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All Songs Considered counts down the top songs of 2022

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

All year, our friends at NPR Music sift through a nonstop deluge of new songs. Now the sifting for 2022 at least has come to an end, and they've made a list of their top 100 songs of the year. To count down the top five songs, we are going to pass on the mic to NPR Music's Robin Hilton, Anamaria Sayre, LaTesha Harris and Ann Powers. They all sat down to chat for the All Songs Considered podcast, and they start with No. 5, the song "Saoko" by the Spanish singer Rosalia.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAOKO")

ROSALIA: (Rapping in Spanish).

LATESHA HARRIS, BYLINE: Oh, wow. There's so much to be said about this song because Rosalia is leveling up in all kinds of ways this year. And I think that, in many ways, she has often been her own best competitor. I think that, like, every new project she does is kind of expanding on and expounding on and creating something bigger and larger and more stylistically variable than what she's done in the past.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAOKO")

ROSALIA: (Speaking Spanish).

HARRIS: This song in particular serving as the opening track for her album - I mean, it really showcases all of the layers of who she is and what she's capable of. And, you know, you get the jazz in there. You get the dembow. You get her energy and what she brings to the table. And, you know, she really is a musician's musician, truly, I think.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAOKO")

ROSALIA: (Rapping in Spanish).

ROBIN HILTON, BYLINE: Rosalia's "Saoko" from her album "Motomami." It's the No. 5 song on the NPR music best of the year list.

And at No. 4 is Alex G's "Runner."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RUNNER")

ALEX G: (Singing) I like people who I can open up to, who don't judge for what I say but judge me for what I do. And when I think of people I look up to - my runner, my runner, my man.

HILTON: The power of this song is that it invites an awful lot of thought, you know?

HARRIS: Yeah.

HILTON: I'm not entirely sure, but to me, I just wondered if this song - is it about addiction...

ANN POWERS, BYLINE: Yes. Well...

HILTON: ...And what it does to us? Or, you know - or is it just about loving yourself and who you are and understanding, you know, the things that can set you off and turn you into your worst self?

POWERS: I went down a Reddit rabbit hole on this song, and people do have a lot of theories, you know, that it is about a drug runner, you know, someone who's supplying Alex G with his fix. Or maybe it's about a dog. There's a line - they hit you with a rolled-up magazine - that some people thought meant it was about the dog in his life. And it's from the album "God Save The Animals." Or maybe it's about God. Elsewhere on the album, there are some pretty, like, explicitly religious references. So that's why I say it's about devotion, connection, maybe even obsession with someone else.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RUNNER")

ALEX G: (Singing) Yes, I have done a couple bad things. Yes, I have done a couple bad - yeah.

HILTON: Alex G - his song "Runner" from the album "God Save The Animals" in at No. 4 on our songs list.

In at No. 3 is "El Apagon" from Bad Bunny.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EL APAGON")

BAD BUNNY: (Rapping in Spanish).

HARRIS: Bad Bunny took a heartbreak album and turned it into a literal global, incredible anthem of the summer of the year of a generation. "El Apagon" was absolutely, I think, massive in terms of the impact it had both when he released it and the themes he was talking about, which is about Puerto Rico, about the political, social, economic issues that exist on the island. He makes it so that where he's from and who he is - they're just inseparable. Like, you cannot experience Bad Bunny, you cannot experience the joys of his music without also sitting with him in the challenges of being Puerto Rican and in the heartbreak of what it means to be in the limbo of life as a Puerto Rican citizen and all of the complicated facets of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EL APAGON")

BAD BUNNY: (Rapping in Spanish).

HARRIS: Benito's always used his status to platform Puerto Rico. But I feel like this year he really went full send on the, I'm Puerto Rican; I'm a musician; I'm also an advocate, and I'm going to platform all the injustices of my country and still hold pride in the same, like, hands. You know what I mean? "El Apagon" balances pride and anger, like, really well. Like, it has this catharsis that comes from both extremes. Like, I'm so proud of my country. I am my country. I would die for my country. And then there's also this anger.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EL APAGON")

GABRIELA BERLINGELI: (Non-English language spoken).

HILTON: Bad Bunny's "El Apagon" from his album "Un Verano Sin Ti." It's the No. 3 song on NPR Music's songs list.

In at No. 2 is "Alien Superstar" from Beyonce's "Renaissance."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALIEN SUPERSTAR")

BEYONCE: I'm one of one. I'm No. 1. I'm the only one.

POWERS: Well, "Break My Soul" may have been the biggest hit anthem on "Renaissance." It certainly was the song that introduced the album to the world. But this is the track, I think, that resonates with the serious fans. And it's because it's such an incredibly artful assemblage of sounds, perspectives and attitudes. It connects Beyonce with Chicago house, and her vocal is, like, pure drag runway on this. You know, we've got that sharp diction. We can just feel the head turns in this song. It's - I love it.

ANAMARIA SAYRE, BYLINE: This song is just, like - I'm shaking. Like, she's been writing and producing hit songs since she was a teenager. And it's so gratifying that she continues to push her ear and the sonic envelope of everyone, her peers around her. And "Alien Superstar" just feels like such a let me show you what I'm actually capable of moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALIEN SUPERSTAR")

BEYONCE: (Singing) U-N-I-Q-U-E. Oh, I'm stingy with my love.

HILTON: All right. Beyonce - the song "Alien Superstar" from her album "Renaissance." It's the No. 2 song from our list.

And now the moment we've all been waiting for, NPR Music's pick for the No. 1 song of 2022 is "FNF (Let's Go)" from Hitkidd and Glorilla.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FNF (LET'S GO)")

GLORILLA: (Rapping) I'm F-R-E-E - free. That mean I ain't got to worry about no cheating. And I'm S-I-N-G-L-E again, outside hanging out the window with my ratchet friends.

SAYRE: This song - I can't even tell you guys how much I felt this.

(LAUGHTER)

SAYRE: Just this like - it's so beautifully uncomplicated, but it's also, like - it's not from a lack of knowledge or experience or understanding...

POWERS: Or pain.

SAYRE: ...Or any of those things, or pain.

HARRIS: Right.

SAYRE: Right? Like, and that's the thing - is at this moment, no one's under any false pretenses about what anything is anymore. Like, everyone is painfully aware of life and how it's operating. But I think that it's through that knowledge and through that pain to be able to find the uncomplicated still - that's what makes for something really special. That's what makes for an anthem, you know?

POWERS: Also, we just have to say it just proves that women are at the top in the rap game. You know, it's not stopping. It's not a novelty. It's not going back. This is what rap is now, OK (laughter)? You know, I love that.

SHAPIRO: That was Ann Powers, Robin Hilton, Anamaria Sayre and LaTesha Harris counting down NPR Music's top songs of the year for the All Songs Considered podcast.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FNF (LET'S GO)")

GLORILLA: (Rapping) I ain't got to worry about no cheating. And I'm S-I-N-G-L-E again. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.