The Best Hollywood Songs of 2023
The Best Hollywood Songs of 2023
IT’S BEEN A great year for explosive hip-hop bangers, feelings-heavy pop spectacle, tenderhearted guitar jams, and feminist punk-rock, as well as an exciting time for dance music, K-pop, Afrobeats and musica Mexicana. 2023 has already been full of fun surprises: Shakira went off in a Bizzarap session, the Weeknd sort of made up for The Idol by getting down with Playboi Carti and Madonna, and Ice Spice was everywhere. To capture it all, we’ve sequenced all our favorites into a Spotify playlist.
1.SZA feat. Doja Cat
“Kill Bill” has become the signature single from SZA’s landmark 2022 album, SOS, a raging success on the charts and the epitome of what makes Solana Rowe one of this generation’s greatest songwriters. She consistently manages to roll contemporary pop culture, personal turmoil, and scathing critique (often of herself) into brief, engrossing worlds of color and truth. This year’s remix is opened by a vivid scene of revenge rapped by Doja Cat, whose classic hip-hop sensibility unearths the boom-bap base of “Kill Bill.”–M.C.
2.Ice Spice feat. Nicki Minaj
The year of Ice Spice continued with this hit remix to the RiotUSA-produced track from her acclaimed EP Like..?. It’s the latest example of Nicki Minaj blessing the new wave of rap queens, even as she doesn’t appear ready to give up her own crown just yet. “Of course I be pushing they buttons/I hold the control like the gamers,” she brags. Meanwhile, Ice Spice stands out with her droll, unflappable voice and the kind of seamless delivery that makes every new track sound like another day at the races. —M.R.
3.Lana Del Rey
“A&W” is the centerpiece of Del Rey’s Did You Know There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, a head-spinning seven-minute odyssey through the artist’s own mythos. Del Rey cryptographers quickly decoded the track’s Norman Fucking Rockwell! samples and recurring Jimmy references, but it beguiles most for the narrative Del Rey assembles them around, letting the music rupture like a David Lynchian psychodrama. Still, she’s as funny as ever: “Your mom called/I told her you’re fucking up big-time” is one of her all-time best disses. —C.P.
Listening to “Flowers,” Miley Cyrus’ passive-aggressive update of “I Will Survive,” you have to wonder why she bothers with serious relationships when she sounds so content throwing cash at florists, visiting beaches alone, and holding her own hand. But her independent streak is a great trick since anyone who hears “Flowers” — a song so catchy that it broke multiple records for Spotify streams — would only want to try to please her more than she can please herself. —K.G.(The Best Hollywood Songs of 2023)
Boygenius — the supergroup of singer-songwriters Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus — finally dropped their long-awaited full-length debut, The Record, this spring. “Not Strong Enough” shows off their inventive sense of music history — opening with a few strums of Joni Mitchell guitar before swooshing into 1980s New Order, with a chorus that tweaks Sheryl Crow’s classic “Strong Enough.” Baker throws in a Cure reference when she cheerily sings, “Drag racing through the canyon/Singing ‘Boys Don’t Cry’/Do you see us getting scraped up off the pavement?” —M.C.
A concept album based on past-life regression therapy and starring a four-eyed fairy trapped in limbo, Portals is not what you’d expect from a graduate of The Voice school of music. But single “Void” shows Melanie Martinez’s experimental leanings haven’t eclipsed her pop-rock bona fides. The cyborg anthem evokes Grimes at her spunky Art Angels peak, with a chorus so propulsive it’ll take you a few listens to clock its gory, knotty wordplay. —C.P.
Bubbly and giddy, this single from the K-pop quintet NewJeans uses jittery trap snares and sent-from-above vocal harmonies to fully portray the thrills of love’s first blush. A throwback to the most blissful moments of Nineties R&B that has a 21st-century appeal (credit the candy-crushed synths that dart into the mix here and there), “OMG” is a pristine pop song with a glowing — and glowed-up — heart at its core. —M.J.
