BensBeat Top 50 Songs of 2023


Before getting into the list, it needs to be announced that this blog isn’t going to continue into 2024 due to other commitments piling up. To whoever has read any of my reviews over the past seven years, I can’t thank you enough – and you must know how jam-packed with releases 2023 has been. If there was one major trend to point to within 2023’s most inspiring musical success stories, it was an increased demand for gritty, raw authenticity. As folk and alt-country stormed back to the forefront while personal, culturally specific sounds like Afrobeats thrived, one thing’s certain: no matter the genre, the artists below all managed to tell their own stories in a compelling way. I’ll be back soon with the year’s best albums, which will be the blog’s final post.

Honourable Mentions:

  • Baby Keem & Kendrick Lamar – The Hillbillies
  • Bizarrap – Shakira: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53 (Ft. Shakira)
  • Jamila Woods – Practice (Ft. Saba)
  • KAYTRAMINÉ – Who He Iz
  • Luke Combs – Back 40 Back
  • Metro Boomin – Am I Dreaming (Ft. A$AP Rocky & Roisee)
  • Remi Wolf – Prescription
  • Rosalía – LLYLM
  • Rêve – EX EX EX (Whoops)
  • Young Thug – Jonesboro

50. Kyle Gordon – Planet Of The Bass (Ft. DJ Crazy Times & Ms. Biljana Electronica)

Asking people their favourite songs of 2023 is sure to elicit responses from a wide array of genres, but no matter what kind of a music fan you are, nobody can forget the summer months when everyone was transported to the planet of the bass. Comedian Kyle Gordon lovingly dismantles and pays homage to the endless optimism, outlandish personae and broken English of 90s Eurodance hits, asking the timeless question: All of the dream, how does it mean?

49. Mitski – My Love Mine All Mine

Another track that unexpectedly went viral on TikTok, it likely wasn’t on many’s 2023 Bingo cards to see a song from this underground indie rock and art pop darling hitting the top spot on the Spotify charts. About as brief as many of today’s viral hits, a lovestruck Mitski gets her point across quickly with a passionate vocal performance.

48. Addison Rae – Nothing On (But The Radio)

While it wasn’t a smash hit, the emergence of this top TikToker on a year-end list of any kind might be my biggest surprise. Her EP having Charli XCX as a guest was a sign that Addison Rae’s 5-track EP was going to attempt pop perfection, and none of the tracks hit that mark like this double and triple entendre-laden bubblegum banger that feels like it could have been released in the early 2000s. If you don’t mind your nostalgia-bait coming from a source like this, tap in.

47. FIFTY FIFTY – Cupid

Due to the rabid fanbases they often attract, it’s common to see tracks from K-pop groups debut high and immediately fall down the charts in the following weeks. That’s why it was so refreshing to see a track by relative newcomers FIFTY FIFTY ascend organically, breaking through genre barriers and gaining new fans as it expanded its sphere of influence. While the “Twin Version,” containing more English lyrics, exploded most, I’m paying my respects to the original, which features a great rap interlude.

46. Victoria Monet – Good Bye

Teaming up once again with producer D’Mile – who recently continued to prove his unmatched soul with contributions to the Silk Sonic album – Victoria Monet cements her status as one to watch with a smooth, 70s-style R&B anthem. Appropriately closing out her now Grammy-nominated sequel JAGUAR II, Monet offers a clever lyrical twist as she accepts a relationship coming to the end – if it’s going to be goodbye, let’s at least make it a good bye. The extended outro breakdown sells it.

45. JID – Half Doin Dope (Ft. Lil Yachty & BabyTron)

Although it doesn’t showcase as much of his mindbending technical abilities as his recent showstopper album The Forever Story, unlikely collaborators JID and Lil Yachty’s two-pack of tunes, dropped as an EP earlier this year, shows that JID is as much of a compelling rapper for his fun-loving spirit and infectious personality as his set of skills. Recruiting another court-jester type in BabyTron and grabbing a pitched-up soul sample, we get three verses from artists that sound like they’re having the time of their lives.

