The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (2024)

Table of Contents
Ryan Gosling, "I'm Just Ken" Lil Yachty, "Drive Me Crazy!" Tyler Childers, "In Your Love" Corinne Bailey Rae, "New York Transit Queen" Gracie Abrams, "Where Do We Go Now?" Paul Russell, "Lil Boo Thing" The Last Dinner Party, "Nothing Matters" Caroline Polachek, "Welcome to My Island" Brent Faiyaz, "WY@" Kaliii, "Area Codes" Billy Strings feat. Willie Nelson, "California Sober" Libianca, "People" Arlo Parks, "Impurities" Kenya Grace, "Strangers" Hozier, "Eat Your Young" Paramore, "Crave" 41, "Jenn Jenn Jenn" Karol G & Romeo Santos, "X Si Volvemos" Doja Cat, "Agora Hills" Miley Cyrus, "Used to Be Young" Latto feat. Cardi B, "Put It on the Floor Again" Sufjan Stevens, "Will Anybody Ever Love Me?" Zach Bryan feat. Maggie Rogers, "Dawns" MUNA, "The One That Got Away" Kelela, "Missed Call" Byron Messia, "Talibans" Jason Isbell, "Cast Iron Skillet" Peso Pluma & Natanael Cano, "PRC" Tyler, the Creator, "Dogtooth" Labrinth, "Never Felt So Alone" Don Toliver feat. Justin Bieber & Future, "Private Landing" David Guetta & Bebe Rexha, "I'm Good" Jessie Ware, "That! Feels Good!" Lola Brooke, Latto & Yung Miami feat. Billy B, "Don't Play With It" Jonas Brothers, "Waffle House" *NSYNC, "Better Place" Romy, "She's on My Mind" Sexyy Red & Tay-Keith, "Pound Town" Sam Smith, "I'm Not Here to Make Friends" Addison Rae feat. Charli XCX, "2 Die 4" KAYTRAMINÉ feat. Pharrell Williams, "4EVA" Myke Towers, "LaLa" Doechii feat. Kodak Black, "What It Is (Block Boy)" Renée Rapp, "Snow Angel" 100 Gecs, "Hollywood Baby" Jung Kook feat. Latto, "Seven" Taylor Swift feat. Ice Spice, "Karma" Lizzy McAlpine, "Ceilings" Tems, "Me & U" Remi Wolf, "Prescription" Fifty Fifty, "Cupid" Skrillex, Fred Again.. & Flowdan, "Rumble" FLO feat. Missy Elliott, "Fly Girl" Luke Combs, "Fast Car" Lil Durk feat. J. Cole, "All My Life" Peggy Gou, "(It Goes Like) Nanana" Laufey, "From the Start" Chris Stapleton, "White Horse" Mitski, "My Love Mine All Mine" Kylie Minogue, "Padam Padam" That Mexican OT, Drodi & Paul Wall, "Johnny Dang" Morgan Wallen, "Last Night" NewJeans, "Super Shy" Coco Jones, "ICU" Dave & Central Cee, "Sprinter" Lainey Wilson, "Heart Like a Truck" Tate McRae, "Greedy" Taylor Swift, "Is It Over Now?" Kendrick Lamar & Baby Keem, "The Hillbillies" Eslabon Armado & Peso Pluma, "Ella Baila Sola" Olivia Rodrigo, "Vampire" Zach Bryan feat. Kacey Musgraves, "I Remember Everything" Metro Boomin, The Weeknd & 21 Savage, "Creepin" Lana Del Rey, "A&W" Grupo Frontera & Bad Bunny, "un x100 to" Chappell Roan, "Red Wine Supernova" Victoria Monét, "On My Mama" Coi Leray, "Players" SZA, "Snooze" Karol G & Shakira, "TQG" Raye feat. 070 Shake, "Escapism" Noah Kahan feat. Post Malone, "Dial Drunk" Tyla, "Water" Beyoncé feat. Kendrick Lamar, "America Has a Problem" (Remix) Gunna, "f*ckumean" Dua Lipa, "Dance the Night" Jelly Roll, "Need a Favor" Ice Spice & Nicki Minaj, "Princess Diana" Sabrina Carpenter, "Nonsense" Bad Bunny, "Monaco" Rema & Selena Gomez, "Calm Down" Olivia Rodrigo, "Get Him Back!" PinkPantheress & Ice Spice, "Boy's a Liar, Pt. 2" Troye Sivan, "Rush" boygenius, "Not Strong Enough" Doja Cat, "Paint the Town Red" Miley Cyrus, "Flowers" Bizarrap & Shakira, "Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53" Billie Eilish, "What Was I Made For?" SZA, "Kill Bill"

Theatrical emo balladry. Frisky K-pop. Pissed-off protest country-folk. Sentimental duet country-folk. Molasses-slow hip-hop&B. Viral pop-rap. Songs from four years ago, seven years ago, 65 years ago. And those were just the No. 1s. It was pretty much chaos in the chart-pop world of 2023.

With hip-hop no longer dominating the Hot 100 like it had in the late ’10s and earliest ’20s — we didn’t even get a rap No. 1 until September — there was more open real estate on the chart than there’d been in a long time for genres like pop-rock, country and R&B. Regional Mexican made its presence felt, as did songs from all over the musical spectrum steeped in Jersey club and New York drill. Latin pop and K-pop hitmakers new and old had major impact. And of course, there was always Taylor Swift, who was never more than a new remix, a new rarity, a revived old song or a re-recorded classic album away from storming the chart anew.

It was a wild year in pop, but a fruitful one. Returning stars gave us some of their biggest (and sometimes best) hits yet. Still-rising stars confirmed their longevity. And newly minted hitmakers — some of whom we’ve had our eyes on for a long time now, others of whom we’d never heard of before 2023 — kept making things interesting. Our list of the best songs of 2023 (songs that either came out in 2023 or peaked on the Hot 100 in 2023) takes stock of all of these, as well as songs by favorites who still haven’t grown to chartbreaking status, but who we hope will provide the “where did they come from??” stories of the next few years. (No “Cruel Summer,” though, we covered that back in 2019.)

Here are our 100 favorite songs from a year that once again proved that pop music can come from any place, any time and anybody.

  • Ryan Gosling, "I'm Just Ken"

    The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (1)

    Not since his ’90s stint onThe All-New Mickey Mouse Clubhas Ryan Gosling had the chance to shine quite this bright on a musical number (sorry,La La Land). In the neon-splashedBarbiebattle scene, Gosling finds the perfect zone between irony and earnestness to deliver the full-chested lament about his permanently mediocre status asKen, even if he insists along the way: “I’mjustKen(and I’m enough)/ And I’m great at doing stuff.” He’ll never be Barbie, but at least he gets his own signature power ballad. –KATIE ATKINSON

  • Lil Yachty, "Drive Me Crazy!"

    Thismelodic standout from Lil Yachty’s psych-rock about-face,Let’s Start Here, offers a perfect snapshot of both the sonic adventurousness and the sneaky tunefulness of the album at large. Featuring vocals from Diana Gordon that sail over the crisp production, this duet about beingdriven to madness by a partner shows off Yachty’s more vulnerable side – and as he was particularly proud of, hisvoice. —LYNDSEY HAVENS

  • Tyler Childers, "In Your Love"

    Though Childers has been releasing music since 2011, he made his Hot 100 debut in 2023 with this tender love story, which appeared on hisRustin’ in the Rainalbum. Childers wrote “In Your Love” with Geno Seale, and his textured, rootsy vocal lends gravitas to lyrics like “We were never made to run forever/ We were just meant to go long enough to find what we were chasing after.” Ultimately, the themes of finding love and appreciating time together, however long or brief that may be, are elevated by the Silas House- and Bryan Schlam-crafted video, with an arc centered on the endless love story between two male gay coal miners in 1950s Kentucky. — JESSICA NICHOLSON

  • Corinne Bailey Rae, "New York Transit Queen"

    In June, Corinne Bailey Rae began the rollout to her first album in seven years with a rollicking lead single that grounds itself in handclaps and chanting vocals before letting thrashing guitars and cymbal crashes run up the score. The surprising sonic pivot, for lack of a better term, rocks: best known for creating one of the best pop songs of all time, Bailey Rae may catch you off guard with “New York City Transit Queen” — and will leave you wanting more. It’s an express train of a song; hop aboard for the ride, and stand clear of the closing doors. — JOSH GLICKSMAN

  • Gracie Abrams, "Where Do We Go Now?"

