Top 10 Albums of 2022

The Crimson Arts Board presents its musical favorites of 2022, from "Renaissance" to "Un Verano Sin Ti."
By Courtesy of Alisa Regassa
By The Crimson Arts Staff

10. ‘SOS’ (SZA)

After a five-year absence, Dec. 9 marked SZA’s long-awaited return to music with her sophomore project “SOS.” Featuring a whopping 23 tracks, “SOS” is as expansive as it is experimental. Unlike the strictly alt-RnB nature of her critically-acclaimed debut project “Ctrl” — which featured chart-topping classics like “Drew Barrymore,” “The Weekend,” and “Broken Clocks” — “SOS” ambitiously ventures into uncharted territory. From Avril-Lavigne-esque vocals on angst-pop banger “F2F” to haunting melodies throughout “Ghost in the Machine,” an unexpected collaboration with American-indie rock musician Phoebe Bridgers, “SOS” fearlessly flirts with new sounds. But never fear, as the heartbreak performer of our generation, SZA never ventures too far from her roots. Like “Ctrl”, “SOS” is for the people: Overflowing with genuine meditations on toxic relationships, the dangers of infatuation, and feelings of resentment, self-criticism, and regret, “SOS” holds a mirror up to one’s inner psyche and offers a rare unfiltered outlook on what it means to be young and out of love. Paired with SZA’s trademark amorphous vocals, stellar production, and unfiltered lyricism — “You were balls deep, now we’re beefin’” is this writer’s personal favorite — “SOS” and the toxic eras it will inspire in listeners across the globe were inarguably worth the wait. —Anya L. Henry

By Courtesy of Drake & 21 Savage / OVO / Republic / Slaughter Gang / Epic

9. ‘Her Loss’ (Drake & 21 Savage)

Few rap duos can create a project that both feeds into the mainstream and qualifies as rap caviar. Toronto maverick Aubrey Drake Graham and Atlanta prodigy Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, better known as Drake and 21 Savage, respectively, have accomplished just that. A 16-song album that’s just over an hour long, “Her Loss” had the charts and the clubs in a chokehold — without compromising the quality of the bars in its composition. “Her Loss” might not be the most risky move in Drake’s career, but after the underwhelming experimentation of its 2022 predecessor, “Honestly, Nevermind,” safe is good. It’s cathartic, a long-overdue reunion between longtime collaborators and a celebration of friendship — and it shows. It shows in the seamless transitions between 21’s verses and Drake’s vocals, in Lil Yachty’s signature adlibs, in Metro Boomin’s tempo switch-ups: Everything about “Her Loss” is effortless and classic without losing that X factor that makes it consumable. —Alisa S. Regassa

We reviewed “Her Loss” and gave it 4.5 stars.

8. ‘Dance Fever’ (Florence + The Machine)

​​The week of its release, “Dance Fever” hit top charts across Europe, Australia, and the U.S., reaching number one in the United Kingdom almost immediately. Although the indie rock band Florence + The Machine is no stranger to success, their fifth studio album exemplifies lead singer Florence Welch’s haunting vocals and ethereal sound like no other. The tracks range from classic disco and funk to more modern EDM and pop-infused dance tunes. Based on choreomania, a phenomenon of hysterical dancing chronicled throughout European history, Welch’s songwriting and the album’s range of sound indeed tap into something guttural, captivating, and majestic. The 14 tracks are at times a story about power, exalted and feminine, and at times about turning brutal self-conscious honesty into something beautiful. “Dance Fever” calls out with its gasps and harmonies to all — the lovers, the dream girls, the heartbroken, the wicked, the self-aggrandizing, the longtime fans and the new. —Hannah T. Chew

7. ‘Stick Season’ (Noah Kahan)

Noah Kahan is a must-listen for any New England road trip. From the sweet softness of “Strawberry Wine” to the upbeat melody of its title track, his latest folk-infused pop album “Stick Season” exhibits great musical range. The album’s lyrics capture Kahan’s love-hate relationship with his hometown of Strafford, Vermont, often dismantling the idyllic view of small-town New England. His songs tell poignant stories of lost love, familial tensions, and discontent — and yet, despite such heavy subject matter, the album is a joy to listen to. Heavily reliant on acoustic guitar, “Stick Season” makes listeners feel like they are sitting next to Kahan at a campfire, soaking in the singer-songwriter’s talent. —Nina M. Foster

6. ‘Multitude’ (Stromae)

According to NPR, “Stromae puts on one of the best live shows in the world.” According to us, Stromae’s new and improved “Multitude” tour compounds on the strengths of Stromae’s musicality in his album of the same name. With the larger than life vocalizations on “L’enfer” and the quaint strumming of the cavaquinho (small Portuguese guitar) on “Sante,” come the multi-dimensional visuals and animated characters featured alongside those songs. Having amassed recognition for his DJ-ing skills in songs like “Alors en danse,” Stromae broke language barriers and breached the U.S. mainstream and charted around the world. His latest album “Multitude” showcases his ability to amalgamate many genres and carve out a space that is all his own within the music industry. From the trap-infused “Bonne Journée” to the soaring stadium chant-worthy chorus of “Invaincu,” to the tender harmonies of “Mon Amour,” there is a bit of everything in “Multitude.” —Alisa S. Regassa and Jaden S. Thompson

