The music of 2022 in a word: boundless. We live in a generation where music fanatics no longer have to turn on the radio to hear what they want. There are countless streaming services that allow us to choose the sounds we want to hear from all types of artists. The concept of genre is slowly becoming obsolete. More than ever, musicians continue to bridge gaps between styles and eras, going with their intuition against the grain and treading based on feeling, stories, experiences, and influences. I absolutely enjoyed this last year of music and am looking forward to what is yet to come. The year gave us far too many amazing albums to list them all, but here is my personal list of the 10 best albums of 2022.
10. Luv 4 Rent– Smino
It’s a funkadelic feature film joyride. Its themes play on familiar feelings like the lack of reciprocation and the need to get what we give. Luv 4 Rent has a witty and defined sense of wordplay while delivering soulful vocals with excellent execution. It’s a look inside Smino, an admitted artist who declares his missteps, but still knows what he wants. It’s an animated body of work going scene by scene that is worth a full listen.
9. Surrender – Maggie Rogers
I am so edgy. I felt like changing my wardrobe, getting a tattoo, and moving to a big city. Roger’s sophomore album was a gradual and natural progression of her identity. It’s an album that sounds like the effervescence of joy and excitement of existence. The album reflects Roger’s fast rise to fame, without succumbing to the part she must play. She has control over her narrative and can escape to any place with or without anyone and find that sense of calamity in a world of complete chaos.
8. Caprisongs – FKA Twigs
I’ve found myself coming back to this album more times than I can physically count. It’s perfect for everything from pregaming a night out on the town with other “it” girls, to a reminder to check your worth and stand up. The album is a shift from Twigs’ more experimental vibe to sounds of the dance hall, bubble gum pop Afro beats, and R&B (to name a few). It’s a coming together of collaborations and Twigs’ bright new era that still sounded familiar and exceeded the laws of production.
7. Gemini Rights – Steve Lacey
As a huge fan of R&B, I am here for this weird, fusion R&B sound as of late. Steve Lacey took the rule book and threw it out of his window. A story of heartache and owning mistakes and experiences of relationships we can’t seem to let go of. Lacey’s sophomore album is a dreamy youthful effort that continues to carve out Lacey’s captivating sound and hopeless romantic persona.
6. Natural Brown Prom Queen– Sudan Archives
Sudan Archives’ second full-length album was a reintroduction to the artist. It’s a peel-back to the Cincinnati-born singer as the album’s character goes by her given name, Britt. It’s a story of coming home to a familiar place and observing the connections that make us who we are. What this album tells us about Sudan is the artist’s defiance of womanhood, loyalty, and love for the home that raised her. It almost felt like a well-written book that reveals how they want to be defined: as undefinable. I appreciated the simple disregard of categorization, creating a place where storytelling is free of the constructs of genre. From start to finish, listeners had the privilege of stepping into the honest and relatable mind of Sudan.
5. Un Verano Sin Ti– Bad Bunny
When others goof around, they get pots and pans music — but when Bad Bunny lets loose, we get 22 songs of pure fun. The Puerto Rican international sensation had the most streamed album on both Spotify and Apple Music, and for good reason. It’s a summery story of love that comes from a place of fruitfulness and substance. It plays to the sounds of different genres like cumbia, reggaeton, and others while staying consistent on the all-around essence and effortlessness.
4. Hypnos– Ravyn Lenae
Ravyn Lenae needs the recognition she deserves. This is the perfect R&B album in every way. Her whispery tones hold their own and possess strong control layered majestically over the A1 neo-soul production. Lenae used this debut to set the table for her musical chops. With her articulated poise and dreamy vocals, it’s a careful study of nostalgia while sounding nothing like anything else. It’s an exploration of self, sensuality, and the rid of relationships that no longer serve a purpose. It’s a fun masterpiece that we all needed and have strived for.
3. SOS– SZA
Before we get to it all, I don’t need any email directed at me about how this album came out at the end of December. It would not be fair to not include this specific effort. SZA came back exactly when we needed her, exactly when we needed a mirror to confront all of us on our bad habit tendencies. SOS is a delightful combination of Bjork and movie references, mall-era rock tracks, and vocals that flow like clear ocean winds. On SOS SZA is our best friend sending us those late-night voice memos of relatable personal instances. It is a remarkable album that is a combination of everything good and another example of an artist outdoing their mastery with a sophomore album that was willing and able to go there. Sza is one of those artists that can wait five years after a debut and pick back up where they left off without missing a beat.
2. Motomami– Rosalía
Are you a Motomami? This critically acclaimed album was not just a body of work but a state of being. It exudes raw, bravado, energy as Rosalía has mastered what it means to be a true main character through music and life in general. In the center of the biker chic personification, there is a layer of sensitivity and softness. This two-parter concept album combines alternative, hip-hop, and hyper-pop influences to create an experimental magnifying glass into the world of Rosalia, a real pop star of our generation.
1. Renaissance– Beyoncé
If avid readers of the Gateway remember, I was on my knees pleading at the top of my lungs how excellent this album is. Ever since then, I have been held captive by the electric beats. To no one’s surprise, this juggernaut of an album managed to get better. I listen to it on the go, when I work out, when I need a pick-me-up, and when I am cleaning the house. Beyoncé created an album that could turn any blue day into a color-coated escapade. Anywhere is our dance floor and we are given the leeway to let go and be free. The genre-bending work of music will be remembered for centuries. Queen B’s album has appeared on countless year-end lists for good reason. It’s a love letter to queer ballroom culture, a dance record for all, and has set a new precedent for how we all listen to music.