It’s a little funny to do a midyear songs list in 2023. More than perhaps any time previously, this year has forced us to ask: What does it even mean for a song to be from “this year”? The Billboard charts are more confusing than ever on those grounds: With 2023 Hot 100 hits from Lady Gaga, Miguel and Tyler, the Creator all originally released in the 2010s, and a No. 1 from The Weeknd coming via a new remix of a 2016 deep cut, old is new again on top 40, and there’s never been less of a dividing line between catalog and current. When even Taylor Swift has to deviate from her planned Midnights promotional cycle to push a song from four albums ago, clearly anarchy reigns on the contemporary pop timeline.
Still, even with the past now in constant competition with the present, 2023 has managed to give us an impressive bounty of genuinely new jams — songs actually making their debut, or poking their head onto the charts for the first time — to keep us from totally drowning in reruns. Rising stars have leveled up with their biggest crossover moments to date, fresh sounds and scenes have made their presence felt on a global scale, and unexpected collaborators have helped push one another to greater chart success. And of course, some of those most-familiar names are back with brand new songs as well as older ones, proving they can still go viral without TikTokers even needing to go digging into their back catalog.
Here are the Billboard staff’s 50 favorite songs of the year so far — still keeping to songs that either were released or first really impacted the charts, though realizing that our definitions are going to have to continue to shift with the times. Pop music is a strange and unpredictable place in 2023, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, really.
Halle Bailey, "For the First Time"
The world anxiously awaitedHalleBailey’s performance in Disney’s live-action retelling of The Little Mermaid. The budding vocalist captivated audiences with the classic “Part of Your World”, but it was a new original song by Lin-Manuel Miranda that has permeated its way into 2023’s soundtrack: “For the First Time” is the type of fun innocence we expect from Ariel, and Bailey’s deeply felt rendition of it lent itself to several viral moments on TikTok shortly after the movie’s release. — TETRIS KELLY
Victoria Monét feat. Buju Banton, "Party Girls"
While on paper this may read like an odd pairing, one listen will lead to pressing the repeat button again … and again. First, because of the track’s intriguing bassline and sultry Caribbean vibe. Second, because hearing Monét’s luscious, lilting voice rub up against dancehall guru Banton’s rough-and-ready rasp gives off a combustible energy that perfectly embodies the song’s empowering-yet-sensual mood. And third, because by then, you’ll be chiming in on the duo’s hypnotic refrain: “Let’s hear it for the party girls out lighting up the world.” — GAIL MITCHELL
Taylor Swift, "Hits Different"
Breakups hurt, yes, but Swift details the raw honesty of what comes after the relationship ends in this much-anticipated breakup banger. Instead of a sad, somber piano, we get a dancefloor-ready beat accompanied by relatable lyrics like, “I pictured you with other girls in love, then threw up on the street.“ You can’t help but want to belt out the lyrics, as you follow along with the story of getting over someone with the help of your supportive friends. — RYLEE JOHNSTON
Scar Lip, "This Is New York"
Steeped in the blistering aggression and unwavering pride of the Big Apple,ScarLip’s explosive “This Is New York” is the kind of record that cuts through the clutter and single-handedly transforms the cultural zeitgeist. Hailing from The Bronx,ScarLipembodies the spirit of two of the borough’s biggest icons: Throughout the song, she harnesses the playful sensuality of Cardi B and blends it with DMX’s survivalist spirit. A defiant rebuttal to those who bemoan the state of contemporary hip-hop, “This Is New York” is important archival practice — a survey of how the city’s essence has evolved from one generation to the next.— KYLE DENIS
Dave & Central Cee, "Sprinter"
