My Top Ten Songs of 2022

My Top Ten Songs of 2022

It’s that time of year for retrospection.

Earlier this month, I shared some observations regarding my musical preferences and listening patterns from 2022, as recorded quantitatively, by Spotify. But these metrics are overly influenced by the time of year in which a song was released (or at least, by the time of year in which I discovered the music). And there are other factors that make me feel like my favorite songs are not exactly the same as the most-streamed songs from Spotify.

So I want to share my real Top Ten listing here, where I can provide more context and then (in the coming days) also segue into other “Top Ten” listings for 2022.

I’ll start with a simple listing. Here are my Top Ten Songs of 2022:

  1. On and On (Djo)
  2. KEEP IT UP (Rex Orange County)
  3. Glimpse of Us (Joji)
  4. Gentle On My Mind (Glen Campbell)
  5. The 1975 (The 1975)
  6. Hallelujah (HAIM)
  7. When We All Get to Heaven (Brad Paisley)
  8. Él Que Resucitó (Elevation Worship)
  9. The Gambler (Kenny Rogers)
  10. DEBO (Tobe Nwigwe, NELL, Fat Nwigwe)

And for anyone who might appreciate more context, my explanations for each selection are included with the listing (reverse rank-order), below:

My Top Ten Songs of 2022

#10 – DEBO (Tobe Nwigwe, NELL, Fat Nwigwe)

This is the second year in a row that Tobe Nwigwe has made my Top Ten list, and I have my brother, Jay, to thank for introducing me to his music. I have an on-again / off-again relationship with Hip-Hop (very “on” in high school, more intermittent since then). But there’s something very “old school” about Tobe Nwigwe — while also being fresh and inventive, just like Rap felt in the 1990s. It’s hard to describe, but I’ve enjoyed getting to know his stuff in the last couple of years. I hear this song as a critique of one’s super-ego, or perhaps a sort of warning to the rest of the world’s when one’s pride and self-centeredness is activated. The deeper meaning of the words is intriguing. But honestly, purely on the superficial level, this song just goes hard. It’s got some really clever lyrical phrases, and I find myself reciting bars from the song in everyday life when something triggers an association.

My Top Ten Songs of 2022

#9 – The Gambler (Kenny Rogers)

This is a very old song (released in 1978). But it became new in a way when the younger generation in our household was introduced to this song through this year’s summer playlist. We were looking for songs that connected to the essence of Utah and Nevada, where we’d be vacationing. This particular song has a more tangential association (it never explicitly mentions Utah, Nevada, or Las Vegas), but it was better than most of the other songs out there about that region. It just feels like the American West. Kenny Rogers’ voice is iconic. The chorus is infinitely sing-along-able. And through all our travels, while listening to this song, “The Gambler” came to feel like the sun, the dust, and the wide open spaces of North America’s Great Basin.

My Top Ten Songs of 2022

#8 – Él Que Resucitó (Elevation Worship)

I love my job as a pastor, and I love worship (in the purest sense of the word). But ironically, I don’t connect very well with “worship music.” I do it almost every week, on Sundays, and I’m not complaining. But I almost never seek out this genre for my own private listening. So: including this song on a Top Ten list is a noticeable exception to my normal mode of operations. But I was introduced to this song at this summer’s Leadership Training program in Estes Park, and it’s found a special place in my heart. The lyrics (entirely in Spanish) don’t exactly roll off my tongue, but I have a very visceral memory of observing the way that they hit some of our Latino and Latina participants and guests. They cried. They wrapped their arms around each other. And even in my own heart, the chorus just resonated deeply. I’ll probably always associate this song with Colorado, with the unique group of people who were out there this summer, and with many of the things God did over the summer of 2022. I love how music makes these connections.

My Top Ten Songs of 2022

#7 – When We All Get to Heaven (Brad Paisley)

This is yet another example of an atypical genre that still managed to make my Top Ten for 2022! I don’t really listen to the kind of Country music that plays on Country music radio stations (though I don’t mind the older, further-off-the-beaten-path stuff). But this song has grown to represent my father, as he declines in his struggle with Parkinson’s Disease. He sang it to me in one of the first moments when we both recognized that his cognitive function was slipping. And as things got worse and worse over the course of the last year, I found myself sampling different versions of this song that I could find on Spotify. This one ended up being my favorite. It’s not a new song, or a new recording of the song. In fact, it’s a song that I’ve known since childhood. But it has new meaning now, on the personal level. That’s why I treasure it as a part of the joy and sorrow of this past year.

