As someone who loves K-pop and has literally spent the last 2 years writing about it, I’ve been quite bored with the current slate of releases that 2022 has given us. Sure there have been some highlights and the average quality of tracks hasn’t been the worse, an entire sense of mundanity has fallen over everything. Few tracks feel fresh or alive with most highlights either harkening back to past glories or simply rehashing modern trends in more engaging ways.
As such, I’ve spend much of my time this year listening to music from around the world rather than Korea. And though the Taylor Swift hype train and my obsession with 80’s smash hit (I just)died in your arms might not qualify for my 2022 favourites, the rest of the songs down here do. So here are some of my favourite non-kpop songs from the first quarter of 2022.
Ari Abdul – Baby Doll (speed)
Though Ari Abdul’s Baby Doll has both an original and speed version, the latter is my definitive version of the track, upping the bpm and intensity to elevate the original in almost every way. The extended electric guitar solo’s are excellent.
Blanks – Home Without A Heart
Majestic, over the top anthems were the kinds of tracks I was hoping would dominate the modern retro revival and though that might have not been the case, Home Without A Heart is the literal definition of that. The chorus is absolutely massive, pulsing forward with a near unstoppable sense of urgency that’s only punctuated by the performance. If you love this be sure to check out Blanks’ excellent discography. Lost in The Moment and Dance Like This especially.
Charli XCX – Used To Know Me
The most accessible and straightforward Charli single in years just so happens to be one of my favourites. The Show Me Love sample is an excellent production choice and the hook is equally as magnetic, resulting in an irresistibly catchy slice of modern pop.
DNCE – Move
A deliriously groovy dance track that gets going from its opening moments, Move is an absolute blast, balancing its propulsive energy with an equally infectious melody that will stick with you from the first repetition. It easily lives up to its title though could do with being a tad bit longer.
eaJ – Car Crash
In a move that saw him out Conan Gray, Conan Gray himself, former Day6 member Jae (eaJ) hit a home run with his first official solo single. A simple, tightly constructed pop song with a gorgeous, melancholic hook, Car Crash will have you coming back for more after every listen.
Harry Styles – As It Was
Instantly memorable yet disarmingly simple, As It Was is Harry Style’s dig at the modern city pop revival through his personal lens. And boy was it good. The little synth flourish that reappears throughout much of the track is maddeningly catchy but perfectly manages to convey the deep rooted melancholia that As It Was plays off so damn well.
I am Boleyn – Young Love
Drenched in a luscious bed of 80’s synths and performed with a suitably evocative tone, Young Love manages to hit some of my weakest musical soft spots. It’s an absolutely gorgeous track and easily one of the most underrated tracks of the year.
Isaac Dunbar – Sunburn
Isaac Dunabr’s latest album might not live up to the incredible highs of his past work but that doesn’t mean it isn’t home to some gems. Bleach and Tainted Love are both great but chief amongst them is the genre bending Sunburn, which shifts between percussive 90’s hip-hop influenced verses and a soaring melodic chorus that hits all the right buttons. It’s all very Reach Out Your Hands in execution, something which is always a huge plus.
Khalid – Skyline
The definition of good vibes in musical form, Skyline is home to one of the years brightest and breeziest hooks, gliding along on a gorgeous and instantly memorable melody that helps elevate it over other similar summer fare. It’s such a reliable mood lifter.
Lauv – All 4 Nothing (I’m So In Love)
Anchored by a dangerously addictive hook, All 4 Nothing combines together Lauv’s evocative vocals with an upbeat synth assisted instrumental to give what might just be his strongest single yet. Sure the song might just be one big chorus but when the chorus is this good, does it even matter?
Machine Gun Kelly – emo girl (feat. WILLOW)
God this song is so shit. But that chorus though. My 2022 guilty pleasure right here.
Rina Sawayama – This Hell
Rina’s self titled 2020 album is one of my absolute favourite albums of all time and This Hell could have easily found a place on that project. This is Rina at the peak of her powers, over the top and unhinged, delivering a thrilling guitar infused stunner that’s just dripping with attitude.
Shawn Mendes – When You’re Gone
Shawn Mendes has always been a sleeper hit on my playlists but with When You’re Gone, he’s managed to absolutely dominate my listens. It takes the best aspects of his emotive guitar driven pop and melds it together with an anthemic, 80’s inspired melody to create a real MOMENT.
Theoz – Som du vill
A song that starts and stays at a 100% energy throughout its entire run time, Som du vill leans into its over the top arrangement to give us one of the years most dynamic dance tracks.
The Weeknd – Out of Time
My absolute favourite song off The Weeknd’s excellent Dawn FM album, Out of Time is home to a gorgeous hook that brings out the very best of The Weeknd’s incredibly potent vocals. It’s one of my most played songs of the year and though I could have done without the extended spoken word outro, the Midnight Pretenders sample does absolute wonders during the tracks musical moments.