For a few months there, 2022 was sounding a whole lot like 2021. That was true in the near-literal sense: As late as April, you could browse the Hot 100’s top 20 and still only pick out one or two songs that were actually released in 2022. As massive hits from the second half of 2021 continued to linger near the top of top 40 radio and streaming playlists, seemingly refusing to cede room to newer songs — and few major star artists or undeniable smashes came around to claim the space by force — the original music of 2022 struggled to find its footing, at least on the Billboard charts.
But great pop never stays down for long, and in the last month or two, a whole spate of widely anticipated releases by big-name artists have arrived as reinforcements to make inroads for 2022 at the highest levels of popular music. And truthfully, even when those top tiers were still occupied entirely by songs from 2020 and 2021, there were still plenty of fascinating things happening at pop’s lower levels — not to mention a decent number of winning ’21 holdovers that didn’t really make their proper impressions on us until the calendar turned.
Here are our 50 favorites from the year so far — songs that either were released or have peaked on the Billboard charts since January 1. It’s finally begun to actually feel like 2022, and it is, as they say, about damn time.