Best albums of 2023

Best albums of 2023

Photo Courtesy of Republic
1989 (Taylor’s Version) by Taylor Swift

“1989 (Taylor’s Version)” debuted on Oct. 27, immediately garnering hundreds of millions of streams. The pop perfection of this album could not be denied when it was originally released in 2014, and the same goes for its 2023 re-recording, which Taylor Swift officially owns. The overarching themes of this album, freedom and celebration, are inspiringly uplifting and never fail to put a smile on my face when I listen to it. 

The re-recording of this iconic pop masterpiece has improved upon its former version in a way I didn’t think was possible. Though the situations she writes about in “1989” are now far behind in her past, she still sings with intense emotion, allowing the already beautiful lyrics to be that much more impactful. In addition, the instrumentation and production of each and every track on this album is incredible. The added vocal effects on songs such as “I Know Places,” my personal favorite from the album, make for an even more fun listen.

To incite her audience to listen to “Taylor’s Version” over the previous, Swift added five new songs “from the vault,” and “Bad Blood (feat. Kendrick Lamar).” These new tracks fit perfectly into this album and give the classic record a refreshing second life. Additionally, these shiny new tracks allow fans to see more into what the pop star’s life was like in 2014, adding a sense of nostalgia for the long-time fans.

All in all, “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” is the best album released in 2023 due to its optimism, empowerment, and nostalgic elements. I’d encourage anyone who loves a good pop album to listen, they might get more out of it than they’d anticipated.

Photo Courtesy of Republic
Photo Courtesy of Mattel, Inc.
Barbie The Album by Various Artists
  1. Artists from all genres came together to create a new soundtrack for what is now “Barbie: The Album.” Artists like Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Ice Spice, Nicki Minaj and more all have some incredible songs that go along with the “Barbie” theme incredibly well. The “Barbie” movie is about a Barbie who seems to be having some trouble in Barbie World, so she goes to find her purpose in the real world. 

One song we never expected to be in the “Barbie” movie was “What Was I Made For?” by Eilish. This song is slow and full of emotion, which was already surprising since many people thought this movie would not be so sad. The song is about asking “What Was I Made For?” and describing how someone has fallen apart after being so happy. Another very successful song with the public was “I’m Just Ken,” performed by Ryan Gosling, who played Ken. He is describing that he feels out of place with Barbie and that he is just Ken. As the song continues, all of the Kens come together to finish the song together in unison. By the end of the song, the Kens accept themselves for who they are and realize they are “Kenough.” There are other songs that are popular within “Barbie: The Album,” which include “Dance The Night,” “Barbie World (With Aqua),” “Speed Drive” and “Pink.” 

“Barbie: The Album” is an amazing album that represents the “Barbie” movie as a whole and has become popularized by many fans, especially, certain songs from the album that have become people’s favorite songs around the world. I think it was the best album of the year because it gave up some iconic songs that will be remembered for years to come. It will be introduced to a new generation and will be enjoyed greatly.

Photo Courtesy of Mattel, Inc.
Photo Courtesy of Jagjaguwar
Cut Worms by Cut Worms

Cut Worms’ self-titled third album released on July 21st to critical acclaim, quickly becoming my favorite album of the year. Max Clarke, the sole artist behind Cut Worms, has been making music under the strange pseudonym for nearly a decade. His very first release, “Alien Sunset,” achieved surprising market success; in particular, “Song of the Highest Tower” was played on numerous radio and television stations in 2017 and 2018.

“Cut Worms” is a relatively short album, only being nine songs in length. The album draws a lot of inspiration from 50s and 60s doo-wop and pop, but with a modern spin Clarke is fairly known for. The album focuses on nostalgia and themes of time, with “Don’t Fade Out” being the most obvious example as the narrator pleads the listener to stay in his life and not “fade,” like countless other people forgotten. “Ballad of the Texas King,” my personal favorite song on the album, follows the story of a man saying goodbye to his partner as he dies. The focus is again on the passage of time as the man begs his partner to not forget him as she keeps living.

