If the start of 2022 already consisted of spectacular moments, the second half continued in full swing by raising the bar. Beyoncé returned with Renaissance, marking her first new studio drop in six years — and what many suspect is part of a trilogy. Bad Bunny broke records this summer by becoming only the seventh artist to have an album spend ten weeks at No. 1, right before he embarked on his World’s Hottest Tour. And how could we forget Harry Styles, who has hosted residency shows in Los Angeles, Austin, and more., giving fans a welcome invitation to Harry’s House.
Before it gets closer to officially ringing in the new year, and without spoiling everything on this list, let’s reminisce on all the pop records we’ve been blessed with this year. Here are the Best Pop Albums Of 2022. (And check out our full list of Best Albums Of 2022.)
Anitta – Versions Of Me
Anitta emerged as a global pop star this year with her album Versions Of Me. The Brazilian superstar impressively sings on the 15-track LP in Portuguese, Spanish, and English. She embraces the Brazilian funk sound of her country in her red-hot collaboration “Me Gusta” with Cardi B and Myke Towers and pop-inflected “Faking Love” featuring Saweetie. Anitta reminds people that Brazil is a part of Latin America with her reggaeton romp “Envolver.” She also looks to the future of pop music with her punk-influenced anthem “Boys Don’t Cry.” Anitta’s best version of herself is when she’s not afraid to try everything. – Lucas Villa
Bad Bunny – Un Verano Sin Ti
Bad Bunny gave the world the soundtrack for the summer with his album Un Verano Sin Ti. The Puerto Rican superstar celebrates the music of the Caribbean throughout the 23-track LP, while returning to his reggaeton roots in club anthems like “Me Porto Bonito”
alongside Chencho Corleone and “Party” with Rauw Alejandro. But he keeps fans on their toes when he takes the genre to new places with alternative acts like The Marías in “Otro Atardecer” and Bomba Estéreo in the dreamy “Ojitos Lindos,” and samples the sounds of the Dominican Republic in the merengue-infused “Después De La Playa” and the dembow-driven “Me Preguntó.” Bad Bunny continues to prove that his sound has no borders or limits. – L.V.
Beyoncé – Renaissance
Since the release of her Lemonade in 2016, Beyoncé fans from all over waited patiently (and then impatiently) for her next solo album. They wondered when it would arrive, how it would sound, and what they would love most about it. Finally, those questions were answered with the arrival of Renaissance this past summer. Through 16 songs, Queen Bey brought listeners on an electric ride through dance-pop and disco tunes that honored and celebrated the qualities and history of Black and brown queers and trans individuals while giving them, and others, a unique soundtrack to enjoy the freedom they so rightly deserve. – Wongo Okon
Blackpink – Born Pink
We all know Blackpink is composed of a bunch of baddies that go by the name of Jennie, Jisoo, Rosé, and Lisa. When the group released their second studio album Born Pink this year, it felt like all their feelings were out in the open in the form of eight tracks. The YG Entertainment quartet shows off their duality with hard-hitting and bass-heavy tracks like “Pink Venom” and “Shut Down” and seamlessly counteract it with mellow and soft serves with “The Happiest Girl,” “Tally,” and Rosé’s solo “Hard To Love.” Dropping F-bombs and expressing the pain and gains of love throughout, YG Entertainment’s in-house producer Teddy and Blackpink deliver their signature sounds that Blinks all over the world love. – Lai Frances
Charlie Puth – Charlie
Surprise! The perennial producer used TikTok to his advantage to craft Charlie. Charlie Puth’s perfect pitch and uncannily trained ear are still his engines. “Left And Right” featuring BTS’ Jung Kook and “Light Switch” maintain his reputation as an effortless radio-friendly pop machine. But tracks like “That’s Hilarious,” “Charlie Be Quiet!” and “Loser” provide the anecdotal vulnerability Puth had admittedly been faking before. Puth’s third LP is self-titled because he wishes it were his debut. In most ways, Charlie is his earnest introduction. – Megan Armstrong
Charli XCX – Crash
“I’m about to crash into the water / Gonna take you with me,” Charli XCX declares on the opening lines of Crash’s title track. The hyper-pop star follows through on her promise, with her highest-charting and most headline-making era to date. By leaning heavily into an “I don’t care” persona on songs like “Yuck” and including brilliant collaborations with Rina Sawayama, Christine And The Queens, and Caroline Polacheck, the album consists of nothing less than pure hits. – Lexi Lane
Conan Gray – Superache
Conan Gray enlisted producer Dan Nigro (Olivia Rodrigo) for his 2022 record and the results paid off tremendously. Gray’s autobiographical songwriting style is placed at the forefront of the album, as his soft vocals carry listeners through heartbreaking tracks like “Family Line” and “Astronomy.” He also shows off a rock-influenced duality on “Jigsaw” that makes it the standout of Superache. – L.L.
