The songs that had us in our feels in 2022

9 mins
21 Dec 2022
The songs that had us in our feels in 2022

The hair-flipping main character anthems, lubed-up horny jams and psychedelic-assisted, trippy earworms that soundtracked the year

image Team Woo

words Megan Wallace

2022: it's been one heck of a journey. With hot strike summer segueing into a winter of discontent, and an unhinged merry-go-round of (mostly incompetent) prime ministers keeping pace alongside the seasons, we really have been through it. And as much as the government flopped, so did we: we shifted from That Girl and her twelve-step skin routine to a bunch of feral messes.

But how did this Regression of Man happen? Well, after a sleepy, slushy beginning to the year, we were rudely awakened by the first post-pandemic, lust-filled summer. Destroying our lockdown relationship cocoons in the process, we took a gasping breath into our messy, newly single lives after the kiss of life of clubs, dating apps and unrestricted horniness. We never felt less together as we ran haphazardly from one bad afters to another weird situationship but, then again, we'd never felt so alive, either.

Thankfully, we haven't been alone: there's been a steady stream of new music to fuel our dramatic decisions, soundtrack our "u up?" texts, soothe our hangxiety and then help us get our shit together whenever our serotonin-depleted brains tell us we need to get ready for work the next day.

Yep, the music world has been a life-line this year and has seen the long-awaited return of icons like Kendrick Lamar, SZA and Rosalía while shoring up unexpected gems from newcomers like Eliza Rose and encouraging us all to take a long, winding journey into the world of undiscovered club jams and emerging genres as we took a newly daring approach to our lives - and our Spotify queue.

Now, Team woo is taking the aux to show you our musical discoveries of the year. We've pulled together the songs that have really been getting us in our feels this year, handily divvied up into a bunch of playlists to give you a dose of energy, a delusional self-confidence boost, or a necessary reality check as and when you need them. Think of it as an early Christmas prezzie.


One song ruled the dancefloor this year: bonafide banger B.O.T.A (Baddest of Them All) by Dalston-raised DJ, producer and vocalist Eliza Rose and Manchester producer Interplanetary Criminal. Catapulting from TikTok earworm to festival floor-filler it's hypnotising chorus "she's the baddest of them all" (repeated ad infinitum) felt half-incantation, half-affirmation allowing us to astral project beyond our petty, worldly problems and into the baddest, c*ntiest versions of ourselves. Fittingly, this line - alongside the track name - was inspired by the tagline on a vintage Blaxpoitation movie poster: making the song 2022's emblematic main character anthem.

Other major main character moments? NYC drill artist Ice Spice blowing up with the blasé Munch sending down simps and achieving viral fame; the UK's very own Central Cee declaring his love for Doja Cat, repping major bi wife energy and flirting with the boundaries of acceptability on Doja; and RAYE shunning her past as designated dance-pop girl to emerge from the flaming ashes of her major label deal with artistic revenge anthem Escapism.

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At its worst, this year felt like being trapped in a hallway of funhouse mirrors, our worst fears and base desires blown up, distorted and staring us in the face. At its best, it was like unlocking a cheat code for the video game we've been slogging away at for months or, to pick up a swimming metaphor, going from treading water to a victory lap of the pool. That is to say, it was a year of extremes that were bewildering and brilliant in equal measure - and the experimental slant of club and pop music this year seemed to revel in the Alice In Wonderland-esque world we found ourselves in.

Chief among them was Rosalía's vocal acrobatics on Motomami: the artist's speed limit-pushing joyride through biker chick aesthetics, Japanese culture, bachata, deconstructed club and old school reggaeton ("Saoko" lifts heavily from Daddy Yankee and Wisin's "Saoco"). Fellow Catalana Marina Herlop also underscored this year's weirdcore emphasis on the voice-as-instrument approach of her third album Pripyat - all vocal abstractions, extraterrestrial intonation and rippling melodies - released via Berlin's revered PAN label. And finally, to round off the experimental vocal girlies, Berlin experimental artist Pan Daijing dropped Tissues: the hour-long, studio-recorded audio excerpt of her 2019 Tate performance which saw Daijing perform a libretto in a mixture of old and modern Chinese alongside opera singers.

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As the year comes to an end, there's no question about it: we're all pretty fucking burnt out and tired. Now, after all the shenanigans mentioned above, it is time to chill tf out. And, naturally, given the theme of this article, we've got a playlist for that.

Leading the relaxation pack are our two leading ladies: SZA and Kelela, who both returned after protracted absences. Mirroring the ways that many of us have been turning to nature to find solace - one of the only feel-good habits we picked up during the pandemic - the two musicians drew inspiration from the ocean's changing tides.