44. Melanie Martinez – BATTLE OF THE LARYNX

This track has a lot of real-life context behind it – over its five minutes, a frustrated-sounding Martinez belts a soaring chorus addressing someone trying to steal her voice in the wake of serious allegations, now proven false, being leveled against her – but even without them taken into account, this is an epic power ballad. Martinez has always had one of the most endlessly fascinating vocal tones in the music industry, and hearing its sweetness dripping with rage only increases that effect.

43. Teezo Touchdown – Mood Swings

With co-signs from just about every major figure in hip-hop, hearing just how delightfully bizarre Teezo Touchdown can be on his own solo work, hit-or-miss as it can be, makes it all the more fantastic how much recognition he’s getting. With pop-punk affectations over a bouncy synth-funk backdrop, Touchdown spins an unexpectedly cheery tale about dealing with his chaotic mental state. The high-pitched “wheeee!” he utters as his mind shifts once again and a hard-rock breakdown about melting ice cream make it hard for this one to leave your head.

42. Janelle Monae – Only Have Eyes 42

Due to all of the bells and whistles she often throws into her music, Janelle Monae must be the most overlooked figure when it comes to discussions about the best singers – from the perspective of pure vocal ability – in the music industry. This track demonstrates it better than any other on The Age of Pleasure, as a doe-eyed Monae sings an ode to her multiple lovers and the joy of discovering her love of polyamory. The title flips the classic romantic phrase – she sings “I only have eyes for two.”

41. Foo Fighters – The Glass

There are quite a few emotionally devastating tracks on the rock legends’ latest album, which finds Dave Grohl reckoning with the deaths of bandmate Taylor Hawkins and his mother, but this one communicates his heartbreak best with a striking and memorable chorus. It’s no wonder that H.E.R. wanted to jump on a reimagined version – it’s the kind of melody that would sound great no matter what genre it was applied to. Lyrically, Grohl imagines the barrier between heaven and earth to be as transparent as a pane of glass.

40. Gorillaz – Tarantula

Taking a break from the concept album’s discussion of modern-day cults, frontman Damon Albarn’s delivery is at its most starry-eyed and romantic as he seems to be addressing parasocial relationships on this one, getting locked on a one-track mind and being willing to do whatever at a detriment to himself to achieve his aims. It’s the most upbeat, happy and feel-good track on the iconic band’s latest, right down to the bright piano outro, but there’s something a little sinister under the surface.

39. Lil Yachty – the ride- (Ft. Teezo Touchdown)

For the first time, I wanted to restrict myself to having only a single song by each lead artist on my year-end list. Out of all of the acts who could have appeared more than once through guest appearances, I never would have predicted Lil Yachty. Taking a musical leap forward this year with his psychedelic rock-inspired Let’s Start Here album, although this track was a little more aligned with his prior goofy and catchy antics, the falsetto delivery in the chorus and the more dynamic instrumental behind made it unforgettable.

38. The Weeknd – One Of The Girls (Ft. JENNIE & Lily-Rose Depp)

This track is actually infectious enough to make you forget that it was originally released on the soundtrack to The Weeknd’s much-maligned TV misfire, The Idol. Featuring his co-stars, the daughter of an acting legend and a member of K-pop group BLACKPINK, it’s newfound attention on TikTok at the end of the year shows that it’s undeniably one of the year’s catchiest choruses. Surprisingly enough, the best parts come from Depp, as she tosses aside the notion of love for a little bit of attention from an obsession.

37. Amaarae – Wasted Eyes

Anyone who heard any of her features with artists like Kali Uchis or Janelle Monae already knew that Ghanaian singer Amaarae has one of the most spellbinding voices in the industry, sounding like it’s pitched up when it isn’t. Listening to her debut album also shows that she’s one of the most innovative, twisting up Afrobeats formulae like she does on this one. Adding some traditional Chinese instrumentation, a horn section and a blown-out, abrasive kick drum, it has some hyperpop tendencies.