8.Rosalía and Rauw Alejandro
Few pleasures in contemporary Latin music compare to basking in the electricity of Rosalía’s furious rapping. Culled from a three-track EP celebrating her partnership with neo-reggaeton star Rauw Alejandro, “Vampiros” thrives on the Spanish diva’s exuberance and a menacing synth line that pushes the tension forward relentlessly. The track’s tribal drums, exotic ambient collage in the bridge, and sudden ending evoke the bravado of Motomami — Rosalía’s visionary masterpiece. —E.L.
9.Shakira and Bizarrap
No one was expecting Shakira to team up with the Argentine producer Bizarrap, given that his wildly popular YouTube sessions have become consecrated ground for rappers who want to unload grievances and flex their skills. But Shakira showed off her own lyrical prowess — and a desire to get a few things off her chest — over a snaking electro beat on “Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53.” The tongue-in-cheek verses, filled with double-entendres aimed at her ex Gerard Pique, balance indignation and empowerment with instantly memorable lines like, “Las mujeres ya no lloran, las mujeres facturan” (“Women don’t cry anymore, they cash in”). —J.L. (The Best Hollywood Songs of 2023)
10.Rema feat. Selena Gomez
A February 2022 song that’s made an even bigger impact in 2023, building into a slow-burn global phenomenon. The Nigerian superstar Rema calls his distinctive style Afrorave, with “Calm Down” becoming the seductively languid banger that won’t quit. It was already a huge Afrobeats hit when the remix with Selena Gomez took the song to a new level, steadily rising in popularity until “Calm Down” hit the U.S. Top Five — a first for any Nigerian artist. —R.S.
11.The Weeknd feat. Playboi Carti and Madonna
If you can get past HBO’s controversial new show The Idol’s cringe-inducing dialogue, awful sex scenes, and rattail discourse, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel: The soundtrack has yet to miss. Its crown jewel is the Weeknd’s “Popular,” with assists from the ever-elusive Playboy Carti and Madonna. Produced by Abel Tesfaye’s frequent collaborators Metro Boomin and Mike Dean, “Popular” is the umpteenth example of the singer’s ability to blend R&B with synth flares to create a simple yet anthemic pop hit. —W.A.
Fresh off of grinding his boots on the necks of all womankind on last year’s Her Loss, Drake is looking for love over subdued production from BNYX and Sadpony. He intersperses his crooned laments for companionship with characteristic witticisms like, “Don’t hit me up and ‘WYD’ me, baby, nah/Send a boy a P-I-C or see me, baby, damn,” which are ripe for IG caption fodder. —A.G.
From the opening line “Rip me out the plastic, I been actin’ brand new,” Latto pushes a strong bid for the song of the summer with “Put It on Da Floor,” a fun, braggadocious track where she raps, “When I send that eggplant that nigga know what time it is/My ex crazy ’bout me, better be ready to die in it.” Maybe she should’ve just changed her name to the Toxic Queen. —A.G. (The Best Hollywood Songs of 2023)
14.Lil Uzi Vert
For several weeks last winter, it seemed as if one couldn’t watch a sporting event without briefly hearing the synthesized arpeggio of Lil Uzi Vert’s “Just Wanna Rock.” Co-produced by Jersey-club producer MCVertt and L.A. plugg expert Synthetic, the track is headbanger rap at its most distilled, with nothing but a melody, a thumping club beat, and Uzi’s whispery chants charting a path into the Thunderdome. —M.R.
15.YoungBoy Never Broke Again
There’s a fine line when it comes to color-themed songs. Youngboy Never Broke Again strikes the right balance on “Black,” saving his darkness kink for the chorus of this single from I Rest My Case. Ironically, “Black” shows the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native veering out of his moody wheelhouse, zanily rhyming “I’m so high, might fly a bitch out for her to dye my hair” over sprightly Jasiah, Kid Krazy, and Powers Pleasant production. —A.G.
16.Saba and No I.D.
In May of last year, rising rapper Saba revealed that producer and fellow Chicagoan No I.D. had sent him 120 beats, the start of a collaboration to come. The first official evidence of their partnership suggests Saba picked a winner from that giant batch: “Back in Office” is all dark, head-nodding propulsion, the better to match Saba’s steely determination. The MC spits fire about his struggles and ascendency, referencing Jack Keroauc, Ben Affleck, and Oscar de la Hoya along the way, and convincing any listener of his upward trajectory. —C.H.