Combining the styles of doo-wop, country and pop, Clarke’s newest album certainly doesn’t disappoint. Clarke rarely performs live, only doing so a handful of times since his debut in 2017, but the album is one of the most enjoyable musical experiences I’ve had this year. If you’re at all a fan of older music, I’d definitely give “Cut Worms” a listen.

Photo Courtesy of Jagjaguwar
Photo Courtesy of The Grizzly Growler
Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd by Lana Del Rey

On March 23, popular music artist Lana Del Rey released her ninth studio album, “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd.” With such a unique title, many were drawn to listen. 

Rey, famed for her introspective indie music, garnered lots of attention with her most recent album. Many fans found this album more similar to her older music, which was exciting, as her more recent albums have had a different sound. The album truly takes the listener on a journey, touching on deep themes of relationships and toxic love. The album has a very folky sound and every song is wordy and symbolic in the best way possible.

In a comment about her album, Rey expressed that “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd” is truly a reflection of her innermost thoughts and is very meaningful to her and her musical career.

Many songs on the album gained traction, however one of the most popular is “Let the Light In,” which garnered almost 7 and a half million views on YouTube. This song is truly beautiful, with acoustic guitar sounds and a calming melody, and it’s hard not to listen to it on repeat.

Another popular song on the album, the self-titled “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd,” has over 10 million views on YouTube. This is another stunning song, with a nearly ethereal sound and deep, pensive lyrics reflecting Rey’s insecurities.

Much like its title, “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd” is a truly intriguing, distinctive album, and is a fabulous addition to Rey’s discography.

Photo Courtesy of The Grizzly Growler
Photo Courtesy of Interscope
Good Riddance by Gracie Abrams

We have been gifted with countless wonderful albums this year, but there is one that has stuck with me. When Gracie Abrams released her debut album, “Good Riddance,” on Feb. 24, the trajectory of my life was forever changed. I listened to every song while I was getting ready for school that morning and continued to shuffle the album throughout my day; I could not get enough. The enthralling lyrics provide a window into Abrams’ mind as she faces regret and the wish to move forward. From start to finish, this album is vulnerable and cathartic.

The song “Best” opens up the record with slow piano chords and Abrams’ subtle vocals. The album then picks up quickly at the second track, “I know it won’t work.” This fan favorite was meant to be blasted through car speakers and airpods while you shamelessly scream along. Its relatable lyrics and catchy beat allow it to be a popular gem from the album. My personal favorite song on the album is “Difficult.” From the first listen, I knew I was going to have this on repeat for a while. I always find myself tapping along to the beat of the drums and the chorus has simple yet effective lyrics.

“Right now” –the closing track of “Good Riddance”– is without a doubt the saddest track on the album. It begins with light keys of the piano followed by Abrams singing in a low tone. This song elaborates on the uncertainty that comes with change and growing up. The chorus expresses Abrams conflicted feelings of being both high but unable to look down. The shaky vocals in the outro convey the strong vulnerability of this album. Abrams perfectly ends her debut record with this track, looking back on her past, and proving that “Good Riddance” deserves to be a nominee for the Grammy Album of the Year.

Photo Courtesy of Interscope
Photo Courtesy of Geffen Records
GUTS by Olivia Rodrigo

Released on Sept. 8, Olivia Rodrigo’s second studio album, “GUTS,” is a modern-day pop-punk album, highly resembling the 2000s Avril Lavigne era. It’s a mature version of “SOUR” while still continuing to capture that “teenage girl love angst.” Featuring a tracklist full of songs to scream to after breaking up with your partner, it is one of my favorite albums of the year.

Starting off with the lead single, “vampire,” the slow piano ballad builds up to the grunge-rock feel the rest of the album contains. Tying in her love of the “Twilight” franchise while keeping the heartbreak theme, Rodrgio definitely made the right choice when picking what should come out first. 