    There’s a beautiful chaos to “WhereDo We Go Now?” that doesn’t create stress, but rather illuminates the already existing fast and furious thoughts of a young adult mind. AsAbramsposes the title question over swelling production, the song eventually becomes less about the status of her relationship to another person and more about the status of anyone’s relationship with the world around them. The best part? Her question goes unanswered. Such is life. –L.H.

  • Paul Russell, "Lil Boo Thing"

    Every year a new feel-good song emerges that is sure to pack the dancefloor at weddings, quinceaneras and bar mitzvahs for years to come. This year, it’s newcomerRussell’s exuberant “Lil Boo Thang” — for both his confident upbeat vocals as he slides in on a new love interest (whose boyfriend isn’t paying her the attention she deserves) and the song’s joyous sampling of the Emotions’ 1977 hit, “Best of My Love.” Whether you’re 8 or 80, It is impossible to sit still when this infectious ditty comes on. — MELINDA NEWMAN

  • The Last Dinner Party, "Nothing Matters"

    The British indie scene is once again reminding the world that rock is not dead. London’s latest export The Last Dinner Party has already taken off with their 2023 debut single “Nothing Matters,” which delivers lots of guitar, sex and attitude from the five-piece band of stellar musicians. “Nothing Matters” is The Last Dinner Party’s amuse-bouche, dusted with tastes of Queen, The Cure and Wet Leg, before they deliver the main course of their debut album Prelude to Ecstasy in February. — TAYLOR MIMS

  • Caroline Polachek, "Welcome to My Island"

    “Welcome to My Island” is one of the year’s most joyously bizarre concoctions, following former Chairlift frontwoman Caroline Polachek’s unique right-brained alt-pop logic and making “Desire, I want to turn into you/ Float on the ocean blue” a stadium-worthy singalong of a chorus. Even her decision to swipe the “Hey Hey Hey HEY!“s from Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” makes some kind of sense here, because “Island” has the emotional wallop of a mid-’80s synth-rock anthem, and because you feel like pumping your fist like Judd Nelson at the end of it. — ANDREW UNTERBERGER

  • Brent Faiyaz, "WY@"

    Brent Faiyaz, R&B’s biggest rising lothario, finally meets his match on hypnotic Larger Than Life standout, “WY@.” Zapped by the lovebug, Brent’s toxic swagger and limitless rizz fall short against an agile lioness, equipped for any bedroom theatrics. “I’m stuck in your claws,” he sings in defeat. Humbled by her prowess, Faiyaz doesn’t hesitate to raise his victor’s hand, sighingly acknowledging her as the “death of me, and the remedy.” — CARL LAMARRE

  • Kaliii, "Area Codes"

    We were fed plenty of pasta and lobsta all year long, courtesy of Kaliii’s viral smash, “Area Codes.” The track, which interpolates Ludacris and Nate Dogg’s 2001 collab of the same name — unwittingly, the rapper says — took listeners back to banging on cafeteria tables with its minimal production and, most notably, let Kaliii flex her stuff. That formula became the secret sauce to the online experience that was “Area Codes” and we’re stilling eating it up. — JAMES DINH

  • Billy Strings feat. Willie Nelson, "California Sober"

    The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (2)

    When Billy Strings and Willie Nelson performed “California Sober” for the first time live at Nelson’s 90th birthday concert at the Hollywood Bowl in April, it was as if the country music icon was passing on his songwriting torch. Strings’ winning track — which has earned him a Grammy nomination as best American roots song — is a fast-picking, harmonica-blowing, violin-twanging paean to moderation, if not abstinence, and to friends who made it to the other side of the nightlife. “Now they’re busy postin’ vids and just tryin’ to raise their kids,” sings Nelson during the duet, “Instead of raisin’ holy hell and postin’ bail.” — THOM DUFFY

  • Libianca, "People"

    A prime example of an artist turning mental anguish into spiritually fortifying art, Libianca’s “People” finds the American-Cameroonian singer (and The Voice alum) singing a soft, sad refrain — “I’ve been drinking more alcohol for the past five days/ Did you check on me?” — as hollow, knocking percussion mirrors the loneliness of the vocal. Libianca doesn’t provide a conclusion or a catharsis but leaves the listener hanging in emotional uncertainty – and then coming back for more, almost hoping the fifth or sixth spin will provide a resolution. — JOE LYNCH

  • Arlo Parks, "Impurities"

    Singer-songwriter Arlo Parks’ second album My Soft Machine didn’t get the mainstream attention of debut Collapsed Into Sunbeams, but it wasn’t for song quality’s sake — songs like “Impurities” were as sensitively written, deftly performed and immaculately constructed as anything on her first set. Over rainy synths and a downcast beat, Parks sings about the cleansing power of a lover’s judgment-free embrace (“You’re the rainbow in my soap”) like she’s cuddled up safe and warm indoors. Even below the charts, she still radiates like a star, like a star, like a star. — A.U.

  • Kenya Grace, "Strangers"

    The hook of “Strangers,” in which Kenya Grace describes a typical romantic encounter (“We get in your car and you’ll lean to kiss me/ We’ll talk for hours, and lie on the backseat”), proved catchy and tightly packaged enough to become TikTok-trend fodder. Once listeners zoomed out to the full track, however, Grace’s breakthrough hit was revealed to be a smart commentary on the trappings of modern dating — she laments connections made and lost, as the drum’n’bass production dances around Grace’s what-ifs. — JASON LIPSHUTZ

  • Hozier, "Eat Your Young"

    Hoziernever shies away from a metaphor — or from calling out governmental greed, all disguised with his characteristically rich vocals and a soulful, almost sensual melody. “EatYour Young” isHozier’s poetic-yet-pointed lyricism at its best, as the uptempo chorus serves as an advertisem*nt to how leaders in power take advantage of the young and vulnerable, offering that it’s “quicker and easier toeatyour young” and put “food on the table selling bombs and guns” than actually taking action to create a safe and unified world for the next generation. — RANIA ANIFTOS

  • Paramore, "Crave"

    In a time when nostalgia has become synonymous with feeling good,Paramorewants to examine the perils of wistfulness. “Crave” follows frontwoman Hayley Williams as she laments her inability to live in the present, instead opting to “memorize this day” so she can “do it again, all again.” The melody expertly straddles the line between classic and modernParamoresounds, employing dreamy guitars, uncompromising drums and Williams’ powerhouse vocals to drive this delirious track to its haunting conclusion. —STEPHEN DAW

  • 41, "Jenn Jenn Jenn"

    This year, Brooklyn rap group 41 burst onto the scene with a barrage of street hits that displayed the individual energies and collective synergyof Kyle Richh,JennCarterand TaTa. It’s“JennJennJenn” — with its maniacally electricsample of Dee Play4Keeps’s moaning Carter’s name (he was taunting her after she got into a fight at an airport) — that stands as the thesis forJennCarter. With a cadence that shapeshifts with each foray into a new pocket of 24MMY & AKJourney’saddictive beat, Carter continuesto solidify herself as 41’s lyrical giantwith wry, comedicjabs that play on the levity baked into the Jersey-inflected instrumental. — KYLE DENIS

  • Karol G & Romeo Santos, "X Si Volvemos"

    In their first collaborative effort, Karol G and Romeo Santos delivered a sultry reggaetón single about a failed, toxic relationship that only lasted because of sexual chemistry — a topic that’s far too relatable. “It didn’t work out/ We gave it our all so we’re leaving/ But before we leave, let’s do it one last time/ Our relationship didn’t work but we understood each other in bed,” they sing in the chorus. The Ovy on the Drums-produced track peaked No. 4 on the Hot Latin Songs chart in March, becoming Santos’ first top 10 debut since 2017’s “Imitadora.”— JESSICA ROIZ

  • Doja Cat, "Agora Hills"

    Nobody in pop gets more effectively in character than Doja Cat, who takes a break from some of her darker Scarlet fixations to get in loved-up teen mode (“No, YOU hang up“) for the album’s dreamy “Agora Hills.” Riding an inspired sample of Troop’s cover of the Jackson 5’s “All I Do Is Think of You,” Doja waxes rhapsodic about PDAs in a sung-spoken daze (reminiscent of another feline hybrid rapper from a decade ago), sweetly boasting on the chorus, “I wanna show you off.” Not as immediate as some of her no-doubt smashes, but just as intoxicating — as evidenced by the song’s slow creep into the Hot 100’s top 15 this past month. — A.U.