With “Sprinter,” star U.K. rappers Dave and Central Cee are giving their American counterparts a run for their money. The pair float all over the soft guitar-driven, borderline-drill beat, with witty and clever lines (“With bae through thick and thin/ She already thick so I’m halfway there,” spits Dave, while Central Cee adds, “She a feminist, she think I’m sexist/ Twisting my words I think she dyslexic”). The spontaneity of “Sprinter,” which surprise-dropped ahead of its parent EP,Split Decision, also adds to its appeal, as the two rappers not only flex their rhymes but their effortless chemistry — making for a splashy return for Dave and continuing Central Cee’s hot streak. — CYDNEY LEE
Corook & Olivia Barton, "If I Were a Fish"
This deceptively simple little song is the musical equivalent of “kill ’em with kindness,” because even the most hate-fueled online troll couldn’t help but grin at the idea of Nashville singer/songwriterCorook— with an assist from musician girlfriend Olivia Barton — as a first-prize fish, the skippiest rock or the happiest sock. With its strummy backdrop and kazoo interludes, “If I Were a Fish” would fit right in on a kids album, but its sweet core message (“How lucky are we of all the fish in the sea/ You get to be you and I get to be me?”) sounds like a lesson all ages could use. –KATIE ATKINSON
Coco Jones, "ICU"
BeforeCocoJones graced screens as Hilary Banks inBel-Air, she appeared as a pop-rap superstar reconnecting with her church roots in the Disney Channel original movieLet It Shine. With “ICU,” her very first Hot 100 hit,Cocochannels the elements of the Black church that ground the more soulful edges of R&B. The DJ Camper-produced ballad findsCocodigging into her bluesy lower register, before delivering flawless riffs and soaring belts as the love song steadily approaches its climax. Although “ICU” is a bit different from the dominant sonic aesthetics of contemporary R&B,Coco’s undeniable vocal performance makes the song’s success a no-brainer.— K.D.
Calvin Harris & Ellie Goulding, "Miracle"
“Miracle” is a pretty accurate title for a peak pop-trance throwback that manages to not only eclipse feeling overwhelmingly retro, but becomes one of the best and biggest global dance hits of 2023, and an eight-week U.K. No. 1. Then again, maybe it’s not so supernatural coming from Calvin Harris — who’s thrived for nearly two decades largely by knowing what buttons to push on the wayback machine — and Ellie Goulding, whose voice is just the right mix of airy and winsome to float over gloriously reverbed piano with the same ethereal authority that that less-starry singers for Ian Van Dahl and Alice Deejay did decades earlier. — A.U.
Don Toliver feat. Justin Bieber & Future, "Private Landing"
Thematically, the triumvirate of artists on “Private Landing” are not exactly on the same page: Don Toliver indulges in drugs while admitting that he’s “too demanding” of women, Future runs through designer brands and shrugs off romance, and Justin Bieber is focused on a bleary-eyed flirtation that’s removed from his co-stars’ braggadocio. It doesn’t matter: “Private Landing” thumps and sizzles, a pop-trap luxury item in which Toliver places a pair of famous friends over a metallic, undeniably cool beat and plays the part of connective tissue. By the third listen, you’ll forget all about why the song shouldn’t work. — JASON LIPSHUTZ
Morgan Wallen, "Last Night"
Where most country songs are story-driven, Morgan Wallen’s One Thing at a Time maybe-breakup smash is very much a rhythm-driven record. This became the first country song by an unaccompanied male artist to top the Hot 100 since Eddie Rabbitt’s “I Love a Rainy Night” in 1981. It has held on to the top spot for11nonconsecutive weeks — locking in on the No. 1 spot just like Wallen and his backing musicians locked in on that killer groove. – PAUL GREIN
Doechii feat. Kodak Black, "What It Is (Block Boy)"
From the minute it popped up on TikTok,Doechiilet us know what’s up with her Kodak Black-assisted track’s addictive, early 2000s-reminiscent (and Trillville-borrowed) hook. The 24-year-old star notched her first-ever Hot 100 hit with the viral song and, thanks to its melodic interpolation of TLC’s “No Scrubs” and its sleek dance challenge on TikTok, the track had good girls everywhere looking for a little thug (and block boys needing a little love). — RANIA ANIFTOS
Grupo Frontera & Bad Bunny, "un x100to"
