It's that time of the year again! That time where I abandon my own taste and dedicate hours of in depth listening to the most popular albums that dropped and rank them as if I have a preference. Despite this being a list of popular albums, you may notice that not everything on this list is Pop (I had to maintain my sanity somehow.) So without further winging, here is my ranking of the top ten popular album releases of 2022.
10. Jack Harlow: Come Home the Kids Miss You
Talk your shit Jack. This album just demonstrates how far pure confidence can get you. Some people have called it uninspired…So how do you explain groundbreaking bars like “Imma fuck the earrings offa you.” It’s not going to win any awards but it’s a good reminder to have fun and not take yourself too seriously.
I’d Do Anything To Make You Smile…”Imma fuck the earrings offa you.”
9. Drake, 21: Savage Her Loss
Congrats to Drake who made it out of the last place spot this year! I’m an unapologetic Drake hater. I grew up with him and I still don’t like him. Don’t ask me to justify it. That being said, this album isn’t that bad. 21 serves as a nice gritty counterpart to Drake’s smooth sound. Songs like Major Counterpart and Spin Bout U have just enough edge to break through my tough hater shell.
Highlight: 3AM on Glenwood. I know this is the one track without Drake and it seems like a spiteful pick but I genuinely like 21 in this minimalistic lyrically forward format.
8. Taylor Swift : Midnights
While I appreciate the bold moves Taylor Swift has made against the predatory record industry, her sound has never been something I can latch on to. That being said, this album feels like it has more artistic integrity than some of her previous entries. She’s an undeniably good song-writer, and this album marks a return to her self-reflective lyrical roots. Heavy synth lines are so hot right now and Swift shows off her knowledge of current trends by lacing every song with them.
Highlight: Anti-hero. A track I totally passed over until this country-folk version illuminated the fundamentally deep core of the song.
7. Beyonce: Renaissance
Beyonce is Beyonce. She’s the queen of modern pop. She absolutely has the ability to bring together an Avengers level team of superhero producers, songwriters, and musicians to create a multi hit powerhouse of an album filled with big and innovative sounds….But Lemonade did it better. Dancey euro-pop is the sound of the year and the backbone of this album, which works for a lot of people who aren’t me. This feels like runway model music. What can I say? This just isn’t my scene.
Highlight: Church Girl. The soulful sample of the Clark Sisters really stood out in the middle of all this hyper dry electro-pop.
6. The 1975 - Being Funny in a Foreign Language
With the influence of Jack Antonoff The 1975 is getting closer to a sound I actually like instead of pretending I do to seem relevant and hip. I always felt that The 1975 were pop band sheep disguising themselves as indie-rock wolves but this album actually has some bite to it. It’s still incredibly major scaled but the ever present saccharine saxophone riffs and intentionally excessive catchiness bring a level of self awareness that makes the sound much more palatable.
The 1975. They definitely put their best foot forward with this orchestral layered opener.
5. Bad Bunny: Un Verano Sin Ti
This is really two albums in one, the first half is full of beachy dancehall summer vibes represented perfectly by the bomba heavy initial track Moscow Mule. The second dives into deep introspection with slower more soulful stylings featured on tracks like Andrea. I can't speak much to the lyrical content seeing as I’m an uncultured unilingual American but from what I’ve read, this album dives deep into some pretty intense issues while maintaining a vibrant optimism throughout.
Otro Atardecer. This is a really fun indie-pop track that you can’t help but move to.
4. Harry Styles - Harry’s House
This album is not innovative in any way, and that’s why it works. Harry Styles is showing his effortlessly pop sensibilities by lacing this album with tried and true chord progressions, instrumentation, and melody. You can hear the DNA of previously memorialized hit songs on almost every track. Grapejuice borrows melody from The All American Rejects, Matilda sounds like 5 different Bright Eyes songs, Late Night Talking has Rod Stewart all over it, and so on. But none of that is a criticism! The kid knows what's good and wields that knowledge to undeniably fun effect. This is a collection of songs out of time and would serve well as an upbeat soundtrack to any feel good movie.
Highlight: As it was. It's rare that I agree with TikTok trends, but this is just a well written vibey song. It has staying power.
3. The Weeknd: Dawn FM
This is actually a pretty cool album. While I admired the early Weeknd mixtapes (I’m rolling my own eyes at myself here) I’ve found the quality of his offerings since his mainstream success to be a downward line. Dawn FM breaks this trend. It’s a dark synth-pop concept record about death and loss where a Josh Safdie cameo feels absolutely appropriate. Jim Carrey plays a GTA style radio DJ guiding you through the album's journey into death. I have a feeling that it would work extremely well as an alternate soundtrack to Enter The Void. The whole thing is ambitious and creative both sonically and conceptually and the risks taken absolutely pay off.
God, I love the 80’s influenced talky vocal delivery in these verses.
2. Kendrick Lamar: Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers
"I’ve been going through something…be afraid." A perfect opening line to this energetic and aggressively self-affirmed record. Kendrick goes full Kendrick switching beats and flows multiple times on almost every track. He approaches modern issues like the challenges that marginalized communities face without ever feeling preachy, cliche, or corny. He’s an artist that’s long since come into his own and he makes distinctly unique music pushes up against the edges of his genre and technical prowess. He may lose some points from fans for the lack of accessible club bangers but I'll trade them any day for experimental tracks like We Cry Together.
Highlight: Auntie Diaries. While I understand the criticism he faced for this track, I think it's a perfect representation of the nuance of growth. He speaks truth to power without pandering and I'm here for it.
1. SZA: SOS
I had a hard time placing this because it’s so eclectic. With 23 tracks and almost as many unique sounds, it's hard to comment on the piece as a whole except to praise SZA’s prowess. One cohesive element of the album is the intimacy of SZA’s vocals. Her register and timber combined with a very vocal forward mix create a very commanding effect. It feels as if you’re transported to SZA’s private deserted island to listen in on her internal musings. It's deeply personal, ethereal, and familiar all at once. This album truly deserves all the praise it's gotten.
Highlight: Kill Bill. The singsongy melody juxtaposed against the line “I might kill my ex” is just so fucking fun.