Music can be powerful in triggering memories. This is especially the case for me in 2022 because an important part of my journey to be more creative this year was to gain a better appreciation for music. This year, I especially wanted to expand my music tastes in foreign songs. In this post, I want to sum up this year by taking a trip down memory lane and review the 50 most influential songs I discovered in 2022 in chronological order.
Here’s the playlist if you want to listen to it while reading my post:
1: We Don’t Talk About Bruno
I watched Encanto last year on Christmas Day. I thought the movie was alright (would’ve liked it to be a bit longer but it’s Disney) but, like everyone else, I was hooked on We Don’t Talk About Bruno. With its catchy tune, different styles, and beautiful musical medley at the end, it’s hard not to like it (except for the fact that Luisa doesn’t get to sing!). Also, this edit of the song is perfection.
2: Deja Vu
I’ve been told my music taste is obscure Asian music and the most basic American pop with zero in-between the two. I guess this is part of the latter group. I don’t really have much to say about this song other than it’s my favourite Olivia Rodrigo song and I’m a fan of the music video.
3-7: Country Songs
I started listening to the country music radio station while driving this year. I don’t understand the hate to country music; there’s so much to like about it! There’s the emotion and sing-a-long quality to country music. The cowboy aesthetic really hits at my interest in Central Asian cultures. The lyrics about living a simple life appeal to my minimalist sensibilities.
I can’t end a section about country music without sharing my favourite meme about country songs:
8 & 9: Numb Little Bug & Bad Habits
More generic, basic pop music. Not much to say other than these songs played all the time at the gym. I don’t relate to the lyrics – I just think the songs are such earworms.
10 & 11: Fire in the Sky & Every Summertime
I was not a fan of Shang Chi but the soundtrack was definitely one of its redeeming qualities. Although I thought it was out of place in a martial arts Marvel movie, I really like the theme of love in these songs. These two are just great songs to play on repeat and feel good about life and living.
Can we have a moment to realize how weird it is that this song is called Sukiyaki in English? In Japanese, song is I Look Up As I Walk (Ue No Muite Arukou, 上を向いて歩こう) which captures the real sadness of the song. It’d be like if an American love song was called BLT in Japan. I actually prefer the English version by Nishida Hikaru over Sakamoto Kyu’s original but it isn’t available on Spotify. Regardless, this song is an all-time classic.
Just another catchy song; it’s hard not to sing along when you hear this song. Apparently, this song was popularized from TikTok but I found out about this song from this Chinese propaganda parody.
14: The Weather
You might remember I featured this song in one of my Media of the Weeks. This song is so good; I love the bittersweetness of the lyrics and the catchy tune. The gospel version just elevates that.
15: Sweetest Pie
l am such a big fan of Dua Lipa. She’s just so talented, beautiful, and thoughtful. I’ve listened to a few episodes of her podcast which has unlocked a new side of her that I didn’t know before. Although I didn’t initially like this song, it quickly grew on me. The more and more I listen this song, the more I appreciate Megan Thee Stallion’s rapping prowess.
I’m really surprised I never featured this song in my Media of the Week posts. Earlier this year in the spring, I had the opportunity to volunteer for an event at the Nepalese embassy in DC. I heard some great folk music and had to get recommendations. This was one of them.
In my March 18th Media of the Week, I talked about the UNESCO Intangible Heritage List. One of the cultural elements I didn’t mention in my post was the Korean folk song Arirang. There’s something beautiful about the fact it’s sung in both North and South Korea and represents unity across the peninsula.
18: 一秒钟而已 （Yi Miao Zhong Er Yi)
It took me a really long to find this song and it’s still not quite the right version. The one I’m trying to find is more blues-y. Regardless, the title translates to something like “just a second” and it’s a song about missing your lover. There’s something about Chinese love songs that hits me harder. Maybe it’s like that quote:
If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.Nelson Mandela
19: Sweet Dreams
If I had a go-to karaoke song that it palatable to a wide audience, this would be it. I sing this song to myself all the time. I’m a big fan of the 80s and that includes its music.
20: Red Sun
You probably remember that I included this in my Media of the Week a while ago. As someone who is a fusion of the East and West, I’m a big fan of music that is the same. If I was somebody who listened to music while doing work, I’d probably be listening to more of this type of music.
21 & 22: Sonido Amazonico & Lobos al Escape
Another couple of songs that are just instrumental. I talked about getting into chica music in this Media of the Week. When I mention that I enjoy listening to chica music to Peruvians, they’re really surprised that I know what it is. So I feel like I need to do my part in spreading chica music to non-Peruvians.
This song was featured in a Media of the Week and it still resonates with me. I’ve struggled with being not good enough for a long time in my childhood and I sometimes still feel like that mediocre kid with no friends. Having support is so important for living a fulfilling life; not only do I credit all my successes to people who believed in me, but friends just add so much colour to life. I’m grateful for all my friends and the people who have believed in me.
24: Songs of Disappearance
Also featured in my Media of the Week, birds are just really cool animals. I don’t think we take for granted the fact that dinosaurs just roam around us – they’re just feathery.
25: Cold Heart
Like I said, I’m such a big fan of Dua Lipa. Combine that with my love for 80s music and you have a winning combo. There were days this year that I would just play this song on repeat.
Who remembers Shapaley from back in the day? You know, the famous rap about Tibetan empanadas. Shapaley is kind of a celebrity among the Tibetan diaspora and the song is universally known. His music was even featured in the Tibet Museum in Dharamsala. When I saw it, I looked him up to see what he was up to. Turns out, he has a new song. Although the song itself is a bit too chill for me, I really like the 90s aesthetic of the music video. Shapaley has been a big advocate for the Tibetan diaspora speaking and learning Tibetan so as a Tibetan learner, I appreciate him adding the lyrics to the song in the description.
