Best Music of 2023... So Far

When it comes to music over the past six months, there are three stories to be told. The first involves singer-songwriter SZA. Her second album SOS (2022) has been burning up the charts this year. It remained on top through January and into March. Her debut received much critical acclaim and garnered her five Grammy Award nominations, including Best New Artist. SZA was catapulted even higher with her work on the song "All the Stars," which is the track she did with Kendrick Lamar on the soundtrack for Black Panther (2018), the billion-dollar, super-hero film. That song by itself was nominated for four Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year. "All the Stars" was also up for Best Original Song at the 91st Academy Awards. She had a lot of success in 2021 with the song she did with Doja Cat called "Kiss Me More," which was up for three Grammy Awards, winning for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Her second album debuted at number-one on the Billboard 200 chart. It broke the record for the largest streaming week for an R&B album. It was number-one for 10, non-consecutive times. Even though the lead single from her album was nominated for a Grammy Award, the only other song to stand out is "Kill Bill," which topped the charts for one week in April. The song is one of a couple on the album to be named after a film's title.

Karol G is a Colombian singer. As a female artist, she has the first ever Spanish-language album to reach number-one on the Billboard 200. Her album Mañana Será Bonito (2023) is also the third, Spanish-language album to do so overall. The other two were by Bad Bunny.

Miley Cyrus' song "Flowers" is the lead single from her album Endless Summer Vacation (2023). "Flowers" broke the record as the fastest song in Spotify history to surpass a billion streams. It was number-one for 8, non-consecutive weeks. What starts out as a breakup song turns into a powerful and empowering, as well as pointed tune about self-love and not needing someone else to make you happy. It's my choice for Song of the Year at the 66th Grammy Awards coming up next.

The third major story after SZA and Miley Cyrus is the wild success of country artist, Morgan Wallen. His third studio album One Thing at at Time (2023). It moved over a half-million units in one week, giving it the biggest week of sales in music this year. It stayed number-one for 12, consecutive weeks. As of July 8, it's been number-one for 15 weeks. The single "Last Night" has been number-one for 12, non-consecutive weeks and has been leading the charge for Wallen's success here. "Last Night" is Wallen's first number-one song and the first country song by a solo unaccompanied male to top the chart in 40 years.

All of this follows the controversy that Wallen experienced a couple of years ago. In May 2020, Wallen was arrested for public intoxication and disorderly conduct. For violating COVID-19 precautions, his initial appearance on Saturday Night Live was canceled. In early 2021, he was caught on video using a racial slur, the N-word. The Country Music Association, the Academy of Country Music and the American Music Awards distanced themselves from him. Wallen had to make a video asking his fans not to defend him. Apparently, those same fans went crazy for One Thing at a Time.

Wallen apologized and has made amends, but there appears to be no commentary or amends about this situation in his current record. Maybe it will make it into the next, but if he really wanted to make amends, addressing the situation in a song and throughout his album would've been the better way to go. Clearly, he has a huge platform now. Using it to advance race relations or to shoot down the use of such language or even thoughts would've been way more effective or impactful.

This year, I've been a little more discriminating and only listed 17 albums. In years past, I had as many as 30 to 40 albums on my list. This way is a bit more manageable.

Best Folk / Country


Best Rock / Alternative

ROACH by Miya Folick
by The Arcs
by Unknown Mortal Orchestra
EXOTICO by Temples
AMEN by The Heavy

Best Pop / Electronic

by Eloise
THE SHOW by Niall Horan
HAPPY ENDING by Hifi Sean & David McAlmont
THAT! FEELS GOOD! by Jessie Ware

Best R&B / Soul

HEAVY HEAVY by Young Fathers
by Daniel Caesar

Best Rap / Hip Hop

ME YOU & GOD by Jidenna
GLORIOUS GAME by El Michels Affair & Black Thought
LET'S START HERE by Lil Yachty

Best Individual Track from Non-Listed Album

"Only Have Eyes 42" / "A Dry Red" by Janelle Monae
"Through Me (The Flood)" by Hozier
"So Good Right Now" by Fall Out Boy
"Let the Light In" by Lana Del Rey f/ Father John Misty
"Seeker" by The Boo Radleys
"Nothing's Free" by Angel Olsen
"More of What You Are" by Lloyd Cole


  1. How do you think the changing landscape of music consumption, particularly the emphasis on streaming, has influenced the success and recognition of artists like SZA?


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