Another lap around the sun, another year of Texas musicians continuing to influence the world and each other. I mean, who wouldn’t smile at Megan Thee Stallion including Lil’ Keke and Big Pokey on her latest album, Traumazine. Or Lizzo sampling Z-Ro on Special. Or Beyoncé invoking Mike Jones as she adlibs Grace Jones’s name on Renaissance? And apparently Bun B now makes the best burger in the country. Literally, according to Good Morning America. While those are Houston-specific examples, the rest of Texas made some noise this year as well. Here are our top 15 moments in Texas music for 2022.
Song: “I Love You Bitch”
Genre: Pop/New Wave
When we first hit play on this song, we thought it was great that Lizzo was experimenting with an ’80s New Wave sound. But then when she got to the chorus and we heard “I love you, bitch/I never thought I’d say,” we were like, “Why does this sound so familiar?” Turns out it’s because she’s referencing a Houston classic, Z-Ro’s “I Hate U.” A Z-Ro reference on a pop record is something we never could have imagined, so salute to Lizzo for that.
Album: Power (Live from Sugarhill Studios)
In these times, we could all use some extra affirmations, and that’s exactly what self-described R&G (rhythm & groove) singer Lenora gives us on Power. Over silky smooth instrumentation, Lenora sounds like she’s sitting on a cloud when she sings to us, “You can plant the seed to a better life/You can scale a tree with a record height/You can slay your beast with a butter knife/You can do it.”
Song: “Sweetest Pie”
Artist: Megan Thee Stallion & Dua Lipa
Hometown: Houston & London
In 2022, Hot Girl Meg continued her ascension to the stratosphere on this infectious pop-rap collaboration with Dua Lipa. When you’re as good at rapping as Meg is, the fun comes in the wordplay, so we had to smile when we heard her say, “Cesar Milan, I got his ass trained/Just tryna let a dawg know who really run things.”
Artist: Esteban Gabriel
A beautiful, heart-wrenching corrido blues; that’s what Esteban Gabriel delivers on “Substancias.” It’s a classic tale: he didn’t realize how good he had it with his ex until she left, so he tries to fill the void with booze and weed, but they only leave him feeling more empty. “Sustancias que no solucionan ni una cosa,” he sings. Substances, they don’t solve a single thing.
Song: “Handy Man”
Artist: Teezo Touchdown
Album: Handy Man
When Kenny Beats and Teezo Touchdown linked up, we weren’t expecting the result to be a dose of emo-pop-punk nostalgia, but we are so pleased with “Handy Man.” “Mr. Handy man, you can fix anything/My heart is broken/What am I supposed to do?/Inside that big toolbox, is there a new heart?” Teezo please, we’re crying.
Album: The Man From Waco
Artist: Charley Crockett
Hometown: San Benito
Charley Crockett continues to be the most exciting sound in country music and on The Man From Waco, the man from everywhere (just check his Wiki page for an exhaustive list of places Crockett has called home) continues to be in top form with his booming voice and nostalgic blend of country, blues, and soul.
Album: Texas Moon
Artist: Khruangbin & Leon Bridges
Hometown: Houston & Fort Worth
Think of this album as the Very Good Plus B-side to 2020’s Texas Sun. Driving across Texas is a day-to-night endeavor, so we give thanks to the Houston trio and the Fort Worth soul man for giving us a soundtrack to the experience of driving under those big, bright Texas stars. From the dance groove of “B-Side,” to the sensual poetry of “Chocolate Hills,” this EP is sure to make you feel real good.
Song: “We Not Humping” (Remix)
Artist: Monaleo, featuring Flo Milli
Album: We Not Humping (Remix)
Hometown: Houston & Mobile, Alabama
We need to hear Monaleo on more Miami bass-type beats because this link-up with Flo Milli on the remix of this anthem for rejecting horned-up dudes is just too perfect. If you need a confidence boost, this song is the prescription, especially with lines from Leo like, “Big Benz/Back out with the big wheels/Big L-E-O/I’m a big deal.”
