The Best Albums of 2022 (So Far)

by Christopher Ehlers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday August 8, 2022
Originally published on August 8, 2022

2022 is slightly more than half over, and it's already been a hell of a year for new music.

If 2021 was a year marked largely by top-tier work from female artists like Taylor Swift, Kacey Musgraves, Brandi Carlile, Adele, Doja Cat, H.E.R., and Jazmine Sullivan, then 2022 — at least, so far — is being dominated largely by Latin music and R&B. The former is not surprising, given that Latin music is now the fastest-growing genre of music in America. But in terms of R&B, it's a genre that has made a massive comeback in recent years. Not that R&B has ever gone away, but now we are seeing an R&B renaissance with unbridled innovation and depth not seen since the '90s.

And the rest of 2022 is looking to be pretty swell as well, if for no other reason than the fact that Britney Spears has a single coming out with Elton John any week now. But for now, here are the best albums of 2022 so far:

Drake, "Honestly, Nevermind"

This album is divisive, especially among Drake fans, but the internet had a field day proclaiming that Drake had finally released an album for the gays. In reality, it's a sweeping almost-concept album with hot-as-fire house beats that finds Champagne Papi once again at the top of his game — literally — as it became his eleventh number one album. The entire album is a start-to-finish vibe, and, after Bad Bunny, it's my second-most-listened-to album of the year so far.

Bad Bunny, "Un Verano Sin Ti"

Sunkissed, cohesive, and endlessly innovative, there's a reason that "Un Verano Sin Ti" has been the biggest album on the planet for three months and counting. The album broke Spotify's record for most streams in a month with a whopping two billion streams. Not only is the album a love letter to Puerto Rico, but it's potent statement piece touching on violence against women, anti-colonialism, and gentrification. Not a day goes by that I don't hear this album blasting out of car windows in my neighborhood.

Rosalía, "Motomami"

Ever the innovator and experimenter, Spanish singer Rosalía achieved new career heights with "Motomami," an experimental pop and alternative reggaeton album that also includes some of Rosalía's most personal and honest lyrics. When the album was released in March, it became the best-reviewed album on Metacritic, and when she was the musical guest on "Saturday Night Live," Rosalía became the first Spanish solo act to do so. Just try to get "La Fama" and "Chicken Teriyaki" out of your head.

The Weeknd, "Dawn FM"

I've written before about my long-burning love for The Weeknd, and "Dawn FM" is no exception. Following "After Hours," the biggest and best album of his career, it seemed unfathomable that The Weeknd would craft something as cohesive, alluring, and complex in his very next project. If he didn't quite blow "After Hours" out of the water with "Dawn FM," he matched it in every way possible. They're companion albums in many ways, with "Dawn FM" picking up where "After Hours" leaves off. Either together or separately, they're chilly and sad works whose bleakness is made palatable by radio-ready melodies and best-in-the-game production.

Kendrick Lamar, "Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers"

Any year that Kendrick Lamar releases music is a year that his album will be on one of these lists. Called "the poet laureate of hip-hop," 14-time Grammy-winning Lamar is also the only non-classical or jazz musician to have won the Pulitzer Prize for music. "Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers" is Lamar's first album in five years, and critics praised it for being an introspective opus from "the defining poet of his generation." Even if you're not into hip-hop, it's hard not to get swept up in his storytelling.

Omar Apollo, "Ivory"

The first proper album release from incredible rising star Omar Apollo, "Ivory" finds Apollo at his most playful, winsome, and introspective. Whether he's singing about frustrations in love or just looking for an honest to goodness good time, Apollo is utterly convincing in all he does. Already on several other "best of" lists from Billboard, Complex, and Rolling Stone, his song "Tamagotchi" recently made Barack Obama's summer playlist.

Future, "I Never Liked You"

This one deserves to be here for the album cover alone. The ninth album from American rapper Future, "I Never Liked You" became his eighth number-one album, a hugely impressive feat. It's no surprise that the production here is top notch, but what many weren't expecting from Future — especially not after his last few albums — is that his lyrics and composition would be the star here.

Beyoncé, "Renaissance"

I mean, what could any mortal person write that would adequately summarize why a Beyoncé album is great? Her first album in six years since her career best "Lemonade," the songs on "Renaissance" bleed seamlessly into one another like an actual DJ set. Heavily influenced by post-1970s black dance music, "Renaissance" was dedicated to — and inspired by — her late gay cousin, "Uncle Jonny," who died of complications from HIV. Beyoncé has called him her "godmother" and the most fabulous gay man she's ever met, and, on her website, she thanked "all of the pioneers who originate culture, to all of the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long. This is a celebration for you." In short, this is one gay album, and we'll be blasting it all summer long.

Brent Faiyaz, "Wasteland"

The second studio album from 26-year-old R&B up-and-comer Brent Faiyaz is an album that took me by surprise. I had never heard of Faiyaz before, and I kind of tripped over this album by accident, but once I started listening, I couldn't stop. The album uses a series of sketches to help tell a story, and even when it all feels a bit heavy-handed and overproduced, his honest lyrics and beautiful voice make this an hour well spent.

GIVEON, "Give Or Take"

A debut album that will certainly go down as one of the strongest debuts of the 2020s, love and heartbreak have rarely sounded so good. His stunning, crystal clear voice is the star here, and the album was praised for being a true soul album without the trappings of pop that have accompanied so many recent R&B/soul records. On "Give Or Take," GIVEON is a hopeless romantic who is eager to understand his flaws at the same time as he must also grapple with newfound fame. It's not exactly the rarest story ever told, but he makes a compelling case for why any of us should listen, let alone care.