This perfect heartbreak anthem was delivered when two ‘ideal worlds’ connected in Grupo Frontera and Bad Bunny. The track marked the artists’ first collaborative effort, and new territory for Bad Bunny. The wistful cumbia-norteño, anchored by acoustic guitars and gentle percussion, narrates the emotions of a person who has lost their ex and feels regret. They acknowledge their mistakes and decide to make amends with a last-ditch call to ask for forgiveness — despite having only un percent battery left — though whatever the ex’s response is to their heartfelt plea may have to wait for the sequel. — INGRID FAJARDO
Chappell Roan, "Red Wine Supernova"
In a recent interview with Billboard, Roan said she originally wrote this single in 2019 as a “sad, slow” vibe — though you’d never be able to tell from its end result, which is as light on its feet as it is grounded in the elements of a bona fide pop hit. Co-written and co-produced by Dan Nigro (Olivia Rodrigo, Conan Gray, Caroline Polachek), the rising pop cult favorite’s layered vocals accentuate lyrics that seamlessly flitter between dancing around the point of this sexual invite — and getting straight to it. — JOSH GLICKSMAN
Latto, "Put It on da Floor"
While Latto made some good-faith attempts to follow up the 2022 breakout success of her “Big Energy” with another dancefloor-courting, radio-friendly Big Pop Song, none were as satisfying as the bare-knuckled aggro verve of “Put It on da Floor.” With some of the most quotable bars (“Rip me out the plastic/ I been actin’ brand new”) and the catchiest (and most confrontational) rap hook since “Tomorrow 2,” it was an inspired move for Latto to enlist that song’s special guest, Cardi B, for her own original-worthy sequel (the aptly titled “Put It on da Floor Again”). And wouldn’t you know it? She ended up with the crossover hit anyway, as the Cardi remix propelled “Floor” to No. 13 on the Hot 100. — A.U.
KAYTRAMINÉ feat. Pharrell Williams, "4EVA"
“4eva,” from the collaborative duo of Kaytranada and Aminé, is truly a whole mood. Dripping with Kaytranada’s characteristic, effortless cool and elastic, beat-forward production, buoyed by Pharrell’s hiccuping “that means forever” refrain, it’s a delectable introduction to the chic pool-party-ready vibes of its parent set. And from the moment Aminé introduces himself, casually dropping Haitian Creole phrases into his bars (a nod to his collaborator’s culture), his creative camaraderie with his producer partner is palpable. — REBECCA MILZOFF
MUNA, "One That Got Away"
Last year, MUNA’s self-titled album threw caution to the wind and turned out to be of the lustiest and most entertaining queer albums in recent memory. In 2023, MUNA said queer joy is back with a vengeance. Released in April after its live debut at Coachella, “One That Got Away” is a delicious pop track that exudes cockiness and pride, as lead singer Katie Gavin gloats about now being out of reach of someone who walked away from her. It’s brash, unapologetic and hopefully what we can continue to expect from MUNA going forward. — TAYLOR MIMS
Jelly Roll, "Need a Favor"
JellyRoll’s biggest Hot 100 hit to date defies classification: The song’s drifting fiddle screams country, its stirring choir conjures gospel and its power-ballad chords are straight out of the arena-rock playbook. That’s part of the appeal of “Needa Favor,” though, as the song –which also shares more than a little DNA with Everlast’s 1998 alt-blues smash “What It’s Like” —delivers a rousing, hard-times anthem for the masses that rings true for music fans of all stripes. — ERIC RENNER BROWN
Jessie Ware, "That! Feels Good!"
Disco’s return to the upper echelons of pop music’s cultural impact is unquestionable — look no further than some of the latest chart-topping offerings from stars like Lizzo, Beyoncé and Dua Lipa. Yet Jessie Ware’s “That! Feels Good!” still feels like a rebirth of the classic disco-funk sound. Throughout this quivering ode to sexual freedom, Ware never tries to deconstruct or recontextualize the sound for a modern audience; instead, she lets it speak for itself, conjuring the soundtrack of the ’70s to instruct her listeners in their passionate endeavors. When it comes to bringing disco back, Ware herself puts it best: “If you’re gonna do it, do it well.” — STEPHEN DAW
Lil Yachty, "drive ME crazy!"
