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The 23 best songs of 2023

From dancefloor-fillers and shameless bangers to cultural phenomena, these are the year’s finest tunes

Ed Cunningham
Edited by
Ed Cunningham
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Following on from 2022, in which the ginormous wheels of the music industry fully churned back into action, 2023 has felt oddly... normal. Well, as normal as the musoworld gets. This year still featured film soundtrack tunes spinning off with their own wild success and a brand-new, AI-driven single by a band with two members who have, famously, been dead for a rather long time.  

So, perhaps 2023 hasn’t been the most typical year for music after all – but it’s certainly been a good one. And that’s pretty obvious from our list of the year’s best songs. Chosen by members of the Time Out team in offices around the world, 2023’s finest choons cover a vast range of styles and genres, from euphoric house and buoyant country to brutal death metal and UK garage-inflected K-pop. 

Prep your playlist for some brand-new bangers: these are the 23 tracks the Time Out team has had on repeat in 2023.

RECOMMENDED: 
🎬 The best movies of 2023
📺 The best TV shows of 2023
🎵 The 30 best albums of 2023

Best songs of 2023

‘Now and Then’ – The Beatles
Image: The Beatles / Universal Music Group

1. ‘Now and Then’ – The Beatles

The best new song of the year is by a peppy beat combo named the Beatles. Despite their silly, punny name, the band – on the strength of this cut – has real potential. What initially sounds like a maudlin plodder soon reveals itself to be a song with flashes of true ingenuity. You’ll find yourself returning to its beguiling charms again and again, thanks to the lead singer’s (one ‘John Lennon’) deceptively clever melody. Does it sound like it’s been arranged and performed by a computer? A bit. But the sound of humanity, an enduring, psycho-spiritual fraternity, calling out from beyond the AI algo-void is perhaps what makes it so affecting. Now can we have a version without the cloying string section?

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Joe Mackertich
Editor, Time Out London
‘Installation’ – Pangaea
Image: Pangaea / Hessle Audio

2. ‘Installation’ – Pangaea

If there’s one track that transports me back to 2023 festival season, it’s got to be this one: a marathon dance-banger from Hessle Audio powerhouse Pangaea which dropped just as the UK was gearing up for the May bank holidays. A warm fuzzy bassline is overlaid with a whirring, euphoric synth build and repetitive chants of seemingly nonsensical words – which are then splintered, chopped and cut into something even more nonsensical as the track goes on. It’s a little bit silly, more than a little bit fun – and it’s near-guaranteed to get people moving on the dance floor.

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Chiara Wilkinson
Features Editor, UK
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‘Lowland Trail’ – Margo Cilker
Image: Margo Cilker / Loose Music

3. ‘Lowland Trail’ – Margo Cilker

When I’m not gamely eating my way across London – and sometimes, even when I am – I think about wearing a suede fringed jacket and matching bolo tie while riding on horseback somewhere in Arizona, New Mexico or maybe even Texas. And the song playing as I mosey through such wide open spaces while considering what middle-of-nowhere saloon bar to sink mezcal cocktails in that evening? The irrepressibly jaunty ‘Lowland Trail’ by country musician Margo Cilker.

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Leonie Cooper
Food and Drink Editor, Time Out London
‘Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd’ – Lana Del Rey
Image: Universal Music Operations

4. ‘Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd’ – Lana Del Rey

It takes a lot to make me cry. Maybe I’m a stone-cold bitch. But the moment I heard this song, my icy heart melted and I felt myself actually welling up. The queen of melodramatic ballads, Lana Del Rey’s signature Nancy Sinatra-esque croons glide blissfully above sweeping strings and choral arrangements to a dramatic conclusion. Why the crying? Well, the line, ‘Love me until I love myself,’ is so reminiscent of ‘Born to Die’ Lana that it’d take any early fan, like myself, back to the vulnerabilities they felt as a teenager first engaging with her music.

