The 12 contestants showed off their personalities with their own original material.
Throughout 2022, the Billboard staff offered up 10 Cool New Pop Songs To Get You Through the Week, rounding up the best and brightest new tracks to highlight your Mondays and power you through the work week. We’ll keep wrangling cool new pop songs next year… but until then, let’s look back on some of our favorite tracks from 2022, the soaring ballads and propulsive bangers that may have missed your playlist but deserve to be on repeat well into ’23.
Check out the Cool Pop team’s picks for the 20 pop songs you have missed in 2022 but absolutely should not miss out on anymore; these picks and write-ups were previously featured in our weekly roundup, but we’re bringing them back once more for some year-end shine. And check the bottom of this post for a handy playlist of all 20 tracks!
Phoebe AXA (stylized as Phoebe ∆X∆) is a self-taught, self-produced singer-songwriter out of East London whose technical skill soars on a song like “Panic,” a savory bit of pop-rock that stomps, squeals and glides in equal measures. The best part of “Panic”? Listening back to its multiple movements and uncovering delicious new details upon each play. – Jason Lipshutz
“Enter The Day” marks British pop virtuoso Patrick Wolf’s first new music in 10 years, and also coincides with the 20th anniversary of his recording debut. While Wolf’s multi-faceted skill set and fascination with genre were on display throughout the first decade of his career, his new single also serves as a reminder that he can simply sit down at the piano and bang out a wonderful pop song. Wolf’s voice, always his greatest power, sounds as warm and remarkable as ever on “Enter The Day,” which stretches out across multiple verses but hammers down on the emotional heft during the chorus. – J. Lipshutz
As Spacemoth, Bay Area-based artist Maryam Qudus has crafted a song as fascinating as its backstory: focusing on her parents’ immigration from Afghanistan to America in the late 1970s, “Pipe and Pistol” utilizes a warped drum loop and thundering post-punk arrangement to a depict a process of confusion and adjustment. Add the rest of Spacemoth’s excellent 2022 album, No Past No Future, onto your must-hear list after absorbing this one. – J. Lipshutz
British pop artist Moss Kena has lent assists to dance-adjacent artists like Purple Disco Machine and The Knocks in the past, but “Primadonna” moves him center stage with a starry-eyed thumper that serves as an ode to an untouchable woman (“Give her the world, but oh my God / She’s gonna drop it, gonna drop it,” he sings). “Primadonna” sounds like the start of something grander for Kena, who officially has our attention. — J. Lipshutz
Sorry’s sophomore album Anywhere but Here, released in October, showcased the North London alt-pop group’s ability to mix sardonic gloom with slick, enticing melodies. “Key to the City” basks in pre-breakup bitterness, with Asha Lorenz’s voice echoing and fading as the contours of the song abruptly change, like a lot of Sorry’s best work. – J. Lipshutz
After a nine-year wait for the follow-up to Sky Ferreira’s critically acclaimed 2013 debut, Night Time, My Time, the pop singer came back in 2022 to give fans a glimmer of hope for a new LP with the release of comeback single, “Don’t Forget.” Picking up where previous singles “Everything Is Embarrassing” and “I Blame Myself” left off, Ferreira returned with stadium-ready pop dripping with ’80s-inspired synths and lyrics that prove her bark is just as ferocious — and not to mention, infectious — as her bite (“keep it in mind / nobody here’s a friend of mine”). – Starr Bowenbank
Following the releasing of April’s “Doritos and Fritos,” 100 Gecs — the duo of Laura Les and Dylan Brady — ended their period of silence when they enlisted Skrillex on December’s “Torture Me,” an amalgamation of nightcore, emo, hyperpop and rap. Les and Brady’s delivery of the song’s many questions — “Do you wanna see me bleed?/ Do you wanna torture me?/ Do you wanna see me cry?” — complements the anguish well, and allows the experimental instrumentation to shine. – S.B.
2022 saw Willow decorate her musical resume with a series features — which included Machine Gun Kelly’s “Emo Girl” and Camila Cabello’s “Psychofreak” — but her best of the year was an assist on Pinkpantheress’ “Where You Are.” Though PinkPantheress’ bubbly and borderline saccharine vocals seem like they wouldn’t mesh well with Willow’s full-bodied tone, the juxtaposition is exactly why it works. The garage track, which samples the Paramore deep cut “Never Let This Go,” finds the singers taking unexpected spots in the song’s lush and layered harmonies in between moments of angst and loneliness, making for the perfect 2000s-inspired cocktail. — S.B.