Plopped right in the middle of Lil Yachty’s album-long exploration of the electro-psych-rock cosmos Let’s Start Here, “drive ME crazy!” is simply one of the best pop songs the genre-hopscotcher has ever been involved with. With an instant sing-along chorus, a big assist on the verses from guest vocalist Diana Gordon, and a cast of co-writers that also includes indie stalwarts Benjamin Goldwasser of MGMT and Mac DeMarco, “Crazy” is an inspired roller-rink break at the planetarium, and an always-welcome reminder that genre purity is never worth ruining a good time over. — A.U.
Deeply emotional in both its lyrical themes and its moody production, “People” served as a sort of introduction to Libianca’s own music after she appeared on Season 21 ofThe Voice— and immediately captured attention with its earworm plea for someone, anyone to check in on her in a depressed, inebriated state. The song itself is beautiful, the vocal performance both engaging and haunted, but it’s the underlying message — check on your friends, because you never truly know what others are going through — that has given the song a lasting resonance. It’s the type of arresting lyricism that promises a brighter future for the singer-songwriter moving forward. — DAN RYS
Jimin, "Like Crazy"
In the U.S., the K-Popphenomenon is still something that has been mostly associated in the mainstream with groups — at least, untilJimin crashed the charts. The BTS alum released a slick and melodic dance-pop number that made history as the first track from a South Korean solo artist to top the Billboard Hot 100. After a large sales debut, the track continued to gain momentum as radio and the public jumped on board with the undeniable bop, which is driving more than just longtime fans “crazy” in 2023. — T.K.
Hozier, "Eat Your Young"
Hozieris back to preach to us with words of wisdom, in this striking song about sin and corruption. Taking inspiration from Dante’s Inferno, “Eat Your Young” uses a soulful beat and mixes it with the singer-songwriter’s hypnotic voice to speak on the lengths people will go for their greed, pride and gluttony — which can also be connected to the sins that earn you a place in the third circle of Hell. — R.J.
FLO feat. Missy Elliott, "Fly Girl"
After receiving a Missy Elliott co-sign early on in their career, the U.K. R&B trio recruited the original supa dupa fly girl for “Fly Girl.” The single flips and reverses her 2002 smash “Work It” for a nostalgic, yet fresh, feel-good female empowerment anthem. With FLO paying homage to the early ’00s, a collaboration with Missy feels like kismet — and proves not only that R&B isn’t dead, but old-school R&B specifically is alive and well. — HERAN MAMO
Jonas Brothers, "Waffle House"
What better setting for a song about the growing pains that a family band has to endure, both as brothers and bandmates, than the internet’s favorite location for public messiness? Of course, the drama of “Waffle House” gets figured out a lot more calmly than most of the viral videos set there — as it ultimately gets scattered, smothered and covered with sentimentality, the trio concluding over irresistibly smooth ’70s rock keys: “You know, it’s always love.” And that’s why fans are still ordering up fresh new JoBros hits decades later. — A.U.
Lizzy McAlpine, "Ceilings"
The ceiling was the roof for Lizzy McAlpine’s TikTok-powered crossover hit, as it did something that not even any of obvious musical antecedent Phoebe Bridgers’ signature songs have yet done: scaled the Hot 100, ultimately peaking at No. 54. It wasn’t hard to see why the song caught on as it did: a shiveringly fragile ballad about an imagined relationship told elliptically in flashbulb moments, “Ceilings” turns from heartwarming to heartbreaking as “It feels like the start of a movie I’ve seen before” turns into “It feels like the end of a movie I’ve seen before.” The potential is real for the 23-year-old singer-songwriter, to say the least. — A.U.
Skrillex, Fred again.. & Flowdan, "Rumble"
If you’re planning on a year that includes two new albums, countless surprise gigs as part of a new superproducer triumvirate, even a headline-capturing image makeover… well, you better kick it off with the right song, huh? That song was indeed “Rumble,” the lead Quest for Fire single with bass you still feel in your chest days later and a beat so quaking, tremulous and foreboding that it sounds like falling into a crack in the Earth’s core. “Yo, listen, you hear that?” guest toaster Flowdan asks? Yeah, we heard it. — A.U.
