best pop albums of 2022
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The 13 Best Pop Albums of 2022

The 13 best pop albums of 2022 radiate with unstoppable playlist power, much-needed sweet escapism, self-reflection, self-criticism, and killer melodies.


Charli XCXCrash

Crash is a big slay. Reigning princess of hyperpop Charli XCX has danced around the rims of anthemic pop music ever since her revelatory release Pop 2 (2017). She’s grown acclimated to imbuing her experimental synthpop mixtapes with enough weirdness to keep her mostly out of top 40 radio but flourishing within a community of dance-pop fundamentalists who fancy certified bop-makers with a flair for the freaky—and the cheeky.

On Crash, she merges her aggressive bass-rattling and Auto-Tuned leanings with hooks and interpolations straight out of the best of the 1980s and 1990 synthpop and house. She forgoes her typically stacked roster of featured artists for tracks that firmly place her voice at the center of the narrative (though assists from Christine and the Queens, Caroline Polachek, and Rina Sawayama are all welcome additions). The jams are unceasing, with standouts “Good Ones”, “Beg For You”, “Lightning” and “Used to Know Me” tumbling forward one after another, situating her aesthetic somewhere between the bubblegum of Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia (2020) or the noise pop of 100 gecs. 

Charli capped off her nightmarish contract with Atlantic Records, a 13-year ordeal fueled with “authenticity” debates and constant image correction, with Crash. Free from the pressure to subscribe her music to the whims of the suits, there’s no telling what she’ll do next. All we can imagine is that it’ll go hard, fast, and be a real scream. – Michael Savio


Florence + the Machine
Dance Fever
(Republic / Polydor)

All of Florence + the Machine‘s work is highly conceptual, and Dance Fever is no exception. Using imagery of witchcraft and extrasensory perception, Florence Welch exorcises demons. But here, she is perhaps the closest she’ll ever get to the pop and rock icons who influenced the work, as Welch’s stage presence can only be compared to herself alone. “I’m free when I’m dancing,” she sings, suggesting that perhaps a life ended by dancing it out is better than life standing still.

Dance Fever sounds like Florence + the Machine‘s most conceptual album yet, but in a fashion that allows the most catharsis her work has conjured since “Shake It Out”. Although much more theatrical than the honest but somehow boring High As Hope, this record asks its listener to sit a bit with the noise in our heads that might usually make us so uncomfortable. “I’ve spent my life trying to run away from these big feelings,” she told Vogue, with big feelings representing anything from growing older, to motherhood, to the grand uncertainty of life at large. If our time away from the world taught us anything, it’s that we have to feel it to move past it. With Welch’s signature brand of theatricality, the group wants us to do just that. — Jeffrey Davies


Maggie Rogers

Maggie Rogers’ second album Surrender is composed of songs written entirely between April 2020 and November 2021, a time she described as intense both professionally and personally. “It felt really empowering to tell the truth in that way and to acknowledge the fact that I’ve grown up, and I’m going to talk about exactly what my life looks like,” she said in an interview.

That’s what Surrender sounds like and what some of the strongest pop albums end up being: whoever and whatever the artist is into at that moment. Even with a wide range of influences from Shania Twain to Alanis Morissette, the record sounds so distinctly Maggie Rogers in a way that separates her from the pressure of being the student who had her song called flawless by Pharrell. “Sick of the sound of self-importance / I fucked off for a month or two,” she proclaims. For an album that can’t help but be influenced by a particularly difficult period, Surrender sounds like the kind of authenticity we searched for on those quarantine walks. – Jeffrey Davies


Harry Styles
Harry’s House

Harry Styles’ existing fanbase needed no introduction when he launched a solo career, but his trajectory into a sound that appeals to both teen and adult contemporary demographic places him among few other modern pop artists, safe for perhaps Stevie Nicks, Shania Twain, or Adele. Harry’s House is composed of comforting numbing pop and needs no justification in an anxious age such as our own, but for Styles, his propensity for eclectic influences remains front and center on a folk and funk-inspired record.