17.Tyler, the Creator
Tyler, the Creator carries on the energy of “Dogtooth,” one of 2021’s best rap moments and a single from his deluxe Call Me If You Get Lost: Estate Sale album. His ego is in rare form on the breezy “Sorry Not Sorry,” where he intersperses his urge for face riding with not-so-humble brags about luxury living in Paris and a reminder to “never take advice from any nigga with a lean gut.” —A.G. (The Best Hollywood Songs of 2023)
18.Lil Durk feat. J. Cole
It seems as though Lil Durk has taken the T.I. Paper Trail — meaning, he’s complementing his dark street discography and persona with new music and movements that accent the complexity of a life marked by crime and death, à la the Atlanta rapper after his dramatic firearms arrest. “All My Life” is a turn toward positivity for Lil Durk and the people around him. Tapping a chorus of children and one of rap’s favorite Good Guys, Durk manages to make a compelling case. —M.C.
The Chicago-based rapper’s new single is all jazzy, forward motion, sounding almost chipper as it flies along on twinkling piano, horns, percolating, funk-pumped drums, and a catchy singsong hook. But the track, a standout on his excellent Toni Morrison-referencing Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!?, is a powerful meditation on gun violence that starts out reminiscing on childhood games and moves toward harsher realities. Sonically, it’s as present and powerful as any track in 2023, and the mix of brightness and heavier lyrics suggests the way innocence and violence meet in head-fucking ways. —C.H.
20.FLO feat. Missy Elliott
U.K. trio FLO recall the early-2000s golden era of British girl bands, with their silky harmonies draped over a 2023 update of glitchy R&B. “Fly Girl” spins out of Missy Elliott’s flipped-and-reversed 2002 track “Work It,” turning its declaration of self-care as self-love into a rallying cry for girl power. Its skittering beat and gooey melody make “Fly Girl” ideal for synchronized dances during girls’ night getting-ready sessions, while Elliott’s boastful verse comes complete with an updated shout-out to Halle Berry. —M.J. (The Best Hollywood Songs of 2023)
Back in 2010, Miguel released All I Want Is You, an ear-catching debut that put the singer-songwriter’s vast musical curiosity on full display. In the ensuing years, his albums grew in scope and ambition, and in 2012 he hit the Top 20 with the besotted R&B ballad “Adorn” — but when TikTok users decided to speed up the slinkily head-over-heels All I Want track “Sure Thing” earlier this year, it caught fire thanks to its rich metaphors — and proved Miguel’s ahead-of-his-timeness to the true believers. (Let’s not wait until 2030 to do this with the sublime “Told You So,” please.) —M.J.
It takes a minute for the polyamorous overtones of “Only Have Eyes 42” to become clear. The song is the dust of romance settling after climactic oxytocin and dopamine depletes, with Monáe swooning carefully in the language of Jamaican doo-wop. “Remember we sipped from the same glass/She bit your neck and I liked that,” she admits with more bass before reveling in the freedom of being who she is and loving who she wants — at once. —M.C. (The Best Hollywood Songs of 2023)
Jimin has often seemed like the member of BTS whose musical heart is closest to classic R&B, and this lovelorn chart-topping single is at once dreamlike, slick, and soulful. The singer floats through waves of marble-smooth synths and sumptuous Eighties drums, as he sings about a romance that feels to be floating just out of reach. His whispered snippets of dialog evoke the intimacy of vintage Quiet Storm, and his impassioned delivery suggests desire pushed to the brink. —J.D.
