The best music moments of 2022 (so far)

·9 min read

Sometimes the biggest, most memorable music of the year isn't about what we hear on the radio or from a streaming service — it can be that surprise festival guest or needle drop in a TV show or movie. This year has delivered on all of that and so much more, which is why we've rounded up the moments that have had everyone talking in 2022...so far.

<i>Elvis</i>' glorious fusion of old and new

"This ain't no nostalgia show," quips Elvis (Austin Butler) in Baz Luhrmann's dizzying take on the iconic rocker's rise to superstardom. And Luhrmann does indeed lean heavily into the modern (would we expect anything less?), pairing contemporary artists with Presley's distinctive sound to hammer home his radical status as a pop singer with strong ties to Black culture. Nowhere is that more evident than in a scene that blends Doja Cat's latest single, "Vegas," with samples of Shonka Dukureh as Big Mama Thornton performing Presley's "Hound Dog." It plays as Elvis walks down Beale Street and we see the forces that crafted his artistry — and realize just how provocative his approach to music was. —Maureen Lee Lenker

ELVIS, Austin Butler; INDIO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 24: Singer Doja Cat performs on the Main Stage during Weekend 2, Day 3 of the 2022 Coachella Valley Music &amp; Arts Festival on April 24, 2022 in Indio, California. (Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella)
ELVIS, Austin Butler; INDIO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 24: Singer Doja Cat performs on the Main Stage during Weekend 2, Day 3 of the 2022 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival on April 24, 2022 in Indio, California. (Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella)

2022's song of the summer is…from 1985

One strange week in June, an eccentric 63-year-old British art-pop diva found herself rubbing elbows with Lizzo, Future, Jack Harlow, and Harry Styles in the Billboard Top 5 — and scoring her biggest hit to date. After the Duffer brothers featured Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill" in a dark, poignant sequence in the fourth season of Stranger Things, the 1985 single (which originally peaked at No. 30) soared back onto the charts and into the hearts of an entirely new generation of fans. The eerily gorgeous track leapt to No. 4 in the U.S., sprinted to No. 1 and shattered three records in the U.K., and suddenly became the only thing anyone on TikTok wanted to talk about. We're still talking about it, all while Bush tinkers in her garden in the remote South Devon countryside, racking up millions of streams — and, reportedly, millions of dollars — and marveling at how, as she told the BBC this month, "the whole world's gone mad" for a song released when Reagan was still in office. —Jason Lamphier

UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: Photo of Kate BUSH (Photo by RB/Redferns)
UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: Photo of Kate BUSH (Photo by RB/Redferns)

The house-ification of pop

It crept in on Gaga's Chromatica and Dua Lipa's Future Nostalgia in a moment where crowded dance floors still felt like a pre-pandemic fever dream — the surging, strobe-lit bass and feathery synths of music created for the club, not the Hot 100. Maybe other forms of contemporary pop had played themselves out, or maybe people just needed to move in their living rooms. Soon enough, the idea was spreading like another kind of flu: There's Drake, sounding like he just got dipped in a raver bubble bath on Honestly, Never Mind, and Beyoncé sampling Robin S.'s 1993 house anthem  "Show Me Love" (though Charli XCX got there first) on the looped, pulsating "Break My Soul," the lead single from her upcoming Renaissance. There were many knowing references online to oontz-oontz and Ibiza; others, dismissively, said "Zara dressing room." But it might all be as simple as Bey's repeated directive on "Soul":  Release the wiggle, and set yourself free. —Leah Greenblatt