Zach Bryan feat. Maggie Rogers, "Dawns"
Though this deeply affecting duet, on which Maggie Rogers leans into folk and Americana, exists in a vacuum as a one-off, it’s still widely felt in its impact. Inspired in part by the loss of Bryan’s mother years ago, “Dawns” captures the specific beauty that accompanies grief of any kind over time: the unexpected tempo twists, the raw rasp of certain lines and especially the way in which each artist shines on their own but sounds most tender when they come together.— LYNDSEY HAVENS
Rosalía & Rauw Alejandro, "Beso"
The most fascinating couple in Latin music post plenty of photos together, but their most telling declaration of love may be “Beso,” or “Kiss,” which became the third top 10 for both artists on Billboard’s Global 200 chart. The focus track from RR, their joint three-track EP, “Beso” is deeply intimate in its blunt, unadorned sincerity. Phrases like “Amo siempre que llegas y odio cuando te vas (I love always when you come, and hate when you leave)” are powerful in their simplicity, the trading vocals gleaming over the sparse accompaniment of atmospheric chords. This is pure love, set to a reggaetón beat. — LEILA COBO
Dua Lipa, "Dance the Night"
Dua – ourqueen of the double clap – is back!“Dance the Night”has all the disco flair fans have come to expect from the pop superstar and, as perusual, this Barbiedoesn’tdisappoint. Even for those without chromesthesia, the track – created for Greta Gerwig’sBarbiefilm – sounds like the bubblegum pink plastered all over theBarbiemarketing promotion.It’s stylish, party-playlist-ready, and either agoodbye to theFuture Nostalgiaera or a harbinger of more Disco Dua to come.— T.M.
Baby Keem & Kendrick Lamar, "The Hillbillies"
They’ve been around long enough to know: If you’re gonna f–k up the world, do it on a Monday afternoon, away from the prying eyes of most streaming services. That’s what cousins Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar did in late May with the YouTube-only release of the drill-inspired, Bon Iver-sampling “The Hillbillies” — instantly the most propulsive, quotable and giddy thing either’s done in years, with a VHS-styled music video to match. The song’s halfway rollout (it showed up in full on DSPs a week later) meant it had nowhere near the commercial response you’d expect of a certified jam from two rap stars — it only just debuted at No. 93 on the Hot 100 — but as a fan, you gotta cherish the moments where two “too high-profile” artists like Keem and Kendrick are actually flying a little under the radar. (Even if they’re still flying in a private jet.) — A.U.
Bad Bunny, "Where She Goes"
Bad Bunny kicked off 2023 experimenting with new genres, such as norteño and cumbia in Grupo Frontera’s “un X100to” and the certified club banger, “Where She Goes.” Produced by MAG, the track starts off with a dramatic synth melody and then transitions to a Jersey Club-inspired beat (a hybrid of house and hip-hop). Backed by the Puerto Rican artist’s signature deep vocals, “Where She Goes” is a sensual song about chasing the girl he likes. On June 3, the track hit No. 1 on the Billboard Global 200 chart, making Bad Bunny the first soloist with as many as three No. 1s since the survey began. — JESSICA ROIZ
Kali, "Area Codes"
Breezy and enviably bare-boned, “Area Codes” becameKali’s breakout hit in May, cracking the top 10 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The gleeful verses catalog a series of well-heeled suitors that function much like ATMs (“I told him, ‘You treat me so well’/He said, ‘Cashapp or Zelle?'”) while the barely-there beat reaches back to the earliest days of rap, consisting of just a few sounds from a drum machine. TikTokers fell for the track’s swagger by the truck-load, using it in hundreds of thousands of videos. “I couldn’t not hear myself on social media,”KalitoldComplex. “That’s when I was like, ‘It’s out of here.'” — ELIAS LEIGHT
Labrinth, "Never Felt So Alone"
Labrinth’s music defines HBO’s Euphoria, but “Never Felt So Alone,” a standout musical moment from the show’s second season, didn’t appear on its 2022 soundtrack. “I sent [show creator Sam Levinson] my album alongside composing music for the show, and they ended up using it on the show,”Labrinthtold Billboard in April when the track finally received an official release. By then, its trunk-rattling low-end and twinkling melodic flourishes where bolstered by uncredited backing vocals from Billie Eilish, whose cameo elevates the already-sterling track. — E.R.B.
