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10 Insights About the 2022 Year-End Hot 100 Top 10: Pop, Retro, Love Songs & More

Hit Songs Deconstructed analyzes the compositional traits that defined the year's biggest hits.

As 2022 draws to a close, Billboard has, as always, ranked the top music of the year, with scores of year-end charts recapping albums, songs, artists, labels, touring and more.

On the year-end Hot 100 Songs chart, Glass Animals reign with “Heat Waves,” their single released in 2020 that endured for a record 91-week run on the weekly Billboard Hot 100, including five frames at No. 1.

Following “Heat Waves” on the year-end Hot 100 Songs rundown are Harry Styles’ “As It Was” (No. 2), The Kid LAROI and Justin Bieber’s “Stay” (No. 3), Adele’s “Easy on Me” (No. 4), Ed Sheeran’s “Shivers” (No. 5), Jack Harlow’s “First Class” (No. 6), Latto’s “Big Energy” (No. 7), Justin Bieber’s “Ghost” (No. 8), Kodak Black’s “Super Gremlin” (No. 9), and Elton John and Dua Lipa’s “Cold Heart (Pnau Remix)” (No. 10).

What were some of the most notable sonic characteristics that made those songs bigger than all others in 2022? Here’s a look at 10 key findings about the top 10 titles on the year-end Hot 100 Songs chart.

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Pop the Champagne

Pop reigns supreme as the top genre among the Hot 100’s year-end top 10, accounting for 60% of songs for the second straight year. Hip-hop and dance/club, which were no-shows in 2021, round out the genre pool with 30% and 10% of songs, respectively, the latter represented by “Cold Heart.” In their place last year were R&B/soul hits “Kiss Me More” by Doja Cat featuring SZA, “Leave the Door Open” by Silk Sonic and “Peaches” by Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon, and Olivia Rodrigo’s punk-rock influenced “Good 4 U.”

Retro Revival

Retro continued to be current in 2022, with 40% of the year-end Hot 100 top 10 possessing a throwback vibe. The share follows a 50% take in 2021, when the 1970s accounted for 30% and the ’80s, 20%. This year, it was all about the ’80s, with notable representatives in “As It Was” and “Stay.” Last year was, as noted above, that ’70s show, with hits including “Kiss Me More,” and the most authentically retro 2021 year-end top 10, “Leave the Door Open.”

Boys Club

Male vocalists dominated again in 2022, accounting for more than half the year-end Hot 100 top 10. Only 20% were female, via Adele’s “Easy on Me” and Latto’s “Big Energy.” In 2021, male vocalists accounted for 50% of the year-end top 10, with 30% by women.

Less Is More

A hefty 80% of songs in the 2022 Hot 100 Songs top 10 are by a solo performing artist, the exceptions being “Stay” and “Cold Heart.” The onslaught surges past the sum in 2021, when also a majority, 60%, featured multiple performers.

All You Need Is Love

Love ruled in 2022, with 80% of songs in the year-end Hot 100 top 10 featuring a love/relationship lyrical theme, slightly below its 90% haul in 2021. Introspection – shut out in 2021 – followed distantly at 30%, shaping the narrative of inward-looking hits such as “Heat Waves,” “As It Was” and “Easy on Me.” Rounding out the lyrical theme list are lifestyle and hooking up, each at 20%, and boasting, present in the self-explanatory “First Class.”

Don’t You Forget About Me

Along with the ever-popular chorus, 2022’s year-end Hot 100 top 10 includes some additional clever song title placements to ensure that the listener can always name that tune. Among them are the intro, where the title is present in 30% of songs (compared to zero last year), and the outro, where it’s the case with 60% of songs, up from 20%. An example of both is “Heat Waves,” in which the unique, highly effected, low-pitched and processed title hook is in both the intro and outro, bookending the song on a catchy and familiar note.

Hurry It Up

2022’s year-end Hot 100 top 10s sped along at an average tempo of 119 BPM, with 70% landing over 100 BPM. This is notably faster than 2021, when the average was 100 BPM, with only 40% over the 100 BPM mark. This year’s pack was led by the super-speedy “As It Was” and “Stay,” which clock in at 174 BPM and 170 BPM, respectively.

Tighten It Up

In line with the mainstream’s gravitation toward shorter song lengths, half the titles in the year-end Hot 100 Songs top 10 land under the three-minute mark. Shortest of all is “Stay,” at just 2:15. In addition to generally faster tempos, another way that today’s hitmakers are keeping their songs on the shorter end of the spectrum is through the omission of the once-popular pre-chorus. This year, only 30% of year-end top 10s feature a pre-chorus, compared to 60% in 2021. 

Ease ’Em In

Seemingly contrary to the point directly above, intros actually got longer in 2022 compared to 2021 among year-end top 10s on the Hot 100. In fact, they were six seconds longer on average, with the intro in only one song, “First Class,” under 10 seconds, compared to 60% of songs in 2021. That doesn’t mean, however, that these longer-length intros were any less effective. A perfect case is “Heat Waves,” with its super-lengthy 41-second intro. It achieves a multitude of effects without ever losing the listener’s interest, including varying its processing, establishing key vocal and instrumental hooks, setting the song’s tone and vibe and establishing the backing music of the subsequent chorus to seamlessly transport the listener between sections.

Don’t Bore Us, Get to the Chorus!

While not an incredibly popular quality due to listener engagement concerns over the past decade, 40% of the songs in the year-end Hot 100 top 10 hit the listener with the chorus before the first verse, up from 20% in 2021, thanks to “Heat Waves,” “Stay,” “First Class” and “Big Energy.” Building anticipation for a song’s chorus helps ensure that listeners stay long enough for a play to count as a stream and be monetized. Otherwise, in our attention-challenged society, fans might get their fill and tune out quickly because they already enjoyed the best part.

David and Yael Penn are the co-founders of Hit Songs Deconstructed. In April, Hit Songs Deconstructed and fellow song analysis platform MyPart partnered to launch ChartCipher, a new platform analyzing hit songs, as defined by Billboard’s charts.