  • Miley Cyrus, "Used to Be Young"

    At 31, Cyrus has gained perspective on her life. She’s not apologizing for youthful indiscretions on “Used to Be Young,” instead promising over pounding piano, “Those wasted nights are not wasted/ I remember every one.” Cyrus released this on Aug. 25, the 10th anniversary of the 2013 MTV Video Awards, where she rubbed Robin Thicke’s crotch with a giant foam finger. That attention-grabbing incident may have inspired the line “Messed up, but God was it fun.” – PAUL GREIN

  • Latto feat. Cardi B, "Put It on the Floor Again"

    The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (3)

    In between “Big Energy,” her 2022 breakthrough which hinted at her pop-crossover potential, and “Seven,” this year’s Jung Kook collaboration which sent her to the top of the Hot 100 for the first time, Latto showcased her rhyming ferocity with “Put It on Da Floor,” an effectively grimy chest-thumper in which she literally silences her haters. Cardi B, who’s been on a delirious guest-spot run lately, revels in the song’s braggadocio on the remix, as she sneers, “Got so many chains on, I can’t even see my throat!” — J. Lipshutz

  • Sufjan Stevens, "Will Anybody Ever Love Me?"

    Devastating is a word often fittingly used to describe Sufjan Stevens’ heart-wrenching lyrics, and “Will Anybody Ever Love Me?” is no exception — how could it be, considering the title? But sprinkled onto the words of desperation is… not hope, but humor. “Tie me to a tiny wooden raft/ Burn my body, point me to the undertow,” Stevens specifies in his whispery voice, making each melodramatic line seem like a secret shared. “Burn my body, celebrate the afterglow,” he sings, a chorus of voices sweetly echoing his last word as an acoustic guitar drives the sprightly melody. The question posed is no doubt a serious one, but Stevens leans in so hard to his metaphors that he lightens the mood and makes this track an essential add to his decades-spanning catalog. — CHRISTINE WERTHMAN

  • Zach Bryan feat. Maggie Rogers, "Dawns"

    ZachBryanseemed destined tosingwith Maggie Rogersfrom the moment he had hismajor-label breakthrough in 2022, with the two of them serving asunmatched royalty in the increasingly crowded and impactful contemporary alt-folk space.Theiryin-yangvoicesperfectlyweave and wandertogetherthrough thiswoodsy, loosely paced duet, as the duo pray repeatedly for “one small victory” —somethingthey certainly got following thesong’sentrance into the Hot 100’s top 50, a career first for Rogers. — HANNAH DAILEY

  • MUNA, "The One That Got Away"

    Despite being between albums, all-star trio MUNA graced fans with a smashing banger to hold us over in 2023. Released in April, “The One That Got Away” calls out a person who wouldn’t make a romantic move before, and now MUNA is out of their league … like, really out of their league. It is delivered with the ever-ascending vocal confidence of lead singer Katie Gavin, and a beat so infectious that even the target of the track’s vitriol probably can’t help but hit the dancefloor when it comes on. — T.M.

  • Kelela, "Missed Call"

    Kelela’sRavenwas one of the year’s most transcendent releases, and “Missed Call” is a standout amongst her ethereal explorations of the expanse of dance music. Amorose, waist-wining mélange of drum’n’basswith splashes of U.K. garageand bossa nova, “Missed Call” findsKelelahitching a ride on the emotional rollercoaster of deciding whether to open the door for an old flame or not. In the process, she pairs the sultry tension of her vocal with the instrumental’s juxtaposition of breezy guitar and skittering breakbeats. — K.D.

  • Byron Messia, "Talibans"

    Slippery but emphatic, sing-song yet full of menace, “Talibans” served as a mesmerizing breakout for Messia, who was born in Jamaica but grew up in St. Kitts and Nevis. The beat is cadaverous, an empty, swaying shell of electronics and drums, putting all the focus on Messia’s voice — angelic, threatening — and delivery: staccato cadences rarely sound this fluid. Fans of both Afrobeats and dancehall claimed “Talibans” as their own. “It’s the sound of now,” Messiaclarifiedof his track. “A bit of that, a bit of this.” — ELIAS LEIGHT

  • Jason Isbell, "Cast Iron Skillet"

    Interwoven threads of fiddle, accordion and acoustic guitar beautifully shapeIsbell’s “Cast Iron Skillet,” the Alabama songwriter’s plain-spoken challenge to the Southern wisdom (”don’t wash the cast iron skillet”) of his youth. “If we romanticize the past, we can’t really learn from it,”Isbellhas said of this song, with its finely sketched images of violence and racism. “Jamie found a boyfriend/ With smiling eyes and dark skin/ And her daddy never spoke another word to her again,” he sings.Isbell— who plays a role in Martin Scorsese’sKillers of the Flower Moon, another exhumation of violent racial history — has earned three Grammy nominations for his group’s latest albumWeathervanes, including best American roots song for “Skillet.” — T.D.

  • Peso Pluma & Natanael Cano, "PRC"

    Bolstered by an unmistakable guitar and trumpet riff, “PRC” byPesoPluma & Natanael Cano epitomize the corrido bélico. Unlike traditional ballads, it offers an unabashed glimpse into a man’s life devoted to the drug trade, celebrating the opulent luxuries gained from this risky path. The lyrics serve as a bold apology to organized crime, crafting a narrative that peaked at No. 33 on the Hot 100. This grim-but-lively journey captivates with its infectious sound and unfiltered storytelling, making it a standout in the genre.— ISABELA RAYGOZA

  • Tyler, the Creator, "Dogtooth"

    It had been nearly two years since Tyler, the Creator first released his Billboard 200-topping Call Me If You Get Lost set when he dropped the Estate Sale deluxe reissue of it in March, but new cuts like “Dogtooth” were far from mere reheated leftovers from the period. Alternately sweet, bawdy, funny and revelatory, the invigorating track shows that Tyler (and DJ Drama, back at it again) still had plenty of album-era inspiration to spare — and maybe a secret or two, as hinted at in Tyler’s late-song bombshell about “my daughter.” (Or maybe not: ““I don’t have kids and don’t plan on it, hahaha,” he shared in a since-deleted tweet shortly after the song’s release.) — A.U.

  • Labrinth, "Never Felt So Alone"

    “Never Felt So Alone” found English singer-songwriter Labrinth at his best, even before his buddy Billie Eilish jumped on the track for its official, post-Euphoria release in April. Staggering, dreamlike and poignant, this gentle electro-pop ballad makes big moments out of whispered thoughts, and gives a refreshingly un-cheesy voice to those touched by the world’s ongoing epidemic of post-COVID-19 isolation. — H.D.

  • Don Toliver feat. Justin Bieber & Future, "Private Landing"

    The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (4)

    The should’ve-been sleeper hit from Don Toliver’s Love Sick album never quite achieved lift-off on the Hot 100, peaking at an underwhelming No. 72. Nonetheless, the insidious thrills of the song’s low-humming beat and sing-song hooks (“I don’t know why these h–s can’t stand meeee, I guess I’m too de-man-diiiiiiiiing“), as well as the impressive chemistry between its star trio, made it one of the year’s most compulsory replays: “Keep going,” the song reiterates, and, well, yeah. — A.U.

  • David Guetta & Bebe Rexha, "I'm Good"

    Lifting the hook to “Blue (Da Ba Dee),” the 1999 hit from Italian group Eiffel 65, proved a winning move for David Guetta and BebeRexha. After being first teased a half-decade earlier, the appropriately titled “I’m Good (Blue)” found a release after TikTok demand, resulting in their biggest hit in years. Riding that mighty piano riff, the track taps into duo’s respective strengths, with Guetta harnessing euphoric production andRexhadelivering soaring vocals. The results? A feel-good (pun intended) track evoking massive levels of serotonin and nostalgia. — J.D.

  • Jessie Ware, "That! Feels Good!"

