The best music of 2022 (and the rest)

2022 was a year of high highs and low lows, the musical drama was unmatched by years before it


2022 was an incredible year for music, and The Messenger has compiled a list of the best, and worst, albums of the year.

2022 was a year of music best described as experimental. Last year, more than any other, has pushed the most creative minds to the front and center, and also signaled the fall of corporate, money grabbing music that lacks soul. Talk of industry plants, one hit wonders, ruined reputations: it was a long year for musicians and fans alike, and here at The Messenger we’ve attempted to compile the musical highlights (and lowlights) as best we can.

January started off hot with The Weeknd’s follow up to 2020 project “After Hours”, “Dawn FM”. 80’s inspired, the year started off right with a good mix of throwback pop and modern R&B. 

On the other side of the pop spectrum, February saw a release from an artist who began to catch her stride last year, Mitski, with the release of “Laurel Hell”, a grab bag of inspirations with insightful and poetic writing.

March saw the first instance of a lowlight record, when Machine Gun Kelly released “Mainstream Sellout.” Pop punk at its absolute worst, and least inspired. The name speaks for itself. Thankfully though, with spring coming in April, Pusha T’s experimental “It’s Almost Dry” wrapped up the early winter months with a critically acclaimed rap record.

Going into the summer, May brought the release of the long awaited “Mr Morale And The Big Steppers”, a concept rap album that cemented Kendrick Lamar’s status as one of the best of the generation. As well that month, pop saw the release of “Harry’s House” by Harry Styles, which was a smash hit on the radio’s to say the least. 

June had Drake putting another nail in the coffin of his musical integrity with the house record “Honestly, Nevermind” which I can only describe as “honestly…nevermind”. He would later release the controversial “Her Loss”, raising the question: Does 21 Savage have back problems after carrying Drake so hard on his own album?

July had 2 of underground R&B’s brightest, Brent Faiyez and Steve Lacy, releasing “Wasteland” and “Gemini Rights” respectively, both being their best albums yet, and in the case of Steve Lacy, being his big break into the mainstream. 

August brought the beginning of the new school year, and the release of “The Forever Story” by Atlanta rapper JID. The album was welcomed as an instant classic by the rap community and saw JID going from up-and-comer to promising new talent.

September carried on with the release of a deluxe edition of “Melt My Eyes, See Your Future” by Denzel Curry, an experimental Frankenstein’s monster of a record that saw the largely underground Denzel gaining lots of attention for his unique style. 

October brought in by far the biggest release of the year, which was also the most divisive, Taylor Swift’s “Midnights” which saw lines being drawn between one party arguing it was too similar to her previous work, and another saying it was her best yet. 

November gained another point for the alternative pop/R&B genre with Joji’s “Smithereens”, featuring year-defining ballad “Glimpse Of Us” and other heartbreaking songs with grooves only he can accomplish. 

Finally, December saw the release of the long awaited surprise album “SOS” by SZA. Maybe too early to tell, but it’s 4 week reign as number 1 album in America speaks for itself.

With all that being said, some albums and artists had a more memorable year than others. Alternative rock band “Paramore” had a successful year back in the music game. The Messenger has dubbed them the “Best Comeback”, and given them “Best Performance” for their show at Belasco on October 27th.

However, the “Best Performer” of 2022 was by far Mitski, who had the Laurel Hell tour last year. Her interpretive dance, lighting, and stage design all around made the show an experience unique to only her– a true sight to see. 

In the vein of comebacks “Best Throwback Hit” goes to “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush. 38 years after release, it reached the very top of the charts thanks to its prominent role in “Stranger Things 4”. 

Although, straying from the old into the new, experimenting is in the nature of music, but the “Most Experimental” of last year had to be Denzel Curry. With the release of “Melt My Eyes, See Your Future”, he cemented himself as the strongest innovator that 2022 had to offer.

Sometimes musical experiments don’t work out like they did for Curry. “Worst Production” goes to Drake’s “Honestly, Nevermind.” Not because it’s objectively awful, but because it feels so soulless. There was no attempt at being unique here.

Best Production” goes to Pusha T’s “It’s Almost Dry”. The traditional rap instrumentals are given a one of a kind twist that fits only him, and it sounds great.

On the topic of hip-hop, last year’s “Master Of Ceremonies” (or MC) is JID. He, who was in contention for many of the superlatives mentioned, released the best straight-and-narrow rap record this year and blew everyone in the culture away.

Last year was also a year in which the spotlight was shined in places it hadn’t been before. “Best Emerging Artist” goes to Steve Lacy. Lacy has been in music for years but only just got the acknowledgment he deserves, and hopefully he continues to have a successful career. The “Catchiest Song” of the year goes to his summer hit “Bad Habit” which launched him into the stratosphere in the first place.

However, some places that the spotlight was put on weren’t necessarily the greatest. “Worst Emerging Artist”, Machine Gun Kelly, who’s also been appointed the “Worst Album” of the year, became a laughing stock for his soulless and cliche attempt at pop punk with “Mainstream Sellout.”

2022 was also home to some questionable albums— neither here nor there. “Middest Album” goes to the properly named “Midnights” by Taylor Swift. High expectations and low variety created the perfect storm to make this project just too low of the bar.

Some artists received more praise than others, and it may have not been deserved. “Most Overrated Artist” of 2022 goes to Beyoncé. Although her chokehold on the pop genre is undeniable, calling her the best artist of the year for an album that is half as good as her previous projects is a bit much.

Last year also featured some of the best, most innovative writing and lyrical ability. “Best Concept Album” goes to “Mr Morale and The Big Steppers” by Kendrick Lamar, for its amazing and engrossing storytelling.

One of the ways musical quality is measured is streams and radio play. This year’s “Radio Tyrant” was hands down Harry Styles. With past hits and the release of “Harry’s House”, he had an absolute chokehold on every pop station across the nation.

With releases from SZA, Steve Lacy, Brent Faiyez, Joji, and The Weeknd, last year had some of the most beautiful voices and production heard in a long time. Mchenry Messengers named “Genre Of The Year” as alternative R&B. Whether it is mixed with rap, pop, or even folk, it was by far the defining sound of last year.

Overall, 2022 was an incredible year for music. With a perfect blend of amazing albums, and albums that can only be described as a dumpster fire, the year finished as an incredibly eventful year for the music industry.