27: Dro (འགྲོ)
When I was teaching English in Dharamsala this summer, I traded Tibetan song recommendations with one of my students (of course I did གྲོང་ཁྱེར) and found out about this song. I like it not only because the lyrics are slow and easy to understand but also the singing is so powerful.
28: Let’s Fall in Love
I’ve been trying to get into actually owning my own music (as opposed to using streaming services). For me, the easiest way to get into this was to collect CDs because I already have a CD player. One of the CDs I have in my collection is a jazz one with this song. It’s the first one in the lineup so I enjoy playing this CD.
29 & 30: The Beach Boys
It’s hard not to like the Beach Boys. And they were so influential. I like 80s music which means I automatically like its progenitor. After recently acquiring a Beach Boys CD, it’s one of my go-tos when I don’t know what to play.
31: 一无所有 (Nothing to My Name)
Cui Jian is an interesting character. He’s Korean-Chinese and is the father of Chinese rock. Having grown up in a liberal China opening up to the world and inspired by Western 60s music legends like The Beatles, John Denver, and Simon and Garfunkel, Cui’s music reflects this unique period of Chinese history with its American rock music with Chinese lyrics. In fact, this song was used as an anthem during the 1989 Tiananmen Protests.
32: Amarillo by Morning
Going back to the country theme for this year, I first listened to Enkh-Erdene’s cover of this song but George Strait’s original is such a country classic. I love fantasizing about living as a minimalist traveller like a ronin or cowboy.
33-36: The Baatar
After listening to Enkh-Erdene’s Amarillo by Morning, is there any more to say other than Mongolian and country music is a winning combination? I love The Baatar’s songs even I don’t understand a lick of Mongolian. American Western and Mongolian cultures work together because they’re similar in many ways – living out in the open wilderness, a love for horse riding, and just general grittiness. According to Deezer, The Baatar is my most played artist for the year. But even if that weren’t the case, if there were an artist to sum up this entire list, it’d be him.
37 & 38: The Grassroots
I found out about the Grassroots after watching Pachinko TV series (which is great by the way); the intro song is Let’s Live for Today. It’s such a happy song about love and life that is enhanced by the actors’ lively dancing. Again, it’s hard not to love 60s songs so naturally I became a big fan of the Grassroots.
39: London Thumakda
This was one of the signature songs of the night at a wedding I went to this fall. I like Bollywood and Desi songs but I wouldn’t say I go out of my way to look for them. It’s always nice to find a catchy Bollywood song. In the way that songs can help you relive certain memories, listening to this song takes me back to that wedding night and the nonsensical, but soulful dancing that followed.
40 & 41: Ana Moura
I don’t remember exactly how I found about Ana Moura but I found her somewhere when I was kind of getting into Portuguese culture this fall. Something about its loose connections to Asian culture, the unique pronunciations of the language, and relative obscurity compared to other Romance cultures appeal to me. I was even gifted an Ana Moura CD that has quickly become one of my go-tos. I don’t understand the lyrics but you don’t need to to feel the heart in her singing.
42: 孤独颂歌 (Gu Du Song Ge)
For someone who has been dedicated to learning Chinese for the past couple of years, I don’t like Chinese media. That might not be immediately evident from my discovery of artists like Cui Jian from earlier but I think there is a lot of low quality Chinese production. Every now and then though, you find a diamond in the rough like this catchy song.
43: It Wasn’t Me
Even though I don’t understand him, Shaggy is iconic. It’s hard not to sing along to this song. This song is definitely in the category of questionable lyrics made up by its super catchiness – like Pumped Up Kicks.
Why is this song not called “I Get Knocked Down”? I rediscovered this song a few weeks ago and have been loving it. This is a song that activates you – either to dance or just make you happy. I also think the cultural mismatch in this song is interesting: in British English slang, pissing means getting drunk not urinating. But I guess after a long night of “pissing the night away” in the former sense, you’re going to have to do a lot of the latter too…
45: Wonderful Tonight
This year’s theme was creativity; I think next year’s will be love. As a human being and a Buddhist, I think I could do better in giving love to the world. Looking back, this year has had so many moments of love: receiving an extra big hug from a Buddhist monk, getting scolded that motorcycling wasn’t for me, taking classes in which the professor is passionate about teaching, motivating the next generation of swimmers, being a groomsman at my best friend’s wedding, and having a girlfriend who I really like (yay!), just to name a few. This is pretty explicitly about romantic love but I think the care and attention mentioned in the song can be applied universally to love.
46 & 47: Takanaka Masayoshi
After watching Penguin’s Memory, I was told I might like the City Pop music genre. I found out I really do – it’s like disco, but Japanese. Takanaka Masayoshi is the forerunner of City Pop – of course, he became popular in the 70s and 80s.
48: 热爱105℃的你 (Super Idol)
I was making awkward small talk with a family friend at Thanksgiving and the topic of music came up. He mentioned that he listens to this song while studying. I don’t know how you’d study to this song – I would just try to sing along and get distracted. You’ve been warned: this song is super catchy.
49: Stayin’ Alive
I watched Bullet Train recently and discovered this song. Not much to add other than the world needs more Asian covers of American music.
50: My Favourite Things
My mom is really into the Sound of Music so I’ve heard many renditions of My Favourite Things over the years. Kelly Clarkson has such a powerful voice (I didn’t know she was still doing music; good for her!) that bring its own flavour to this song.