The lead single from Kali Uchis’ sumptuous meditation on love, Red Moon in Venus, “I Wish You Roses” isn’t a typical breakup song — it releases past entanglements with love and gratitude, eschewing bitterness and embracing the idea of learning from experiences. Uchis’ honeyed voice is an ideal conduit for this wise message, while the hazy music surrounding her is even more of a comfort; together, they create a sonic sanctuary where those left behind can smell their flowers and let their wounds heal. —M.J. (The Best Hollywood Songs of 2023)
25.Chlöe feat. Missy Elliott
Hypnotic and sensual, this cut from Chlöe Bailey’s solo debut, In Pieces, combines the adventurous spirits of the R&B upstart and the hip-hop legend in thrilling ways. Wrapped around a loop from Cali Cartier’s 2021 cut “SOLDIER,” “Told Ya” is brash and confident, with Chlöe and Missy trading boasts and extoling their independence. “When me and Chlöe collab, it’s game over,” Missy declares near the end of her verse — but here’s hoping this won’t be the last time these two game-changers team up. —M.J.
This spring, Jisoo, the only member of Blackpink who had yet to release solo music, dropped “Flower,” from her debut single-album, ME. A sophisticated track with a staccato, Latin-tinged melody and Caribbean-inspired percussion, “Flower” feels instantly familiar yet unlike anything else on the radio at the same time. True to the name of the song, Jisoo’s voice is in full bloom, with breathy vocals that blossom into a beautiful falsetto by the time she hits a sweeping chorus. —T.C.
This Korean quartet became global stars this year thanks to this silky hit, abetted by an English version that didn’t feel like a tacked-on promotional afterthought and a TikTok dance challenge featuring the song. Even with its busy Doja-esque rap, “Cupid” is delightful in graceful simplicity, breezing by on a disco-pop groove that has the easygoing effervescence of early-2010s pop, with vocals that exude cool confidence and winning warmth. —J.D. (The Best Hollywood Songs of 2023)
“Green Honda” is Benee’s silly “fuck you” to an ex-lover who she dispenses with as a “waste of fucking time” in the very first line of this tune. The song has a bitpop element reminiscent of La Roux’s “Bulletproof,” and a welcome sense of musical aggression that sees Benee push past the more restrained sound of her 2022 album Lychee. She isn’t afraid to experiment, and does so effortlessly on “Green Honda.” —T.M.
Brit belter Mae Stephens’ entry into the post-“Flowers” canon of downcast yet determined kiss-offs is synthy and starlit, giving it the vibe of a conversation inspired by a lot of hard thinking. On the chorus, Stephens dips into her voice’s lower register in a way that gives extra weight to her declaration “If we ever broke up, I’d never be sad/Thinking ‘bout everything that we had” — and that’s before she gets into the part about detailing all her would-be ex’s transgressions to his father. —M.J.
“Borderline” remained in the vault for three years before Tove Lo decided to release it in 2023, following her great late-2022 album, Dirt Femme. Born from the same session for Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia that gave us Lipa’s “Cool,” the song lives in the world of late-night dance-pop hunger Lo mapped out on Dirt Femme, with the Swedish singer dropping lines like “I like the taste of blood when you’re tearing me apart” over a sleek beat, sounding sexy and scary at the same time. —T.M.
Super-synthpop trio CHVRCHES’ return after 2021’s Screen Violence fuses the drama that’s helped them command festival stages with a bouncy New Wave workout that feels excavated from a 30-year-old time machine. Lauren Mayberry’s winsome trill is in peak form, breaking as she drags out the leading vowel sound of “o-o-over,” making fully known her wish for freedom from depression’s icy grip. —M.J. (The Best Hollywood Songs of 2023)
Nigerian artist Asake has become a star in his native country thanks to a street-pop fusion that feels resolutely down-to-earth and effortlessly organic, and his standout single “2:30” is a superb example of what he does well, with a rolling amapiano groove, a liquid melody, and a brash sense of possibility you can’t help but root for. “To see a better version of me with agility/No you can’t fake reality,” he sings with easeful self-assurance, marking his personal authenticity a selling point in his global rise. —J.D.
The opening strings on “I’m Not High, I’m in Love” set the tone for the dramatics on this standout from the pop singer’s bright new album, Bebe. Staying true to the weed-smoking theme of her Snoop Dogg-assisted “Satellite,” BRexha admits her deep feelings for a love interest over a Stevie Nicks tambourine and infectious beat: “I’m on fire, you’re my drug/I’m not high, I’m in love.” —T.M.
