The Best Songs of 2023

the best songs of 2023
The Best Songs of 2023Getty Images

No matter what your Spotify Wrapped says, music took us to more places in 2023 than Burlington, Vermont, or Berkeley, California. This year’s new releases transported us: to the dance floor, to our angsty teenage years, to the 2000s, to sweaty dance floors, or right into the middle of Barbie’s existential crisis. Here, we’re sharing our favorite tracks from the past year, and the journeys they took us on.

Hearst Owned

“bad idea right?” by Olivia Rodrigo

Yes, I know that he’s my ex, but can’t two people reconnect? Olivia Rodrigo’s second single from Guts has been living rent-free in my head pretty much since the album came out. The song, combining the best of ’90s and 2000s pop-punk, is like an anthem for teenage girls making bad decisions. We’ve all been there.”—Claire Stern, digital director

“Pearls” by Jessie Ware

“Jessie Ware is once again daring us to get up and dance. Teasing her latest album, That! Feels Good!, her single ‘Pearls’ is an exuberant party anthem dripping with disco influences and good vibes.”—Erica Gonzales, senior culture editor

“On My Mama” by Victoria Monét

Victoria Monét, a fellow Taurus, blessed us with a bop this summer. And the fact that it’s now a two-time Grammy-nominated song is a testament to its greatness. With cheeky lyrics, like ‘I’m so deep in my bag / Like a grandma wit a peppermint,’ it makes sense why it’s the most infectious and addictive song of the year (and one of my favorites).”—Juliana Ukiomogbe, assistant editor

“ETA” by NewJeans

“It’s hard not to be obsessed with NewJeans. Each member of the five-part girl group is adorable, their style is girlish but cool, and their melodies are catchy as hell. Their soft pop and even Baltimore club influences veer from the high-octane production of K-pop’s heavy-hitters. Their eponymous EP is stacked with hits on hits, but ‘ETA’ is a favorite.”—EG

“Boy’s a liar Pt. 2” by PinkPantheress and Ice Spice

“PinkPantheress and Ice Spice are a match made in Gen Z heaven, and the viral success of this collab is just further proof. It’s fast-paced but forlorn, a contemplative but cocky breakup anthem. (‘His girl is a bum to me,’ Ice raps in her verse.) Has ‘duh-duh-duh’ been added to the dictionary yet?”—EG

“Smoke” by Caroline Polachek

“Trust I’m not just blowing smoke when I say Chairlift member Caroline Polachek’s album Desire, I Want to Turn Into You is filled with intoxicating tunes. While it’s difficult to choose the best song, ‘Smoke’ takes the top prize for most likely to be on repeat. The track, full of ‘na na nas’ and ‘heys,’ uses Polachek’s voice as the drum major in an otherwise pounding percussion section. It all works masterfully, serving as a gem on a perfectly hypnotic album.”—Samuel Maude, assistant to the editor-in-chief

“Not Strong Enough” by Boygenius

“The boys have always captured the complexities of one’s inner feelings, as we’ve seen on this year’s The Record as well as the EP The Rest. ‘Not Strong Enough’ is deceptively warm in its sound, especially with its building three-part harmonies in the bridge, but it’s heartbreaking yet relatable in its lyrics, which convey the fear of not being good enough for someone you love.”—EG

“You’re Losing Me” by Taylor Swift

“Taylor Swift knows what she’s doing. Amid news of her breakup with her longtime partner Joe Alwyn, Swift dropped this heartbreaker of a song that, at first, fans could only access two ways: by buying a special edition of her album Midnights at MetLife Stadium on Friday, May 26, or buying a digital download that was only available for 24 hours. Why the exclusivity? This song might be the saddest and most intimate she’s ever released. She sings, ‘I wouldn’t marry me either / A pathological people pleaser / Who only wanted you to see her,’ shutting down speculation about her relationship while never really saying anything.”—Madison Feller, digital deputy editor

