New year, new playlist: Nine songs for 2022

Artist The Weeknd, whose fifth studio album "Dawn FM" was released on Jan. 7, 2022.
From a 1969 Beatles hit to The Weeknd’s latest shimmering pop track, here are the best songs to usher in the Spring semester. (Photo courtesy of Brian Ziff/Republic Records)

Speaking from personal experience, the old motivation wheels can feel a bit rusty when coming back to school (and reality) after such an extensive break. And honestly, the start of this year feels a little bit like 2020, part two. 

Even though the state of our school and country is constantly changing due to the coronavirus pandemic, we can still fall back on some wonderful music to get us through the start of this year and semester. Here is a collection of tunes fit to kick off 2022 and the Spring. 

“22 (Taylor’s Version)” by Taylor Swift (2021)

A decade later, the 2012 hit is somehow still a fitting song for 2022. The re-released version of this iconic Taylor Swift ballad perfectly emulates how many of us feel at the beginning of a new year: “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time.” Although Swift crafted the original version of this song and the album it’s featured on 10 years ago, her re-recorded version of Red maintained its popularity to become one of the most successful albums of 2021.

“Easy On Me” by Adele (2021)

Let’s hope the coronavirus and the transition back into school is easy on us. This song was a hit from Adele’s fourth studio album, 30, which highlighted her newfound freedom after a recent divorce. Although the tracks on 30 display the full spectrum of Adele’s emotions, this song in particular reminds us that it’s OK to be vulnerable, especially during a global pandemic. Besides, after everything we have been through, we deserve for 2022 to go a little easy on us.

“Life Goes On” by Oliver Tree (2021)

Though our world seems uncertain and moments come when we may feel it collapsing around us, this track reminds us that life “goes on and on and on.” After its release in late May 2020, the track was popularized on TikTok as an upbeat, hopeful breakup anthem suitable for our unsure moment in history. It’s the ideal soundtrack to your moments of perseverance this past year. 

“Here Comes The Sun” by The Beatles (1969)

Did you spend your winter break in the frigid Midwest, or one of the treacherous snowstorms that plagued the East Coast? If so, this song is definitely for you. Even if you were snuggled up somewhere warm this winter break, there is nothing quite like the Southern California sun or The Beatles to brighten up your January that much more. 

“More Than Friends” by 24kGoldn (2021)

USC alumnus 24kGoldn adds a modern twist to the 1990s classic “Just A Friend” by the late Biz Markie, who passed away last July at age 57. Released 32 years after the original, this track enhances the themes of Markie’s hit while amplifying 24kGoldn’s modern rap style. Even though this song ultimately captures a tongue-in-cheek tale of unrequited love, it’s also great for a New Year’s resolution workout playlist or to blast with the windows down en route to the beach. 

“R.E.M.” by Ariana Grande (2018)

In this track off her fourth studio album Sweetener, Ariana Grande encapsulates the feelings that arise when we return to our friends after time away. Especially after our remote start, coming back to friends, activities and campus will feel like “such a dream,” as Grande sings. As winter slowly transitions into spring, you might be just as hopeful as Ari for budding relationships or friendships. 

“That Funny Feeling” by Phoebe Bridgers (2021)

Who knew that a song written by Vine star and absurd comedian Bo Burnham could be so emotionally poignant, especially enhanced by the voice of indie star Phoebe Bridgers. The track’s haunting lyrics pair perfectly with her velvety tone, as she describes “that funny feeling” of navigating our emotions and mental health which seems to have become common in the pandemic. Burnham’s Inside was an exceptional portrait of life in quarantine, and this cover of a standout track from the film is all the more powerful.  

“Darling” by Halsey (2021)

Although Halsey has previously been known for making music in a pop style, this acoustic gem is a perfect introduction to her songwriting ability. Winter can be a difficult time for many, but Halsey’s heartfelt lyrics describe the importance of a person who has shown her “how to love bein’ alive.” As the new year begins, we can also focus on the activities and people that fill us with joy and hope. 

“Gasoline” by The Weeknd (2022) 

The Weeknd is giving us a fresh sound in his fifth studio album, Dawn FM. This track features the same driving synth beats and retro sounds which made After Hours such a trailblazing pop album in 2020, indicating that those throwback elements aren’t going away any time soon. It’s great for a shot of energy at any time, whether queued up for a dance party or just to play between classes. Though the cover art is likely his strangest yet, The Weeknd’s latest album is certainly worth a listen as you hype yourself up for the start of a new semester.