While the streaming-age unbundling of albums broke down the idea of what a single could be even further, the year’s best songs all shook things up in their own right. Club-ready tracks from Beyoncé, Peggy Gou, and Kylie Minogue got people moving; cuts by post-punkers and pop-punkers, whether upstarts or legends, amped up the vibes; and a collaboration between música mexicana stars Peso Pluma and Eslabon Armado showed that there are still new parts of the pop world for American listeners to discover.
Here are the best songs of 2023.
10. Peggy Gou, “(It Goes Like) Nanana”
DJ and producer Peggy Gou’s breakout single is a throwback to the house-music era that has stinging guitars and urgent pianos. It gets its irresistible-earworm status from its wordless chorus, which sums up the indescribable feeling of being amidst loved ones with a few syllables arranged into a melody that’s simple yet unforgettable—just like other moments marked by positive energy and good people.
9. Gina Birch, “I Play My Bass Loud”
Post-punk pioneer Gina Birch was a member of The Raincoats, the Kurt Cobain-beloved act that viewed punk’s anything-goes ethos as a way to explore expressions of joy. The title track from her solo debut, which comes 44 years after her former band’s first album, channels that exuberance into a giddy declaration of self as well as a full-throated celebration of Birch’s instrument of choice; it’s also a compelling invitation to anyone listening to make, as she puts it, “notes fly around the room.”
8. Miranda Lambert and Leon Bridges, “If You Were Mine”
Texans Miranda Lambert and Leon Bridges come together on this sweetly longing duet, which pairs the country singer’s razor-sharp wail with the soul belter’s velvety croon over pedal steel and droning organs. Here’s hoping this is the beginning of a fruitful partnership, because Lambert and Bridges have a chemistry that’s apparent throughout—particularly at the song’s end, when the two have a lovely back and forth that shows how artistically in tune they are with each other.
7. English Teacher, “Nearly Daffodils”
One of the decade’s most exciting new indie acts, this Leeds quartet performs fine-pointed songs that place the focus on leader Lily Fontaine’s sardonic observations about modern life. This speedy track about dashed expectations and pent-up frustrations has wriggly verses, with Fontaine audibly gritting her teeth, but its chorus is pummeling, Fontaine dropping her sung-spoken vocal to bellow, “you can lead water to the daffodils but you can’t make them drink.”
6. Fall Out Boy, “So Much (For) Stardust”
The latest album from Fall Out Boy finds the pop-punk foursome—whose debut album Take This To Your Grave turned 20 this year—pairing hungry, colossal pop with an introspection that comes alongside the period of adulthood that can no longer be modified with the word “young.” It’s a fantastic ride, but its title track—which also closes the record—is an absolute barnburner, combining orchestral flourishes with expressions of disillusionment that feel as all-encompassing as the song’s wall-to-wall sonics.
5. Kylie Minogue, “Padam Padam”
Is turning heartbeats into club-ready rhythms what all dance-pop does? Maybe, but few do it better than Kylie Minogue, whose lengthy career has given DJs and bedroom boogiers a slew of opportunities for syncing up—and who delivered a leading song of the summer candidate with this sinuous cut, which made that speaker-to-heart relationship explicit. Here, Minogue’s silvery soprano transforms her into an icy-cold diva who’s invested herself in potentially melting alongside a fellow dancefloor denizen.
4. Peso Pluma and Eslabon Armado, “Ella Baila Sola”
This duet between música mexicana heavyweight Peso Pluma and the California band Eslabon Armado made chart history this year, peaking at No. 5 on the Hot 100 and becoming the first song of its kind to reach that chart’s top 10. It’s also a fantastic pop track, opening with punchy brass and eventually settling into a crisply upbeat rhythm, with Pluma and Elsabon Armado vocalist Pedro Tovar plotting dancefloor seduction as the band plays on.
3. Beyoncé, “My House”
Surprise-released alongside the theatrical debut of Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé, this pumping cut harnesses the fabulous energy and heavy beats of Beyoncé’s 2022 album and subsequent tour honoring dance clubs’ liberatory potential; it’s split into two, with its raucous first half giving way to a still-boisterous section where the singer-mogul goes into a slow burn, eventually declaring her intent to “let love heal us all.”
2. Victoria Monét, “On My Mama”
R&B singer-songwriter Victoria Monét’s ode to self-love brings together old-school vibes and new-school braggadocio, with Monét’s ice-cube-cool vocal reinforcing the confidence that has her feeling “deep in my bag/ like a grandma with a peppermint.” On its own, that turn of phrase would put “On My Mama” in the year’s upper echelons of pop; the song’s dry horns and gently burbling bass bring it to the head of the class.
1. Olivia Rodrigo, “bad idea right?”
Channeling the spikier side of ‘90s alt-rock, this single from next-generation pop forceOlivia Rodrigo’s GUTS wraps itself in tension, from its sung-spoken verses to its pre-chorus’ dizzying guitars to the way Rodrigo tries to convince herself that seeing her ex “is a bad idea, right?” before throwing caution to the wind and giving in to her urges. Its wild production echoes the maelstrom of feelings surrounding Rodrigo’s decision to head over to a past love’s place—and it sounds great, too, making “bad idea right?” an appealing piece of ear candy for even the most settled-down listeners.
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