5. ‘Midnights’ (Taylor Swift)

“Midnights” by Taylor Swift was more than a simple album drop. With social media Easter eggs and TikToks disclosing track titles posted at midnight leading up to Oct. 21, Swift’s tenth studio album created buzz before, during, and after its release. Breaking records and taking up the Billboard 100’s top 10, the album solidified Swift’s return to pop music and brought a long-sought collaboration with Lana Del Rey. Delving deeper than she’s ever gone before, especially in “Anti-Hero” and “You’re On Your Own Kid,” Swift explores themes of self-reflection and what it means to be human; the love, the insecurities, the trauma, and the joy. Pulling from sleepless nights throughout Swift’s life, Midnights’ glittery texture and heavy use of ’80s synth contrasts with Swift’s occasionally muted vocals to capture the energy and new perspective illuminated in the darkness of the night. The album’s unification of artfully crafted lyrics with energetic instrumentals and several decadent music videos cement Swift as a shining star in the music industry this year. —Anna Moiseieva

We reviewed “Midnights” and gave it 4 stars.

4. ‘Renaissance’ (Beyoncé)

Inspired by the stagnant nature of the pandemic, Beyoncé’s seventh solo album brings energy and creative expression back to life. Beyoncé’s dance music fantasia “Renaissance” is built upon self-expression and an appreciation of the freedom that comes in returning to the clubs. Upon release, Beyoncé stated that she wanted the album to “be free of perfectionism and over-thinking.” In enacting her wishes for the album, she melts together a dance album with a celebration of expression that goes beyond her own personal story. Delving into gospel in “Church Girl,” in lines like “I’ve been up, I’ve been down,” her lyricism serves as a tribute to Beyoncé’s own shortcomings and her remarkable power to overcome those shortcomings — proclaiming that “You won’t break my soul” in the debut single “Break My Soul.” The album’s electrifying sounds and passionate lyricism make it no surprise that all 16 songs on the album charted on the Billboard top 100. Beyoncé extends an invitation to join her in celebration of artistry through popular tracks “Cuff It” and “Plastic on the Sofa,” and fulfills her promise that this album was crafted as one cohesive narrative. “Renaissance,” above all, is a soundscape of liberation and excellence. —Monique I. Vobecky

3. ‘The Forever Story’ (JID)

The up-and-coming days of Atlanta MC JID are long since over. With his third studio album, “The Forever Story,” JID has proved that he is here to stay. It seems that being an accomplished rapper is not enough for the Dreamville signee — he needs to further cement himself as a lyricist. To be sure, “The Forever Story” is bar-heavy, and JID’s verses are not caught lacking for even a minute during the hour-long album that builds on the ambition and temperament of its prequel, “The Never Story.” However, its unique brilliance lies in the vibe J.I.D curates; with his singular raspy timbre over the gritty 808’s that come with producer Kaytranada and Thundercat’s beats, J.I.D has perfected his own distinctive sound. This feat is beyond impressive for a 32-year-old rapper in this industry, and with “The Forever Story,” JID finally racks up the praise he deserves for himself. —Alisa S. Regassa

We reviewed "Money," the fan favorite track from “The Forever Story.”

2. ‘Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers’ (Kendrick Lamar)

The album that saw Kung Fu Kenny come back for the first time since 2017’s “DAMN.” The album that raised the bar on performing in concert. The album that brought that security guard to tears. “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers” is that album. Kendrick Lamar has long since proved that he is more than a rapper; to his fans, he is nothing less than a hip-hop messiah of our time. But the Compton MC is humble and shuns that deification in “Mr. Morale” — instead, he presents himself as human; at times angry, at times vulnerable, and always real. At a first listen, “Mr. Morale” is so dense it risks being inaccessible. But its beauty lies in that complexity; it evolves and changes just like how Lamar is constantly growing by challenging his perceptions of the world. Lamar has made an album that is first and foremost brutally honest, and that in and of itself makes it a riveting listen. —Alisa S. Regassa

1. ‘Un Verano Sin Ti’ (Bad Bunny)

More than just the album of the summer, “Un Verano Sin Ti” was for many the soundtrack that played throughout the entire year. From songs fit for puro perreo to psychedelic sounds tailored to the end of the night, “Un Verano Sin Ti” has it all. Many may be familiar with the album after hearing songs like “Tití Me Preguntó” or “Tarot” play at parties; others may be fonder of the softer love-sick sounds of “Andrea” and “Otro Atardecer;” another group entirely might find solace in the heartbroken narratives of “Yo No Soy Celoso” and the titular song “Un Verano Sin Ti.” This is Bad Bunny at his best, as more than just a reggaeton artist — in this album, he gives life to a whole range of human emotions, exploring them with an equally impressive array of musical styles. There is a reason that this album has attracted so many listeners, even those that don’t speak Spanish — this year, once again, Bad Bunny has truly earned his place as the most-streamed artist in the world. —Daniel S. de Castro