The search for the ever-elusive "bop" is difficult. Playlists and streaming-service recommendations can only do so much. They often leave a lingering question: Are these songs really good, or are they just new?
Enter Bop Shop, a hand-picked selection of songs from the MTV News team. This weekly collection doesn't discriminate by genre and can include anything — it's a snapshot of what's on our minds and what sounds good. We'll keep it fresh with the latest music, but expect a few oldies (but goodies) every once in a while, too. And to close out 2022, we've rounded up some of our favorite bops from the year, just as we did with our Albums of the Year series and our top K-pop B-sides of the year list.
Get ready: The Bop Shop (2022 Favorites Edition) is now open for business.
Alvvays: “Belinda Says”
“They say in Heaven, love comes first,” Belinda Carlisle sang in 1987. “We’ll make Heaven a place on Earth.” That idea, long a cultural staple, gets viewed from a new angle here, on a beautiful and jarring bit of pop music that sounds like a cassette warping in a malfunctioning Walkman. After a key change that nods to Carlisle’s original, Alvvays’s Molly Rankin reveals the twist: “Belinda says that Heaven is a place on Earth, well, so is Hell.” The protagonists of both songs resolve to make light out of darkness anyway. Rankin’s narrator — over melty shoegaze that covers the melody like sludge — moves to the country and starts a new life with her baby; Carlisle aims to build paradise out of the love she shares with someone. “Baby, I was afraid before,” the latter sings, “but I'm not afraid anymore.” Rankin’s song is too wise to go all in like that, but “Belinda Says” never tilts to the cynical. It’s as hopeful as a winter sunrise. It’s one of the most moving songs I’ve ever heard. And at only 2:45 in length, it’s heavenly. —Patrick Hosken
Taylor Swift: “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve”
“Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first,” Taylor Swift sings, delivering her most powerful and gut-wrenching lyrics on one of the darkest songs in her career. “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” has made me ugly cry so much as it articulates exactly what the lasting, raw effects of trauma from a past toxic relationship are like. It’s as if Swift wrote this song not just for her own healing process but also for every survivor of abuse, like me. The haunting synths precisely match the track’s disturbing subject matter, and the religious imagery serves as a fitting parallel to one’s loss of innocence stolen from an older abuser: “I would’ve stayed on my knees / And I damn sure never would've danced with the devil / At 19 / And the God's honest truth is that the pain was heaven / And now that I'm grown, I'm scared of ghosts / Memories feel like weapons.” Her evoking a “crisis of my faith” recalls my own grappling with Catholic guilt at 14 and 15, when my abuser betrayed and hurt my trust. The thoughts intrude: “Why do bad things happen if God loves me?” — or worse, you victim-blame yourself and think you deserved the abuse.
“Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve,” acts as a kind of sequel to her 2010 Speak Now hit “Dear John,” including lyrical callbacks to paint splattering. The difference is that “Dear John” is about the breakup’s raw aftermath in the moment; “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” finds the tomb still open after a decade because the trauma won’t die. Even if she has moved on and learned to experience a healthier relationship, it creeps in when least expected. It leaves deep self-loathing, regret, and destruction to your self-esteem for years, along with so many unanswered questions and a feeling that nobody might understand. It is beautifully comforting and cathartic for Taylor to write this, and I cannot thank her enough. —Athena Serrano
Girls’ Generation: “Forever 1”
In K-pop, 2022 was the year of the girl group. However, we wouldn’t have been love diving with IVE, looking for attention with NewJeans, or being fearless with Le Sserafim if it weren’t for Girls’ Generation, the K-pop legends who paved the way to success for Korean artists around the world. Making their first comeback in five years, SNSD celebrated their 15th anniversary with Forever 1, a contemporary, cohesive piece of pop magic that captures both the power of nostalgia and the strength in innovation. The album is led by its sparkly, synth-heavy title track, which combines elements of EDM and electro-pop, as well as a sample of their debut single “Into the New World”. The group’s confident, yet effortless vocals invoke a sense of sonic euphoria. Accompanied by a fizzy, neon music video which highlights each member’s solo endeavors before bringing them together for spirited choreography, “Forever 1” represents not only the group’s long-standing talent, but their love, respect, and dedication to each other. Though each verse bursts with sentimentality, the song reaches its climax at its bridge, where the members vow to love each other even in their next lives, “‘cause [they] are the one.” Though every group claims that they’ll be together forever, it's nice to know that the members of Girls’ Generation really mean it. —Sarina Bhutani