Ayra Starr is the Afropop princess that can do it all — she can cut soaring vocals, she can make curt and playful tracks, and, as her breakout hit “Bloody Samaritan” and most recent single “Sability” show, she’s got a knack for steamy dance music too. “Sability,” a made-up word pulling from West African pidgin and meaning the ability to sabi — to know what’s up — is Starr’s ethos. Fittingly, she flips a sample from a beloved hit by Congolese Soukous singer Awilo Longomba in a way that marries Gen Z cool with timeless rhythm to creates a union all her own. —M.C.
“No Days Off” is a new sound for Nigerian singer Teni, whose last album was an airy embodiment of the way she feels at her favorite place — Disney World. Her latest still has a message of perseverance, but is grimily positive and set to a beat that’s darker and more frenetic than her previous works. “Is you my friend?/Or is you my foe?/Bitch-ass nigga wanna talk about shit they don’t know/I’m ’bout that life,” she warns. —M.C.
36.Uncle Waffles, Justin 99, and Tony Duardo feat. Pcee, EeQue, and Chley
Uncle Waffles is one of the hottest acts in one of the hottest growing global scenes, with her debut single landing her a top spot on Rolling Stone’s list of 2022’s best Afropop songs. As an amapiano DJ, her love and unison with the genre is always infectious, whether online or in person at one of her surprisingly accessible, world-trekking gigs. “Yahyuppiyah,” her latest hit — featuring a bevy of collaborators — is a testament to this, complete with a viral dance challenge simple and sharp enough to make any novice look great on her dance floor. —M.C.
Welsh brother duo Tom and Ed Russell nail a mix of subterranean and glistening on this lovely track, which refracts a breathily winsome vocal sample through a swirling track that suggests a dream-state version of early-2000s U.K. garage. Overmono have been building their career for years, including Thom Yorke and Ed Sheeran remixes, but they really hit a higher plane of refined gorgeousness here. —J.D.
38.PinkPantheress feat. Ice Spice
British bedroom-R&B producer PinkPantheress specializes in hyper-condensed, hyper-diaristic songs, and “Boy’s A Liar,” which was anchored by a Jersey-club beat and alchemized into pop gold by an irresistible keyboard line that recalled a time-warped ringtone, was a particularly catchy addition to her catalog. When Ice Spice hopped on the track later this year, it became a full-on phenomenon, with the Bronx MC’s wounded delivery pairing perfectly with PinkPantheress’ wistful minimalism. —M.J.
39.Skrillex, Fred Again.., and Flowdan
“Yo, listen, you here that? Killas in the jungle,” warns British rapper Flowdan on “Rumble.” Initially a collaboration with British producer Fred again.., “Rumble” eventually became a breakout cut from Quest for Fire, one of two albums Skrillex released within days of each other, as he announced his return to the front of the EDM pack. The track wobbles with bass drops, dread vibes, and chirpy sped-up vocals from Elley Duhé — a killer party in the jungle, indeed. —M.R.
40.Water From Your Eyes
Nate Amos and Rachel Brown’s collaborative project Water From Your Eyes has its moments of pure bliss — “When You’re Around,” from the 2021 EP Structure, is a pinhole-camera Carole King snapshot. But the duo really excel when they’re breaking down pop’s bones and building wild formations like “Barley,” the lead single from this year’s Everyone’s Crushed. A maelstrom of synth blasts, spindly riffs, and surrealistic lyrics delivered with utter deadpan, “Barley” is a wild ride. —M.J.
What do you do when the TV is reporting that you’re the “most wanted person in the United States?” You drop a wobbly synth-bass line, sample the whistle from Cypress Hill’s “Insane in the Brain,” and, of course, brag about having Anthony Kiedis suckin’ on your penis. 100 Gecs’ manic and predictably unpredictable “Most Wanted” feels like an update of M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes,” as they brag “I just killed your dad, and then I took his money” over playfully boinging sound effects. —K.G.