36. Dorian Electra – Puppet

Speaking of hyperpop, who says we’re running out of ways to have fun with it? Blending the well-known piano melody from Beethoven’s Fur Elise with a thrashing, metal-adjacent guitar line, some distorted synths that sound like they could have come from the early 2010s dubstep boom, and some of the most X-rated lyrics you’ll hear all year, this brief shot of adrenaline is just one reason why Dorian Electra’s latest project is one of the year’s most delightfully disorienting.

35. Tori Kelly – missin u

Who knew a change in hair colour could do so much? While it’s always been obvious that Tori Kelly is beyond gifted from a vocal standpoint, her decision to finally go full R&B – with a nostalgic, early 2000s edge – after the worlds of pure pop and gospel resulted in some more generic material was a huge success this year. While most of the track’s joys come from it’s drum n’ bass inflections and Kelly remaining in her lower register while speeding through some lyrics reminiscing on the past, she still drops one of her trademark belted choruses to complete it.

34. Tkay Maidza – Walking On Air

While Australian artist Tkay Maidza is primarily known as a rapper, her sugary-sweet vocals always make her more melodic diversions into funk-pop some of her most incredible material. Reminiscent of “Cashmere,” – which previously appeared in the top 5 on one of these lists – right down to the rap verse appearing in the middle to give listeners the full spectrum of Maidza’s many skills, this closing track finds her preferring to stay in a blissfully optimistic state.

33. Ava Max – Sleepwalker

One of these days, Ava Max will get her due for being one of our modern artists with an ironclad grip on how to write a catchy pop melody. Always bolstering that with her surprisingly powerful vocals, it all comes together on one of the year’s most perfect pure pop tunes – not to mention the guitar solo that roars in as it reaches its climax. Lyrically, the track finds Max warning a potential partner that she’s the type to have him losing sleep, whether they’re together or apart.

32. Babygirl – Sore Eyes

One of the lesser-known artists on this list, I had the pleasure of interviewing this rising band from my native Canada about their latest EP, full of fuzzy pop-rock tunes that capture the feelings of awkwardness and apprehension that colour both the beginnings and endings of relationships better than possibly anyone not named Carly Rae Jepsen – and after all, this song contains a similar lyric: “Didn’t know I missed you until we met.” Even better is lead vocalist Kiki Frances’ angelic and breathy vocal tone throughout.

31. JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown – Burfict!

Two of the industry’s most out-there rappers came together this year with a simple goal: to scare the hoes. Referencing an oft-used internet meme in musical discussions groups regarding a hapless, terminally-online individual playing bizarre music that wouldn’t appeal to any potential romantic partner, this horn section-backed track with mixing that you, well… really just have to get used to… will click for those who need a little bit of something that permanently alters your brain chemistry.

30. Paramore – You First

While this longtime fan of Paramore might not have appreciated their latest distorted and punk-heavy record as much as many music nerds, this album highlight still captures just about everything that’s always made a Paramore song great. It kicks off with some experimental and proggy tempos during the verses, the pre-chorus gives off that crisp and clean rhythmic songwriting that coloured After Laughter (as well as some great jazzy note choices), and the chorus clicks right back to classic pop-punk Paramore, with some soaring vocals from Williams and the kind of excellent melody that they’ve always been known for.

29. Zach Bryan – East Side Of Sorrow

Alt-country troubadour Zach Bryan exploded into the mainstream consciousness this year with his more authentic, well-written and emotional take on a genre that’s often been coloured with a lot of pop-adjacent sludge in recent years. While his #1 duet with Kacey Musgraves is fantastic in its own right, no track speaks to who Bryan is as an artist better than “East Side of Sorrow,” as he addresses his time in the navy and the death of his mother. The breaks in Bryan’s voice sound like he’s fighting back tears as he repeats his mantra of processing it, letting it go, and bravely pushing forward, a sole trumpet urging him on.

28. Dua Lipa – Houdini (Extended Edit)

After fully converting this listener to her side with her stellar Future Nostalgia, then making me wait nearly four years to return with a lead single, it seems that Dua Lipa knew exactly what I wanted – a six-minute single co-produced by Tame Impala that combines her disco-pop sensibilities with something a little more psychedelic, like how The Weeknd evolved from After Hours to Dawn FM. If there’s any justice in the world, this track will follow all of her others in being a slow-burn hit deep into 2024.