Ethel Cain – Preacher’s Daughter
Preacher’s Daughter blended the conceptual and concrete versions of Hayden Silas Anhedönia’s alter-ego Ethel Cain to create her debut album. As religious themes are woven throughout, she pulled inspiration from her real religious background growing up in the South. There are tales of longing on “A House In Nebraska” and a Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque couple heading for California on “Thoroughfare.” And, at the end of it all, the tension and trauma end in Cain’s destructive demise. Ending with the somber “Sun Bleached Flies,” she realizes that praying wouldn’t save her, chalking it up to “if it’s meant to be, then it will be.” – L.L.
Feid – Feliz Cumpleaños Ferxxo
Despite his LP leaking a few months ahead of time, Feid made the most of it by releasing it as Feliz Cumpleaños Ferxxo Te Pirateamos El Álbum. The cheekiness of the album’s title is reflected in the feel-good title track “Feliz Cumpleaños Ferxxo,” with Feid serving up the nostalgia and sentimental side behind his Medellín-made reggaeton across the 15 tracks. – L.V.
Harry Styles – Harry’s House
Whether or not you believe he’s the new king of pop, based solely on the historic records he holds, you can’t deny that Harry Styles is certainly leading the pack. If his debut solo album was a mere strike of luck, then Harry’s House proves Styles has a firm understanding of what he’s doing. In a cycle of microwaveable pop music, the intentionality of song selection on Harry’s House ensures a lasting shelf life. The 13-track project is light, airy, fun, and charismatic which makes for an easy listen every time. Mindful of his vocal range, on Harry’s House, Styles has found his octave pocket to which the listener is a benefactor. – Flisadam Pointer
LE SSERAFIM – FEARLESS
There’s a saying that there’s a song or album made for every mood there is. However, in LE SSERAFIM’s case, their debut EP was made to make the world your oyster. (Just like the first track off the album.) From beginning to end, FEARLESS serves as a sonic introduction to LE SSERAFIM’s sophisticated pop tones and tenor. The EP oozes with confidence and roars with range in the form of bass-bumping pop tracks throughout, delivering a refreshing and mature take on K-Pop that suits everyone’s taste. You may want to grab a listen to “FEARLESS,” “Blue Flame,” and “Sour Grapes” to get the gist of what LE SSERAFIM is all about. – L.F.
Lizzo – Special
After two years of being trapped inside amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Lizzo knew it was “About Damn Time” to get out and dance. Her second major-label album, Special, is filled with therapeutic bangers, celebrating female friendships (“Grrrls”), nights out with your chosen family (“Everybody’s Gay”), and grand returns to the dance floor (“About Damn Time”). This collection of 12 soulful, punchy tracks is exactly what we needed to get our groove back this year. – Alex Gonzalez
Maggie Rogers – Surrender
Maggie Rogers returned this year with her highly-anticipated sophomore album, Surrender. Slowing down the synth sound that was present on her debut record, Rogers instead opts for emphasizing her emotions on alternative anthems. The album’s lead single, “That’s Where I Am,” instantly set the tone with an incredibly addictive drum beat and a guitar breakdown before the bridge. However, it’s the fan-favorite, “Anywhere For You,” that finds Rogers at her strongest so far, as the song builds in electrifying intensity. – L.L.
Muna – Muna
Fresh out of a deal with RCA, Muna kicked off their indie era by demonstrating a wide range of queer emotions on their self-titled third album. On their first release under the Phoebe Bridgers-helmed label, Saddest Factory, Muna embrace the second adolescence we as queer people go through, by way of intimidating crushes (“Silk Chiffon”), debauched nights out (“What I Want”), and questioning the right choice to make with a lover (“Home By Now”). On Muna, the trio both revel in and lament their newfound freedom. – Alex Gonzalez
Nayeon – IM NAYEON
As 2022 marked the seventh year for TWICE, it also marked the beginning of solo projects for the group. Nayeon’s IM NAYEON EP is a double entendre that plays as a reintroduction to her as a person and an artist. The five-track EP explores how Nayeon defines pop by blending in R&B (“Love Countdown” and “All Or Nothing”), dance (“No Problem”), and a bit of ballad and jazz (“Sunset”) all in one go. Her lead single “POP!” grabs inspiration from the sounds of second-generation bubblegum K-pop, an era she was personally a fan of. Successfully navigating through seven years and some to release her debut EP, IM NAYEON has set the standard for what’s to come and what to look out for with future solo projects from TWICE. – L.F.
