The best released music of 2022


Graphic by Juliana Mun

2022 was a satisfying year for music, full of gems I will treasure and listen to for years to come. After going through my playlist from last year, I picked out my favorite songs and curated a musical reflection of 2022 that you might also enjoy. 

“Kill Bill” by SZA

I never thought I’d replay a song this much, but SZA definitely surprised me this year. “Kill Bill” is a lo-fi, electric-bass song about the singer’s murderous urges toward her ex-boyfriend and his girlfriend. This song exploded in popularity, landing No. 1 on the global billboard charts, because it’s not a love song. Instead, it is about a rage that transcends the artist’s singular experience. SZA does an expert job at contrasting a gentle melody with irrational lyrics to validate the common human experience of anger. As she told, “This is my villain era, and I’m very comfortable with that.”  

“Ditto” by New Jeans 

There are no words to describe how much I adore this song. Though the music composition in “Ditto” is to die for, the reason why this song is on this list is because of the message. Camouflaged behind love song lyrics is the criticism of parasocial relationships built between artists and viewers. The concept of a girl imagining the members of New Jeans as her “best friends” in the music video starts a conversation about how tactful marketing toward young fans often leads to an unhealthy obsession with celebrities. The song is innovative, fresh, unique, and uses the sweet youthful nature of the song to teach us that everything you see on television is manufactured. 

“Die for you” by Joji 

There are very few artists who can do melancholy like Joji can. I find an inexplicable grief in all of his tracks, such as “Glimpse of Us” and “Dancing in the Dark,” that stems from his vulnerability. For example, his lyrics “I used to be somebody in another skin,” and “it kills me a little but it’s OK,” are so real that they resonate with a broader audience. Usually, vocal effects annoy me, but the way Joji uses autotune is masterful in conveying the voice inside his head or the things he can’t say out loud. The beat is catchy, the song is good, but it is made nearly perfect with the subversion of a “basic breakup song.” The concept is simple, but the emotions and meaning are so complex that when he sings he would “die for you,” listeners can’t help but believe him.

“Astronaut” by Jin 

“Astronaut” was like a goodbye — memorable yet bittersweet at the same time. Jin has rarely released songs away from his band, BTS, although he shows enough potential to be able to shine alone. Having been a fan since I was in the sixth grade, the announcement of Jin’s military enlistment hit me hard, and I had to face the fact that one of my favorite band members would be blocked off from the world. “Astronaut” is a collaboration with Coldplay that embodies Jin’s feelings toward leaving and his promise that he will come back. Other than it having a beautiful sound that is masterfully rendered, Jin pours his true thoughts into the song and uses a metaphor of an astronaut leaving earth to describe his hiatus. The connection I have to this song runs deeper than the lyrics; I can imagine that my inner child who always listened to BTS on the way home from school would be comforted by this message. 

“Understand” by boywithuke

Boywithuke has demonstrated that even with a raw, unconventional sound, you can make rounds in the music industry. When I first listened to one of his songs, “Sick of U,” it was a low-production masterpiece that showed tremendous potential for a reinvented indie pop style. I adore his lyricism, especially in his 2022 hit “Understand.” “Understand” is about an unrequited love that morphs into fuel for the artist’s depression, anxiety and self-hatred. He describes his crush as a “pet confined within the lines of writing,” which perfectly describes how a lot of people can become figments of our fantasy, rather than actual people. 

“Golden Hour” by JVKE 

If there’s a song that sounds magical enough to be a soundtrack to a fantasy film, it would be the song “Golden Hour.” As the sun dawns on the horizon during golden hour, JVKE descended and created a modernized piano composition. It is uniquely contrasted with a staccato rap that ties together a wholesome love story, with lyrics like, “She’s got glitter for skin” and “my radiant beam for the night.” This positive message is refreshing in the era of explicit songs, and gives me a happy, tingly feeling each time I listen. 

“Snow on the beach” by Taylor Swift and Lana Del Rey 

“Snow on the beach” is a beautiful pop ballad featured in Taylor Swift’s album, “Midnights.” While I have mixed opinions on the other songs on the track list, this song was an instant hit for me. The melody is a haunted, siren-like sound that perfectly encapsulates the theme: falling in love with someone at the exact same time they fall in love with you. The concept and lyrical imagery of snow on the beach representing that rare occurrence of love is clever. “Snow on the beach” is a carefully executed piece that took chances with the clash of authenticity and the genre of manufactured pop. It offers escapism each time I press play, as if I am there at the edge of the ocean, with the crashing waves in my ears and the falling snow in my eyelashes.