The 20 best albums of 2022: Beyonce, Rosalia, Bad Bunny

In a year that brought us so much closer to the eternal now of streaming, the music of 2022 felt steeped in temporality – a throwback to a better time, anticipating the promise of tomorrow, taking stock of the present in 15- Snippets of seconds.

1. Beyoncé, “Renaissance”
Pop’s deepest-thinking superstar doesn’t really concern himself with anything other than big important statements. But the structural scope and intellectual rigor — not to mention the emotion and sheer pleasure — of this loving tribute to dance music’s black and queer pioneers is still stunning to behold. Play it at the club; play it in the library; Play it anywhere anyone might doubt the story is alive.

2. Rosalía, “Motomami”
Another thorough work of pop scholarship, this one from a Spanish singer-songwriter-producer for whom cultural boundaries exercise all the weight of ink on a cartographer’s paper.

3. Bad Bunny, “Un Verano Sin Ti”
The most inevitable album of 2022 – its Spanish title ironically translates to “A Summer Without You” – has never exhausted its reception as Bad Bunny keeps finding new settings for the drama king’s signature sob in his voice. Drawing inspiration from reggaeton, bachata, hip-hop, dembow, synth-pop, mambo and reggae, the never-ending vibe “Un Verano Sin Ti” is a treasure chest disguised as a beach cooler.

4. Taylor Swift, “Midnight”
After scratching the itch to write fiction with 2020’s “Folklore” and “Evermore” — and then carefully combing through her past with last year’s re-recordings of “Fearless” and “Red” — Swift returned to the very (albeit cunning) diary-like mode upon which her parasocial fame was built. Come for the veiled references to their various romantic and professional involvements; Stay for the airiness in her voice as she almost rhymes with “nasty surprise” and “some asshole.”

5. Alvvays, “Blue Rev”
Frontwoman Molly Rankin makes it clear who she’s referring to when she quotes Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” amid the awesome blast of that Canadian indie band’s “Belinda Says.” But on the best guitar album of the year — a dream-pop foray irresistible to ’80s noise boys and ’90s velocity girls — Alvvays isn’t Not also exclaimed Bilinda Butcher from My Bloody Valentine.

6. Angel Olsen, “Big Time”
Recorded in Topanga Canyon with memories of mid-century Nashville, Olsen’s sixth studio LP uses horns and shimmering pedal steel to frame her grief over the deaths of both her parents, even as she looks to the fulfillment that she introduced herself when she told them she was gay just before she died. A new queer country-soul classic for fans of Dusty in Memphis and I Am Shelby Lynne.

7. Lainey Wilson, “Bell Bottom Country”
Nashville’s brightest new star describes herself as a “hillbilly hippie,” reflecting her sense of humor and the funky classic rock moves that Sheryl Crow’s “Tuesday Night Music Club” can conjure up. But Wilson is best on wistful love songs like “Watermelon Moonshine” (“Parkin’ back in them kudzuvines / I was his and every bit of that boy was mine”) and “Heart Like a Truck,” where she bears the dents and scrapes of romance with pride.

8. Barbra Streisand, “Live at Bon Soir”
Want to hear great singing? One option is to spend a few thousand dollars to see the show that Adele just opened at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Another shoots this set of newly restored live footage from a regular gig Adele’s closest predecessor had at a tiny nightclub in New York’s West Village 60 years ago. Hearing what Streisand is doing – at 20! – on “Cry Me a River” and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” one wonders if anyone has ever balanced finesse and vehemence so beautifully again.

9. Charlie Puth, “Charlie”
Puth composed much of “Charlie” live on TikTok, which says as much about his bottomless music school establishment as it does his endearingly understated approach to the modern pop star.

10. Wizkid, “More Love, Less Ego”
Sade fans eagerly awaiting her first album since 2010 should dive into the latest from this Nigerian star of the international Afrobeats scene. More Love, Less Ego follows Wizkid’s American breakthrough with Essence, which reached the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 last year thanks in part to a remix with Justin Bieber. But the LP’s glassy surfaces and leisurely grooves betray no thirst for more; in his music the saxophone solo is certain.

A country singer in a black hat.

Lainey Wilson’s “Bell Bottom Country” is the seventh best-selling album of 2022 according to The Times.

(Libby Danforth / For the Times)

And here, in alphabetical order, are 10 more not to be missed:

1975, “Being Funny in a Foreign Language”

Arctic Monkeys, “The Car”

Drake, “Honestly, forget it”

Kendrick Lamar, “Mr. Morale & the Great Steppers”

Miranda Lambert, “Palomino”

Lucius, “Second Nature”

Marcus Mumford, “(self-titled)”

Cecile McLorin Salvant, “Ghost Song”

Harry Styles, “Harry’s House”

The Weeknd, “DawnFM” The 20 best albums of 2022: Beyonce, Rosalia, Bad Bunny

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