ava does kill a man at the end which isn’t ideal.
BREAK MY SOUL
Break My Soul is a classy, sophisticated and cerebral celebration of dance music, and it’s therefore not as good as…
I’M GOOD (BLUE)
by David Guetta and Bebe Rexha
I once played darts with Eiffel 65. I wonder how those of us in the room that day might have reacted to news from the future that in the year 2022 ‘Blue (Da Ba Dee)’ would be back at the top of the charts and at number three in my end of year list? “Wow, people still talk about the charts?” might have been one response, to which the answer from 2022 would, I suppose, be: “People do a bit, although mainly around Christmas and only if they’re either a popstar or over 40.” That said, I suspect any reaction from the band would have been drowned out by my howls of despair at the prospect of writing about music for another two decades, although back then I assumed I would move on from pop music at some point, so former me would have been imagining a future where he wrote about something he no longer enjoyed. The thing is, I never did move on from pop music. I mean, why would you? But people do, don’t they. I got an email from Substack the other day with stuff in it about how to grow an audience (as far as I’ve been able to make out the basic rule seems to be ‘be in America’) but it did say something about how Deeply Personal Writing does the trick. Maybe I could do some Deeply Personal Writing about pop music. Would that be good? Would you like that? Would that make you more likely to pay to receive these emails when I inevitably and probably quite humiliatingly attempt to charge for them at some point next year? That’s the elephant in the room here isn’t it, with these emails. We all know it’s coming. It feels quite nice to get this out in the open.
Actually I don’t really want to do any Deeply Personal Writing so ignore all of that.
ANYWAY this song’s life began five years ago when Guetta performed it at the Ultra Music festival, and I think it’s worth shouting out YouTube user WD who, half a decade ago in the YouTube video linked above, offered some helpful advice in the comments:
Five years later, with a different drop, the song became a hit. Coincidence? I think not. Either way I hope in the last half decade ‘WD’ has taken on their rightful role in A&R at a major label.
Sidenote: Tribute band idea — The Eiffel 75. Matty Healy songs performed in a Europop style. Or, Europop songs performed in a 1975 style. Or both. Or neither! I don’t care!! I hate writing these lists, I hate formatting them, I hate not being and never having been able to describe music and inevitably just chucking in a word like ‘amazing’ and hoping for the best, I hate the whole thing (except actually compiling the list in the first place). Horrific.
by Phoebe AXA
Note: Holiday by Confidence Man and that Kate Bush song would have been here if they’d been released in 2022, but they weren’t, so they’re not, and in any case neither of them — not even the Confidence Man one — is as good as…
by Rina Sawayama
A song that does exactly what you want at exactly the time you want it to happen. Including but not limited to:
Horse sound effects
A Shania Twain reference
An ‘axe solo’
The Michael Jackson Beat It sound
A proper post-chorus
The line “fuck what they did to Britney, to Lady Di and Whitney”
A proper end, not a fade or instrumental thing
A round of applause, then, please, for Rina — along with Paul Epworth, Vic Jamieson, Lauren Aquilina and Clarence Clarity, because they all did things on the song too.
Anyway there you go, a list of 45 extremely good songs from 2022.
Email me with a song that should have been on the list
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As an elderly gentleman, I feel it is my duty to suggest Across That Fine Line by Nation Of Language, as it sounds like every record reviewed in the Singles column in Smash Hits in, let's say, a fortnight in April, 1985,
A couple singles you missed:
Empress Of - 'Save Me' (the song, not the EP, which was disappointing)
Ethel Cain - 'American Teenager' (it has its "Official video", I think we can consider it single)
RAYE - 'Escapism (feat. 070 Shake)'
Caroline Polachek - 'Welcome To My Island'