I spend a fair amount of my time talking about and thinking and listening to songs and commentary about the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, so it makes sense to talk about it. 2022 was by no means a bad year as far as music is concerned, but it was a year where songs seemed to hang on forever throughout the first part of the year before a set of late-year releases that were too late to chart on the Year End Hot 100 for the most part wiped out the older songs and provided a more or less clean sweep of things. In looking at the Billboard Hot 100, it is worth noting that the Billboard Hot 100 chart measures contemporary music by measuring its performance in three components: sales (typically low and front-loaded in today’s climates), radio, and streaming. The top 100 songs every week are calculated and released, and Billboard’s year runs from mid-November to mid-November or so in terms of chart weeks and early-November to early-November in terms of the actual calculation of a song’s performance. What this means, in practice, is that by the time the chart year is released, a fair amount of songs tend to be holdovers from the past and feel very old and perhaps even forgotten by the time the Year-End is released, and that certainly was the case this year.
I do not want to tip my hand too much as to what I think were the best and worst hit songs of the year–I will write more about those later, but I would like to make some general comments as to the chart in terms of performances and especially in terms of the genres I thought did well this year. 2022 has the feel of a transitional year, though it is not yet clear what we are transitioning too. The rap domination that made 2016 and 2018 such terrible years of pop music appear to be dead and gone, and rap outside of pop rap samples had a pretty terrible year overall (pop rappers like Latto, Doja Cat, Lil Nas X, and Jack Harlow did pretty well, though, and Lil Durk got a Year-End hit thanks to a successful crossover with Morgan Wallen, as well as another solo hit of his own). The relative poor placements of rap artists (outside of pop rap and the big stars like Drake and Lil Baby) opened up the chart to other artists and genres, and it was interesting to see what sort of songs took off.
For one, the bottom of the Year End charts was dominated by country. Fully 7 out of the 10 songs of the bottom ten on the Year End chart belong to country artists. While some of those songs (Maren Morris’ “Circles Around This Town”) benefitted from unstoppable levels of radio support from Nashville, others of this year’s big country songs benefited from some great streaming, like the aforementioned Morgan Wallen/Lil Durk duet “Broadway Girls,” Zach Bryan’s breakthrough hit “Something In The Orange,” which has not made the top ten but has some impressive longevity, and plenty of songs from Morgan Wallen and people who are clearly following his approach. A lot of these songs, though, are really good, and my list of best songs and honorable mentions is going to have a lot of country on it, so I’m warning you ahead of time.
As far as other genres that did well, I was pleased to see some Afrobeats on the Year End chart, because I have generally liked the Afrobeats hits that we have gotten so far in the United States, and I have also been pleased to see the return of some solid Adult R&B on the charts. Again, that’s a sound I tend to enjoy, and seeing it rewarded with some Year End hits that I really enjoyed was pleasing to me. We had a few quirky indie pop songs, like usual, and here too I enjoyed what was provided. I would probably like a bit more as far as such things happened–both more artists from the indie pop world getting hits and more career longevity for those artists–but what we got this year I tended to like. There are very few songs this year that I think belong in the best song ever debate–there is at least one massive exception to this rule but it has a big asterisk, but to see soundtrack pop songs compete with Disney villainesque songs on a weekly basis at the beginning of the year was pretty enjoyable to me. It was a bit disconcerting to see Justin Beiber and Ed Sheerhan have some of the most anonymous massive smashes ever, but that seems to be something in the water this year.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, we ended up with a few artists who had a lot of hits, and it’s a mixed bag as usual. Drake served a series of hits that for the most part were pretty uninspired but not the worst things ever, at least among the songs of his that made the Year End list. Doja Cat’s songs were for the most part okay sounding, and only occasionally offensive in content. Bad Bunny had a ton of hits off of his Un Verano Sin Ti, but again they were all pretty much in the middle, none of them really standing out as the best, and with perhaps one exception none of them obnoxiously bad either. Morgan Wallen had a ton of hits, and most of them were great–all of them except for You Proof at least were songs I actively enjoyed. I don’t know how many of the supposed trends of 2022 are going to carry on into 2023, but I suppose we’ll have to see if SZA ever releases her follow-up album to CTRL, and if other successful artists can release some smash albums with legs. That remains to be seen, though.