This year has been another great year for music. Many anticipated projects came out this year, like Beyonce’s Renaissance and SZA’s SOS. It was another big year for queer artists as well, with many releasing songs that struck a chord with queer audiences around the world.
This playlist is composed of what I would consider the best singles released this year. Some of them are technically not lead singles from the albums they came from, but songs that I felt were just as good as those that got more shine. I know that the label “best” is sticky. The singles I didn’t list aren’t bad, but I think these ones resonated with audiences and myself the most.
1. ON 10 – Destin Conrad
The beat here is spicy, it’s a song that makes you want to dance and move immediately upon hearing it. This single comes off Conrad’s 2022 album Satin which is laden with many features and sensual songs. “ON 10” kicks off the album with a bang, and the music video accompanying it is sexy and cool. The song itself is about wanting to see the person you’re into let loose a little, “act a fool” as Conrad sings. If you haven’t listened to the whole album, I recommend it, but this song is a total star.
2. Just Come Home with Me Tonight – Joesef
What makes this single so special is Joesef’s voice and lyricism. It’s a heartwrenching plea to someone you want to be with you and not someone else, a very relatable story for many queer people. This might be my favorite vocal performance by Joesef, with lyrics like “but I know a kiss won’t make it right.” During the song’s climax, Joesef sings in his higher register while also performing the backing vocals, and it’s a beautiful thing to behold. If you like romantic, swooping songs, you’ll love this one.
3. Don’t Give Up – Black Belt Eagle Scout
A self-described “radical indigenous queer feminist,” if you haven’t heard of Black Belt Eagle Scout, now is your time to listen. I first started listening around 2018, and have only sat anticipating her following projects ever since. The faces of rock in 2022 are still often very white, so I found it super exciting to see an indigenous person killing it in this genre. “Don’t Give Up” is a buzzy anthem for everyone that’s ever been through anything that they’ve triumphed over.
4. Silk Chiffon – MUNA, Phoebe Bridgers
It was hard for me to believe that this song was released this year. Like, what? I also could have chosen “Anything But Me” but I felt I would have been banished from the queer community if I didn’t highlight the absolute bop that is “Silk Chiffon.” With a Phoebe Bridgers cameo, it appeals to the queer girlies and the sad girlies. The song itself is uptempo and celebratory, and easily one of the catchiest songs released this year.
5. Killing Me – Omar Apollo
While “Evergreen (You Didn’t Deserve Me At All)” was arguably Apollo’s breakout song of the year, “Killing Me” remains a favorite for me. I love the mix of English and Spanish, and how his voice goes from soaring to tip-toeing. It’s also my favorite lyrically, just so sexy and commanding. “Love me like I’m gonna die, fuck me like you fantasize,” just, wooo, wiping the sweat off my brow as we speak.
6. Lo Siento – Reyna Tropical
I had the pleasure of interviewing Fabi Reyna of Reyna Tropical this year about her musical history and her leadership at She Shreds Magazine. In the middle of the year, Sumo Hair, her collaborator, and partner in Reyna Tropical, tragically passed away. “Lo Siento” was released after Sumo’s death, and he is still listed as a collaborator on the track. The song itself is very upbeat and feels like you are racing through the streets as you listen. I think of it as a celebration of their work together and a dedication to Sumo.
7. On the Run – Kelela
For years, the girls have been asking “where is Kelela? we need you!” and she has graciously heard our cries for more music and released two singles this year. They are both wonderful, but “On the Run” is my favorite. As a single, it’s giving an almost dancehall vibe. You’ll want to dance to this song and listen to it over and over again.
8. Dirty Dancer – Orion Sun
This single comes off Orion Sun’s album Getaway, and it is one of the strongest tracks on the album. With lyrics like “I’m a dirty dancer, if only I could pull my pants up, I just want to be the one you want to dance with,” it is romantic and easy to sing along to. If you haven’t seen it, I’d watch her COLORS performance of this song on YouTube. As she releases more and more projects you can see Orion Sun gaining in confidence and vocal strength. It’s a wonderful thing to behold an artist coming into their own.
9. Mango Butter – Durand Bernarr
A simple, yet effective rallying cry: “I’m a bad bitch and I’m that nigga.” Durand Bernarr has been one of my favorite vocalists since tumblr days, so when he released another album I was all over it, especially this one. It makes me want to do a mean two-step. This song is just so fun, it will make you smile, it will make you dance and test the strength of your knees. Bernarr impresses on any and every stage he stands on, so get on the fan train, there’s plenty room!
10. Wretched – Bartees Strange
I was, how do you say, overjoyed when I found out Bartees Strange is a bi king on Twitter. Back when I was a music journalist in Pittsburgh, I interviewed Lucy Dacus, and she mentioned Strange and Anjimile, and now I’m in love with both artists so thanks Lucy! Wretched is the kind of song you hear played at a show at a local venue and you immediately start jumping, wondering who this guy is, and immediately buy or download all of his music. Farm to Table is one of my favorite albums of the year, I also really really loved “Hennessy” on the album but “Wretched” was my most played song.
11. tangerine – Kehlani
This list wouldn’t be complete without a Kehlani appearance. I personally was really won over by this song when they said “pollinate my love with yours.” So sweet! This song is just so well put together, so perfectly structured and sound. It’s sexy and heartfelt, which I love. Kehlani is just truly a gift to us all, and their latest album is only proof of that.