Inviting the listener to jump with abandon into SZA's 23-track LP, the artwork for SOS depicts the singer zoomed-out, dangling at the end of diving board against a background of a vast, blue ocean in a nod to the iconic photographs of Princess Diana's final days of fame. Encapsulating a sense of the sublime - where we feel insignificant after comprehending the magnitude of the world, nature or a work of art - the cover sleeve reflects the artist's knack for sharing the painful personal minutiae which accumulate into unsparing explorations of the human condition.

On the other hand, Kelela's Washed Away is a more sparse offering: a slight, slip of a single that you can never quite get a hold of. A mood piece to introduce her forthcoming 2023 album, it moves like a body of water. Understated production from Berlin's Yo van Lenz layers the singer's crystalline vocals over a seabed of celestial, space-y synths as the lyrics gesture towards hopeful new horizons after personal desolation.

Yep, these projects are as emotionally devastating as they sound, but just close your eyes and let the sounds wash over you: you'll feel less overwhelmed in no time. Other blissed-out highlights from the year include George Riley's Vegyn-produced mixtape Running in Waves (continuing the acquatic theme) as well as Warpaint's shoegaze-y Radiate Like This album.

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If your 2022 was less than savoury and you didn't have any shiny job updates or new house/partner/Marc Jacobs platforms to share to your (quickly deteriorating) Twitter followers then it helps to view the last few months as a palette cleanser or a rebound relationship: a necessary dose of medicine that'll help you take on 2023 bigger and better than ever. Need some music to blow away the cobwebs and give yourself a spiritual spring clean? Well, 2022 gave you some of that at least.

FLO, the last great British girlband, came through with Cardboard Box - the Gen Z spiritual inheritor of Beyoncé's Irreplaceable. A breakup jam that waves goodbye to subpar boyfriends, it lyrically immortalises the life admin tasks (changing locks, blocking exes and clearing out your ex's clothes) that really serve as rituals to help us move on from the relationships that leave us feeling stuck, drained and taken for granted. Thank u, next!

Some other new year, new me jams to put on repeat? Well, there's Stormzy's era-announcing Mel Made Me Do It, the energetic, whip-smart anthem that, despite declaring “I’ve been the GOAT for so long, I guess it’s not exciting when I win”, reminds us of the artist's dedication to pushing the UK rap scene forward - a necessary lesson in dedication, determination and keeping it fresh for anyone who needs it.

And then there's Beyoncé's triumphant seventh studio album RENAISSANCE - in particular the blazing glory of BREAK MY SOUL, a defiant house track which samples queer icon Big Freedia and captures the spirit of early house where nightlife was there to show an alternative to the capitalist churn and lyrics embraced the defiant power of resilience and dancefloor escapism.

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Does this mood need any further introduction? We're supposedly living through a sex recession but after a year where our newly awakened libidos had us moving mad - like a Love Island contestant throwing thoughts of future brand deals to one side for a night of Casa Amor passion - we know a thing or two about being horny.

Someone else who could have a PhD in sexual passion? Shygirl, the London pop artist previously famed in underground circles for her deadpan delivery and post-club production courtesy of Sega Bodega, came into her own this year as a chronicler of late-night escapades and pursuit of Coochie. Then, there were the instantly quotable, ready-for-action lines like "He told me, 'Nike, just do it'" - pure pop gold.

Another soldier in the trenches of horniness was Charli XCX, who outgrew hyperpop this year and (successfully) set her eyes set on mainstream chart success with her fifth studio album, the Cronenberg-referencing Crash. While there are some sexy moments on Crash - a breakup album and an ode to dysfunctional party girls everywhere - her sexiest song of the year is, without a doubt, the Tiësto-assissted Hot In It with a chorus promising that "Tonight, I'm gon' be rocking it, dropping it/Shake my ass, no stopping it". The simplistic lyrics and repetitive beats might be a turn off for some but, let's be real, they perfectly encapsulate the single-minded nature of desire and the otherwise pointless pursuit of pleasure.

Finally, Mr Harry Styles who, head-scratchingly, manages to be both a poster boy for twee and an international sex symbol for all genders, gave us a lesson in keeping our many romantic options dangling. Each line on his third album, Harry's House, drips with an easy sex appeal that will have you typing away at a spit play-themed fan fiction about him and Chris Pine on the Don't Worry Darling set (or imagining you're one of them) - and that's before we even get into the romantic nostalgia of "Little Freak”and erotic fantasy of "Daydreaming".

Bon appétit!

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