27. Burna Boy – Big 7

A brief but nonetheless hard-hitting track on Burna Boy’s most recent magnum opus (so far), he kicks off the track’s two verses by paying his respects to two recently departed icons – designer Virgil Abloh and Indian rapper Sidhu Moose Wala – but the track itself doesn’t wallow in sadness. The way Burna throws his voice around the scales with ease sounds like he’s enjoying life, the melody in the chord progression feels like it belongs on the La La Land soundtrack, and the percussion hits hard.

26. Travis Scott – TOPIA TWINS (Ft. Rob49 & 21 Savage)

For all of the experimental joys on Travis Scott’s long-awaited UTOPIA – one of the only A-list rap albums of the year that really lived up to its promise – there’s something to be said about a different kind of joy: the inherent comedy of Scott cutting the beat and drawing out his vocals as he bellows a line referencing what seems to be his own personal American dream: “Twin b***hes hopping off a jetskiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii.” It’s the perfect song for 21 Savage’s brand of deadpan silliness as Scott treats it like a divine revelation, an epic, cinematic synth dropping behind it as if to affirm it as the meaning of life.

25. Doja Cat – Demons

Anyone who’s been reading these lists for a while knows that there’s always going to be a quirky, off-kilter rap banger that the majority of the consumer public – even when it comes to music nerds – doesn’t seem to understand. Doja Cat has undeniably been one of the best peddlers of tracks like these over the years, and there’s simply something about the arrythmic rising orchestral loop that Doja sees fit to juxtapose hard-hitting distortion and every odd voice she could pull out over that tickles my brain in just the right way. A warm welcome back to her weird, weird ways after Planet Her.

24. PinkPantheress – Mosquito

They say that nostalgia and trends can often go in 20-year cycles, which means it’s high time that someone like PinkPantheress appeared to bring back some of the most delightful sounds from the early 2000s – combining her native UK’s penchant for trip hop and jungle with some of the digitized sounds that emerged when the Internet was new and interesting. One of the tracks on her latest album that also showcases her unique vocals and knack for a melody that never leaves your head – echoed here by a whistle and a guitar part to really hammer it home – PinkPantheress tries to reckon with an all-consuming crush.

23. Arlo Parks – Room (red wings)

Has there ever been a more oddly specific and relatable central lyric than “Without you, I’m devastated – now I just want to eat cake in a room with a view”? A former poet, Arlo Parks has a captivatingly delicate tone that’s often used to convey emotional vulnerability rather than big hooks. In this song, however, you could argue that just about every single part of it is the hook. Combining that with her typically flowery musings on a relationship’s end and reminiscing on the times that they could simply kick back and throw on some Frank Ocean, I hope she enjoyed her cake.

22. Sampha – Spirit 2.0 (Ft. Yaeji)

Speaking of vocalists that immediately send you to another place (perhaps that’s the main factor that lands you on one of my lists), we’ve been without Sampha’s heart-rending tone for far too long. Co-produced with El Guincho, whose main contacts include Rosalia, FKA Twigs and Bjork, the glitchy and digital synths and percussion behind Sampha provide a supportive sonic bed for his main mantra – “Love will catch you / Spirit gon’ catch you.” On an album about finding happiness again after reckoning with grief for too long, the 5-minute track finds him pouring out his heart in the way only he can.

21. Kim Petras – Thousand Pieces

Still on the topic of tracks that could only be carried by a specific vocalist – if you don’t believe that Kim Petras can hang with the best of them due to the image that she might put forward, simply watch her performing this one live. Full of skillfully and cleanly pulled off vocal runs and acrobatics that would terrify some of the most experienced singers, Petras proves just how emotional she can be alongside of it. With one of the year’s most beautiful melodies, Petras instructs potential partners to be careful with her extremely fragile heart.

