Music critic Joey Guerra’s 10 albums of 2022: Beyoncé, Bad Bunny, Megan Thee Stallion

Joey Guerra’s favorite albums of 2022 are a mix and match.

Photo: Photo Collage

Music in 2022 can be categorized in two ways: before and after Beyoncé’s “Renaissance.”

The Houston superstar’s dance music output embodies all the charm of songs, albums and pop culture. Her 2013’s Surprise Her Drop and her 2016’s “Lemonade” are Beyoncé’s best her albums to date.

Certainly, there was plenty of other great music this year, from thrilling pop to hip-hop to experimental Latin visionaries. These are the ones that stuck with me long after I first heard them.

1. “Rebirth” Beyoncé

“Renaissance” Beyoncé

Photo: A.P.

From that declarative and defiant start loop (“These m********ers won’t stop me”), Beyoncé’s seventh solo album claims to be the work of an artist who is confident in her skills and standing in pop music. What’s miraculous about “Renaissance” is that Beyoncé doesn’t clutter it with mainstream elements, making for a compelling and relatable album. No A-list collaborations or overt love songs, at its core, “Renaissance” is a love letter to her community of queers, a collection of black and Latino clubbing cues from her culture, making no excuses. No explanation needed. That’s exactly the mark of Alien’s superstardom.

2. “Un Verano Sin Ti” Bad Bunny

“A Verano Sin Ti” Bad Bunny

Photo: album cover

I saw Bad Bunny for the first time in 2018 at Sugar Land’s Smart Financial Center with about 6,000 spectators. This year, he has sold out two of his shows at Minute Maid Park. “Un Verano Sin Ti” is the sound of Star when he reaches the peak of his power. About 20 songs, including reggaeton, meringue, pop, folk, and wistful ballads, play over his 81 minutes. Credit to Bad Bunny for never feeling like a moment wasted. And I’m not the only one whose phrase “un VIP, un VIP” from “Tití Me Preguntó” stuck in his head for most of his year.

3. “Lonely Time” Carly Rae Jepsen

“The Loneliest Hour” Carly Rae Jepsen

Photo: album cover

No one does pure pop joy like Jepsen. Her sixth studio album continues the trend of uplifting choruses, crisp production, and deceptively clever lyrics. Songs are embedded in your brain the moment you first hear them. But there are new discoveries with every spin. Much like her wonderful 2015 “Emotion,” here Jepsen draws inspiration from her ’80s Madonna and Janet her Jackson. If you only know her from “Call Me Maybe,” you’re missing out on one of pop music’s all-time greats.

4. “Traumazine” Megan Thee Stallion

“Traumazine” Megan Thee Stallion

Photo: album cover

From the Tory Lanez shooting to the home burglary, it’s been a rough year for the H-town Hottie. But it’s made for her best music, and she’s channeled some of that frustration into “Trauma Zine.” Through her fiercely rebellious 18 songs, Megan speaks to her turbulent past, her rise to stardom, and the naysayers who seek to bring her down. She’s ferocious in “Plan B,” she’s flirtatious with Dua Lipa in “Sweetest Pie,” and she’s hard at Houston in “Southside Royalty Freestyle.” But she’s most vulnerable in her rap on “Anxiety.” We feel you, Meg.

5. Last Bandleros “Tex Flex Folklorico”

The Last Bandoleros’ ‘Tex Flex’ out October 28th

Photo: Courtesy

San Antonio trio Las Bandoleros released two albums this year. June’s bilingual “Tex Flex” was followed by the Spanish “Tex Flex Folklórico”. On “Tex Flex Folklórico,” they sound more carefree than ever, in a collection of songs rooted in dual cultures just like their members. They transition seamlessly from Beatles songs to Los Lobos to Trio Romantico Los Panchos. Among the many outstanding works is the bolero his reworking of ‘Naciste Para Mi’ by Emilio Navaira, father of members Diego Navaira and Emilio Navaira IV.

6. “Motomami” Rosalia

Released by Columbia Record Group, this cover image shows “Motomami” by Rosalia. (Columbia Records via AP) Photo: AP

Artists often say they don’t fit into one genre. But Rosalia walks really well. Or ride a motorcycle. Named after her lifelong love of motorcycles, ‘Motomami’ covers a wide range of genres from flamenco to bachata, reggaeton to hip hop, electro to avant-garde her pop. Her voice and lyrics are a throughline, sometimes tying genres together within one of her songs. It’s exciting on record, but it’s even more exciting on stage.

7. “Ivory” Omar Apollo

“Ivory” Omar Apollo

Photo: album cover

Apollo enjoyed a well-deserved breakout with his first formal album, ‘Ivory’. From fuzzy guitars and distorted vocals, through languid R&B, bedroom pop and hip-hop, it’s the sound of an artist stepping into the light. Not all artists can transition seamlessly from the Mariah Carey-esque “No Good Reason” to the classic Mexican-influenced “En el Olvido.”

8. “Vida Ventura” Pehuenche

“Vida Ventura” Pehuenche

Photo: album cover

Rafael Meza, better known as Pehuenche, makes dreamy pop music that feels both nostalgic and new at the same time. The singer from Veracruz, Mexico, has a sharp and precise voice that makes her lyrics aspirational. His album “Vida Ventura” draws inspiration from the 60’s and his 70’s sound, moving from jerky pop-rock to boleros and thunderous ballads.

9. “Midnight” Taylor Swift

“Midnight” Taylor Swift

Photo: album cover

Swift’s albums are always events, and “Midnights” is no exception. Since her release two months ago, she has sold her 3 million copies in the US alone, becoming the first artist to score the entire Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 in her one week. So it’s a big credit to Swift that her music isn’t lost under all the noise. “Midnights” is a finely focused record, each song drenched in her haze of dreamy pop. And it’s another unexpected turn in a career full of them.

10. “Harry’s House” Harry Styles

“Harry’s House” Harry Styles

Photo: album cover

Styles has reframed what it means to be a male pop star. He has challenged stereotypes and gender norms in every aspect of his career. And he made great music too. ‘Harry’s House’ is his third in a series of great solo albums, backed by the inevitable single ‘As it Was’. Other gems here include “Late Nite Talking,” “Music for a Sushi Restaurant,” and “Boyfriends.”

5 more loves in 2022

“Magua Con Miel” Cholock

“History” The Knox

“Special” Rizzo

“Version of Me” Anitta

‘Gabriel’ Poppy

  • Joey Guerra

    Joey Guerra is a music critic for the Houston Chronicle. He also covers various aspects of pop culture. He has reviewed hundreds of concerts and interviewed hundreds of celebrities, from Justin his Bieber to Dolly his Parton to Beyoncé. He has appeared as a regular correspondent on his Fox26 and Pride, where he was the head judge and director of the Superstar Singing Competition for 10 years. He has been named Journalist of the Year multiple times by both OutSmart Magazine and his FACE Awards. He also covers various aspects of his pop culture, including the local drag scene and “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

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