42.Thundercat feat. Tame Impala
“No More Lies” unites two of the gauziest psychedelic artists of the past decade for mutual benefit. The track blends the shimmering, cascading guitars of Kevin Parker’s Tame Impala project with Thundercat’s loping bass and honeyed falsetto, and the result is a suitably epic affair. The duo’s lyrics may describe a relationship fraught with romantic tension, but words just feel like spice fueling this five-minute dream-pop escapade. —M.R.
Andrea Silva — who makes music as Loyal Lobos — has been on a roll in 2023, releasing standout tracks on which she sings in both English and Spanish. ”Sleeper” mixes pert, funky synth stabs, her breathily insistent vocals, and a soaring chorus, as she sings about the feeling of figuring out how to balance vulnerability and autonomy. Her car-centric metaphors for personal freedom bring to mind the Beach Boys or Prince’s “Little Red Corvette,” reimagined for right now. —J.D.
44.Roísín Murphy and DJ Koze
Irish singer Roísín Murphy continues to reinvent herself in electronic music, this time joining up with the iconoclastic German producer DJ Koze on a new album project. The first single, “CooCool,” is pure bliss, with Murphy singing breathlessly about “a new age of love” and “an incandescent joy.” A crisp beat pushes things along while squiggly guitar samples, dusty soul strings, and Murphy’s own echoing voice drift in and out of the mix like a coastal breeze. —J.F.
45.Grupo Frontera and Bad Bunny
Bad Bunny embraced the promise of música Mexicana early: In 2019, he jumped on Natanael Cano’s prickly corrido “Soy El Diablo,” putting a spotlight on the growing movement. This April, as these sounds ballooned into an even bigger global phenomenon, he joined forced with the rising outfit Grupo Frontera for “un x100to,” a wistful cumbia hit haloed with heartbreak and longing that flew to Number One on Spotify’s Global chart — yet another triumph for música Mexicana’s nonstop ascent. —J.L.
46.Becky G and Fuerza Regida
From its first guitar flourishes, “Te Quiero Besar” is completely magnetic. The mopey, melancholy ballad about two people who can’t let each other go is one of several songs that’s proved the addictive pull of traditional Mexican sounds this year. So much of the collaboration’s allure lies in the chemistry between Becky G and Fuerza Regida frontman Jesus Ortiz Paz: The they push and pull at each other as they convey the tension of two people throwing the past out the window and trying again. —J.L.
47.Eslabón Armado and Peso Pluma
The first música Mexicana song to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart, this smoldering sierreño track combines the songwriting instincts of Eslabón Armado’s Pedro Tovar and the charisma of 23-year-old corrido revivalist Peso Pluma. The lyrics — two guys admire a girl showing off her dancing skills at a party — are simple, but the expertly constructed arrangement soars high with dreamy requinto strings and thick riffs of trombone and charcheta. —E.L.
He appeared seemingly out of nowhere, armed with a guitar, the sparse beauty of his avant-folk, and a vocal style so fragile, you can almost hear his soul shaking. Now, Guitarricadelafuente finds a sense of place with this love letter to his adoptive Barcelona — squeezing longing out of every single syllable. At 25, this Spanish troubadour follows a quirky muse of his very own. —E.L.
49.Billy Strings feat. Willie Nelson
“I was sitting out by the burn pile at my house and I ripped off a piece of cardboard when I came up with this lyric, ‘California Sober as they say, lately I can’t find no other way,’” Billy Strings told Rolling Stone about this rollicking Willie Nelson collab. The result: a blazing bluegrass banger filled with howling harmonica and guitar-picked solos — a spliffed-out tribute to living the good life that Strings called “a dream come true” to record. —J.L.
Savannah, Georgia, native Megan Moroney broke out earlier this year with “Tennessee Orange,” a wonderful, expectations-subverting ballad. She calls her mom up with some bad news. “Don’t ya tell Daddy, he’ll blow a fuse,” she sings. And then she drops the bomb: The Georgia Bulldogs girl is dating a Tennessee Volunteers fan; it’s Romeo and Juliet by way of The Paul Finebaum Show, sung with so much heart this regional drama connects with universal ideas about the pull of family, the power of star-crossed love, and the weird religion of sports. —J.D. (The Best Hollywood Songs of 2023)