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 12: Drake performs at 'HOMECOMING WEEKEND' Hosted By The h.wood Group &amp; REVOLVE, Presented By PLACES.CO and Flow.com, Produced By Uncommon Entertainment on February 12, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Homecoming Weekend ); LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 27: In this handout photo provided by A.M.P.A.S., Beyoncé performs during the ABC telecast of the 94th Oscars® on Sunday, March 27, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mason Poole/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images); GLASTONBURY, ENGLAND - JUNE 26: Charli XCX performs on the John Peel Stag during day five of Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm, Pilton on June 26, 2022 in Glastonbury, England. (Photo by Kate Green/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 12: Drake performs at 'HOMECOMING WEEKEND' Hosted By The h.wood Group & REVOLVE, Presented By PLACES.CO and Flow.com, Produced By Uncommon Entertainment on February 12, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Homecoming Weekend ); LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 27: In this handout photo provided by A.M.P.A.S., Beyoncé performs during the ABC telecast of the 94th Oscars® on Sunday, March 27, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mason Poole/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images); GLASTONBURY, ENGLAND - JUNE 26: Charli XCX performs on the John Peel Stag during day five of Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm, Pilton on June 26, 2022 in Glastonbury, England. (Photo by Kate Green/Getty Images)

Harrychella with surprise guest Shania Twain

The most exciting part of the lead-up to Harry Styles' third solo album was no doubt his Friday night sets at Coachella. Styles — who was a bit of a surprise headliner himself after the long-postponed 2020 line-up changed — kicked off both weekends with no shortage of delightful shockers. In addition to performing single "As It Was" live for the first time, he blessed the massive crowd of Harries with two then-yet-unheard tracks from Harry's House, "Late Night Talking" and "Boyfriends" (the latter's intro included this iconic line: "To boyfriends everywhere, f— you."). But new songs weren't all the fruit-loving pop star had in his basket: Weekend 1, he brought out Shania Twain (Harries know how much of a superfan Styles has always been) and Weekend 2, he brought out pal Lizzo — whose surprise appearance on the catwalk led to screams so loud I couldn't even hear the opening thrums of "I Will Survive," which they belted in matching Gucci coats. If you weren't a Harry fan from the One Direction days or didn't get drawn in by his Grammys performance, the double dose of Harrychella surely did the trick. —Ashley Boucher

INDIO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 15: (L-R) Shania Twain and Harry Styles perform onstage at the Coachella Stage during the 2022 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival on April 15, 2022 in Indio, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for ABA)
INDIO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 15: (L-R) Shania Twain and Harry Styles perform onstage at the Coachella Stage during the 2022 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival on April 15, 2022 in Indio, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for ABA)

'Imagine' this celeb-filled spoof

Even superheroes can deliver a great musical moment … or a not-so-great one. In its third season, The Boys decided to put together its own version of the infamous Gal Gadot "Imagine" video. (For the lucky ones who missed it, Gadot gathered people including Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell, Natalie Portman, and others to sing John Lennon's "Imagine" at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The video quickly became internet fodder.) So, when Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles) demolishes nearly a full city block, The Deep (Chace Crawford) decides to use social media to calm everyone. He then gathers Patton Oswalt, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, Elizabeth Banks, Kumail Nanjiani, and more to — you guessed it! — sing "Imagine." It's a perfect example of The Boys doing what it does best: Making fun of stupid stuff. —Samantha Highfill

The Boys version of “Imagine”
The Boys version of “Imagine”

A legends-only Super Bowl halftime show

This year, producers of the Super Bowl halftime show placed hip-hop front and center for the first time in history, tapping Dr. DreSnoop DoggMary J. BligeEminem, and Kendrick Lamar — plus surprise guest 50 Cent — to regale audiences with three decades' worth of classics. By inviting Dre, whose former group N.W.A. famously gave us the protest anthem "F--- Tha Police," and Lamar, whose 2015 single "Alright" is now a byword for the Black Lives Matter movement, the NFL could have opened the door for awkward off-script detours and unwanted controversy. But Eminem was the only artist to take a knee (a move the league later said it knew was coming), and Lamar's line "po-po wanna kill us dead in the street" was either nixed or rendered inaudible. What stood out instead was the spectacle's endless barrage of hits — from "The Next Episode" and "In da Club" to "Lose Yourself" and "No More Drama." Its setlist was a Gen Xer's dream come true, and a rousing reminder that these six heavyweights forever changed the game. —JL

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 13: Mary J. Blige performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show at SoFi Stadium on February 13, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 13: Mary J. Blige performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show at SoFi Stadium on February 13, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Hollywood's dad-rock renaissance