    A song about feeling good that features not one but two exclamation points better not disappoint — and sure enough, the title track to Jessie Ware’s disco-soul album rushes through your body like a shot of tequila at the start of a Saturday night. Over expectant horns that rise and fall like undulating bodies on the dancefloor, the English singer coos and calls out a retro-pop invite to the kind of night-on-the-town you’ll barely remember, yet never forget. — J. Lynch

  • Lola Brooke, Latto & Yung Miami feat. Billy B, "Don't Play With It"

    Lola Brooke’s and Billy B’s super-charged 2021 drill single “Don’t Play With It” finally started to gain viral traction on TikTok in 2022 for its cinematic production, memorable bars (“Carry b–ches like I’m preggo”) and no-nonsense chorus hook. In 2023, a new version of it added rap standbys Yung Miami and Latto to its roster and turned it into a true anthem, with the four MCs spurring each other to greater heights over the song’s hurricane beat — rightly propelling it onto the Hot 100 for the first time, where it peaked at No. 69 in April. — A.U.

  • Jonas Brothers, "Waffle House"

    The JoBros probably knew they were taking a risk when they titled this song after a restaurant chain where they frequently went after shows and had soul-baring conversations. The ’70s-indebted sound of the record is exciting and pulsating, and its chorus is extremely satisfying — but evidently some programmers or listeners couldn’t get past the hokey title. The single peaked at No. 57 on the Hot 100, far lower than it deserved. The brothers deserve credit for staying true to their vision, though it may have cost them an even bigger hit. — P.G.

  • *NSYNC, "Better Place"

    The boy band reunited and picked up right where they had left off 21 years before – with a big pop hit. Justin Timberlake first recorded a solo demo of this shimmering pop/disco song in early 2023, before deciding to get the band back together to record it for the Trolls Band Together soundtrack. Smart move: The track debuted at No. 25 on the Hot 100. As Taylor Swift said at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sept. 12, when the band presented her with the pop video award, “You guys are pop personified, so to receive this from your golden pop hands is too much.” — P.G.

  • Romy, "She's on My Mind"

    Romy Madley Croft doesn’t seem like she was born to play the disco diva: Her voice is too intimate, low-key, tender. And she doesn’t spend “She’s on My Mind” pretending to be Thelma Houston, but rather lets the song’s loping, ABBA-worthy piano hook and pulsing beat come to her, as she sings about a blossoming infatuation that she has increasingly little interest in trying to tamp down. When her “think I’m in love with her” admissions are finally answered by her crush with an “I’m in love with you,” you can hear the quiet smile she’s been barely restraining the whole song — while the ecstatic groove takes care of the loud part in cheering her on. — A.U.

  • Sexyy Red & Tay-Keith, "Pound Town"

    Sexyy Red started 2023 on the nastiest note with her breakout smash “Pound Town.” Over Grammy-nominated producer Tay-Keith’s mischievous trap beats, Sexyy lets her freak flag fly (“My coochie pink, my booty-hole brown,” she hollers) in her memorable, X-rated search for someone that can satisfy her sexually while also stepping up in a paternal role for her kid. She got the ultimate cosign from queen Nicki Minaj on the official remix that turned the song’s ratchetness all the way up and sent “Pound Town” onto the Billboard Hot 100, earning Sexyy and Tay-Keith their first entries on the chart. — HERAN MAMO

  • Sam Smith, "I'm Not Here to Make Friends"

    In their 2022 Billboard cover story, Sam Smith promised fans a dance album — and in January they delivered, especially with standout track “I’m Not Here to Make Friends.” After a sample of RuPaul’s Drag Race slogan “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else,” Smith (along with guests Calvin Harris and Jessie Reyez) lead listeners straight to a sleazy dancefloor with a seductive bassline — and there is no looking back. The London-born singer, historically known for their slow, lovelorn tracks, belts out that they’re “so over love songs,” and strictly out to find a lover. The club track is Smith laying out exactly what they want and stating, “I’m a blessing of a body to love on.”— T.M.

  • Addison Rae feat. Charli XCX, "2 Die 4"

    During a time when genre lines are blurrier than ever, there’s something overwhelmingly refreshing about a down-the-middle, straight-to-the-point bubblegum pop song. Both Addison Rae and Charli XCX — the perfect feature for a track couched in synths, like this one — linger their vocals on vowel sounds just long enough, pulling back and moving onto the next one right before the listener can grab it. It’s sticky; it’s sweet; it plays like how your favorite dessert tastes. We’ve earned that, haven’t we? — J.G.

  • KAYTRAMINÉ feat. Pharrell Williams, "4EVA"

    The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (5)

    KAYTRAMINÉ, the super-duo comprised of producer Kaytranada and rapper/singer Aminé, team up with a handful of familiar faces for their first collaborative album. For their eponymous project’s debut single “4EVA,” they tapped Pharrell, with the 13-time Grammy-winning producer opening the song with his signature four-count start, and helping to layer funky beats with dizzy basslines throughout. Aminé’s swagger shines in his smooth, sometimes (endearingly) provocative bars, doubling down on the meaning of “forever” and shouting out his producer partner’s Haitian Creole heritage atop an effortlessly groovy production — one so irresistible, we had it on repeat all summer long. — DANIELLE PASCUAL

  • Myke Towers, "LaLa"

    Released in March, “LaLa” picked up speed in mid-June, becoming a summer anthem. One of 23 tracks onMykeTowers’ 2023 albumLa Vida Es Una, the witty and flirtatious reggaetón track — whose chorus plays over an irresistible vocal loop of “lala, lala, LALA” — was born “in one of those magical moments that when I hear a rhythm I like, I can’t switch it off until I get something out of it,” Towers told Billboard. Fueled by its massive success on TikTok, where the sound currently has over 6.6 million video creations, “LaLa” became the Puerto Rican artist’s first No. 1 on the Billboard Global Excl. U.S. chart in July.— J.R.

  • Doechii feat. Kodak Black, "What It Is (Block Boy)"

    Billboard’s 2023 Women in Music’s Rising Star honoree notched her first top 30 Hot 100 hit with this single. The left-of-center pairing proves a winning combination, as both artists lay out the blueprints for their ideal significant other. The track’s savvy nods to TLC’s “No Scrubs” and Trillville’s “Some Cut” harken back to the melodic heyday of late ‘90s/early aughts R&B/hip-hop. But it’sDoechii’s show, thanks to the rapper-singer’s sultry vocals that beckon to all the block boys and bad girls inherent in everyone: “Every good girl needs a little thug/ Every block boy needs a little love …” — GAIL MITCHELL

  • Renée Rapp, "Snow Angel"

    Pop star-in-the-making Reneé Rapp broke through this year for any number of reasons, but topping the list is surely her jaw-dropping vocal range and power. And there is no better example than “SnowAngel” – title track and standout from her debut album – which she begins in a hushed voice, which only makes the eventual unleashing of emotion all the more chilling. By the song’s end, the exasperation of it all results in half-finished sentences, as Rappmutters, “If it kills me, I…” leaving it up to listeners to finish the sentence for her – or perhaps write their own ending. –L.H.

  • 100 Gecs, "Hollywood Baby"

    Like a lost Warped Tour artifact that’s undergone 20 years of digital decay, “HollywoodBaby” bursts with early ’00s pop-punk catharsis — even if, in the hands of hyperpop tricksters 100gecs, the saturation’s turned up and the vibes are a little off. On “HollywoodBaby,” thegecsrage at the trappings of fame itself, which have rarely been as relatable or intoxicatingly fun to lament as they are on Laura Les’ emphatically enunciated chorus: “I’M GOING CRAZY / LITTLE TINYHOLLYWOODBABY.” — ERIC RENNER BROWN

  • Jung Kook feat. Latto, "Seven"

    JungKookplays a very persistent paramour in this smash hit – the BTS crooner’s first solo Hot 100 No. 1. And just like the extremely eager lyrics, the song will win over even the most resistant pop fan in the end, thanks to its U.K. garage-influenced beat, adults-only sing-along chorus, and raucously randy guest verse from a lustful Latto. We’ve had this one on repeat 24/7 ever since theGoldenlead single dropped. –K.A.

  • Taylor Swift feat. Ice Spice, "Karma"

    It wasn’t the best single either Taylor Swift or Ice Spice was involved with in 2023, nor was it a totally seamless integration of their two very disparate styles — but it would simply be impossible to understand the year in pop music without knowing and loving this song from the year’s mightiest reigning superstar and its biggest rising phenomenon. And decades from now, there will still be something genuinely intoxicating about this shared victory lap moment, the biggest artists of today and tomorrow essentially taunting “You know you love us” over red-carpet synths, and the public being powerless to contradict them. — A.U.