Niki – Nicole
Earlier this year, 88rising star Niki unveiled her visceral, intimate debut Nicole, an album that packs every song with engrossing storytelling and striking songwriting. At only 23, Niki has proven herself as one of the most interesting pop artists, devoted to her craft and definitely only going to get better from here. She encapsulates zoomer angst with concise wit and unapologetic emotion: “I wish I never met you / You are the worst thing that I’m still keeping tabs on / For some stupid reason,” she sings on “Keeping Tabs.” –Danielle Chelosky
Noah Cyrus – The Hardest Part
At the 2017 iHeartRadio Music Awards, Miley Cyrus said she wanted to be like Noah Cyrus when she grew up. Well, Noah Cyrus grew up and realized she might like to be Noah, too. The Hardest Part is an evocative folk-pop confrontation of comparison-riddled adolescence and prescription pill addiction. She brought an acoustic guitar and a mirror into battle and won. Cyrus’ devastating opening line is, “When I turned twenty, I was overcome / With the thought that I might not turn twenty-one,” and “Noah (Stand Still)” reappears later featuring Billy Ray Cyrus. Her grappling with aging as the album progresses (“Hardest Part,” “Loretta’s Song”) is brave because she’s envisioning getting older at all. – M.A.
Omar Apollo – Ivory
Omar Apollo fully leaned into who he is for his debut album Ivory. He blends the R&B and alternative sound that he’s known for with his Mexican-American roots and his experience as a queer singer-songwriter. The result ia one of the most authentically refreshing LPs of the year. Apollo is unafraid to use male pronouns to describe his love interest in the sweeping “Evergreen (You Don’t Deserve Me At All)” and pushes his R&B to otherworldly places in “Invincible” featuring Daniel Caesar. The most poignant track on the LP is the heartbreaking “En El Olvido,” where he put a soulful spin on Mexican ranchera music and emerges as a promising pop star with no limits to his artistry. – L.V.
Rosalía – MOTOMAMI
Rosalía has created her own lane in pop music that wasn’t bound to any language barriers. Having positioned herself as a global pop star, her 16-track LP experiments with genres from around the world like electronica, reggaeton, flamenco, and bolero. She revs into her new era with “Saoko,” a cyberpunk joyride with a jazz detour. Elsewhere, Rosalía reflects on the toxicity of fame in bachata-infused “La Fama” alongside The Weeknd. She also lets her hair down with the delectable “Chicken Teriyaki” and the bouncy “Bizcochito” that is reminiscent of a Nokia phone ringtone. On MOTOMAMI, Rosalía races into the future with her newfound sound. – L.V.
Sabrina Carpenter – Emails I Can’t Send
The opening song to Sabrina Carpenter’s Emails I Can’t Send finds her reflecting on how familial infidelities have impacted her relationships before ending with the line, “As they say in Chicago, ‘He had it coming.’” This pattern of vengeance and sympathy works out in her favor, from the biting “Vicious” to the tragic “How Many Things.” By the album’s end, Carpenter appears to relish in the acceptance of closure (“Decode”) and continuing love’s cycle by moving on — in the record’s best sequencing of “Nonsense” into “Fast Times.” – L.L.
Stray Kids – Oddinary
Something was in the water for Stray Kids to go off when they released Oddinary. One can argue this album was the turning point for the octet’s transition from being boys to men in terms of sound. If you were one of the lucky ones to attend the group’s sold-out Maniac Tour, you’d agree the choreography is sexually aggressive – especially for songs like “Venom“ and “Charmer.” Other than that, the sixth EP from Stray Kids showcases their range as two b-side tracks like the ‘90s hip-hop-inspired “Muddy Waters” and the rock ballad “Waiting For Us” are sung by two sub-units for the project. – L.F.
Tate McRae – I Used To Think I Could Fly
Pulling the album’s title from an emotional voice memo, I Used To Think I Could Fly finds Tate McRae managing her way through growing pains. She copes with toxic players the way any rising pop-rock star would: by telling them off on “I’m So Gone” and “Boy X.” At times throughout the record, however, it is the slower-paced takes like “Chaotic” that truly allow her powerful voice to fly to soaring heights… even if McRae physically can’t. – L.L.
Taylor Swift – Midnights
Taylor Swift came out swinging for her tenth studio album, Midnights. A collection of songs written about her self-described “sleepless nights,” she dazzles on tales of daydreams (“Paris”), nightmares (“You’re On Your Own, Kid”), and everything in between (“Mastermind,” “The Great War”). And it appears to stand as one of the most cohesive bodies of work in Swift’s discography. As fans have put it, there are truly no skips. Even “Karma” grows on you. –L.L.
The Weeknd – Dawn FM
The Weeknd is one of the biggest pop acts of the past decade, but above that, he’s an artist. While After Hours was bursting with No. 1 hits, Dawn FM was a more overtly conceptual endeavor, as the Jim Carrey narrations and recurring allusions to purgatory evidence. Of course, this is a Weeknd project, so it’s also packed with memorable showstoppers like “Take My Breath” and “Out Of Time.” All in all, Dawn FM sees The Weeknd yet again striking an ideal balance between pop hit-making and innovative artistry, but perhaps better here than he ever has before. – Derrick Rossignol
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.