Phoenix’s “Alpha Zulu” served as the formal introduction to the band’s album of the same name, while simultaneously serving as a departure from the French indie pop quartet’s often sleek and stylish signature sound — which received the most refinement in previous albums Ti Amo and Bankrupt! Darker synth instrumentals reminiscent of Pet Shop Boys’ heyday (see their 1987 hit “Shopping”) provide tension as singer Thomas Mars sings of humanity’s impending judgement day. — S.B.
2000s pop-rock nostalgia is at the core of Hunny’s infectious track “Speed Dial,” which recalls classics like Fountain of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom” and Relient K’s “Sadie Hawkins Dance.” Frontman Jason Yager embraces the feels that come from knowing the lady of his affections keeps him at the top of her mind — or rather, her cell. – S.B.
If you’re feeling blue, “Colour Me Blue” from English singer-songwriter Alfie Templeman is a surefire pick-me-up. With jangling guitars, a syncopated beat and a winning rapid-fire vocal hook, “Blue” is three minutes of distilled indie-pop sunshine from the 19-year-old talent whose debut album, Mellow Moon, dropped earlier this year. – Joe Lynch
Stay Close to Music is the title of Mykki Blanco’s latest album, but it’s also solid advice during these tumultuous times. On “French Lessons,” Blanco teams up with ANOHNI – an artist who knows how to make beautiful sounds in the face of painful realities – and singer/cellist Kelsey Lu for a gentle, synth-y meditation on new romance and that feeling of “drifting away” into bliss. – J. Lynch
Opening with spacious, eerie echoes, “La Femme Fantasique” quickly shifts into chilly electro territory with a relentless throb. It’s a highlight from Honey Dijon’s knockout 2022 LP Black Girl Magic, and while the title might be French, this collab between the London-based Josh Caffe and Dijon (who splits her time between NYC and Berlin) is fit for any dance floor around the world still bumping past closing time. – J. Lynch
With plinky synths and a Middle Eastern flavor, the latest single from CupcakKe, “H2hoe,” is another winner that’s as clever as it is NSFW. For someone who’s been sharing eyebrow-raising couplets for more than half a decade, Chicago’s filthiest pâtissier has yet to get stale: Sample new lyric “make a p–sy stretch like minimum wage” on this motor-mouthed morsel as proof. – J. Lynch
While it kicks off with a thumping, ominous beat that seems culled from the realm of Reznor, Chappell Roan’s “My Kink Is Karma” quickly morphs into a synth-pop power ballad. With Roan’s knack for deliciously vindictive breakup lyrics (“Wishing you the best in the worst way / Using your distress as foreplay”), it’s no surprise that there’s a Swiftian cadence to her delivery. – J. Lynch
Producer-artist Jim-E Stack’s “Next To Me” features velvety vocals courtesy of singer-songwriter Lucky Daye over a rippled and bass-heavy beat. The contrasting sonic elements result in an intriguing track that’s equal parts calm, collected and frenzied all at once — and perfectly captures the whirlwind of emotions that come with seeking a partner while knowing you need to work on yourself first. — Lyndsey Havens
The debut single from actor-artist Reneé Rapp (The Sex Lives Of College Girls, Mean Girls on Broadway) is a complete knockout as she pairs poignant songwriting with soaring vocals — resulting in an affecting pop ballad. Perhaps what helps it cut through the most is how sparse the production is, a clever move when the bones are this sturdy. — L.H.
New York-based collective Michelle released its second album After Dinner We Talk Dreams in March; Soon after, the sextet fed fans another round with its two-pack After Dinner We Talk Dreams: Side Dishes, which included “Fool 4 U” and “Sea Shanty.” The former that stands out most for its visceral storytelling (“Waking up to your familiar smell / covered in the blankets that you made last night”) and delicately delivered vocals. While much of the song plays on in a beautiful and almost too-polite hush, the last few seconds break that mold, as if in an instant the singer no longer cares whether they wake the person sleeping next to them or not. — L.H.
The first taste of new music in two years from pop star Hailee Steinfeld is intriguingly less shiny than previous hits, instead opting for laid-back, breezy production. Perfect for the end of summer as the days begin to cool down, she and first-time collaborator Anderson .Paak bottle up the feeling of a relationship’s casual beginnings on “Coast,” with her singing, “Relax and let the riptide pull you close,” as if wanting to absorb all the season has to offer before it comes to an end. — L.H.
From the moment the fuzzy looped guitar of “Backwards Directions” begins, its familiar yet quirky beat sets the stage for alt-pop newcomer Abby Sage to have some fun. Her soft vocals grow as the beat picks up, and suddenly she’s delivering a Wet Leg-esque hook no one saw coming. — L.H.
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The 12 contestants showed off their personalities with their own original material.