  • Lizzy McAlpine, "Ceilings"

    Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher and Taylor Swift’s Folklore were released in back-to-back months in 2020, and three years later, we’re still seeing the reverberations of that indie-folk mini-boom in pop songwriting. “Ceilings,” Lizzy McAlpine’s gently strummed viral hit, descends from that movement, although the storytelling and strings-laden arrangement are rendered with enough personality to avoid ever sounding derivative. The third-act plot twist soundtracked so many TikToks largely because McAlpine’s delivery is a force of nature. — J. Lipshutz

  • Tems, "Me & U"

    On the surface,Tems’ “Me & U” may seem like another love song. But the Afrobeats track, which starts like a pop ballad with its sultry slow intro, but which roars into a beat-heavy banger by its sweeping close, is actually an introspective study of her relationship with God. “Give me one break, I need faith/ Faith to believe you/ Faith to receive you,” the Nigerian singer-songwriter-producer croons in her first solo release in two years, following herrecord-breaking“Free Mind.” If the infectiously dreamy track serves as any indication of what’s to come on her yet-to-be-announced debut album, we’re already eager for more.— D.P.

  • Remi Wolf, "Prescription"

    Simply put,RemiWolf’s“Prescription” is a vibe. The vocals and instrumentation used make it a versatile single that should win over fans across genres, from pop to soul to alternative — an achievement few artists can successfully execute. We’re also introduced to a new era for the artist, as she gives us a mix of synth and hypnotic pop vocals that make this the one prescription you’ll want to keep refilling well into the new year. — RYLEE JOHNSTON

  • Fifty Fifty, "Cupid"

    The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (6)

    One of the most delirious pop songs of 2023, the breakout single for girl group FIFTY FIFTY was so irresistible that it became the first top 10 hit on Billboard‘s Pop Airplay chart for a South Korean group not named BTS. Not hard to see why: “Cupid” mixes disco, pop and rap more effortlessly than any song since “Say So,” with irrepressible energy, a five-star chorus and — could it be? — yes, even a late-song key change. You have to hope it’s just the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship between FIFTY FIFTY and the American airwaves. — A.U.

  • Skrillex, Fred Again.. & Flowdan, "Rumble"

    Remember when two quivering glasses of water signal a threatening dinosaur’s approach in Jurassic Park? That’s what the opening seconds of “Rumble,” the titanic track Skrillex reintroduced himself with days into the year, feel like. An ominous click suggests the imminent arrival of something massive –and maybe a little terrifying – before the song’s squelching low-end and grime artist Flowdan arrive in full force. At just 147 seconds, “Rumble” is a high-density thrill ride unparalleled in 2023. — E.R.B.

  • FLO feat. Missy Elliott, "Fly Girl"

    Early 2000s R&B provides the blueprint forFLO’s only single of 2023. While “Fly Girl” could easily be harkened to this generation’s version of Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women Part 1” —an unapologetic female empowerment anthem packed with confidence and soul — the three-part British girl group proves to be much more, fusing effortless Y2K-era harmonies and funky production with the sultry R&B sounds of today. Plus, its inspired sample of Missy Elliott’s 2002 smash “Work It” pays off in the best possible way: a high-spirited guest verse from theSupa Dupa Fly-girl herself. — D.P.

  • Luke Combs, "Fast Car"

    The paycheck-to-paycheck struggles of many Americans cross all lines of race and region and have only increased unconscionably in the 35 years since “Fast Car” first became a top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 by singer/songwriter Tracy Chapman. That’s one way to explain the extraordinary impact this past year of “Fast Car,” as covered by country star Luke Combs, which spent four weeks atop Hot Country Songs and reached No. 2 on the Hot 100. Combs’ faithful, acoustic-guitar-driven version of Chapman’s lyrically rich tale of economic despair and dreams – “I got no plans, I ain’t going nowhere/ take your fast car and keep on driving” — is as heartbreaking as a nation’s broken promise. — T.D.

  • Lil Durk feat. J. Cole, "All My Life"

    Hearing the lyrics “All my life/ They been tryin’ to keep me down” sung by a children’s choir can result in two different responses: either you’ll think these kids are being melodramatic, or that their words couldn’t ring more true, as Lil Durk and J. Cole posit while waxing poetic about damaging social constructs and their attempts to improve the world around them. “All My Life” is the type of soulful rap song that Cole excels in — and the moment where Durk, on a years-long ascent, became a true crossover star. — J. Lipshutz

  • Peggy Gou, "(It Goes Like) Nanana"

    Peggy Gou’s massive international hit is all about attempting in vain to explain the ineffable, and there’s certainly a little of that in the success of the song itself — which crossed over from the clubs to the charts, reaching No. 33 on the Global 200, a rare feat for a 2023 house single. But on another level, the appeal of “Nanana” couldn’t be more head-smackingly obvious: It’s an enormously catchy and persuasively propulsive dance-pop song that seems like it could (and should) go on forever, whose title chorus singalong is as satisfying as a scratched itch. And those synth bends will absolutely make the hearts of anyone who remembers the ATB era go na-na-na, na-naaaa-naaaa-na-naaaaa…. — A.U.

  • Laufey, "From the Start"

    “From the Start” is a perfect encapsulation of why Icelandic star Laufey took over the Jazz Albums chart this September with the release of her second studio album Bewitched. The bossa nova-inspired track launches straight into Laufey’s velvety vocals, as she takes the listener on a ride through unrequited love, which she details with her signature charm (“Oh, the burning pain/ Listening to you harp on ’bout some new soulmate/ ‘She’s so perfect,’ blah, blah, blah”). It’s the most enjoyable track about losing out on love you’ll hear in 2023. — T.M.

  • Chris Stapleton, "White Horse"

    Chris Stapleton has said that “White Horse” was originally written for 2013’s The Lone Ranger adaptation, and the spirit of that fictional outlaw cowboy races through each chord of the song. The two-time Grammy-nominated lead single from his new Higher album is built on a wistful, chugging guitar riff that ultimately becomes the backdrop of his roaring chorus. In classic Stapleton fashion, this is a love song with a healthy dose of realism; “If you want a cowboy on a white horse/ Ridin’ off into the sunset/ If that’s the kinda love you wanna wait for/ Hold on tight, girl, I ain’t there yet,” he belts. — K.D.

  • Mitski, "My Love Mine All Mine"

    Only Mitski could take the impermanence of our fleeting human existence, set it to piano and pedal steel guitar and turn it into a dreamy, romantic notion, as she does on this subdued ballad from her seventh studio album. Looking skyward with the knowledge that nothing lasts forever, the singer-songwriter takes comfort in reminding herself that there’s one thing she will always hold onto: “Nothing in the world belongs to me/But my love, mine, all mine.” The atmospheric track unpredictably floated to the top of the TikTok Billboard Top 50 and earned Mitski her first Billboard Hot 100 hit, as it effortlessly drifted into the top 30 in November. — C.W.

  • Kylie Minogue, "Padam Padam"

    Sensual, confident and coy, Kylie Minogue is at the peak of her powers on “PadamPadam,” a surprise comeback hit for the Aussie legend thanks to TikTok having a field day with the idea that the song’s onomatopoeic title (a reference to a heartbeat) can serve as shorthand for anything. Over an insistent bed of electro-pop that’s so ice-cold it practically burns, Minogue flaunts the unerring pop chops that have kept her a cult favorite in America since her last inescapable U.S. hit two decades ago; fingers crossed the Minoguessance doesn’t stop here. — J. Lynch

  • That Mexican OT, Drodi & Paul Wall, "Johnny Dang"

    The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (7)

    The beat crawls like molasses while the rappers run amok on this exuberant hit named after a famous Texas jeweler. That Mexican OT, who cracked the Hot 100 for the first time with this single, is bubbly and boastful: “Got me feeling like a baby that’s fiending, so where my bottle at?/ I’m just rhyming words, I don’t even know how to rap.” In contrast, Houston veteran Paul Wall is calm and flinty. But it’s Wall who is responsible for the song’s funniest put-down: “I came through drippin’ a puddle,” he raps. “You thought it rained.”— E.L.

