2022 is coming to an end, thank God. But amidst the horrors of another year on planet earth, some excellent music has dragged us through the highs and lows of a deceased monarch, the tragic survival of two former Prime Ministers, England winning the Euros and Harry Styles not spitting on Chris Pine
Cast your mind back to the final hour of 2021 and the most ecstatic Hootenanny of all time. Gregory Porter was on, wasn’t he. And Rag’n’Bone Man. Ed Sheeran performed with his loop pedals and you thought, “How does he remember which ones to press? So clever.” Lulu was coming up and every now and then Jools Holland shouted “Hootenanny!” and the studio audience and crew shouted “Hootenanny!” back. And you were smiling. Smiling like you never had before at the Hootenanny, and never will again. Perhaps at anything, ever. And it wasn’t because of the Hootenanny and Gregory Porter and Rag’n’Bone Man and Ed Sheeran and Lulu and Jools Holland shouting “Hootenanny!”. You could have been sat in a bin not watching the Hootenanny, or in an O’Neill’s, or anywhere, doing anything, and you would have been experiencing the same level of overwhelming euphoria. Because it was finally over. 2021 was over.
At some point or other that night I felt so good about it not being 2021 anymore I made a New Year’s resolution to learn to snowboard. 2022 was here – good vibes only!
With a full month still to go, anything can happen between now and January 1st, but enough of it has passed for us to look back at just how many of 2022’s vibes were good, and, when things were at their lowest, what songs got us here, to the age of living from one Hootenanny to the next.
January played its part beautifully in 2022, once again getting the year off to the sluggish start we were all hoping for. It was no longer 2021, Easter eggs were in the shops and we were happy. But we didn’t want to jinx this new era of certain success and relaxation. Some people had started to suggest that the toxic energy of 2021 might not be contained simply by the year changing by one number. That didn’t sound right at all, but just in case, sitting as still and quiet as possible was widely considered the best thing to do for an entire month. Adele took this course of action so seriously she pulled her Vegas residency 24 hours before it was due to open and was thanked for it by everyone except the selfish few who’d bought $1000 tickets and non-refundable flights to the desert.
After a valiant (and hilarious) fight for a number one album by who would prove to be the year’s most hardworking band, Yard Act, the month ended with ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ topping the singles chart and refusing to vacate the position for seven weeks, to the joy of all of your friends with kids who insisted that Encanto “is actually really good”. At least they’d stopped talking about Bluey for five fucking minutes. 2022 was still very much on track.
As January turned into February and the last of us accepted that it was now too late to wish someone a Happy New Year at the beginning of an email, even if it you phrased it “is it too late to wish you a Happy New Year?”, the first solid gold track of 2022 was released by Leeds noise band Thank. Their second album, Thoughtless Cruelty, is full of modern rage, parts of it deeper than others, all of it sweetened by industrial strength Northern sarcasm, with ‘Dread’ having singer Freddy Vinehill-Cliffe spitefully claiming “there’s never been a good band from London”, then Leeds, then “under the age of 25”, then “that’s ever been alive.” More of this please.
Four days later, at the Brits (yes, there was a Brits this year), having learned guitar in lockdown, Dave performed his new instrument in front of an audience for the first time. At the O2. To a TV audience of 2.7 million. While it shot fire from the end. Why do people as young and talented as Dave keep doing things like this to the rest of us?!
And then Good Vibes Only 2022 ended, as Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. We can all remember how devastating that was because it’s far from over. It is the defining story of 2022, for its instant local devastation and its enormous global fallout, including a new refugee crisis and unlivable fuel and energy prices. 2022 was about to get a lot harder, and we were only 55 days in.
In March I finally realised my two-month-long dream of wanting to learn to snowboard. My first lesson ended with me covered in so much sweat that I was certain some of it must have come from my instructor. The second (final) lesson started with me breaking two ribs and not being able to sleep lying down for the next 12 weeks. What was worse was that nobody wanted to talk about my brave attempt at following my dreams because Will Smith had slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars. It was all anyone wanted to talk about… for a whol… for half a day. By the time everyone had agreed to stop listening to the disgraced rapper’s albums, talk (from me) of my ribs was usually met with a dismissive, “wasn’t that days ago now?”.
At least South African rapper and Kwaito musician Moonchild Sanelly gave us ‘Strip Club’, her “love letter to the hustlers, the strippers and the twerkers – a celebration of the continuously judged”, featuring Ghetts. The bass-heavy tune saw Sanelly at her lean best ahead of her second album, with one of the UK’s greatest rappers perfectly placed to not overcomplicate things. Charli XCX released her album Crash too, and you really can isolate any track on there and call it the best pop song of the year.