boygenius, "Not Strong Enough"
A standout from boygenius’ acclaimed debut LP the record, “Not Strong Enough” captures the best of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus as soloists while perfectly illustrating what makes them unstoppable as a trio. While they each have a moment all their own, the song’s three-part harmonies are indestructible — regardless of whether they’re delivered softly or with full-bodied exasperation. — L.H.
Luke Combs, "Fast Car"
Taking on Tracy Chapman’s poignant 1988 hit about yearning for a better life against insurmountable odds is a tall order, but, somehow,Combs brings just the right amount of reverence to the classic — while still putting his own spin on it. Like Chapman,Combsknows the song’s lyrics of crushed hopes need no vocal dramatics, so he wisely delivers a straight-ahead rendering of what may be one of the saddest songs ever written. It was a surprising Hot 100 top 10 hit in ’88 for Chapman, and 35 years later,Combshas managed to surpass Chapman’s chart height — introducing it to a new generation by remaining faithful to the original.— MELINDA NEWMAN
Karol G & Shakira, "TQG"
“TQG” is an acronym for “Te Quedó Grande,” which translates to “It Was Too Big for You.” An empowering sweet revenge turned into a song powered by the star-studded team-up fused with hard-hitting reggaetón beats packed with fierce and unapologetic lyrics about successfully moving on from an ex. The long-awaited collaboration between the two Colombian superstars confirms that they are not to be messed with when it comes to matters of the heart. — I.F.
Janelle Monáe, "Lipstick Lover"
When Janelle Monáe called herself a “free-ass motherf—ker,” she meant that in its most literal sense. “Lipstick Lover,” in turn, serves as something of a theme song for her self-ascribed moniker — soaked in the languid groove of a reggae beat, the single doesn’t work overtime to deliver its queer-focused message of pulsing pleasure. Instead, Monáe lets her lyrics drip with desire as she instructs her titular paramour to “leave a sticky hickie” and “whisper in my ear,” forcing you to lean ever closer into her perfectly-rendered vision of sensual satisfaction. — S.D.
Sabrina Carpenter, "Nonsense"
SabrinaCarpenter may have delivered one of 2022’s most complete pop albums with Emails I Can’t Send, but its biggest hit wouldn’t arrive until 2023, a few singles into the album campaign, with “Nonsense” proving the Hot 100 breakthrough hiding in plain sight. The various hooks — from the tongue-tied chorus to the cheeky second verse (“I’m talking wild, wild thoughts!”) to the tossed-off outro — helped the song take off on TikTok when isolated, but “Nonsense” also soars as a whole, with Carpenter infusing each melody with the type of personality that will make listeners want to explore (or revisit) the single’s host project. — J.L.
Ice Spice & Nicki Minaj, "Princess Diana"
There’s no denying the feisty chemistry between the saucy drill newcomer and the sassy rap veteran. Their rhythmic flow animates the campy fun of the song’s lyrics (“I’m thick ’cause I be eatin’ oats/ B–ches not takin’ s–t from me but notes”) and catchy chorus (“They be chattin’/ I don’t give a d–n/ And I’m still gettin’ money / I know who I am”). This Nicki-featuring remix of Spice’s original January 2023 track from her Like …? EP peaked at No. 4 on the Hot 100. — G.M.
Tyler, the Creator, "Dogtooth"
Tyler, the Creator is barred up on “Dogtooth,” per usual, though the song sees him in a different bag. On the piano-led, background vocal-heavy production, the 32-year-old channels a similar cadence as Lil Wayne on his 2005 hit “Fireman,” as he practices his typical bravado via rapping about his possessions and the things that tickle his fancy (“Kelly green wagon look better when the gloom out”). The song reached the top 40 of the Hot 100 and helped catapult Tyler’s The Estate Sale deluxe reissue of his 2021 LPCall Me If You Get Lost back to No. 1 onTop R&B/Hip-Hop Albums — making the first project to sit at No. 1 in three separate calendar years on thechart. — C.L.