Top contenders for the best songs include “ballad of a homeschooled girl,” “pretty isn’t pretty,” “love is embarrassing” and “get him back!” The lyrics for these four songs, along with “logical” and ‘teenage dream,” are beyond relatable to almost her entire fanbase. Even if someone can’t relate, the emotion in those songs will have them screaming along. 

On Sept. 13, Rodrigo announced the GUTS world tour where she will perform in around 15 countries. Her tour sold out almost instantly with the exclusive ticket access, giving her the chance to make even more dates. For those of us who did not get the chance to secure tickets, we’ll just have to listen to the album of the year on full blast with smeared eyeliner and rock n’ roll t-shirts.

Photo Courtesy of Geffen Records
Photo Courtesy of RCA Studio A
Higher by Chris Stapleton

Coming off of a year with a globally-watched and well-received NFL Super Bowl National Anthem performance and Monday Night Football intro song, the expectation around Chris Stapleton’s fifth studio album has never been “Higher.”

After three long years, the American singer-songwriter, guitarist and record producer Chris Stapleton released his new album, “Higher,” on Nov. 10. In this 14-track album, Stapleton stuck with his mix of country, rock, blues and southern soul music styles that his fans adore. 

Stapleton grew up in a household that often played music by artists like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, and genres such as blues, soul and R&B. Hence, the genre this artist adapted throughout his career which has ultimately led to this all-around fresh yet nostalgic album. 

The lead single of his new album, “White Horse,” has an artful mix of country and rock vibes. However, for fans who have a greater appreciation for Stapleton’s blues side, I would recommend “South Dakota.” The song opens with a blues-driven guitar and Stapleton’s laidback southern drawl that sticks throughout most of the song. As the song continues, you hear a long, bluesy jam session with his whiney electric guitar as the main focus, bringing Stapleton’s rock side forward. 

The fame from his national anthem performance boosted Stapleton’s confidence regarding the range of his voice. It is one of the many traits that differentiates him from other male country singers. As portrayed in his song “Higher,” Stapleton hits a range of notes, each getting progressively higher, highlighting the variety of his voice while keeping his classic rasp.

Here are my top five songs from “Higher:”

  1. “‘White Horse”
  2. “It Takes A Woman”
  3. “South Dakota” 
  4. “Higher” 
  5. “Mountains Of My Mind”
Photo Courtesy of RCA Studio A
Photo Courtesy of Arlyn Studios
Live From Nashville by Radio Company

Look out fans of “Supernatural”: Jensen Ackles has done it again.

Ackles is best known for his role as Dean Winchester in “Supernatural” and Soldier Boy in “The Boys.” However, acting isn’t the only thing he excels at. Alongside Jason Manns, Ackles has showcased his voice through cover songs such as “Simple Man” and “The Joker.” Now, Ackles co-leads the band Radio Company with his friend of 15 years, award-winning star Steve Carlson.

With their years of friendship and shared music interest, in 2018, Radio Company was born. Ackles and Carlson have already created three critically acclaimed records: soft rock albums “Vol. 1” and “Vol. 2,” and “Keep On Ramblin’” which ventures into folk music. The duo’s success with these albums led them to produce a show at Analog in Nashville, Tennessee in 2022 with the band Louden Swain opening the performance. Later this year, they announced that the same show would be turned into an album we now call “Live From Nashville” which features songs from all of their previous albums as well as some covers of other songs. When it first came out, you had to pay to listen, however, since Nov. 24, the album is now streaming for free on all music streaming platforms.

 From the opening track on “Vol. 2,”  “All My Livin’ Time” to the song “Right Kind of Trouble” from “Keep On Ramblin,’” the album “Live From Nashville” showcases the raw energy and passion that Ackles and Carlson have for their music. It’s a true testament to Radio Company’s evolution as a band through its years and undoubtedly deserves to be the best album of 2023.