You’re only as bad as your latest scandal, which is why you don’t remember April as being the month that a Tory MP was caught watching porn in the House of Commons, and why you wish you did. Neil Parish’s defense was that he’d opened the porn by accident, explaining why he only watched 15 minutes of Boobs On Parade. It’s confusing.
In the world of independent music, April enjoyed a wealth of excellence from new artists, starting on day one with reluctant South London DJ yuné pinku and her Bluff EP. ‘DC Rot’ was particularly strong from the release, mixing UKG and slinky house, like Yaeji remixing the Artful Dodger for a skateboarding video. Bristol’s Bingo Fury needed just 1 minute 40 seconds on ‘Birchall & Kings’ to show off his singular brand of squalling noir pop, while Jockstrap stretched a full 6 minutes to breaking point on ‘Concrete Over Water’ – a track that, following the club jabber of ‘50/50’, made it no more clearer what their debut album was going to sounds like, only that it was going to be very special and scutter over your entire record collection collecting inspiration, from twee pop to dubstep and beyond.
We liked April. Apart from the mucky MP, the government attempting to deport living human beings to Rwanda, the ongoing war and my ribs, which I really need to tell you about.
May brought with it news that people were still watching Stranger Things, and that through watching Stranger Things they had all become completely obsessed with ‘Running Up That Hill’ by Kate Bush. Naturally, everyone who’d heard the track before was livid that it was now a contender to soundtrack a tango on the Strictly Come Dancing Halloween special.
Kendrick released Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, but let’s talk about the real moment of the month: the Eurovision Song Contest; Sam Ryder, the hair, the beard, the smile, ‘Space Man’, the 10s and 12s, the boiler suit, the points; the sweet, sweet alien points. To be real for a minute, ‘Space Man’ is a mammoth tune. The sort of song that can (and probably will) sell you stuff this Christmas, at Argos, who like to keep their tracks intact. In as little as four years from now John Lewis will slow it down and a boy will drop his toy spaceman (on the nose, but it works) in a puddle and… you know… it’ll be moving. Cynical, I know, but those songs are always BIG songs, and we were here first. We watched in real time Sam Ryder, the happiest Fleet Fox on the planet, technically win Eurovision after we’d told Europe to get in the bin. We needed this, Sam. We really needed this. He just knew, didn’t he? He sensed it. We were approaching the furthest point from the last Hootenanny and the next and he knew. God, we needed it.
We had reached the midpoint of the year and 2022 was performing well, y’know. Not quite what we had been guaranteed on December 31 but we were up on the torrential grief of 2021 at least, and what more could we really hope for. From this point on though, 2022 escalated. The good and the bad. There are lots of words for it, but most shocking was America’s reversing of the 1973 Roe vs Wade case, which as of October has now stripped 1 in 3 American women of their legal right to an abortion (a statistic that will only remain or grow, but not lessen). In 2022! Or any other year for that matter. A reminder that progress is never secured indefinitely but must be continually fought for and maintained at all costs. What a disgusting moment in modern history.
In music, Beyoncé proved herself to be a supporter of British rail unions when she released anti-capitalist, anti-work, pro-Love Island banger ‘Break My Soul’ the same day our rail workers striked on mass, although this timing might have been a coincidence as the following Renaissance LP also contained the lyrics: “Versace, Bottega, Prada, Balenciaga Vuitton, Dior, Givenchy, collect your coins, Beyoncé / So elegant and raunchy, this haute couture I’m flaunting.”
Former Priests singer Katie Alice Greer released a unique debut solo album of noise pop melodies, crowned by ‘FITS/My Love Can’t Be’, and Baltimore’s Brian Ennals and Infinity Knives teamed up for a second time to later be voted Loud And Quiet Album of the Year. ‘The Badger’ is the track that really captures their storytelling prowess, political lens and humour best.
You’ll remember July of course for those two really hot days. Not nice really hot days where you had an ice cream at lunch time on a weekday; two biblically scorching days where the UK reached 40 degrees for the first time and we were all told to not leave the house. Two days that were so hot people didn’t even have the energy to reference the heatwave at the beginning of polite emails anymore.
The forthcoming end of the world aside, July was a doubly happy time. Mr Potato Body Boris Johnson finally resigned as Prime Minister, promising a new era of leadership in the UK. We were all excited about who would replace him and were sure they were going to do an excellent job. And England won the Women’s Euros, making them the first England side to win a major football tournament since… I can’t remember the exact year.
All of this was soundtracked by Comrade Knowles’ excellent ode to Ballroom culture, Renaissance.
Absolutely nothing happened in August. Nothing at all. It was quite depressing really. We still had lots of heat to talk about, and even on the cooler days we could recall July when it was so hot for those two days that we couldn’t go outside. But that’s no way to live, is it? Worst month of the year!