20. Tyla – Water

After captivating the world with her viral “Water” challenge on TikTok–and then sticking around after people realized just how much of a breath of fresh air the full Afrobeats-inflected pop-soul tune was – the 21-year-old rising star from South Africa says that her dream is to be the first global pop star to be born on the African continent. Just from watching interviews, it’s clear that there’s an undeniable star quality to her – and her music sounds just as good. With a debut album scheduled to drop in the early goings of 2024, I can’t wait to see what else she’s got.

19. Beyonce – AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM (Ft. Kendrick Lamar)

We already knew just how monumental Beyonce’s 2022 RENAISSANCE album was, but rekindling her chemistry with Kendrick Lamar on one of the album’s more accessible standalone tracks was a masterstroke. While the track’s title and the artists involved might have you thinking you’re about to get some kind of political anthem, it’s actually more so about this king and queen having fun trading off flexes. Kendrick dubs himself an “honorary Beyhive” and takes shots at artificial intelligence, while Beyonce does exactly what she does best and compares herself to Tony Montana.

18. Chris Stapleton – It Takes A Woman

This is the kind of song that should be played while walking down the aisle. A stripped-back and shuffling ballad that puts the spotlight firmly on Stapleton’s vocals, it’s a touching tribute to the love that he’s found. When his wife comes in to support him on the chorus after Stapleton talks about all the ways she’s been able to be there for him over the years, it should send goosebumps up the arm of any listener. Not to mention that the melody is placed directly in the sweetest spot of his vocals, hitting the song’s biggest note right as the emotion peaks in the chorus. His cannon of a voice getting toned down to blurt out something as simple as “you are my friend,” sounding a little choked up, easily activates the tear ducts.

17. Ellie Goulding – Waiting For It

For how much Ellie Goulding has been written off as a serious pop star – slightly understandably, as her work can be a little hit or miss at times – it’s quite impressive how she comes through with what is essentially a perfect pop song every year she elects to release music. This one demon strates that she’s the master of a good slow build, which is all the more effective in a song about the agonizing tension before she and a lover finally fall into bed. As more and more instrumental quirks continue to pile into the mix, making the song all the more complex and rhythmic, Goulding’s performance sells the song while sounding believably exasperated – then satisfied.

16. Skrillex – XENA (Ft. Nai Barghouti)

As much as you might joke about his early career, Skrillex has always been the epitome of an innovator. With this track featuring Palestinian singer Nai Barghouti and sung in Arabic, it’s fascinating to hear her unique, deeply cultural singing style – especially with harmonies – unexpectedly combined with a big club beat. Then, Skrillex drops the most whiplash-inducing and complex beat pattern he’s ever produced, interlaced with screams that get increasingly more panicked. On top of all that, it contains an interpolation of the titular Warrior Princess’ war cry. The track is an experience that every electronic fan needs to have.

15. Tainy – MOJABI GHOST (Ft. Bad Bunny)

A producer known for being one of the biggest names in the reggaeton scene – though his tracks always stood out from the pack in the typically derivative genre through individualistic quirks that nobody else seems to go for – Tainy teams up with his most frequent collaborator in Bad Bunny to do something completely different. An 80s-inspired synthpop track at its core, El Conejo Malo turns on his best Weeknd impression – complete with falsetto notes – as the track’s sound fits right in with the aesthetic of the anime cover art.

14. Hozier – I, Carrion (Icarian)

With his usual brand of of poetics and wordplay that you might expect from the track’s title, Hozier dives into Greek mythology for a tale that finds him mining the story of Daedalus and Icarus. Instead of flying too close to the Sun, however, Hozier finds himself flying too close to the weightless feeling of romantic bliss, possibly leading to a horrific downfall. The strings in the back and Hozier’s hushed, somber tones could bring a tear to the eye to anyone who might relate a little too hard. You’ll always find a song near the top of my list where it’s hard to warrant giving it many replays for fear of breaking down in a public place – and this is the highest one of those this year.

