Are you disappointed by what your Spotify wrapped revealed about how you spent your year in music listening? Don't fret, we can easily upgrade your 2023 tune base. All year long, we’ve listened to, interviewed, and analyzed the releases of the fantastic artists who keep the industry alive—and honestly, they just keep getting better. Take the Beatles for example, who, 43 years after their last release, managed to gracefully resurrect John Lennon for a new generation of listeners. Or the Rolling Stones, who stunned with their first album of originals in 18(!) years.
It’s not just icons, though. There was plenty room for newcomers like Lola Brooke and Saint Harrison, who broke through the static with crystal-clear vocals and a hell of a lot to say. And lest we forget, the lyrical powerhouses, like Lana Del Rey, Chris Stapleton, and Sufjan Stevens, whose songwriting reminded us why we love music in the first place. Below, find our top 20 songs of the year.
The Rolling Stones, "Get Close"
On the legendary outfit's first collection of original material in 18 years—the 26th studio LP of their career—the Rolling Stones beat everyone's expectations. Hackney Diamonds is a taut testimony to everything Mick & co. have done so well these past 60 years, swerving between blistering rock, country weepers, and that signature post-Chuck Berry boogie. There's an argument to be made for several cuts as the best, but I dare you to play "Get Close," with its dirtier-than-sin groove and anthemic chorus, just once. I'm telling you, it can't be done.
boygenius, "Not Strong Enough"
Supergroup boygenius grapples with institutional sexism and a lack of control on the stunning "Not Strong Enough." The track features all three singers (Lucy Daucus, Phoebe Bridgers, and Julien Baker) layering their voices for a haunting, cartharsis-inducing effect—and with that looped bridge, where together they mourn being "always an angel, never a god," they reveal their mission statement in their plainest terms yet. Sounds too heady? Know this: It sounds good as hell, folks.
Chris Stapleton, "Loving You On My Mind"
You come to Chris Stapleton for many things. The voice. The country-rock fusion. The anthems about whiskey. The weepers. And now, beginning in 2023, the sex jams. The most surprising cut off his recently-released LP Higher, "Loving You On My Mind," does more than slink—it's a full on sweat-fest.
Paul Russell, "Lil Boo Thang"
"Lil Boo Thang" is the feel-good song of the year. (And talk about a year that needed it.) With a sample of The Emotions' "Best of My Love," the L.A. transplant who first gained traction on TikTok with a clip of this cut gives a '70s groove a glossy, 21st century new life. 10/10.
The Beatles, "Now and Then"
When the Beatles announced that they would release one final track featuring the entirety of the Fab Four—using AI to dress up an old John Lennon demo—I’ll admit I was skeptical. I’m happy to report that I was, in a word, wrong. The blend of old material and new is seamless, and to hear Lennon's voice again, doing something fresh, is undeniably emotional, occasionally even overwhelming. Peter Jackson, who helped isolate the Lennon vocal from old demos, summed it up best in interview with Esquire: "It’s a significant moment for the entire world when the Beatles have a new song."
Lana Del Rey, "A&W"
The seven-minute track off Del Rey's unwieldily titled 2023 album, Did You Know There Is a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, is a slinky, hypnotizing tale about sex and shame. But the singer has always preferred to keep her audience at arm's length, and just when you begin to understand her perspective, she flips the script, adopting a new beat, background, and lyrical persona. It's curious sure, but it absolutely works.
Offset (feat. Cardi B), "Jealousy"
Offset and Cardi B have some choice words for anyone who dares to cross them in "Jealousy." This expertly crafted track—featuring two killer flows and an even better beat drop—will hype you up while making you feel guilty for believing a single rumor about their marriage.
Jungle, "Back on 74"
"Back on 74" is three minutes and 29 seconds of pure, irresistible musical fun. Press play and step into the glitz and glam of a '70s disco. The electronic group out of England has been releasing bubbly, strobe light anthems for a decade, but reached new heights in 2023. A total antidote to the hellish news—and, honestly, the rest of the mainstream music charts—it's a perfect escape.
Olivia Rodrigo, "All-American Bitch"
Find me an artist who is doing anything better than Olivia Rodrigo in 2023. On "All-American Bitch" she screams and sings her way through a tale as old as time, somehow managing to turn it into something entirely fresh. Turn the volume all the way up, this is perfect, unfiltered rage against the machine.