  • Morgan Wallen, "Last Night"

    Is there anything more seductive than a song that ends on a “Will they or won’t they” cliffhanger? This year, there wasn’t:Wallen’s “LastNight” was not only the country star’s first No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, but it spent 16 non-consecutive weeks in the top spot, the most ever for any non-collaboration. After anightof toe-tingling passion following a fight (and egged on by liquor), his lover says they are done, leaves him taillights blazing. However,Wallen’s pretty sure thatlastnightwasn’t their final one together. Between the simple, minor chord melody, clever word play, finger-snapping chorus andWallen’s laid-back, but confident delivery, “Last Night” was one of the year’s catchiest earworms. — M.N.

  • NewJeans, "Super Shy"

    NewJeans arrived on the global scene this year seemingly already fully formed, already looking and sounding like pop superstars. But even for them, “Super Shy” was a cut above, a song that integrated cutting-edge production elements from all over the globe for an unrequited-crush song with songwriting and performance strong enough to work nearly as well unplugged. The synth twinkles are awesome, the Jersey club elements inspired, but the highlight of the song is still the repeated sigh: “You don’t even know my name, do yaaaaa?” – A.U.

  • Coco Jones, "ICU"

    The actress-singer-songwriter, who began releasing independent projects in 2014, pivoted into breakthrough stride in 2023 with this double entendre-titled breakup ballad. Jones’ searing vocals achingly illuminate the painful withdrawal and residual feelings that often accompany a romantic split. “Maybe I-I-I-I-I, I need you/ I breathe you, turnin’ my heart blue/ When I leave you, I see you,” sings the best new artist Grammy nominee about the intensive care she still needs— while simultaneously stoking R&B’s burgeoning renaissance. — G.M.

  • Dave & Central Cee, "Sprinter"

    Just two of the U.K.’s biggest MCs passing the mic over an elastic beat, with seemingly nothing in the world they’d rather be doing. “Sprinter” was an obvious global smash without even particularly sounding like a single — the chorus is almost indiscernible from the verses, the hooks are all pretty subtle — simply because the chemistry between the two rappers, and their sense of being the right dudes at the right time, is so infectious. Still too British to crack the Hot 100, of course, but the fact that it even Bubbled Under proved what a miracle it was. — A.U.

  • Lainey Wilson, "Heart Like a Truck"

    On her first big hit from breakout album Bell Bottom Country, reigning CMA entertainer of the year Wilson uses a well-worn, dependable truck as a simile for an adventure-drivenheart— one that’s a little scarred but still running, one that “runs on dreams and gasoline.” Wilson, who wrote this song with Trannie Anderson and Dallas Wilson (with production from Jay Joyce), lays her Louisiana drawl bare on this track, crescendoing to her climactic belting out of the word “heart” on the final chorus, showcasing an instrument as powerful as it is intimate. — J.N.

  • Tate McRae, "Greedy"

    On a song about being self-confident enough to acknowledge some random dude’s attraction and then keep him running in circles, Tate McRae sneaks in some subtle performance tics to let you know that her own confidence is at an all-time high. The ta-ta-talkin’ extension, the way she sing-shouts “I would want mySELF!,” even the lead-in “woo!” — these details all give “Greedy” more personality, and McRae has scored her biggest hit to date with a single that fully unlocks her sound. — J. Lipshutz

  • Taylor Swift, "Is It Over Now?"

    The debut of “IsItOverNow?” from1989 (Taylor’s Version)at No. 1 on the Hot 100 was the cherry on top of a banner year for Swift. Even in arguably Swift’s best batch of Vault songs so far,it stood out from the jump, with searing and specific memories driven forward by shimmering production and a melody that keepsits foot slammed on the gas pedal throughout. “IsItOverNow?” feels like the most “1989” of all thenew-old 1989songs – makingiteven more confounding that Swift didn’t just includeiton the original track list in the first place.— H.D.

  • Kendrick Lamar & Baby Keem, "The Hillbillies"

    On this refreshingly casual loosie –as low-stakes as Lamar’s 2022 tome Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers wasn’t – the Pulitzer-winning rapper teams with his cousin Baby Keem to breathlessly swap clever bars about fame, women and travelling the world. Bonus points for the Jersey club-inspired beat, which by way of its sample of Bon Iver’s 2020 cut “PDLIF” joins Lamar’s canon of deft flips of indie-rock auteurs. – E.R.B.

  • Eslabon Armado & Peso Pluma, "Ella Baila Sola"

    “Ella Baila Sola” was a social media hit first – garnering over 5 million creator videos on TikTok, according to the platform – before it became a history-making track. The Gen-Z-approved sierreño anthem peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, the highest ranking for a regional Mexican song on the tally. “Ella Baila Sola” was a hit for many reasons, but primarily its dancefloor-ready beat – powered by a trumpet, trombone and charchetas – and its earworm lyrics, which are simple but relatable, about two compas (friends) trying to catch a girl’s attention at a party. — G.F.

  • Olivia Rodrigo, "Vampire"

    The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (8)

    At just 20 years old, Rodrigo was faced with the challenge of proving her phenomenal debut withSourwasn’t a fluke – and “Vampire” soared past all of the odds. Catchy but inventive, straightforward but clever, this Dan Nigro-produced lead single bleeds with all the hallmarks of Rodrigo’s singular songwriting while still feeling fresh, driving a wooden stake right through the heart of the so-called sophom*ore slump and setting the stage for her second album,Guts, to begin its rise. — H.D.

  • Zach Bryan feat. Kacey Musgraves, "I Remember Everything"

    Bryan and Musgraves each earned their first Hot 100 chart-topper with this somber, whiskey-soaked heartbreaker about a dysfunctional former couple who can never manage to dislodge the deeply embedded memories of their time together. He’s hellbent on drinking away the memories, while she makes it plain that “you’ll never be the man that you always swore.” Bryan’s rugged, pensive vocal is a perfect match for Musgraves’ soothing coo, which lends extra bite to the song’s at times acidic lyrics.— J.N.

  • Metro Boomin, The Weeknd & 21 Savage, "Creepin"

    Super-producer Metro Boomin hit a home run when he recruited his all-star collaborators The Weeknd and 21 Savage to recreate Mario Winans’ 2004 R&B smash “I Don’t Wanna Know,” featuring Diddy and Enya. Metro Boomin modernizes the song’s stuttering beat for “Creepin,” while The Weeknd bemoans his unfaithful partner with his melancholy melodies and Savage raps about everything he gifted his partner while tapping into Diddy’s “nonchalant” energy, as Metro described to Billboard. “Creepin” spent the first half of 2023 in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 3, and adds an impressive new chapter to the decades-long history behind an ’00s crossover classic. — H.M.

  • Lana Del Rey, "A&W"

    For the ambitious centerpiece of her intimate Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, the enigmatic singer-songwriter and collaborator Jack Antonoff did nothing less than deliver one of the best songs in each of their storied careers. The seven-minute epic spellbindingly charts the narrator’s journey from childhood innocence to adult debauchery (“A&W” is shorthand for “American whor*”), musically paralleled by the beat’s midsong about-face from delicate string-and-piano reverie to cinematic trap. — E.R.B.

  • Grupo Frontera & Bad Bunny, "un x100 to"

    A song made for this generation with clever songwriting by Mexican hitmaker Edgar Barrera, where a declaration of love is only possible thanks to the 1% battery left on a cell phone. This irresistible norteña backed by a head-bobbing cumbia beat was a game-changer in música Mexicana, bringing together one of music’s biggest stars with the rising Mexican-American group, who’s revived the tejano genre. “un x100to” wasn’t only a hit, peaking at No. 5 on the Hot 100, it also captured Mexican music’s cultural stronghold. — G.F.

  • Chappell Roan, "Red Wine Supernova"

    On “Red Wine Supernova,”pop cult favorite ChappellRoan displays the openly cheeky, giddy personality that her fans have always connected to. If the anthemic chorus wasn’t enough to get listeners hooked,Chappellperks up ears with her raunchy, innuendo-filled bridge, playfully teasing that she’s “got a wand and a rabbit” for the magic enthusiasts, before chanting out a request to “make this bed get squeaky” — a line perfect for shouting in the car or belting at one of her high-energy shows. — R.A.

  • Victoria Monét, "On My Mama"

    In her own words, Victoria Monét is fully in her bag, “like a grandma with a peppermint.” Thebreakout successof the singer-songwriter’s second single offJaguar IIfeels like manifestation at its very best — “On My Mama” boasts the confident swagger of someone who knows that they’re a cut above the competition. Monét’s buttery vocals meet top-tier penmanship and immaculately groovy production, making for a listening experience that is nothing short of “permanent ecstasy.” —S.D.