12. happy accident – Tomberlin
i don’t know who needs to hear this is Tomberlin’s 2022 release, with “happy accident” being the lead single off the album. At one point in the song, she croons “do you just talk to me when you’re lonely and bored,” and I felt that in my GUT. I first listened to her 2020 album Projections and was won over by the song “Sin.” But this year’s album is just as good, filled with electric songs and woozy vocals.
13. CYBAH (feat. Lucky Daye) – Syd
Syd is really the best at giving you soft, sensual vocals and searching love songs. “CYBAH ( Could You Break A Heart)” is about making sure the person you’re about to embark on this journey with isn’t going to make you regret taking a chance on them. With a Lucky Daye feature, it’s quintessential R&B. My favorite part of the song is the breakdown at the end. It’s a song that makes me feel like I’m falling in love even though I have zero prospects, but I enjoy living in the world of the song nonetheless.
14. Stayed at the Party – Hope Tala
This song is moving and melancholy, Tala’s voice is sweet and gesturing toward these big questions and emotions around mortality and what remains of us when we go. It starts in that slow place and builds to a beautiful drum-driven dance-y song. It’s a track that reminds me of being drunk at a bar or club and kissing your friends, telling them you love them “for no reason,” just being in the moment of being young and having your whole life ahead of you. After the big drum break around the middle, the song slows again and Tala’s vocals are isolated, giving listeners the chance to revel in the sound of her. It’s a great song for partying or being alone.
15. The One You Need – Moon Baby
I got to write about Moon Baby’s rework tape for this song this year for Ladygunn, and the song, while short, is resonant and haunting. It sounds like you are in an ethereal video game with lyrics that make you feel like you’re on a hero’s journey. The song itself is about coming into your own: your body and your personhood, and Moon’s voice is dripping with fuzz and honey.
16. Teeth – Perfume Genius
Ugly Season follows Perfume Genius’ last project, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, and follows it with songs that are just as resplendent and punchy. I personally really like “Teeth” which is perfect for a horror movie score. Perfume Genius is poetic and experimental, playing with sound. The chaotic strings in this song are just one example of that playful nature.
17. Bad Habit – Steve Lacy
This was one of the biggest songs of the year, and for good reason. It’s an all too familiar scenario, Lacy sings “I wish I knew you wanted me,” and it makes you remember everyone you’ve ever wanted who you weren’t sure if they wanted you. It’s at once lusty and sheepish, with an ecstatic bass line. I really like the breakdown in the middle of the song: “you always knew the way to wow me, fuck around and get tongue-tied.” The way his voice is isolated in that moment and the longing in those words just hits me. This song was all over Tiktok and Instagram so it was almost impossible to miss this year.
18. Boundaries – Jamila Woods
“Boundaries” is about what you think it is about, setting boundaries with a lover that maybe isn’t all that good for you. It’s giving a little “Spanish Guitar” and a little Solange in the lyrics. It’s a great song that you could probably dance to if you weren’t listening to the lyrics. Woods is a poet and a musician which is evident in her broader projects like the acclaimed 2019 release LEGACY, LEGACY. I’m excited for whatever comes after “Boundaries,” perhaps another album? Fingers crossed!
19. Gay Agenda – Shamir
This song is the epitome of shock and fuzz. It’s ultimately about being an LGBTQ person that is unjustly hated by the people around us. “You’re just stuck in the box that was made for me, and you’re mad I got out and I’m living free,” lyrics like this gesture toward an understanding that many LGBTQ people have, we are hated and scrutinized because cishet people have been sold the lie that as long as they don’t question anything, they’re promised happiness. Shamir’s vocals are strong and resound on this track which makes it a favorite of mine off the project Heterosexuality.
20. Dream Thing – Angel Olsen
I have been an Olsen fan for a long time, and after compiling this list I thought it needed a little folk, country flavor. Big Time is a triumph for Olsen, and I think it’s her first full-length project since coming out in 2021. This one is for lonesome-hearted queers that want to put on their cowboy hats and slow dance.
21. Pride – Evil
Evil is a Black queer artist that makes country music who I’ve admittedly only just discovered. In “Pride,” they sing “hell is just a short fall from heaven” and, my interpretation of the song, is of someone grappling with religious trauma. They recite the verse from Proverbs 10:12:
“Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.”
It’s a beautiful and complicated song that I was drawn to as soon as I put it on.
22. You and Me On the Rock – Brandi Carlile
A love song to the core, “You and Me On the Rock” is so sweet and pure. I’ve been a fan of Carlile’s voice for a while and she is SINGIN on this song. Strumming and SINGIN. It’s about building a home with someone you love, tending to the garden of your relationship, and loving each other no matter what comes.
23. chosen – Dua Saleh
“chosen” will make your hips tick. The lyric “Make me feel I’m chosen” is the thesis of the song, a track about wanting who you want. It’s super sexy and dance-y. Dark and beckoning, like all the best songs are. Dua Saleh is a talent on screen and in the booth, so I was excited to see they had released another project. This one does not disappoint and deserves your undivided attention and a spot on your makeout playlist.
What were your favorite songs of the year?