Yeah, 2022 was an enormous yr for stadium-packing pop stars—Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Harry Types, the Weeknd—with splashy new albums, a frenzy compounded by anxious Spotify reminders notifying users they’ve solely listened to 37 p.c of Midnights, so would they kindly take into account persevering with to 100? However past this industrial echelon was a bevy of weirder and wilder pop releases from this yr: the cheeky collages of Grace Ives; the syncretic, near-devotional anthems of Asake; and the diaphanous “unhealthy bitch” tunes of Shygirl, to call just a few. Sorted alphabetically, the next checklist represents the yr’s greatest in “progressive” pop music, together with carry-overs from our principal lists in addition to further choices. And whereas most of our picks fall intentionally exterior the mainstream, we made exceptions for just a few blockbusters that nonetheless nudged pop into extra attention-grabbing terrain.
Try all of Pitchfork’s 2022 wrap-up protection here.
(All releases featured listed here are independently chosen by our editors. If you purchase one thing by our retail hyperlinks, nevertheless, Pitchfork could earn an affiliate fee.)
Asake: Mr. Cash With the Vibe
Lagosian singer and rapper Asake has been fine-tuning his fleet-footed imaginative and prescient of Afrobeats for a number of years now, channeling the languid groove of South African amapiano, the meditative vocals of Nigerian Fuji music, and the communal elation of gospel. Guided by frequent collaborator Magicsticks, his debut album Mr. Cash With the Vibe is filled with lavish attraction, with jubilant, multi-voiced choruses and winking traces that make agile use of Yoruban road slang. From the silky anthem “Terminator” to the famous person team-up of the “Sungba” remix with Burna Boy, it’s unimaginable to disregard Asake’s eclectic brew. –Marc Hogan
On Beatopia, Beabadoobee is therapeutic from messes made by herself and others, threading bittersweet realizations by the downy sound of early-2000s radio pop. Impressed by the dreamworld she created as a baby, the 22-year-old pulls us right into a free-floating and eclectic universe, meditating on self-care and relationships throughout the folks chants of “Beatopia Cultsong,” the bubbly bossa nova of “the proper pair,” and the smudged pop-rock of “Speak” and “10:36.” Soothing and self-aware, it’s simple to get misplaced in. –Jane Bua
Bladee / Ecco2k: Crest
To outsiders, Drain Gang may appear extra like a cult than a music collective, with a dense symbology to decipher that looks like hypebeast hieroglyphics. However on Crest, Bladee, Ecco2k, and producer Whitearmor concoct a pure, pop-flavored iteration of their heady cloud rap and faucet right into a extra common frequency. Crest is a dreamy train in vulnerability, a dispatch from the web trenches that, for as soon as, doesn’t really feel wrapped in disengaged cynicism; shining by a ravey, multicolored mist of affection and acceptance, it pairs existential Auto-Tune chants with driving 8-bit beats that fizzle like sweet. Overlooking Crest’s glowing digital wonderland, you would possibly really feel like irrespective of how a lot time you’ve wasted on-line, your actual mates are on the market someplace ready for you. –Sam Goldner