  • Coi Leray, "Players"

    Following successful samples from Ice Cube, Diddy and more over the decades,CoiLeray yet again flipped Grandmaster Flash’s 1982 classic “The Message” to create a new hip-hop hit. This time, she’s doing it for the ladies, building the catchy cut around this undeniable motto: “Girls isplayerstoo.” The song signaled Leray as a rookie rap star to watch while also building a bridge to the legends who came before her – a perfect top 10 Hot 100 hit in the 50th year of hip-hop. –K.A.

  • SZA, "Snooze"

    It was almost too on-the-nose that SZA’s “Snooze” would become one of the year’s preeminent sleeper hits. As it grew from fan-favorite deep cut to TikTok breakout hit to a legitimate crossover smash, the SOS single revealed itself to be a love song of dangerously narcotic potency, intoxicating through its deliberate acoustic groove and SZAfied sweet-talking like “Let’s take this argument back up to my place.” It really does sound like the feeling of being in bed with someone you love and deciding you just have to have another 15 minutes there. — A.U.

  • Karol G & Shakira, "TQG"

    Two of Colombia’s biggest female acts joined forces for the first time on “TQG.” An acronym for “Te Quedó Grande” (which loosely translates to “Too Big for You”), the dark and dramatic reggaetón song (produced by Ovy on the Drums) finds Karol G and Shakira more empowered than ever as they remind their exes that they have leveled up — physically, personally, and professionally. “TQG” debuted at No. 1 on both the Billboard Global 200 and Billboard Global Excl. U.S. charts in March, becoming each Colombian superstar’s first No. 1 on the rankings. — J.R.

  • Raye feat. 070 Shake, "Escapism"

    The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (9)

    RAYE had an awe-inspiring year in 2023, and the musical centerpiece of that feat is undoubtedly “Escapism.” Her 070 Shake-assisted breakout hit single brought her to new levels on both sides of the Atlantic, sending her to the Hot 100’s top 40 and No. 1 in her home of the U.K. Balancingan electropop base with flourishesof boom-bap and soul, “Escapism” is a harrowing ode to the storybook messiness of post-breakup spirals. Lines of cocaine and glasses of champagne litter Raye’s tear-stained journey back to herself. It’sa devastatingly glamourousaffair – the heart of her 21st-centuryblues.— K.D.

  • Noah Kahan feat. Post Malone, "Dial Drunk"

    It was only a matter of time. Dubbed “Folk Malone” by fans online early in his career, Kahan’s fandom for Posty is no secret — and given Post’s own recent adventures into folkier rock and country tunes, this pairing made perfect sense. Together, the two artists elevate “Dial Drunk,” already Kahan’s breakthrough Hot 100 hit, to dizzying new heights, thanks to the compelling harmony of Kahan’s crisp vocals with Post’s signature rasp. Even better is that the song here takes on a conversational tone, becoming more about two buddies bonding over their shenanigans, best heard when Post chimes in with:“Talkin’ ’bout last time I was in the back of a cop car…” prompting listeners to lean in while thinking, “This is gonna be good.”–L.H.

  • Tyla, "Water"

    South African Afropop star Tyla scored a late-breaking global hit with her effortlessly seductive “Water,”and it’seasy to see why. A waterfall of sugary harmonies, perfectly placed ad-libs, an undebatable earworm of a hook,anda tastefullypercussive beat that gave way to a viral dance challenge? “Water” was always destined to connect the way it did. The anchor, of course, is Tyla, with her beguiling timbre and a cadence that recalls the finer pop&Bmoments of Rihanna and Ariana Grande. Tyla may have asked if we couldblow her mind, but she ended up blowing ours.— K.D.

  • Beyoncé feat. Kendrick Lamar, "America Has a Problem" (Remix)

    Just when we thought we couldn’t get higher than Bey’s ode to her addictive loving — NO — she surprised dropped a new remix of the track, featuring a lightning-fast opening verse from Kendrick Lamar. Beyond showing off his masterful lyricism, Kendrick shouted out Billboard‘s 50 Greatest Rappers list in his verse, proudly boasting about taking the No. 2 spot behind Jay-Z when he proclaims, “Billboard, they know/ After Hov, rightfully so.”— R.A.

  • Gunna, "f*ckumean"

    It doesn’t necessarily feel like it should’ve been one of the biggest rap hits of the year — at least at first. But once you give yourself up to the insidious charms of “f*ckumean,” it quickly shows itself to be the spiritual successor to last year’s “Pushin P”: another in-and-out rap smash that captures the public imagination based on a few expertly deployed quick-trigger hooks, an economical approach to song structuring that puts its best bits in the position to succeed, and the irrepressible charm of Gunna, winning the people over once again. Nothing else to say but eeeeyyyyyeah. — A.U.

  • Dua Lipa, "Dance the Night"

    Many listeners’ initial impression when this pop/disco trifle was released in May: This is kind of a throwaway. But their lasting impression ended up being: Don’t knock a light, buoyant record — especially one that was letter-perfect forBarbie, the film it was commissioned for (and soundtracked a big dance number in). This was Lipa’s first new solo music sincetherelease of her celebratedFuture Nostalgiaalbum, and it received a Grammy nod for song oftheyear — and also may well land an Oscar nod for best original song. — P.G.

  • Jelly Roll, "Need a Favor"

    A repentant Jelly Roll bargains with God in this raw, pleading not-quite ballad that improbably topped both Billboard’s Country Airplay and Hot Rock & Alternative Songs charts and brought the singer-songwriter to wider mainstream attention. From the chorus-anchoring lyric that also opens the song, “I only talk to God when Ineed a favor/ And I only pray when I ain’t got a prayer,” the single is an emotional journey with no resolution, just a repeated entreaty for divine intervention — in this case, to return Jelly Roll’s love to him. — M.N.

  • Ice Spice & Nicki Minaj, "Princess Diana"

    Initially confused by fans comparing her to the latePrincessDi, the ever-savvy Ice Spice soon capitalized on the unexpected moniker, releasing “PrincessDiana” in early 2023 and quickly following it with a remix that paired the People’sPrincesswith Rap Queen Nicki Minaj. The trap tune’s reverb-y guitar line – plucked lazily, moving ahead on its own schedule – is a sonically compelling counterpoint to Spice’s hushed, hurried flow, which quietly holds its own next to Minaj’s victorious verse. One can only assume it’ll slap ever harder when used in the next season of The Crown.— J. Lynch

  • Sabrina Carpenter, "Nonsense"

    “Nonsense” isn’t much for subtlety, instead brimming with Sabrina Carpenter’s smooth charisma and flirty one-liners that she seemingly wields in infinite supply — just ask her fans on tour. The breezy pop song is guided by wispy guitar, but the whole thing moves at a pace that she dictates: conversationally sing-songy verses lay the foundation, and at a moment’s notice in the chorus, she can dial up her vocal register and “hit the octave”, as she says, too. With a Christmas remix of the song resurfacing on her new holiday EP, Fruitcake, the song may be all business well into 2024. — J.G.

  • Bad Bunny, "Monaco"

    BadBunnyknows how to send a clear message to his haters — sophisticatedly, of course. The unmistakable vibrations of the opening violin strings, as originally heard in Charles Aznavour’s 1964 song “Hier Encore,” kicks off this new trap classic, as Benito speaks of a life filled with excessive luxuries and famous friends like LeBron James and Leonardo DiCaprio. “We talked about the family and topics of millionaires/ I mean multimillionaire/ I mean, billionaire, ” he reiterates in his verse, dripping with the best-earned arrogance. — INGRID FAJARDO

  • Rema & Selena Gomez, "Calm Down"

    The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (10)

    Nigerian artist Rema initially released the single from his debut solo album Rave & Roses, based on a real-life situation in which Rema coaxes a reticent female partygoer to just chill and chat with him, in February 2022. The remix with Gomez didn’t happen until that August. The single’s slow burn — further underscoring Afrobeats’ increasing mainstream popularity — paid off. Sparked by the original track’s mellow fusion of hip-hop, African music, lo-fi and alternative (a subgenre that the song’s Nigerian producer Andre Vibez calls Afro-rave), the “Calm Down” remix clicked further with fans thanks to the organic, unforced pairing of Rema and Gomez’s engaging vocals. “Calm Down” topped the Billboard U.S. Afrobeats Songs chart for 58 weeks and peaked at No. 3 on the Hot 100. — G.M.