Pull out those New Balance sneakers and pleated Dockers: Dad Rock — loosely defined by us here at EW at "rock that dads just happen to really like" — has been all over movies this year, and you don't have to be a dad to get the appeal. It began, fittingly, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul Mateen II's rendition of Christopher Cross' 1979 classic "Sailing," the song they turn to for a reprieve while driving the titular Ambulance in Michael Bay's frenetic film. The trend continues in Top Gun: Maverick, with Kenny Loggins' re-recorded "Danger Zone" scuttled because Tom Cruise wanted to retain "the original feeling" of the 1986 version. Finally, Joseph Kosinski (who also directed Maverick) went all in for the Spiderhead soundtrack, which culminates in star Chris Hemsworth dancing with himself to Roxy Music's "More Than This." Why now? In these trying times, the combo of nostalgia and soothing melodies is most welcome. After all, who wouldn't want to feel as free as the wind? —Clarissa Cruz

(from left) Danny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) in Ambulance, directed by Michael Bay.
(from left) Danny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) in Ambulance, directed by Michael Bay.

Jessie Ware finally performing <i>What's Your Pleasure</i> live — with a whip

After postponing her April 2021 concerts to December 2021, only to cancel most of those dates when her crew contracted COVID, Jessie Ware properly unleashed her What's Your Pleasure? tour in May. Warewolves have waited two long years to see her 2020 album's sparkling disco bangers live, and for their patience they've been rewarded with a swishy, tightly sequenced romp that offers the nonstop thrill of a greatest-hits show. The British siren's set at June's Primavera Sound in Barcelona was easily a highlight of the seaside festival, her backup dancers snapping silk fans and flaunting mini mirror balls to Pleasure favorites like "Read My Lips" and "Ooh La La." The pièce de résistance? Ware singing the record's fetishistic title cut while brandishing a mic that doubled as a whip. Proof that she can serve lust and camp with equal aplomb. —JL

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JUNE 20: Jessie Ware performs on stage at O2 Academy Glasgow on June 20, 2022 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Roberto Ricciuti/Redferns)
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JUNE 20: Jessie Ware performs on stage at O2 Academy Glasgow on June 20, 2022 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Roberto Ricciuti/Redferns)

Silk Sonic at the Grammys

Death, taxes, the velvety steal-your-girl bops of Silk Sonic: These are the things we still know to be true in 2022.  The duo's Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, who within a few hours would be taking home their Song of the Year prize for the buttery bedroom invitation "Leave the Door Open," opened the April broadcast with a roof-off rendition of the horny, horn-y "777" — maybe a little on the nose for the show's Vegas location, lyrics-wise, with its bouncy klieg-lit couplets about blackjack, baccarat, and blowing dice. But in a joy-challenged year, Sonic's solid-gold throwbacks did exactly what they came to do: Please the full swath of TikTok kids, Boomer dads, and pelvis-forward aunties in one Silk-y, swiveling swoop. —LG

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - APRIL 03: (L-R) Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars of Silk Sonic perform onstage during the 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 03, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - APRIL 03: (L-R) Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars of Silk Sonic perform onstage during the 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 03, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Phoebe Bridgers on the road

Phoebe Bridgers may write spectral, interior anthems about love and pain and emerging selfhood, but she sees no perks in being a wallflower. In May, she tweeted her abortion story without apology, and pledged to give a dollar from every tour stop to the Mariposa Fund; on stage, she rarely fails to remind the crowd that health care is a human right. But even the fans who adore her outspoken stance on social issues don't come to rock shows strictly to have their consciousness raised, and Bridgers knows how to put on a full production: Her two-night stop this month at Brooklyn's Prospect Park — like her electric set 10 days later at Glastonbury — combined moments of hushed folkloric beauty, thrashing guitar-god freakouts, and truth-to-power messaging dipped in cutting wit and fury. If you're not angry too, she seemed to say with every gesture, then you're not listening. —LG

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 16: Phoebe Bridgers performs at Forest Hills Stadium on June 16, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 16: Phoebe Bridgers performs at Forest Hills Stadium on June 16, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)

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