The Epic’s favorite albums of 2022

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Graphic illustration by Riki Murase

The Epic staffers select their favorite album of 2022.

Qianzi Loo, Staffer

Listening to their favorite songs as they finish the upcoming issue, many Epic staffers are avid music lovers. Here is the Epic’s take on the best albums of the past year!

 

1st Place: Midnights by Taylor Swift

From the start of her music career in Nashville, Tennessee to her rise to global fame, Taylor Swift’s music is a part of many people’s childhoods, with well-known songs such as “Blank Space,” “Me!” and “Shake It Off.” Most recently, she released her album “Midnights” on Oct. 21, 2022, which became an immediate sensation.

Dubbed as “13 sleepless nights,” the inspiration for this album came from Swift’s personal experiences as a celebrity. Some songs, like “Anti-Hero,” “Mastermind” and “Lavender Haze” feature her journey to accepting who she was as she struggled to meet societal expectations. To learn more about “Midnights” and details of specific songs, check out this article by the Epic staffer Inaaya Yousuf. 

The widespread popularity of the album was apparent when—for the first time in 64 years—it occupied all top 10 spots on the Billboard’s Hot 100. For comparison, the record was originally set by The Beatles taking up five of the top 10 spots and later Michael Jackson taking up seven of the top 10 spots. 

Recommended songs: “Anti-Hero,” “Mastermind” and “Karma.”

 

2nd Place: Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers by Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar pleasantly surprised many fans when he released “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers” after a five-year hiatus. Lamar is an American rapper and songwriter known for his rap and hip-hop songs. Many of his songs are written with lyrics that reflect current events, such as, “Welcome To The States,” which was created in light of the gun violence occuring at the time. “How Much a Dollar Cost” and “Alright” in his 2015 album “To Pimp a Butterfly” advocated for racial equality, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.  

The inspiration for “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers” is just as meaningful. In a blog post, Lamar shared a paragraph describing his process in writing the album, mentioning love, loss and grief. The down-to-earth qualities of this album resonated with many of its listeners. One of the songs, “Auntie Diaries,” offers Lamar’s perspective on sexuality and gender. It tells the story of two transgender individuals who endure numerous hardships before finally accepting themselves. Lamar sang about “[choosing] humanity over religion” in the song, which could signify a significant change in Lamar’s view on religion while empowering the LGBTQ+ community. 

“The art behind the album is insane,” the Epic staffer Tanika Anbu said. “He talks about subjects that people are too afraid to talk about and he goes really deep into them.”

Another notable song is “N95,” alluding to the N95 mask that many people donned during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lamar’s lyrics include lines like “take off the fake deep, take off the fake woke,” encouraging people to be true to themselves and calling out those on social media or have more influence to stop painting fake truths. 

Statistically, “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers” has also performed well, with this being Lamar’s fourth album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200. 

Recommended songs: “Mother I Sober,” “N95” and “Auntie Diaries.”

 

3rd Place: Dawn FM by The Weeknd

With intriguing songs that portray a journey from hopelessness in purgatory to self-confidence and acceptance, “Dawn FM” by The Weeknd placed third among albums chosen by the Epic staffers. The Weeknd, or Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, is a Canadian rhythm-and-blues artist known for his falsetto and songs covering topics including sex and drugs. Many of his songs are based on personal events that happened in his life. While they can be dark and sensitive, Tesfaye finds ways to make them upbeat without losing the song’s original meaning.

The soundtrack for “Dawn FM,” heavily influenced by 80s music, portrays a journey from darkness to light. Serving as a continuation from his fourth studio album, “After Hours,” he wrote “Dawn FM” during the COVID-19 pandemic when millions of people around the world experienced depression and emotional stress, including himself. 

“If the last record is the After Hours of the night, then The Dawn is coming,” Tesfaye said during an interview with Variety when teasing the new album. 

In tradition with the Weeknd’s past songs, “Dawn FM” features many of Tesfaye’s personal stories, with talks about relationships that fell apart due to his nihilistic behaviors. Yet, songs like “Less Than Zero” continue to pull at listeners’ heartstrings with lyrics like “Now you’d rather leave me than to watch me die in your arms.” The Weeknd also takes advantage of unique sound effects that draw out emotions.

“I don’t like it when artists do a bunch of audio effects on their voice, but somehow the Weeknd makes it sound really good,” the Epic staffer Inaaya Yousuf said. “The effects that he adds really contribute to the music.”

The Weeknd fans around the world heavily anticipated this album, and before long, the lead single, “Take My Breath,” topped the charts at number six on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. On Feb. 12, the album hit No. 1 for the first time on Billboard’s Top Album Sales chart. 

Recommended songs: “Less Than Zero,” “Out of Time” and “Here We Go… Again.”

 

Here are some additional albums the Epic staffers liked: 

  • “Harry’s House” by Harry Styles
  • “Gemini Rights” by Steve Lacy
  • “Her Loss” by Drake and 21 Savage
  • “Renaissance” by Beyonce
  • “Come Home the Kids Miss You” by Jack Harlow