If I could put Renaissance in its entirety as a submission, I absolutely would. The Black cultural phenomenon spawned from this album alone is one for the history books — listening parties, endless edits, and entire events in dedication to Queen Bey’s masterpiece. I chose “Heated” for its infectious chorus and iconic spoken verses. The homages to house and ballroom culture are as evident and electric as they should be, especially toward the end, where Beyoncé hypes herself up and reads her haters to filth — not to mention the immediate alteration of her once-ableist lyric, showing that artists can and should cater to audience reception even after publication. No one’s perfect, not even Beyoncé, but she’s damn close! Whatever the Grammy wins turn out to be, Renaissance is the right choice for best album of the year. —Gwyn Cutler
One song I had on repeat this year wasn’t even in a language I speak. Japanese singer UA released her EP Are U Romantic? back in May, and “Ocha,” the collection’s second track, is an addictive fantasia of lo-fi lushness. Now, I don’t know what UA is saying in the song. Could I have used Google to translate the lyrics? Sure. But what fun would that be? With its calming yet groovy sound, “Ocha” is all about vibes. The title refers to another word for a Japanese tea ceremony, and that’s what this feels like: a warm cup of psychedelic brew flowing through your body. Don’t even get me started on the surreal and trippy CGI visual feast that is the music video. Avatar wishes. Forget romance: I’m fully head over heels in love. Press play and pour the tea. —Chris Rudolph
Wallows: “Hard to Believe”
At its rowdiest points, Wallows’s vibrant sophomore album Tell Me That It’s Over makes the end of a fractured relationship feel like a thrilling release. But its opening track clips at a moodier, Weezer-esque pace, a somber beginning to a burning end. “All the fires that start can’t be saved,” the song’s opening line confesses, sending things off in waves of self-misery (“Maybe you’re better now / All because I let you down”). “Hard to Believe” is a contemplative and considerate exploration of the beginning stages of loss, those opening twinges of regret when you’re starting down a lonely, unknown future. —Terron Moore
Hitkidd, GloRilla: “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)”
An instant classic from the time it dropped, GloRilla’s breakout hit is the rare “TikTok song” that would be a guaranteed smash no matter the era. In 2003, every ringtone at the mall would’ve chirped “Let’s goooo!” in unison; a few years later, thousands of fans might’ve flocked to parking lots to recreate the video’s beautiful anarchy as part of a YouTube challenge. The song’s magnetism is its own draw, a perfect marriage of Hitkidd’s replayable beat and a ridiculously charismatic performer. But beyond any attempt to intellectualize it, “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” simply goes. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. —Patrick Hosken
Polyphia ft. Sophia Black: “ABC”
Polyphia are known for being genius progressive rock instrumentalists, but on “ABC,” they further wowed with their creativity by adding a pop vocalist to the mix. Not only did Sophia Black somehow manage to go note for note with guitarist Tim Henson’s insanely rapid riffs, but she also flexed her language skills by delivering lyrics in both English and Japanese. Polyphia and Black also starred in a very fun, colorful music video that’s got over 5 million views and counting. —Farah Zermane
NewJeans: “Hype Boy”