“Paint the Town Red” by Doja Cat

“After going starry-eyed on Planet Her, Doja has entered her blood-soaked demon era. On ‘Paint the Town Red,’ she goes after critics who’ve come for her appearance, her rap skills, her pop music, and more without batting an eye. ‘I let all that get to my head / I don’t care, I paint the town red,’ she spits in the chorus. All while sampling Dionne Warwick.”—EG

“What Was I Made For?” by Billie Eilish

“Leave it to Billie Eilish to turn a commission for a toy movie into a devastating existential ballad. Her original composition for Barbie is both introspective and universal, mirroring the journeys of Greta Gerwig’s plastic protagonist and the women watching her. ‘Where did it end? All the enjoyment?’ Eilish wonders with angelic vocals, capturing the anxieties of growing up and finding purpose.”—EG

“Moonlight” by Kali Uchis

“I absolutely love the energy of this hook: ‘I just wanna get high with my lover / Veo una muñeca cuando miro en el espejo’ (which translates to: I see a doll when I look in the mirror). Paired with twinkling flourishes and Uchis’ silky vocals, it paints a portrait of a romance that’s hot, uninhibited, and stress-free.”—EG

“A&W” by Lana Del Rey

“If you’ve never heard Lana Del Rey’s Grammy-nominated single ‘A&W,’ get ready for a rollercoaster. In true Lana fashion, the first half starts out as a hazy piano ballad, detailing ‘the experience of being an American whore.’ She asks: ‘Look at my hair / Look at the length of it and the shape of my body / If I told you that I was raped / Do you really think that anybody would think / I didn’t ask for it?’ Then halfway through, the piano gives way to a thumping beat and the sound of pants zipping, as Lana sings—the same lines on repeat—about seeking sex and drugs, and you wonder if you should dance or cry.”—MF

“Thousand Miles (feat. Brandi Carlile)” by Miley Cyrus

“Miley Cyrus had a smash hit with her number-one single ‘Flowers,’ but another standout track on Endless Summer Vacation is the quieter and reflective ‘Thousand Miles.’ Cyrus has since said the song started as a tribute to her friend she lost to suicide, and Brandi Carlile lends her voice to emphasize some of the most heart-wrenching lyrics. The harmonica is also a great addition, making it seem like Cyrus is hitchhiking through the pain. It’s clear: Cyrus’ Endless Summer Vacation isn’t just beach balls, cocktails, and late nights. There’s room for sadness, too.”—SM

“Contact” by Kelela

“I’d been dying for a new Kelela record since Take Me Apart, and after a few years of waiting, Raven did not disappoint. Single ‘Contact’ is a moody, hot tribute to the sweaty nights out that take you from one club to the next and never seem to end. To have her sum up the vibe: ‘It’s 2 A.M., yeah, we made it, everybody faded.’”—EG

“Rush” by Troye Sivan

“If you stepped into any queer-coded space in July, this song was probably blasting at full volume. After a buildup that felt like a some type of come up, Troye Sivan dropped the ultimate horny dance track as the lead single off of his album Something to Give Each Other. He perfectly describes the song as ‘the feeling of kissing a sweaty stranger on a dance floor, a two-hour date turned into a weekend, a crush, a winter, a summer.’ I describe the song as the earworm that I know I’ll be hearing at gay bars for years to come.”—SM

“From the Start” by Laufey

“There’s a little bit of magic in every Laufey song. (No wonder her latest album is called Bewitched.) But it’s this single that really put me, and most of TikTok, under her spell. Sweet, airy, and bossa nova-inspired, this romantic tune feels like you’re in a movie.”—EG

“Players” by Coi Leray

“A female empowerment song if I’ve ever heard one. It’s no surprise, then, that Coi Leray recorded it in just one take. As the rapper told Billboard, ‘It just flowed.’ Over 400 million Spotify streams later, it still does.”—CS

“Super Graphic Ultra Modern Girl” by Chappell Roan

“Get me my glittering lipstick, call the pink Bentley, and get my ass to the club to dance to this euphoric banger from Chappell Roan’s The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess. With a tantalizing beat and lyrics written for a gay-bar-loving twenty-something, you can bet this is one of the most iconic tracks of the year. Roan also gives great advice: Never EVER waste a Friday night on a first date. You should be dancing to this track instead.”—SM