But there are moments where he drops the so-called façade, getting intimate with the listener in a way he hasn’t before. Against the backdrop of an acoustic guitar, he sings and pleads with a young woman to escape her unloving family on “Matilda”, whose namesake easily lends itself to the Road Dahl character of the same name. Elsewhere, he employs a random and loose style of songwriting to form poetic glimpses into life on “Cinema” and “Satellite”, and “Late Night Talking” serves as the perfect second single for an album that would have otherwise been cast aside as more Gen Z bedroom pop if it hadn’t been made by a wide talent such as Harry Styles. – Jeffrey Davies


Taylor Swift

“Meet me at midnight,” Taylor Swift croons on the opening track of her tenth studio album, MidnightsLuckily for her, an ample number of fans answered her bewitching call and made Midnights not only the biggest release of 2022 but also the highest-streamed and sold album on its release day in history. And for good reason. Midnights arrives as Swift’s long-awaited return to luscious synth-pop after her pandemic-motivated detour into indie folk, and it yields some of her most introspective and breathtaking work to date.

A concept album about the mysterious, sometimes self-sabotaging thoughts that pop into our heads at the hour when the city’s lights have all but dimmed, Midnights fulfills its promise of providing subdued finger snappers all while painting a picture of the complicated woman behind the stories. Melancholic nostalgia and addictive bliss run rampant, as do bitterness and hardwired thirsts for vengeance. “Anti-Hero” slyly builds to one of the catchiest hooks of the year, and the glittery “Bejeweled” and “Karma” wield refrains begging to be screamed in unison by the lucky few thousands that Ticketmaster’s apparently deemed worthy to attend Swift’s open-air stadium tour. Meanwhile, “Maroon” and “Midnight Rain” lament past what-ifs, and “You’re On Your Own, Kid” memorializes Swift’s troubled entry into superstardom with surprising restraint.

Aided by slick production primarily from the ubiquitous Bleachers frontman and “art bro” carper Jack Antonoff, Midnights doesn’t reinvent the wheel for Swift as much as it adorns it, adding to the impressively enduring catalog she’s cultivated over the course of the last decade and a half. Its success has been both awe-inspiring and inevitable, ticking off another distinctive era of a true commercial pop music mastermind with panache. It’s one that time won’t soon forget. – Michael Savio


Rina Sawayama
Hold the Girl
(Dirty Hit)

Rina Sawayama has described her journey in creating her second album as “reparenting” herself, a process of unlearning all the ways we tend to be taught how to fit in growing up. But once we reach a certain age, the last thing a queer person wants to do is blend in. It doesn’t have to be loud, but in the singer’s case, she likes broadcasting it that way. While her first LP introduced us to one of the most commanding new voices in 2020s pop, it left little to the imagination where practicality was concerned. Hold the Girl, however, is a coming-of-age narrative branded in the form of an alt-pop album, which may have been the smartest move for steering clear of a sophomore slump.

Combining an affinity for the Y2K pop she grew up consuming with a refusal to water herself down for anybody, Sawayama also exposes the hypocrisies she faced growing up during her process of self-reclamation. On the surface, the record showed early signs of being the latest dance-pop thrill. Underneath, Hold the Girl is a raw and compelling depiction of a queer woman coming to terms with herself and the world around her. – Jeffrey Davies



Ever since 2013’s Beyoncé, our Queen Bey has been on a stunning creative streak, each album building on the excellence of the previous one. She ceased to be merely a pop star and has become a brilliant artist, crafting beautiful music that celebrated Black American culture and Black American pop music. With Renaissance, the singer pays homage to Black queer excellence, ballroom culture, and dance music. Beyoncé‘s seventh solo studio LP is a thrilling dance party. She brings in elements of disco, dance-pop, soul, R&B, and house on Renaissance, creating an indelible gift to her army of queer fans. Wholly original and innovative, Beyoncé asserts herself as the rightful Queen of Pop.  

The incredible lead single, “Break My Soul” is a swirling collage of neo-disco and early 1990s house-pop, an affectionate nostalgia trip that brilliantly samples queer staple, Robin S.’s “Show Me Love” and the propulsive “Explode” by Big Freedia. (Worth a listen is the Queens Remix featuring Madonna and sampling her classic “Vogue”, but with Beyoncé rightly centering Black women in the bridge’s rap.) Other songs on Renaissance are just as enthralling – the legendary Grace Jones graces (no pun intended) the funky “Move” while “Alien Superstar” (which takes cues from Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy”) is a clattering nod to the neon-lit 1980s synthpop and glittery Minneapolis soul. Beyoncé takes her listeners to the roller disco with the ingratiatingly catchy “Cuff It”. More than just a dance record, Renaissance is a pop manifesto. — Peter Piatkowski