FIFTY FIFTY, "Cupid"
Here’s this year’s most delectable piece of ear candy – a song that seamlessly blends elements of contemporary K-pop with American girl group and bubblegum pop of the ’60s. This charmer set a new record asthe longest-charting K-pop girl group song on theHot 100, a record previously held by Blackpink andSelena Gomez’s 2020 confection “Ice Cream.” A subtle hip-hop element adds a little edge, but for the most part this is as frothy as a milkshake. – P.G.
Rema & Selena Gomez, "Calm Down"
Rema’s hypnotic, rhythmic track was already an Afrobeats hit upon its release in early 2022, but it got a second life and was opened up to a larger demographic thanks to a sensual Selena Gomez remix that arrived six months later. The duo’s soothing vocals blend seamlessly on the updated beat, (slowly) launching the mesmerizing collaboration to the top five of the Hot 100, marking the highest-charting hit from an Afrobeats lead artist in the chart’s history.— R.A.
Beyoncé feat. Kendrick Lamar, "America Has a Problem (Remix)"
Dial it up to 11. Rooted in the same high-intensity ticking that grounded the original as a deep cut on last year’s Renaissance, the new remix makes evident that even if greatness takes time to create, it can still unfold at warp speed. Shortly after the song’s bombastic, Kilo Ali-sampling instrumental intro, Kendrick Lamar scorches through a new, tone-setting guest verse — that also nods to his status as an honorary member of the Beyhive. The track then largely assumes its Renaissance form, with Beyoncé thriving at center stage, and Lamar supplying some extra oomph on those “NO”s that stamp the pre-chorus. — J.G.
Raye feat. 070 Shake, "Escapism"
British singer-songwriter Raye beautifully unpacks the ugly aftermath of a breakup – full of booze, bumps, numb wishes and “dumb decisions” – in her TikTok-fueled, trip-hop-tinged hit “Escapism,” featuring 070 Shake. Mike Sabbath’s uptempo, but stormy production underscores Raye’s new journey as an independent woman, who’s also found freedom in real life after leaving Polydor Records. And with every creative and career-related risk she’s taken, Raye is seeing them pay dividends, as “Escapism” became her (and 070 Shake’s) career-first Hot 100 entry, peaking at No. 22, as well as her first No. 1 in the U.K. — H.M.
Eslabon Armado & Peso Pluma, "Ella Baila Sola"
You could call it the song that shone the biggest light on the new Mexican music revolution. “Ella Baila Sola” (She Dances Alone), penned by Mexican American group Eslabón Armado’s young frontman Pedro Tovar and performed with rising hot shot Peso Pluma, became the first regional Mexican song to top the Global 200 chart. The “romantic sierreño” track, recognizable for its strumming guitars, trombone solo and Tovar and Peso’s contrasting vocals, describe a crush at first sight. Thanks to its swaying melody, it’s also garnered international attention, and reached the top five of the Hot 100. — L.C.
Lana Del Rey, "A&W"
Some of the best songs exist at the intentionally muddled intersection of reality and fiction. Few contemporary pop songwriters have mastered the art of weaving together imagined and biographical storylines as well as Lana Del Rey, a.k.a. Elizabeth Grant, a.k.a. Lana Del Ray. “A&W,” a gorgeous two-part single from her Ocean Blvd album, travels the expanse of a Greek epic in just over seven minutes, morphing from the moody folk-inspired reflections of “American Whore” into the lustful trap-infused murmurs of “Jimmy.” Lana surveys the contradictions of sexual liberation in a sexually repressive and violent society, body image, childhood trauma, drug abuse and sex addiction with a meticulous fusion of her own experiences with that of the characters in her music. A striking collage of psychedelic existentialism and themes that date back to her Born to Die era, “A&W” is a career high for Lana Del Rey. — K.D.