“Co-Star” by Amaarae

“Amaare’s album Fountain Baby is a feat, and with ‘Co-Star,’ she gives us a bop for the astrology girlies. Compatible with any sign.”—EG

“get him back!” by Olivia Rodrigo

“Where were you when you realized this song wasn’t about wanting to get back at an ex or trying to get back together with an ex, but rather the feeling of desiring all of the above at the exact same time? This is the magic of Rodrigo, who can cleverly deliver both messages—‘Wanna kiss his face / With an uppercut / I wanna meet his mom / Just to tell her her son sucks’—with a wink and a series of devastatingly relatable lyrics.”—MF

“LLYLM” by Rosalía

“I’m here to put the record straight: Rosalía simply does not miss. After the continuing success of her album Motomami, she is extending her winning streak with yet another perfect pop song in ‘LLYLM’ (which stands for: lie like you love me). Ride your motorcycle off into the sunset, Rosalía, because this single is gold.”—SM

“My Love Mine All Mine” by Mitski

“Don’t let its viral status fool you, this ballad from Mitski is beautiful and profound. (Has she been known to do anything less?) In it, she explains how everything in this world is temporary, nothing really ever belongs to anyone permanently, but her love is the one thing that is actually, truly hers.”—EG

“Devotion” by Arlo Parks

“Parks told us earlier this year that ‘while there’s a thread of truth [in my songs], I’m always heightening the vividness of a memory to make it feel filmic.’ Vivid is the perfect way to describe ‘Devotion,’ which begins with her humble vocals but explodes with slamming guitars and floating harmonies.”—EG

“My House” by Beyoncé

“The Renaissance continues! To celebrate the release of her concert film, Beyoncé shared a new song that embodies the ethos of her superb 2022 album. It incorporates house music influences, it’s loud and it’s cocky, but it’s also celebratory and full of love.”—EG

“Back on 74” by Jungle

“I’m a sucker for disco influences, so Jungle has been a favorite for a while (also because of their always impeccably choreographed music videos). On their latest album, Volcano, ‘Back on 74’ emerged as the viral TikTok hit, but how couldn’t it be? It’s light, free, and irresistible. The dancers sure help too.”—EG

“Psychedelic Switch” by Carly Rae Jepsen

“Carly Rae Jepsen somehow managed to make this song from her B-sides album The Loveliest Time feel exactly like its name suggests: a substance-infused journey through the depths of a nightclub. When you turn this track on? Yeah, flip the switch, you’re cruising to daylight.”—SM

“4EVA (feat. Pharrell Williams)” by Kaytraminé

“Everything Kaytranada touches is a hit, including this joint project with rapper Aminé. They secured features from Snoop Dogg to Freddie Gibbs in the track list, but this one with Pharrell reigns supreme. With a beat like this, you’ll be playing it on loop forever and ever...and ever.”—EG

“Little Things” by Jorja Smith

“The frenetic energy of this beat and the pulsing keys shouldn’t make sense, but they just do. Jorja Smith ties them together with her rich, raspy vocals as she sings about ‘the little things that get me high’ about a certain someone.”—EG

“Houdini” by Dua Lipa

“After a couple of features, the lead single on Barbie: The Album, and brand deals galore, Dua Lipa wasn’t really ever gone from the public’s consciousness, but late this year, she ‘Houdini’-ed back into the mainstream with this lead single from her upcoming third studio album. Her highest debut on the Billboard Hot 100 at 11, you know it’s a big song when people make the song title a verb.”—SM

“Tiny Garden (feat. duendita)” by Jamila Woods

“Jamila Woods sings about tending to a budding romance in this warm, endearing single from her album Water Made Us. ‘It’s not gonna be a big production,’ she sings, ‘Said it’s gonna be a tiny garden / But I’ll feed it everyday.’”—EG

“The Hillbillies” by Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar

“When Kendrick and Baby Keem join forces, they can’t miss. ‘Hillbillies’ is more frantic than the brassy ‘Family Ties,’ but the two cousins still trade verses with flair, and a few football references. They scored a Bon Iver sample, too.”—EG

