Ten of the best songs of the year, as selected by Associated Press entertainment journalists.
STEVE LACY, “BAD HABIT”
It took nearly three months, but Steve Lacy’s “Bad Habit” topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart and has continued to thrive. The multi-genre song, a single from his album “Gemini Rights,” became the first record to ever top the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop, Hot R&B, Hot Rock and and Alternative songs chart simultaneously. It became popular over the summer after many on social media including celebrities Hailey Bieber and Charlie D’Amelio used the song while promoting their brands. With a funky bassline, Lacy shows some regret after missing an opportunity to approach a love interest. — Jonathan Landrum Jr.
HARRY STYLES, “AS IT WAS”
Harry Styles was everywhere in 2022 pop culture, from his much-anticipated new album “Harry’s House,” to his massive tour and most notably being in the middle of the behind-the-scenes chaos surrounding the film “Don’t Worry Darling.” Styles could take some advice from the lyrics to his chart-topper “As It Was,” a bittersweet and brightly packaged bop: “Nothing to say/when everything gets in the way.” The song is deceptively upbeat with a jingly synth-pop beat and a little kid’s voice as the intro and wedding bells at the end. But the lyrics are self-referentially melancholic as he accepts the reality of change that even he is not quite ready for. Thank you to the year’s leading man for giving everyone a lot to talk and sing about. — Kristin M. Hall
BEYONCE, “CUFF IT”
If you scroll through social media, you won’t have to wait long before you see viral videos of groups from young to old performing choreographed routines to Beyonce’s “Cuff It.” The feel good, dance track captures the spirit of fun, romance and infatuation all in nearly four minutes of music, and while that’s longer than most radio hits these days, the song leaves you wishing Queen Bey would’ve extended the track even more. If you feel like falling in love or need a flirty boost, keep this track on repeat. — Gary Gerard Hamilton
TAYLOR SWIFT, “ANTI-HERO”
Self-loathing never sounded so good as on Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero,” which went to the top of the Billboard singles chart for weeks and only relented its grasp under pressure from a bubbly Mariah Carey before Christmas. It is peak Swift: Confessional to the point of self-horror, depressing in its inevitable tears. “I’m the problem,” she sings. “It’s me.” The rest of the lyrics are dense and pregnant with meaning — there’s a scene with a will reading? Who is a sexy baby? Is she really a monster on the hill? — all driven by a moody, propulsive electro beat. “This song really is a real guided tour throughout all the things I tend to hate about myself,” she has written about it. And yet it is something to adore. — Mark Kennedy
KENDRICK LAMAR, “DIE HARD” FEATURING BLXST AND AMANDA REIFER
Kendrick Lamar has several standout tracks off his Grammy-nominated album “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.” But one of the most vibrantly enjoyable songs from his masterful project is “Die Hard” featuring singer-rapper Blxst and Barbadian singer Amanda Reifer. The three music artists collectively blend their voices on the hit song — which delves into trust and battling demons. Lamar raps about overcoming his insecurities in hopes of becoming better for a future relationship. — Jonathan Landrum Jr.
LIZZO, “ABOUT DAMN TIME”
She’s got the moves, she’s got the grooves and she’s used them to great effect on unsuspecting ears and minds as they were emerging from a literal and mental winter. Lizzo’s infectious bop “About Damn Time” hit the indoor-dazed populace right in the solar plexus and shattered the dancefloors. Between lyrics like “Is everybody back up in the buildin’? It’s been a minute, tell me how you’re healin”’ and “I’m way too fine to be this stressed, yeah/ Oh, I’m not the girl I was or used to be/ Uh,…, I might be better” and her up-tempo flute, Lizzo says it’s OK to claw back a little happiness after our collective trauma with the help of some pop music. — Cristina Jaleru
THE 1975, “PART OF THE BAND”
“Part of the Band” is the off-kilter jewel in The 1975’s excellent album, “Being Funny In A Foreign Language.” It refuses to follow a tempo pattern as it caroms from cellos to lounge ballad to sax solo, with dense, funny lyrics. “Am I ironically woke? The butt of my joke? Or am I just some post-coke, average, skinny bloke calling his ego imagination?” frontman and lyricist Matty Healy sings. It is a song that makes you stop and listen. “So many cringes in the heroin binges/I was coming off the hinges, living on the fringes,” go the lyrics. — Mark Kennedy
SAM SMITH AND KIM PETRAS, “UNHOLY”
If there was one good song to start the cold season, it’s the sensuous, risque “Unholy” — leaning on Sam Smith’s translucent vocals and Kim Petras’ petulant energy. The club anthem that slinks up on you with its throbbing bass wrapped in Eastern influences kicks off right out the gate with a heavenly choir. The electro-hook is set to catch, stun and haunt. A startling departure from Smith’s weepy ballads, this slow but electrifying tune got its general stripes first on TikTok with the singers’ dance challenge and the admiral ones on the airwaves and the dancefloor. One of the most well-matched collaborations of the year, “Unholy” has been certified Platinum with the speed of saying a “Hail Mary.” — Cristina Jaleru
YEAH YEAH YEAHS AND PERFUME GENIUS, “SPITTING OFF THE EDGE OF THE WORLD”
Post-punk rockers Yeah Yeah Yeahs returned with a new album this year, their first since 2013, and the opening dark synths of their first single “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” delivered the kind of fist-pumping energy that Karen O and company are known for. Karen O’s distinctive vocals on the opening line, “Cowards, here’s the sun, so bow your heads,” are aptly matched with Perfume Genius’ delicate and glamorous voice. The song peaks with the banging drums in the chorus inviting a defiance on the precipice of chaos. It’s a great return to form for a band that has always pushed the boundaries. — Kristin M. Hall
BEYONCE, “BREAK MY SOUL”
It would be easy — and possibly understandable — to only include one Beyonce song on our list. But why punish the Queen for creating phenomenal music? “Break My Soul” was her majesty’s royal anthem welcoming her back to her rightful place on the throne after a six-year-hiatus between albums. The house track spanned genres, dominating airplay on R&B, pop and dance formats. Reaching No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, the song delivered a variety of DJ versions and remixes, including the “The Queens Remix” with Madonna. “Break My Soul” also reached No. 1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart, and along with “Cuff It,” marked the first time since 2003 that the icon had multiple No. 1s on the chart in the same year. — Gary Gerard Hamilton