Photo Courtesy of Arlyn Studios
Portals is Melanie Martinezs 2023 album. Released March 31, 2023.
Photo courtesy of Atlantic Records
PORTALS (Deluxe) by Melanie Martinez

As a fan of Melanie Martinez, her new album “Portals” has been long awaited. After her previous album, “After School-EP,” was released in 2020, many fans patiently awaited her new album, which was released on March 31. The first song on the album,“Death,” portrays the death of the persona she put on known as ‘Crybaby,’ turning into an alien creature. “Death” starts with a high-pitched voice singing “death is life” with the sound of a heartbeat in the back and the tune changes into an alt-pop song about the rebirth of her character.

The album has many uniquely titled songs such as “Light Shower,” “The Contortionist,” and “Womb.” “The Contortionist” is a great song that has gained popularity among fans of Martinez on the social media platform Tik Tok. Many of her songs are adored by her fans, and a popular one of the songs that she covered is ‘Toxic’ which she sang on The Voice.  Martinez is a great artist, her career kicked off when she appeared on “The Voice” and sang many classics such as ‘Toxic,’ ‘Too Close,’ and ‘Cough Syrup.’ She didn’t win in her season but is one of the most famous singers who have competed on the show. 

Martinez landed the number one spot on the Billboard Top Album Sales chart with Portals. This was her first time, as her last album “K-12” placed her in the third spot. I love the “Portals” album, as all the songs are very alternative and pop, which is a great genre for Martinez. My favorite song on the track would have to be “Void.” This song has a specific lyric I can relate to which is, “Pipe down with the noise I cannot bear my sorrow. I hate who I was before.” I enjoy this line because I have been in a similar situation.

From the beginning to the end of this album, the tune relatively stays the same. Her voice sometimes can become more high like a siren, but behind all of her upbeat tunes, there are deep messages in her songs. That is what makes her such a distinct artist. This album should be the best of the year because of her lyricism throughout the music. She talks about life, death and rebirth, which a lot of people can relate to with quarantine.

Portals is Melanie Martinez’s 2023 album. Released March 31, 2023. Photo courtesy of Atlantic Records
Photo Courtesy of Geffen
Red Moon In Venus by Kali Uchis

“Red Moon in Venus” is Colombian-American singer-songwriter Kali Uchis’ third studio album. It is predominantly sung in English and known for immediately catching listeners’ attention with 15 tracks filled with a unique blend of genres, angelic vocals and revolving themes of desire, heartbreak, self-discovery and love. 

Uchis rose to prominence with her hit songs “Telepatía,” “Dead To Me” and “After The Storm” which all perfectly capture her extraordinary talent. She is known for integrating elements of mostly R&B, pop and soul into her music, which features Don Toliver and Summer Walker help to emphasize in this album. Most of the songs, however, do keep the spotlight on her. “Fantasy” is the sixth song with a catchy polyrhythmic beat where Uchis sings about learning to accept your standards for love and forgiving your partner, while her ethereal vocals truly shine in “I Wish you Roses” and “Moral Conscience.” 

Uchis includes bilingual lyrics in the majority of her songs adding depth to the meanings behind them as seen in “Moonlight” and “Not Too Late (interlude).” The artist keeps her famous dream-like melodies and beats present in this album, but also experiments more with the soul side of music, dispersing eager listeners into a world where both strength and vulnerability coexist. All the tracks truly showcase the extent of Uchis’ musical prowess, making the album one of a kind amongst others published in 2023.

My top three songs from the album: 

  1. “Moonlight”
  2. “Deserve Me (ft. Summer Walker)” 
  3. “Fantasy (ft. Don Toliver)”
Photo Courtesy of Geffen
Photo Courtesy of Interscope
Snow Angel by Reneé Rapp

On June 9, American actress and singer Reneé Rapp released the first single off her debut album “Snow Angel.” Even though this is her first album, she is not a stranger to music. From 2019 to 2020, she was the iconic Regina George on the Broadway musical “Mean Girls.” Along with this, she released her first EP last year, “Everything to Everyone,” which has some of her most popular songs, “In the Kitchen” and “Too Well.” 