“Fly Girl feat. Missy Elliott” by FLO

“What do you get when you mix the next big British girl group, a Missy Elliott verse, and a sample from Elliott’s ‘Work It’ together? A shake-your-ass number that feels like it’s straight from The Cheetah Girls (in the most non-derogatory way possible). With beats that place this song in a perfect early 2000s pocket, FLO makes a strong case for embracing Y2K all over again.”—SM

“Monaco” by Bad Bunny

“After the immense success of Un Verano Sin Ti, Bad Bunny is counting his Ws, while drinking fine champagne in Monaco. The sweeping strings of this track add a wistful tinge to this celebratory anthem.”—EG

“Left Right” by XG

“Japanese girl group XG wowed us with their breathless debut single ‘Tippy Toes’ and Cocona’s cypher rap verse, but they also know how to make us swoon with a smooth R&B-inspired tune. It’s so good they got Ciara and Jackson Wang on a remix.”—EG

TQG” by Karol G and Shakira

“Shakira set a new standard for breakup anthems this year, and this collab with fellow Colombiana Karol G is another ruthless gem. The pair drag their exes, who are still watching their Stories and liking their Instagrams, while they’ve moved on to bigger, better things. As Shakira puts it, loosely translated in English: ‘You left, and I wen’t triple ‘m’ / Much hotter, much tougher, much more class.’”—EG

“Princess Diana (feat. Nicki Minaj)” by Ice Spice

“The comparisons to the People’s Princess were somewhat ironic at first, but Bronx rapper Ice Spice proved she’s rising rap royalty this year—especially with not one but two collaborations with the queen, Nicki Minaj. On this remix, they trade verses with confidence and ease, and Ice addresses her newfound fame: ‘Nowadays, I be duckin’ them cameras / And they hype that I’m up on them banners.’”—EG

“So You Are Tired” by Sufjan Stevens

“Stevens’ latest album, Javelin, is an exploration of love and life, and even the devastating songs are beautifully crafted. ‘So You Are Tired’ captures the weariness of an unraveling relationship, with lines like ‘So you are tired as the sun’ gently sung over soft piano keys and delicately plucked guitar strings.”—EG

“Black Mirror” by Noname

“Noname said this opener to her album Sundial is ‘poet heavy,’ and she’s not wrong. She shows off her lyricism and the many layers of her own persona (‘She’s a shadow walker, moon stalker, Black author / Librarian, contrarian’) before reminding us at the end that she’s a ‘rapper too.’”—EG

“Vertigo” by Griff

“Need to work through a situationship? Well, Griff has you covered. In this pop track that feels like it’s straight from the stars, Griff asks a lover why they’re simply not going for it and taking the leap. Griff herself is a big Taylor Swift fan, and Swift has showed her support for the song too, sharing it on Instagram. So, if you don’t believe this editor that this track is one of the best of the year, take it from the queen of pop music herself.”—SM

“Lipstick Lover” by Janelle Monáe

“Monáe seems her freest on this album, The Age of Pleasure, and she’s living up to its title. (As she said herself, all the songs come from ‘such an honest space.’) ‘Lipstick Lover’ is a sultry, summery track that still hits in the winter months.”—EG

“The Wedding Song” by Reneé Rapp

“Reneé Rapp exploded onto the music scene in a grand flurry with her debut album, Snow Angel, and this track for the hopeless romantic, wedding planning, love-obsessed, most likely water sign was a standout. The juxtaposition of the song’s major and minor chords perfectly emphasize what Rapp is trying to convey: her longing for the bright times of the relationship after a dark and stormy break up. Added to my breakup playlist? I think so.”—SM

“Don’t Play with It (Remix) (feat. Yung Miami and Latto)” by Lola Brooke

“The first time I heard Lola Brooke’s voice I think chills went down my spine. Her deep tone enriches every song she’s on, especially this one. I know it’s an older single, but the features from some of the hottest women in hip-hop right now, Latto and Yung Miami of City Girls, breathe new life to this remix.”—EG

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