  • Olivia Rodrigo, "Get Him Back!"

    The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (11)

    Think of “Get Him Back!,” the best song on Olivia Rodrigo’s enthralling sophom*ore album Guts, as the older-sister version of “Drivers License.” Rodrigo is still peppering her verses with intimate relationship details and blowing up her choruses so they can be bellowed without abandon, but instead of reveling in the hurt of a first breakup, she’s moved on to fantasizing about her ex, splitting the difference between reconciliation and revenge with three words and an exclamation point. Rodrigo has already accomplished a ton over the course of her short recording career, but “Get Him Back!” captures the maturation of her formula — the song is gloriously messy, just like the ending of most adult relationships. — J. Lipshutz

  • PinkPantheress & Ice Spice, "Boy's a Liar, Pt. 2"

    The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (12)

    With its breakneck BPMs, staccato beats and hip-house flavor, Jersey club is in the midst of a serious resurgence this year. But leave it to a genre-uninhibited artist likePinkPantheressto toss in chiptune blips and merciless bubblegum melodies to give the world 2:11 of frenetic, addictive DIY pop bliss. With a soft, sweet yet wounded vocal tone that brings to mind Norwegian pop singer Annie,PinkPantheress mulls that nagging feeling of not being good enough (uf-uf) for a boy that’s a liar (and for all we know, a Leo to boot). When fellow Jersey club enthusiastIceSpice hopped on the remix for a surprisingly vulnerable verse in early 2023, this 2022 highlight emerged as one of the best pop songs of the new year – if not of the decade so far. — J. Lynch

  • Troye Sivan, "Rush"

    The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (13)

    Exhilaration itself gets bottled up into an ecstatic release with “Rush” — and no, we’re not talking about poppers. Troye Sivan’s thrilling summer single brings a fresh new sound for the Australian pop phenomenon; where once Sivan dealt primarily in suggestive slow jams, “Rush” bursts with potent sex appeal and club-ready verve. Piano-house drums and a pounding bass line keep the song in a perpetual state of motion, while Sivan’s airy voice offers a counterbalance to the relentlessness of the production. With lyrics ratcheting up the sexual tension bit by bit — the sensual delivery of “every stimulation, promise I can take what you wanna give” stands out in particular — the song’s chanted chorus boils over into bacchanalian rapture, putting audiences into the touch-addicted mix of Sivan’s electrifying sonic universe. — S.D.

  • boygenius, "Not Strong Enough"

    The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (14)

    On her 1995 hit, Sheryl Crow asked, “Are you strong enough to be my man?” In 2023, rock trio boygenius twisted the concept around with “Not Strong Enough” — as one chorus says, “I tried, I can’t…” the next reveals, “I lied, I am…” and the final shows a choice being made to “Go home alone.” Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus alternate soloing and weaving their voices together to form a warm tapestry, offset by crisp guitars, both electric and steel-string acoustic. “Always an angel, never a god,” they chant on the bridge, a reference to “receiving praise for being subservient,” Dacus explained in an interview. The folk-rock anthem’s heady themes and driving melody made it an irresistible listen to fans who pushed it to No. 1 on Adult Alternative Airplay in June, marking the band’s first appearance at the top of any chart. — C.W.

  • Doja Cat, "Paint the Town Red"

    The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (15)

    If you’re thinking of calling out Doja Cat, you might want to just walk on by. The pop/rap star (or is that rap/pop star?) came out guns blazing with thisScarletsingle, warning her haters in the fiery lyrics: “You can’t talk no s–t without penalties/ B–ch, I’m in your s–t if you send for me.” “Red” also put a whole new spin on Dionne Warwick’s melancholy 1964 Hot 100 top 10 hit “Walk on By,” turning the title phrase into an imminent threat instead of the original’s emotional plea. (Warwick, for her part, loved the tribute,thankingDoja for “keeping us alive.”) The bottom line: For anyone who’s been accusing Doja of being “the devil” over the years, she decided to turn the tables and call herself that instead — in the chorus to her three-week Hot 100-topper, no less. –K.A.

  • Miley Cyrus, "Flowers"

    The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (16)

    An “I Will Survive” for the 2020s, Cyrus’s rising-from-the-ashes post-breakup story has all the breezy empowerment of Gloria Gaynor’s 1979 classic, with a feel-good twist: This sister really can do it for herself. Not only will Cyrus survive, she’ll thrive — as she buys herselfflowersand proves that self-love is the greatest love of all. The impossibly catchy “Flowers,” with its strutting rhythm sing-along chorus, broke longevity records atop the Adult Contemporary chart when it spent 34 weeks at No. 1, after also launching at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, spending a career-best eight weeks there. — M.N.

  • Bizarrap & Shakira, "Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53"

    The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (17)

    “Shakira:BzrpMusic Sessions, Vol. 53” isn’t just a song; it’s a seismic cultural moment. Collaborating with Argentine DJ Bizarrap during a vulnerable period, the Colombian superstar’s dis track (targeting her unfaithful ex Gerard Piqué) became the most-played Latin song on Spotify in 24 hours, while breaking several Guinness World Records. The electro-pop anthem is a raw, unfiltered expression of Shakira’s highly publicized breakup, boldly naming names and defying industry norms. With lines like“Las mujeres ya no lloran, las mujeres facturan” (“Women no longer cry, women cash in”), it emerges as a powerful female post-breakup manifesto, challenging the prevalent double standards often imposed on Latin women in entertainment. Soaring on multipleBillboardcharts — including Latin Pop Airplay, where it spent 12 weeks at No. 1 — and peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Global 200, “Vol. 53” is a fearless exploration of love and loss that redefines contemporary pop with its unapologetic honesty.— I.R.

  • Billie Eilish, "What Was I Made For?"

    The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (18)

    The great ones never miss an opportunity. Billie Eilish and brother-collaborator Finneas could’ve taken the Barbie task as an excuse for a rare dip into pop frivolity, or some kind of winking self-satire. Instead, they took it as inspiration to dig deep for a piano ballad as legitimately affecting as anything in their catalog — no small feat for the duo behind “When the Party’s Over,” “Everything I Wanted” and so many other spine-tinglers — which somehow also makes total sense for the soundtrack to the blockbuster film comedy. When Eilish sighs “I’m sad again, don’t tell my boyfriend” or wails “I don’t know how to feel,” the sentiments are equally plausible and heartbreaking as narration for Barbie or disquieting self-examination for Billie herself. It’s not merely understanding the assignment, it’s being asked to put together an extra credit book report and inventing an entirely new field of literary criticism. And it’s another example of how lucky we are to have Eilish & bro as fixtures in our current pop culture. — A.U.

  • SZA, "Kill Bill"

    The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (19)

    On her sophom*ore album SOS, SZA set out on a fearless sonic voyage, dipping her toes in different genres from grunge to gospel – but one single particularly slayed. “Kill Bill” paints a gruesome picture from its title alone, paying homage to Quentin Tarantino’s pair of films about a wronged lover exacting the ultimate revenge on her ex. On her instantly viral hit, SZA debates doing the same – taking it a step further by also going after his new girlfriend – under the premise of “If I can’t have you, no one should.” The eerie synth loops, paired with the groovy, boom bap-inspired percussion drive home the singer’s lunatic antics — but moments of self-awareness, like when she sings “I’m so mature” or “not the best idea,” ensure listeners that she’s laughing at her own psychosis and hasn’t gone off the deep end just yet. And the song’s R&B roots are exposed in the bridge, where SZA sincerely wails “I did it all for us, I did it all for love” — later admitting she committed the crimes of passion, and shrugging at her own subsequent eternal damnation.

    Released along with SOS last December, the song became a single in January 2023 and kept growing, eventually earning SZA her first Hot 100 No. 1 in April. It shattered plenty more records on other Billboard charts, like most weeks at No. 1 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs with 21 weeks, and garnered three nods ahead of the 2024 Grammy Awards – including record and song of the year – where SZA is the most-nominated artist with nine nods. With her first totally ubiquitous smash and its blockbuster parent album, SZA ascended to pop superstardom without compromising her sound, but rather showing how she could expand it. In short: SZA killed it with this song.— H.M.

The 100 Best Songs of 2023: Staff Picks (2024)
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