| 22 Jun 2024
Apple Music's 2022 So Far: Top Tracks and Trends

MUMBAI: Gen-Z Pop Embraces the Classic, Introspective Ballad One thing we’ve noticed about some of pop’s younger class is how surprisingly adult they sound. Tate McRae’s “feel like shit,” Benson Boone’s “In the Stars,” or Lauren Spencer-Smith’s “Flowers”: earnest, introspective ballads that probably could’ve been written 30 years ago, not to mention geared toward audiences 30 years older. (It’s probably not much of a coincidence that Holly Humberstone released a gorgeous reimagining of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” earlier this year.) Maybe it’s the legacy of Taylor Swift, whose music has always had an adult-contemporary glint to it, or maybe these artists are just a little burned out on irony. Whatever the case, they’re going inside and hitting their feelings head-on, and we’re here for it.

The Revival of Bad Boy Style Sampling
Part of what made the Bad Boy Records sound so distinctive—and so massively appealing—during the late ’90s was the way they could take a very familiar song and turn it into something new: The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” for Diddy and Faith Evans’ “I’ll Be Missing You,” Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out” for “Mo Money Mo Problems,” and so on. It’s a move you can hear making its way back into the conversation through songs like Lizzo’s “About Damn Time” (which samples World's Famous Supreme Team's “Hey! D.J.”), Jack Harlow’s “First Class” (Fergie and Ludacris’ “Glamorous”), and Latto’s “Big Energy” (which references Mariah Carey’s 1995 classic “Fantasy,” which itself borrows the riff from Tom Tom Club’s 1981 song “Genius of Love”). It could just be nostalgia—nothing grabs audiences as easily as what we already know—but it could also be a counter-reaction to rap’s massive creative leaps over the past decade: the rise of Atlanta trap, emo rap, Drake, Tyler, Young Thug, Kendrick Lamar. Sometimes, it’s nice to just have a little comfort food.

The Sounds of Afrobeats, Alté, and Amapiano Continue to Travel
African pop has had an international presence at least since the late ’60s, when Miriam Makeba’s “Pata Pata” became an American R&B hit. But the globalization of hip-hop—and the cross-pollination of worldwide pop through tracks like Drake and Wizkid’s “One Dance”—has only made African artists more visible, whether in collaboration with Western musicians (think Adekunle Gold & Ty Dolla $ign’s “One Woman” and Fireboy DML & Ed Sheeran’s “Peru”) or on their own (think Tems’ “Free Mind” and Black Sherif’s “Kwaku the Traveller”). And if Billboard’s establishment of a dedicated chart for Afrobeats this March is any indication, we’re only going to be hearing more going ahead.

Drum ’n’ Bass Gets a Long-Overdue Rewind
Of all pop’s current flirtations with ’90s nostalgia, few have been as delightfully unexpected as the return of drum ’n’ bass. You can hear it in the work of TikTok-launched artists like PinkPantheress (“Break It Off”), piri & Tommy Villiers (“soft spot”), and Yaz (“Mr Valentine”), whose bedroom-pop-meets-breakbeats has steered the sound in playful directions. But it’s also central to producers like Chase & Status and Nia Archives, whose reverence for classic drum ’n’ bass—its futurism, its intensity—has put the style in new light for fans of underground dance music. And if tracks like Ed Sheeran’s quick-tempo “Shivers” or Luude's D’n’B reinterpretation of Men At Work’s “Down Under” (featuring Colin Hay himself) are any indication, it might work its way through the mainstream, too.

K-Pop’s Global Expansion Continues
BTS isn’t just the biggest group in K-pop, they’re the biggest group in pop, period. But their success has also nurtured a broader interest in the genre, and a growing awareness of the other artists continuing to push it forward, from established acts like BLACKPINK (who, in 2019, became the first female K-pop group to play Coachella) and NCT DREAM (the teenage subgroup of NCT who rebranded in 2020 when they became legal adults) to newer names like LE SSERAFIM (the international group who confidently stepped out with “FEARLESS”) and the Apple Music Up Next artist aespa (“Illusion”), a group composed of real members and their virtual counterparts. Don’t think of it as a passing of the torch so much as an ongoing widening of the field. Maybe they’ll eventually drop the K and call it what it is: pop.

Spotlight on some of the biggest tracks of 2022 so far:

Future, "WAIT FOR U (feat. Drake and Tems)"
Future's ninth studio album, I NEVER LIKED YOU, was a blockbuster on Apple Music, breaking the record for the biggest first-day streams worldwide for an album released in 2022. It also gave Future the biggest hit of his career on the Global Daily Top 100 with "WAIT FOR U." The song, which features Drake and Tems, has spent more weeks at Number One than any of Future's other singles. Since its release, it has only dropped from Number One four times. 

Harry Styles, "As It Was" 
In the two plus years since Fine Line, it's seemed Harry Styles has been moving toward an even more ubiquitous level of stardom, and the arrival of "As It Was" proved he had. The song became Styles' first Number One on the Global Daily Top 100, foreshadowing that Harry's House would be his biggest album yet. Upon its release, "As It Was" broke two worldwide records: The most first-day streams for a song released in Spatial Audio, and the most first-day streams for a song released in 2022. The song spent a week straight at Number One on the Global Daily Top 100, and then topped the chart again when Harry's House was released. It hasn't dropped out of the top three since. 

Jack Harlow, "First Class" 
"First Class" upgraded Jack Harlow to a streaming superstar. The song, which samples Fergie's 2007 hit "Glamorous," was Harlow's first Number One on the Global Daily Top 100, soaring to the top immediately upon its release and staying there for 21 days straight. In the two months after the release of "First Class," which included the release of the album Come Home the Kids Miss You, Jack Harlow's streams on Apple Music worldwide nearly quadrupled. "First Class" still holds the record for the most first-day streams worldwide for a hip-hop song released in 2022. 

Glass Animals, "Heat Waves" 
A year after it rose from obscurity to the top 40 of Apple Music's Daily Top 100, "Heat Waves" hasn't cooled down one bit. In fact, it wasn't until early 2022 that Glass Animals' breakout hit became a mainstay in the top 10 of the Global Daily Top 100, reaching its peak at Number Four in April. Overall, "Heat Waves" has helped Glass Animals grow their streams by 330% in the past 18 months, compared to the previous 18 months. 

Bad Bunny, "Titi Me Pregunto" 
With the release of his fifth studio album, Un Verano Sin Ti, Bad Bunny helped make Latin music history on Apple Music. He broke two worldwide records, helping Latin see its biggest day in Apple Music history. While it was "Moscow Mule" that broke the record for highest first-day streams for a Latin song, "Titi Me Pregunto" has emerged, over time, as a fan favorite. In late May, three weeks after the album's release, the song entered the top five of the Global Daily Top 100, and it's largely stayed there since. 

Gayle, "abcdefu"
One of the big breakout stories of the first half of 2022 is "abdcdefu," the major-label debut of pop-rock singer GAYLE. The song started taking off on Apple Music at the tail end of 2021, and by January, it was in the top five on the Global Daily Top 100. The viral hit has helped Gayle see a 500% increase in streams overall year-on-year.