Musically at least, 2022 wasn’t an easy year to button: there was no huge mainstream breakthrough artist along the lines of Olivia Rodrigo or Lewis Capaldi; there was no glaringly obvious musical trend along the lines of the pandemic glut of escapist glitterball disco. Nevertheless, some of the years’s biggest and most-acclaimed albums did indicate a shift. In a streaming age driven by individual tracks, they were albums that were clearly intended to be consumed as albums; moreover their sound suggested a break from the pop brand of minimalism introduced by Kanye West’s 808s and Heartbreak and exemplified by the stark electronics of Billie Eilish’s multiplatinum, multi-Grammy winning When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? and the sparseness of Drake’s record breaking Scorpion.
The first major release of 2022 was the Weeknd’s Dawn FM, a surprisingly old-fashioned concept album complete with apocalyptic theme and narration courtesy of Jim Carrey. It had a lot of beautifully written songs but no screamingly obvious hit single – a marked contrast to its predecessor, 2020’s After Hours, which featured Blinding Lights, a single that spent a year in the US Top 10 and was crowned The Greatest Hot 100 Song In History by Billboard magazine. Dawn FM’s stew of synth-pop, 80s boogie, disco, psychedelia and funk was incredibly well-crafted, its guest appearances – by Quincy Jones and the Beach Boys’ Bruce Johnson – were ostentatious.