Lenny Kravitz, "TK421"
Lenny Kravitz has been a master at musical fusion for decades, but still, his ability to make funk and rock strut side by side never ceases to inspire. Look no further than "TK421," the lead single off his 2024-anticipated album, Blue Electric Light. With a storm of electric guitar and horns, plus a groovier than hell bassline, it'll rattle your bones.
Lola Young, "Don’t Hate Me"
Newcomer Lola Young makes herself impossible to ignore with "Don’t Hate Me." Over a throwback beat, she speak-sings lyrics about falling out of love and seeing an ex for who they really are. Listening to this track is like coming face to face with an exposed nerve. Proceed with caution.
Sufjan Stevens, “Will Anybody Ever Love Me?”
As he shared post-release, Sufjan Steven's excellent new album is an ode to his romantic partner who recently passed away. Each song is a beautiful tribute but "Will Anybody Ever Love Me" is the emotional centerpiece. With his voice wrapped with the feathery tones of a handful of female back-up singers, it'll have you believing unconditional love is just one turn around a life corner away.
Caroline Polachek, “Welcome to My Island”
Damn, Caroline Polachek is good. Formerly one-half of the indie pop outift Chairlift, Polachek has, since their 2016 split, released music under her own name—an endeavor that witnessed her best work yet in 2023 with Desire, I Want to Turn Into You. On an album full of highlights, though, "Welcome to My Island" wins with its Technicolor synths, burbling beat, and shout-worthy lyrics. (Plus, there's bonus listening material in the form of a remix courtesy of Charli XCX and the 1975's George Daniel.)
Thundercat & Tame Impala, "No More Lies"
This woozy team-up from Thundercat and Tame Impala is the best sort of psychedelic rabbit hole. Sprawling across five-plus minutes, the lyrics tell a story about a man who’s finally ready to be honest about his shortcomings. Cheers to that—but you're here for the groove, and that's more than alright.
Hozier, "Eat Your Young"
A full decade after finding viral success with "Take Me to Church," the Irish singer and songwriter has enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance in 2023. This cut, equal parts haunting and hot, is part of the reason why. "Eat Your Young" reels you in with an ominous chant, then swallows you whole with this dark, twisted fantasy. A taste: "I’m starving, Darlin/Let me put my lips to something/Let me wrap my teeth around the world."
Róisín Murphy, "CooCool"
Why take mood enhancers when you can listen to “CooCool” instead? It’s all the fun of a night out without the hangover. The Irish singer-songwriter has been calling revelers to the dance floor for decades, but here, she takes a welcome, spaced-out approach to release.
Saint Harison, “Ego Talkin”
Saint Harison has crossed the pond to become your next favorite R&B singer; his honeyed vocals sweeten the delivery of his gut-wrenching lyrics with ease. Take "Ego Talkin," a sobering track which, over a throbbing low-end, sees the singer confronting his own selfishness in a relationship. Warning: don’t listen to this one unless you’re in the mood for self-reflection.
Victoria Monét, “On My Mama”
"On My Mama" is about having unshakeable confidence, and the criminally underrated Monét, whose lent her writing talents to Ariana Grande throughout her career, has no trouble convincing her audience across this midtempo, rubber-band beat. Or the Grammy nominations committee, it turns out. The cut is up for Record of the Year at the 2014 ceremony.
Doja Cat, “Paint The Town Red”
Say what you want about Doja Cat—and there's plenty to say, about her social media presence, about her perplexing relationship with fame, about the fashion—but never ignore this truth: The woman knows her way around a hook. "Paint the Town Red" sinks its talons in at the opening beat, and the first couplet seals the deal, "Yeah, bitch, I said what I said/I'd rather be famous instead." She's got us talking again.
Lola Brooke, “Just Relax”
Brooklyn-based MC Lola Brooke shines in "Just Relax," a boundary pushing hip-hop song that finds its backbone in a sample of Black Sheep’s 1993 hit, "This or That." Brooke is due for a bigger breakout, and her ability to pay homage to the decades of the genre that have come before her while reaching for something fresh is downright inspired.
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