My Top Ten Songs of 2022

#6 – Hallelujah (HAIM)

I was first introduced to HAIM through my brother, Jay. But I discovered this particular song through a television series (This Is Us). And somewhere along the way, the artist has come to be associated with my daughter, Olivia. As I reflect on this song, it occurs to me that this song also deals with themes of grief, death, and loss — which may have influenced me on the subconscious level (as noted in my explanation of song #7, above). But most of the reason I like this song, I think, it due to its vibe. It’s mellow. It’s beautiful. And it’s got that classic folk sound that I love. The instrumentation is mostly light, acoustic guitar. And the vocals are a hauntingly-beautiful blend of the voices of three talented young women. It’s not explicitly religious (despite the title). But it is meaningful and powerful.

My Top Ten Songs of 2022

#5 – The 1975 (The 1975)

Did you know that The 1975 starts each of their albums with a song called “The 1975?” I hadn’t really put that together until the release of this year’s album: Being Funny in a Foreign Language. The whole album is pretty good (maybe even in contention for album of the year, for me). But this song, in particular, strikes a strong note. It’s cultural commentary. It describes a world of chaos, disinformation, disconnection, and fear. And it regularly repeats the refrain, “I’m sorry if you’re living and you’re seventeen.” Man. Somehow, it feels exactly right in describing the heartache that I feel towards today’s college students and even my own children (ages 20, 18, and 15). They’ve had a rough draw with the COVID-19 Pandemic, the culture wars, and the distorted reality of the Internet Age. This song provides powerful context, and it captures the complexity of this cultural moment not just in words but in instrumentation and arrangement. It’s definitely worth a listen.

My Top Ten Songs of 2022

#4 – Gentle On My Mind (Glen Campbell)

This was another recommendation from my brother, Jay. It’s my favorite from his “All Killer No Filler” playlist gifted at the end of 2021. Again, it’s not a particularly new song (released in 1967); but it feels timeless. The sound is pretty distinctly Southern / Western / Country; but there’s something universal about it, too. I enjoyed listening to it in January, when I first started absorbing the music that Jay had sent my way. I enjoyed listening to it throughout the summer, after we decided to add the song to our Summer Playlist. And I enjoyed listening to it again here at the end of the year, when I started sifting through all the stuff I’d listened to throughout the course of 2022. I even briefly considered making “Gentle On My Mind” my song of the year for 2022, before it started settling later in the sorting process: ending up here at #4.

My Top Ten Songs of 2022

#3 – Glimpse of Us (Joji)

My oldest son, Elliot, loves Joji. He’s maybe his favorite artist, at the moment. So much so that he and a friend drove all the way to the northwest side of Chicago to see him in concert this fall. Anyway: Elliot has shared a number of Joji songs with me over the last year or two — but this one truly struck me as the cream of the crop, rising to the top. It came out this summer, while we were in Colorado, and I took to listening to this song at the tops of mountains, at the destinations to which I went hiking over the summer. I have a particularly strong memory of sharing the song (and learning to use the sharing feature of Apple AirPod headphones!) with my friend Saul at Sky Pond. As such, the song has an extra-ethereal, magical quality when I listen to it, paired with those memories. The waltzing instrumental break is my favorite section of the song. And again, there’s a sadness to this track. But also beauty. I’m glad this song was a part of 2022 for me.

My Top Ten Songs of 2022

#2 – KEEP IT UP (Rex Orange County)

I really struggled to figure out if this song should be #2 or #1. Spotify suggests that I listened to “KEEP IT UP” more than any other song in 2022. Even on the first day that I listened to the song and watched the music videoback in January — it felt like a strong candidate for song of the year. I even went to hear Rex Orange County perform the song live at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado. Because I just loved the boppy feel to the “WHO CARES?” album, and the optimistic endurance of “KEEP IT UP” in particular. And it really moved me, emotionally, too. Not just moving me in the dance-to-the-music sort of way. When allegations of sexual assault surfaced in the fall, however, I had to wrestle with the problem of differentiating between the art and the artist. But fortunately, the end of the year has brought some level of exoneration for the artist. Even so, in the end analysis, it felt more appropriate to make this #2 than #1 for 2022.

My Top Ten Songs of 2022

#1 – On and On (Djo)

Even if it were to stand alone, the bridge to this song may have been enough to make my Top Three list! Such a great sound! Such a keen critique of culture! This song works as something of a corollary to this year’s version of “The 1975” (see #5, above). It captures this cultural moment — this generational crisis — in a powerful way, but less on a systemic, societal level (like The 1975) and more on the personal, experiential level. The title refers to the process of scrolling on one’s phone while lying on the bed: “On and on and on and on. Scrolling on and on and on. Feed the algorithm some. On and on and on and on.” It suggests some level of peace and comfort and security in one’s own private (virtual) world. But it also suggests that “something is about to break.” And then it demonstrates the whole experience with music. The bass! The synthesizer! It’s brilliant. I learned about this song from my son, Elliot. And the more I listened to it, the more I appreciated it. The complexity and cool vibe of this track make it my favorite song of 2022.

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