13. Hannah Diamond – Lip Sync

If you’re feeling too down from the list’s last inclusion, turn the frown upside down with the year’s best dose of pure bubblegum pop. A PC Music alumnus (dropping this song on what will the be the legendary hyperpop label’s final release), it’s a synthpop rush that feels like it takes from the same “pop-down-to-a-science” playbook that people like Carly Rae Jepsen and Max Martin have mastered. Like the former’s work, the lyrics are deceptively self-analytical and thought-provoking – despite a more optimistic conclusion – as Diamond tries to “fake it until she makes it” while struggling with being herself and being what others expect her to be.

12. 100 Gecs – I Got My Tooth Removed

Speaking of hyperpop, the genre’s gateway drug for many have returned with another album full of freewheeling madness – and there wasn’t a song that was quite as surreal as the duo diving back into their ska bag for a track about a tearful breakup with a rotten tooth that had to be extracted. Lamenting about all the pain the tooth has caused them, Dylan Brady and Laura Les both offer their own verses, complete with overpronounced emo inflections and their hammiest performances yet, bidding the former part of them adieu and refusing to talk about it ever again.

11. Latto – Lottery (Ft. LU KALA)

Latto teased this song, released near the start of the year, with numerous promos where she referred to the “loading” of “Pop Latto.” In turn, the majority of listeners showed exactly what they wanted from her as they pushed her other heavy-hitting rap single “Put It On Da Floor” to the charts’ upper echelon. While that part of her work can be great as well, it’s truly baffling to me that Latto taking the formula of her smash hit “Big Energy” and making it better was all but ignored. In an alternate universe, this was the biggest song of the year. Just listen to that chorus and try not to move.

10. Jessie Ware – Hello Love

Fresh off of dominating critical spheres with her 2020 album What’s Your Pleasure?, UK sophisti-pop legend Jessie Ware continues her disco pivot by teaming up once again with producer James Ford and releasing the kind of instrumentally complex and passionately delivered anthems that make you wonder if it’s legal for music to sound this good. Finding herself caught off guard by an unexpected guest – the personification of love itself – Ware finds herself swept up onto the rollercoaster ride of romance once again despite her plans for a little bit of “me myself and I-ing.”

9. Halle – Angel

For anyone who was certain that her sister Chloe was going to be the star of the duo when the two announced they’d be temporarily parting ways, enter Halle’s massive year. She starred in two Hollywood blockbusters, dropped what might be the year’s best vocal performance with this song, and even recently became a new mom – and we now know that she discreetly mentioned her son’s name in the track’s lyrics. Bringing the same kind of theatrical energy that assisted her in portraying a Disney princess, Halle’s vocals reach to the stratosphere in this track about Black empowerment, dubbing each one of the listeners in her community an angel.

8. Olivia Rodrigo – get him back!

Sometimes you just have to appreciate a clever lyrical flip – especially one that seems like it should have been so obvious before now. In what might be the year’s most well-written song (if you’re a writer looking for staying power, that is), the teen phenom keeps rolling with a track where she can’t quite decide if she’d like to get her partner back with a warm hug or an uppercut to the jaw. Playing on the title’s double meaning in a variety of hilarious ways (“I want to meet his mom … just to tell her her son sucks” has to be the best one of all) and talk-singing through verses where she becomes a relatable and reliable narrator, this is the kind of energy that wins over a rabid fanbase.

7. SPELLLING – Always [2023]

Dark-pop experimentalist SPELLLING elected to reimagine versions of all of her past songs this year – mostly to make her lo-fi early recordings more like the expansive brilliance of 2021’s The Turning Wheel – but the track that benefited the most from a new version was actually one that initially appeared on that very same album. Switching up the arrangement with some beautiful piano flourishes and more space for her otherworldly vocals to breathe, it makes you wonder how you didn’t already realize that the original (even though, of course, you already knew it was special) was something this special.

6. Carly Rae Jepsen – Psychedelic Switch

A running gag on these lists has been awarding the best musical second of the year, and 2023’s might have to be the way that Jepsen says the first syllable of “meditating” – as in “meditating on your lips,” because a fully infatuated Jepsen has switched her tune to all-out romantic bangers instead of longing from the corner – on this one. A happy Jepsen saves even more room for dancing like nobody’s watching, and this track feels like it could have been a Daft Punk leftover from the height of their powers – it finds Jepsen’s emotive voice applied perfectly to joyous disco and Eurodance flavours as she breezes through the “euphoria” she finds herself waking up in.