September ended August’s reign as the worst month of the year, cramming 10 years of chaos into 30 horrible days. Let’s get the Liz Truss bit out of the way first. Harry Styles was or wasn’t spitting on Chris Pine on the day that Truss was voted in as Prime Minister by Tory members, half as a Victorian joke, half to categorically show the rest of the country how much they despise us. Two days later, the Queen was dead. People were saying it couldn’t have been a coincidence, until they saw more footage of Truss doing absolutely anything. She appeared to be using every ounce of her strength to pass as a sentient being. “Breathe, breathe, breathe, cheese,” went her mind. “Breathe, breathe, breathe… breathe then!” A killer? Of livelihoods, perhaps, but not our Queen, whom I imagine simply met Truss and finally thought: “Annnnd, I’m done. Goodbye!”
Truss got to attend the funeral, where she harboured a deep secret: her plan to ruin the lives of everyone in the country (but not the rich) within… let’s be kind and say two weeks, but it was really 24 hours. We made the most of this Tory wheeze by having a laugh at Truss less successfully fulfilling her role as PM than a lettuce did fulfilling its role as a lettuce, but considering how her appointment and actions will be strongly felt by many for years to come, it’s actually very depressing.
Meanwhile, the Queen was dead and because all television and fun was cancelled (the Queen must have really hated fun and many common aspects of life considering how much of it was now seen as inappropriate all of a sudden) thousands joined a queue to pass the time and show other countries just how correct their reductive stereotypes of Britishness can be. We either queued or watched the queue, which was streamed 24 hours a day on the BBC, which now went by the name MournHub.
And yet there was still enough time for Ian Brown to tour as a karaoke act and for Johnny Borrell to launch a new band called Jealous Nostrils – a classic politician play, that, sneaking some awful news out while the country’s attention is elsewhere, probably queuing.
All other music was cancelled. The Queen had died. It just wasn’t appropriate.
In many ways Kanye succeeded in making October all about himself from the moment he wore his White Lives Matter T-shirt at Paris Fashion Week. Anti-Semitic remarks online and in a Fox interview followed, and more and more reports of West’s hate speak and racism in recent years. No jokes to be made here, but it feels like the tide has finally turned against West and that he won’t be excused for his behaviour due to his mental health issues or his supposed genius. It’d help if everyone stopped talking about him all the time, so to point our lens at the music of October, two artists managed to successfully drown out the sad news that Blink-182 were reforming – world-enders Taylor Swift and Arctic Monkeys. It was pretty much more of the same from each of them in terms of their preceding albums, and on an Arctic Monkeys front, at least, that was a good thing. It wasn’t all gold on The Car, but ‘Sculptures of Anything Goes’ couldn’t even be ruined by that unfortunately accurate tweet likening it to Vic Reeves’ Club Singer.
Away from these ginormous stars, Dry Cleaning released ‘Conservative Hell’ on the same day (and more deadpan inner monologues lifted directly from your own brain on second album Stumpwork), Dallas alt-R&B artist Liv.e returned with scorched jungle track ‘Ghost’ and London producer Loraine James continued to be an electronic musician disinterested in making the same album twice as ‘Enfield, Always’ played its stratospheric, beat-heavy part in her ode to cult avant garde US composer Julius Eastman on her album Building Something Beautiful For Me.
November and possibly December
November is where we are now. As in, I’m writing these words in mid November. I can only tell you what I know and what I think I will know, from now on.
What I know: Elon Musk has recently been forced into buying Twitter and is pretending he really wanted to. It’s a mess over there. He sacked a bunch of people on day one and then asked some of them to come back because it’s hard to run a social media giant without people who’ve been in their jobs for more than a day. He’s going to fix the broke company by charging $8 per blue tick, which nobody is going to pay for.
Glastonbury tickets have sold out again, despite Guns ‘N’ Roses being rumoured as one of the three 2023 headliners. The other two favourites are Arctic Monkeys and Elton John.
On the 6th of the month, news broke of the death of Low’s Mimi Parker, who had been living with ovarian cancer since 2020. Her death was met with waves of affection from the alternative music world – the loss of a great talent and beautiful person.
What I think I will know: Elon Musk will delete twitter by the end of the year. He just seems like the type.
In mid December Barry Manilow will receive a call from Glastonbury offering him the Sunday afternoon legend’s slot. They will have already taught the security guards the choreographed dance they have to do when he performs ‘Copacabana’. It involves a hula motion and is just a bit of fun, but it really does work best if you can try to be in time please, unlike those who won’t be returning from last year.
And then the year will slowly coast to an end amidst the usual cacophony of Christmas songs we already know and love and those same Christmas songs rerecorded by Anton Du Beke, James Martin, Bradley Walsh and other male guests from this year’s episodes of Love Your Weekend with Alan Titchmarsh. I’m ok with that if you are. We’ve done well to enjoy what we can in 2022. Just think what we can improve next year.
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