The album “Snow Angel” debuted on August 18 and was an immediate hit among her fans and new listeners. The album consists of 12 incredible songs with some upbeat pop hits as well as some slower and more emotional ballads. Some fan favorites include “Pretty Girls,” “Talk Too Much” and “Tummy Hurts.” 

Through her songwriting, Rapp is able to speak her truth and she is not afraid to do so in her more emotional songs. She has been able to express her experiences with being bisexual and her previous relationships in a deep and meaningful way with her lyrics. The album is an inside look into her life, which is inspiring because it can be hard for us to share our experiences out loud, but Rapp does just that and does it loud and proud. 

After the big success of her album and the tour of it, Rapp took to Instagram and announced that the deluxe version would be out everywhere on Nov. 17. This version had three new songs and a remix of the song “Tummy Hurts.” This version featured R&B artist Coco Jones and it was immediately a smash hit. 

This album as a whole is everything an album should be with the mix of pop songs and slower ballad songs. Along with the jams in this album, it inspires people to be themselves and speak their truth which is the perfect reason why this album deserves the title of best album of 2023. 

Photo Courtesy of Interscope
Photo Courtesy of Republic Records
Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s first album re-record of the year, “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version),” debuted with all of its 22 songs on Billboard’s Top 100 chart after its July 7 release, and left audiences shocked. With six new songs “from the vault,” written with her first “Speak Now” album and recorded now, that included collaborations with Fall Out Boy and Paramore’s Hayley Williams, audiences got a chance to hear Swift’s developed voice and modern production style with her original lyrics. With many listeners remarking that this re-record has a more classic rock, guitar-heavy feel than her other albums, fans note her versatility and ability to produce successful tracks of many different genres and style blends.  

Swift’s massively successful re-recordings give audiences a chance to re-appreciate Swift’s artistic talent and bring many fans back to their original experience listening to her first “Speak Now” album. With a soundtrack focusing on the ups and downs of teenage relationships and their lasting impacts, Swift’s lyrics strike a chord with listeners of all ages. The album’s new tracks demonstrate Swift’s growth as an artist and connect the album’s country-pop roots with Swift’s more recent production and sound.

After her original albums were sold without her consent, Swift began re-recording her albums so she could regain ownership of her original songs, and her audience’s responses have been overwhelmingly supportive. Although the story behind Swifts’ re-recording journey involves tumultuous record-label relationships that many artists struggle with, her perseverance and creativity resulted in one of the best albums of the year with the release of “Speak Now TV.” After continuously refusing to yield to controlling record labels and critics, Swift released an award-winning album that linked her country-pop roots with her modern production style and left “Eras Tour” guests enchanted.

Photo Courtesy of Republic Records
Photo Courtesy of Capitol Records
The Show by Niall Horan

“The Show,” released June 9, is singer-songwriter Niall Horan’s third studio album. The album features 10 songs, two of which were released before the album: “Heaven” and “Meltdown.” Horan’s music style, a mix of pop, pop-rock and soft pop, is perfectly demonstrated in this album.

Prior to the release of “The Show,” Horan released a website that featured a lit candle on a platform in front of a window. The website was titled NH3 which could be assumed as Horan’s third album. He also hinted at new music across his social media, with posts of Horan singing never-before-heard music. This got many fans excited, as a highly anticipated album was being teased. 

Horan’s newest album had a lot to live up to, as his two previous albums charted number one on Billboard’s Top Album Sales. “The Show” was a hit, following in the previous album’s footsteps. Horan’s album sold almost 70,000 copies within the first week, with more than 33,000 vinyl copies sold. 