5. Grupo Frontera – LAS FLORES (Ft. Yahritza y Su Esencia)

The boom in regional Mexican music in 2023 was one of the year’s biggest and most unexpected musical developments – and even though this listener didn’t get into the refreshing movement as a whole as much as I would have liked to, finding many of its heaviest hitters rather derivative of each other, a track by Grupo Frontera somehow found itself as my second-most-played song of the year. Featuring the dulcet tones of Yahritza y Su Esencia’s Yahritza Martinez, who makes for a stellar duet with the fuller, rounder tone of Grupo Frontera’s Payo Solis (who is extremely talented and a titan of charisma at the age of only 20), the two are unbearably cute and delightfully harmonic as they regret falling for each other so deeply, believing it’ll end poorly… like it always does.

4. boygenius – Emily I’m Sorry

Like Phoebe Bridgers so eloquently puts on this track, I, too, am “27, and I don’t know who I am, but I know what I want.” The best showcase for the group’s harmonies on their wonderful the record, Bridgers’ touching tone takes centre stage as she seems to be apologizing to a former partner who she wasn’t able to give her full self to. The music world should be grateful that she decided to link back up with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus after exploding into the public eye with the Grammy-nominated Punisher, because there weren’t many songs about the aches of love that were quite so tender.

3. Caroline Polachek – Billions

This song was almost ruined by an internet commenter pointing out that if you squinted at the lyrics, it could be about Bill Clinton – but it’s good enough to rise above that. Caroline Polachek’s body of work, slowly released over the last couple of years, has been a wonder to behold, but this closing track of her Desire, I Want To Turn Into You blends everything that makes her so weird and wonderful into one five-minute masterpiece. From spellbinding vocal flips that nobody else could possibly replicate to the quirky and digitized backdrop and a children’s choir closing things out, it’s not quite clear what this song really means (it’s been speculated everywhere from the sociopolitical to the purely carnal), but it sounds so good that you’re hanging onto Polachek’s every word.

2. Lana Del Rey – Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd

While most of the music blogs out there have come to a rarely seen near-consensus that Del Rey’s “A&W” is actually the song of the year, the title track of her latest expansive body of work is the one that stuck with me the most. There’s nobody who does wistful and melodramatic quite like Lana, and turning the tale of a forgotten tunnel with mosaic ceilings and a serene artfulness into a larger worry about Father Time coming for her and relegating her own name, life and legacy into the piles of the forgotten is right up there with her all-time catalogue. She devotes a whole verse to the way Harry Nilsson sings “don’t forget me” on one of her favourite songs, and she certainly gives him a run for his money as the strings and harmonies swell near the end.

1. RAYE – Worth It.

While it’s not quite as meaningful or omnipresent as some of the songs that have previously stood as my personal songs of the year, the emergence of RAYE as a breakout talent to watch this year was overwhelming enough that my most-played song of the year is also going to be named as its best (Honestly, if her single “Escapism” was dropped this year, it would have been a shoo-in for the title). Coming with her inspiring story about being finally free from the restricting shackles of label demands, RAYE’s multitalented nature and ability to tackle jazz, R&B, hip-hop and pop with ease all manifests onto this track with a message of hope at its core. Opening with a vintage filter as she introduces the track as if it were a 1930s jazz standard, RAYE tells the tale of meeting someone who has so much unexpected romantic potential that plans to work on herself fall by the wayside, hoping that all the time she’s about to spend as a result of the electric moments that she’s starting to feel is ultimately going to prove “worth it” in the end. RAYE’s vocals are extremely capable, her instrumentals full of rhythmic grooves, and there wasn’t another song this year that had me itching to play it again and again like this one. It’s feel-good bliss.

That’s a wrap on the year’s best songs, and the albums list (and this blog’s final post) should be up soon enough – see you then, and check out the Spotify playlist below.

You may also like

Leave a Comment