Album: It Starts With Love
Artist: The Suffers
On It Starts With Love, The Suffers have found their biggest, most colorful sound to date, and they want you to laugh, cry, vent, and dance along with them. You may recognize the album’s lead single, “Take Me to the Good Times,” as the theme song to renowned author Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead podcast, but there’s much more to discover here. “Don’t Bother Me” is a boisterous, jubilant opener guaranteed to get your feet moving and “How Do We Heal” is a powerful mourning in the wake of Black lives lost at the hands of police. Perhaps the most incredible discovery within the album’s credits is that “Bitches Gotta Get Paid” is written by Diane Warren, who has written hits for the likes of Beyoncé, Cher, Céline Dion, Toni Braxton, and Whitney Houston.
Song: “Chrome Lips”
Artist: Le$ featuring Freddie Gibbs
Hometown: Houston & Gary, Indiana
The output of music from Le$, both in volume and quality, resembles Lil’ Wayne’s mixtape run in the 2000s. And much like Wayne, Le$ doesn’t need features to make affecting music. But on this single from his E30 album we get the gift of peak Freddie Gibbs. Yes please.
Artist: Nezi Momodu
Album: The Pound
Nailing a song that’s supposed to be your introduction to the world is no easy task, but that’s exactly what Nezi Momodu does here. With effortless confidence, she raps, “In the Jeep, all yellow/Black Cinderella/Green Jimmy Choo’s/Bitch who got the shoe?” The song’s video is a tribute to one of her biggest inspirations: Missy Elliott, who also gave the video her stamp of approval.
Album: The Mars Volta
Artist: The Mars Volta
Hometown: El Paso
The Mars Volta almost didn’t make this their first album in 10 years. Scientology, drugs, and death have haunted the band since its inception, up to, and even after, their break-up in 2013. Thankfully, founders Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (guitar) and Cedric Bixler-Zavala (lead vocals) reconciled to make 2022’s self-titled offering, featuring Lopez’s brother, Marcel, on synths, Eva Gardner on bass, and Willy Rodriguez Quiñones on drums. The album departs from the band’s penchant for excess, and instead finds them creating their own smooth version of a pop record. The result is the most accessible album the band has ever made.
Artist: Khruangbin & Vieux Farka Touré
Genre: Desert Blues/Funk
Hometown: Houston & Bamako, Mali
Part of the reason we love Khruangbin is for the group’s ability to incorporate a world of influences into their music, and they aren’t coy about where those influences come from. We are ecstatic that they’ve taken the next step and collaborated with Vieux Farka Touré, son of Malian guitar hero, Ali Farka Touré, for an entire album. The late legend, Ali, was celebrated for closing the circle between eastern scales and the blues, and this album pays tribute to him by taking his blueprint and going to work.
Song: “Always Free” (Live)
Artist: Jackie Venson
Album: Love Transcends (Live in Austin)
It’s rare for a live recording to make a list like this, but Jackie Venson’s guitar mastery is best experienced live. When she sings, “Only wise men see that we were/Always free,” she’s telling you that your worth has always been within you. Which is a great sentiment. But, at the 2:00 mark, she crescendos into a face-melting guitar solo that carries us to the far reaches of the solar system. Now that’s freedom.
Nina Simone on the dancefloor. That must have been the concept when Beyoncé made Renaissance. After two years of pandemic isolation, she brought the ballroom to center stage in the form of a literal renaissance of house, techno, and disco. And in keeping with the spirit of ballroom culture, she made an album intended to uplift. What’s been incredible to witness about this album, though, is that whether it’s the constant chant of “YEW-NEEQ” or Grace Jones’ legendary feature on “MOVE,” or the mind-blowing vocal runs on “PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA,” fans are so into this album that they don’t just have favorite songs, they have moments. As much timelessness as there is in Beyoncé’s catalog, Renaissance is by far her most addictive project, and certainly our album of the year. And to think that this is only Act 1.