Coi Leray, "Players"
Long before temperatures actually started warming up, “Players” arrived sounding tailor made for a summer block party — or really any dance floor in need of an instant turn-up. Underpinned by the instantly recognizable, glittering instrumentalhook from Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five’s 1982 classic “The Message,” the track has a throwback groove (Coi has admitted to being inspired by Mase and Biggie’s laid-back flows) yet still feels definitively modern, thanks to Coi’s undeniablecharisma and crisp delivery of her own message: all the reasons that girlsisplayers too.
Buoyed by a viral breakout (further accelerated by its popular Jersey Club remix, via DJ Smallz 372) and streaming gains that translated to radio success, “Players” became Coi’sfirst top 10 hit on the Hot 100, and her first entry without any co-credited artists. While it remains to be seen whether she’ll convert that gold into true solo stardom, there’s every reason to think that the appealingly smart and sassy MC is herself a player who won’t be vanishing from the airwaves any time soon. — R.M.
PinkPantheress & Ice Spice, "Boy's a Liar, Pt. 2"
U.K. pop sensation PinkPantheress had spent two years bubbling just below the global mainstream, with a series of rubbery, forward-thinking and preternaturally tuneful singles (and an acclaimed debut full-length). She just needed a little push over the surface, and that came this February with the Ice Spice-featuring remix to her 2022 gem “Boy’s a Liar.” The combination proved more the sum of its viral parts, with the two phenoms playing off the energy, attitude and excitement of one another and turning the infectious heartache anthem — produced by Mura Masa, with equal influence from contemporary East Coast club music and retro 8-bit video game music — into one of the year’s most undeniable hits. And luckily, no one even tried to deny it: “Liar” shot to No. 3 on the Hot 100, a too-rare case in 2023 of a pair of genuinely new and electric young artists finding their way to crossover stardom. — A.U.
Bizarrap & Shakira, "Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53"
Shakira’s known for her potent lyricism, powered by real-life stories and emotions — and her first single of the year is proof of that. Turning her breakup with longtime partner Gerard Piqué into a scorching club banger, the Colombian artist teamed up with Bizarrap for “Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53,” airing out the soccer star and even throwing a jab at his new girlfriend, Clara Chia Marti. “I’m not getting back with you, don’t cry for me, nor beg me/ I understood that it’s not my fault that they criticize you/ I only make music, sorry that it bothers you,” she chants in the nearly four-minute dance-pop track. After the much-needed therapy session, with Shak coming out more unapologetic and empowered than ever, the track crashed the top 10 of the Hot 100, and also hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart, her 12th No. 1 on the listing and first since 2016. — J.R.
Miley Cyrus, "Flowers"
When Miley Cyrus released her buzzy new song “Flowers” at the top of the year, a lot was made of the potential Easter eggs suggesting the song was inspired by her divorce from Liam Hemsworth — from its release on the actor’s birthday, to lyrics referencing building a home and watching it burn, just like theirs did in a 2018 Malibu wildfire. But in the end, the power of the song wasn’t in the personal-life specifics; it was in the universalities.
The polished pop song — with its sing-along chorus and empowering self-love message — became an overnight breakup anthem, co-signed by everyone from“I Will Survive” singer Gloria Gaynortofamous free spirit Diane Keaton, who danced to “Flowers” like no one was watching in a viral video from her backyard. Cyrus had a solo dance party of her own as well in the song’s equally talked-aboutmusic video(approaching a half-billion views on YouTube), which shows a lively day strolling in hooded, metallic couture, stripping down to black lingerie for a swim and a grueling workout session and finally showering up and throwing on a power suit for a dance session lit by helicopter spotlights.
All of this added up to the longest Hot 100 chart-topper of Cyrus’ 17-year career, with “Flowers” spending a commanding eight weeks at No. 1. Clapping back at the typical, desperate love song we hear on pop radio that insists romance is the missing piece in life — especially Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man,” which seems to have provided quite literal inspiration here — “Flowers” powerfully counters that love is, in fact, all you need: It just doesn’t need to be from another person. So is this song about Miley’s ex? Nope. It’s about Miley. — K.A.