You weren’t a person on the internet in 2022 if you didn’t try to learn the choreography to NewJeans’s “Hype Boy.” As the sophomore single from the HYBE debutants’ self-titled EP, it became your fave’s fave and took the K-pop community by storm with its tropical, synth-pop melody, heavy use of Y2K-era fashion, and eye-catching, highly addictive dance moves replicated by numerous Korean idols and celebrities. The track is accompanied by four — yes, four — different videos, each focusing on a different member, as well as two full-performance visuals. It’s a rarity in K-pop to see newbies both top the charts and capture people’s hearts, but NewJeans’s unique sound, style, and flair set them apart from their contemporaries, with songs like “Hype Boy” being only the start of what is to become a bright and brilliant future. Members Minji, Hanni, Danielle, Haerin, and Hyein are the industry’s newest It-girls, and with all eyes on them, we can’t wait to see what they do next. —Sarina Bhutani
MJ Lenderman: “TLC Cagematch”
A lot of songs this year made me cry. New fatherhood will do that. But the most unexpected tearjerker is this twangy ode to professional wrestlers and the horrendous things they do to their bodies for our entertainment. As Asheville’s poet laureate of the downtrodden sports star, MJ Lenderman conveys how their methods of pain-numbing are just as ugly as the tumbles they take through tables. Lenderman renders their steel-cage matches as beautiful living works of art, all while a weepy pedal steel cries out like a jobber taking yet another bump. Sufjan remains correct: All things go. But the muscle men in “TLC Cagematch” unfortunately go before their time. —Patrick Hosken
IDK: “Monsieur Dior”
There’s no denying that IDK was in his element this year, but which of his songs was the standout? I was itching to recommend “Breathe,” off his sensational album Simple. for its beautiful sonics (another Kaytranada mix I cannot resist) and its thoughtful representation of food-delivery culture within late-stage capitalism. Though IDK dropped an absolute banger on my birthday, so I’m quite partial to it. “Monsieur Dior” is as catchy as it sounds. With tough yet telling bars, it’s a dynamic tribute to his former collaborator, the late great MF DOOM. Unlike other artists who only boast of the glitz and glam of the designer brand, IDK constitutes wearing Dior as a landmark of his painstaking journey to stardom. “I got a problem showing people lovе that I never had” is the lyric that sticks with me — that and the killer chorus dissing the criminal justice system. The powerful paradox that he is, IDK shows us that he can exorcise his demons and bask in his well-deserved glory. —Gwyn Cutler
“Tap the heart until I hate myself,” Sarah Beth Tomberlin begins this meditative tune that functions as a sonic invitation to put your phone down for five minutes. But calling it an anti-Instagram song sells it short. “Tap” is a portal into the divine, where Tomberlin’s wordless choruses evoke Gregorian chants as much as gale force winds. The ambling acoustic guitar line functions in a circular pattern, meaning it could theoretically continue in perpetuity. Once you’re hooked, you’ll want it to. And you might never look at your feed again. —Patrick Hosken
Arijit Singh: “Kesariya”
When the “Kesariya” teaser dropped in April, it felt like a blip in the simulation. However, the earth-shattering response to a 44-second trailer couldn’t have prepared us for the massive outpouring of love that came with the full track, which, over the course of four-and-a-half minutes, filled listeners’ hearts with saffron-colored flowers. As the first offering from Dharma Productions’s supernatural epic Brahmāstra: Part One — Shiva, “Kesariya” narrates Shiva and Isha’s love story, which just happened to run concurrently to principal actors Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt’s own whirlwind romance, eventually leading to their marriage and birth of their first child. At its core, the track offers an understated acoustic melody; however, Arijit Singh’s signature rasp and full-bodied vocals breathe real life into the song, making every word resonate deep in your soul. There are some songs that just feel like warmth on your skin, and “Kesariya” does that and more. No wonder why it’s been the wedding song of the season! —Sarina Bhutani
L.S. Dunes: “2022”
L.S. Dunes bristle at the thought of being called a “supergroup,” but it’s hard to find a more appropriate descriptor for members of My Chemical Romance, Circa Survive, Coheed and Cambria, and Thursday coming together to create Past Lives, their masterpiece debut album. “2022” was a standout track that I’ve returned to over and over again since its release in September. Anthony Green’s vocals are raw and honest. His lyrics ooze vulnerability while he conveys the pain that the last few years have wrought as he struggled with addiction and mental health. It makes me deeply grateful for artists who can transform their suffering and sorrow into a beautiful piece of art that brings us one step closer to understanding each other. —Farah Zermane