“The Show” is introspective and diverse, with each song featuring a new feeling and drawing from different emotions. The album will have listeners singing along, reflecting and relating. While all of the songs are great, some of my favorites include: 

  1. “You Could Start A Cult” 
  2. “Save My Life”
  3. “Science” 

The original album consists of 10 songs; however, “The Show: The Encore” features nine extra songs. Two of the extra songs, “You Could Start A Cult (with Lizzy McAlpine)” and “The Show (with John Legend),” feature other artists, while the other seven songs are acoustic, live and stripped versions of songs already on the album, enhancing an already perfect album.

Photo Courtesy of Capitol Records
Work Of Art by Asake

In 2020, Ahmed Ololade came to fame using the stage name Asake. In the span of three years, he has had quite the come up. In 2022, he landed a record-breaking eight entries in the top ten in a week on Nigeria’s TOP 100, along with being named Spotify’s number-one Nigerian artist in 2023. He showed off his artistic talent in his recent sophomore album, “Work Of Art.” The album has many songs with different genres such as amapiano, fuji, Afro-fusion, R&B and pop. 

As people listen to the album, most would likely hear a basic upbeat song to dance to or a slow and catchy song to mellow out with. The songs all have different hidden meanings that are very deep. Asake made the album while feeling shocked at how different his life is from where he started. Now he feels a little “lonely at the top” and wants to show off his truth.

He takes his craft seriously; as you can see in his music videos, they show many different objects and activities to connect and show the meanings of the song. A word of caution as some things in the videos are inappropriate for younger audiences. This can be proven in the music video for “Basquiat” as he wants to let the audience know that he is a “work of art” as he says in the title and he demonstrates this by having him be the muse for the women who draws him in the neo-expressionism art form. He chose the style to honor the late Jean-Michel Basquiat who was well known for drawing in such a way. He does put a neo-expressionism drawing of Basquiat on his album cover. 

After an incident in South London, Asake traveled home and made the song “Yoga” which went number one in Nigeria’s 100. It’s a slower and more thoughtful song filled with chants and drums. This song was unusual to some, as it contrasted with the average Asake song because “Yoga” was made to help him find inner peace.

The album is considered perfect by many as it can fit any mood you’re in with any of its songs. From the emotion that he puts in his voice to the great sounds of drums, 808s and many intricate sounds he puts together to make wonderful music makes this album worthy of its spot as one of 2023’s best.

Photo Courtesy of Belting Bronco Warner
Zach Bryan by Zach Bryan

Zach Bryan’s self-titled album, released Aug. 25, has undoubtedly been one of the highlights of my 2023. This album features many hit songs, while also recounting a personal journey for Bryan. One of the standout aspects of this album is Bryan’s songwriting prowess; his lyrics are raw, poetic and introspective, diving into personal struggles, love, loss and self-discovery. Each track feels like a glimpse into Bryan’s soul as he bares his emotions with honesty and vulnerability.

The album’s instrumental and backing tracks are equally captivating. Bryan’s distinct voice, accompanied by mesmerizing acoustic melodies, creates an intimate and soul-stirring ambiance. The stripped-down nature of the album allows the lyrics and emotions to take center stage, captivating the listener from start to finish.

Thematically, the album covers a wide range of topics. Some tracks explore the complexities of relationships, while others tackle existential questions and navigating life’s uncertainties. Bryan’s ability to convey genuine emotion through his music makes the album relatable and deeply resonant.

One of my favorite songs on the album is “I Remember Everything.” Collaborating with fellow country star Kacey Musgraves, this song is a sweet and beautiful duet recounting a past love.

Overall, the “Zach Bryan” album is a remarkable testament to the singer’s artistry and showcases his growth as a musician. The combination of his songwriting, captivating vocals and heartfelt melodies make this album a must-listen for fans and music lovers alike.

Photo Courtesy of Belting Bronco Warner
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