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Georgia Evans
Deputy Commercial Editor, Time Out
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‘Knockin’’ – MJ Lenderman
Image: MJ Lenderman / Anti

5. ‘Knockin’’ – MJ Lenderman

Who knew you could get so goddamn nostalgic for something you’ve no cultural links to whatsoever. Was I ever a restless youth roaming the American south by car? Did I know who golfer John Daly was, never mind that he could whip out a decent cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Knockin On Heaven’s Door’? Nah. But MJ Lenderman whisks me right to those times and places in this re-recorded track of soaring, yearning, Modest Mouse-meets-Lynyrd Skynyrd indie-country rock.

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Ed Cunningham
News Editor, Time Out UK and Time Out London
‘Vampire’ – Olivia Rodrigo
Image: Geffen Records

6. ‘Vampire’ – Olivia Rodrigo

As a 33-year-old teenage girly, I know I’m probably too old to be this obsessed with Olivia Rodrigo, but I just can’t help myself. Especially when ‘Vampire’, the singer-songwriter’s lead single from her sophomore album ‘Guts’, is the perfect pop banger. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve belted this out while driving (although it’s definitely enough to feature extremely high on my Spotify Wrapped), with the rage-fuelled chorus really lending itself to a satisfying car karaoke moment. Trust me, you’ll always feel better after screaming: ‘Bloodsucker, fame fucker, bleeding me dry like a goddamn vampire.’

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Leah Glynn
Melbourne Editor
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‘Nothing Matters’ – The Last Dinner Party
Image: The Last Dinner Party / Universal Music Operations

7. ‘Nothing Matters’ – The Last Dinner Party

Like ‘A Day at the Races’-era Queen covering ‘The Dreaming’-era Kate Bush, the joyous surge of The Last Dinner Party’s debut single was both strangely familiar and like nothing else that actually exists. For all their absurd zeitgeistiness, it’s fascinating – and to us old folk, comforting – how TLDP quite unabashedly hark back to a bygone era of guitar-driven art rock. Still, there’s no denying that there’s a very modern sense of transgression to the intensely intimate F-bomb Abigail Morris drops in the chorus – she’s not trying to shock us, but foster a sense of radical intimacy that really makes the song and defines the band.

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Andrzej Lukowski
Theatre & Dance Editor, UK
‘Face Ripped Off’ – Sanguisugabogg
Image: Sanguisugabogg / Century Media Records

8. ‘Face Ripped Off’ – Sanguisugabogg

Plenty of heavy music is clever, cerebral, virtuosic, intricate, complex. This is not that. This is dumb as rocks, sophomoric, caveman death metal idiocy by guttural American troglodytes Sanguisugabogg, and it’s brilliant. Rarely has a song done quite so exactly what its title promises, but who needs a face anyway.

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Eddy Frankel
Art & Culture Editor
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‘Cool With You’ – NewJeans
Image: NewJeans / ADOR Co

9. ‘Cool With You’ – NewJeans

With its chill, relaxed R&B atmosphere and UK garage influence, ‘Cool With You’ sounds more mature when compared to NewJeans’ bubblegum pop-esque hits like ‘Super Shy’ or ‘Hype Boy’. The girls’ airy vocals and soothing harmonies gently build up towards the song’s chorus and a descending riff which is effortless yet hypnotic. ‘Cool With You’ might be fairly short, but each listen leaves you wanting more. 

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Cherry Chan
Staff Writer
‘What You Say?’ – Young Marco
Image: Safe Trip / Ministry of Sound Recordings

10. ‘What You Say?’ – Young Marco

First teased in a set at Dekmantel last autumn before being released on Ministry of Sound back in January, Dutch producer Young Marco’s infectiously bouncy edit of Imogen Heap’s noughties hit ‘Hide and Seek’ has been ubiquitous on dancefloors across Europe this year, playing no small part in ushering The Big Trance Revival into the mainstream. It’s super fun, a little bit silly and the beat drop invariably sends crowds wild. All in all: a banger.

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Rosie Hewitson
Newsletter and Events Editor, Time Out London
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‘Speed Drive’ –  Charli XCX
Image: Charli XCX / Atlantic Recording / Warner Bros / Mattel

11. ‘Speed Drive’ – Charli XCX

Charli has done it again with this sugary one-minute-and-58-seconds of hyperactive pop magic. With fun lyrics about ‘cute clothes’ and driving fast cars with your ‘best friends’, ‘Speed Drive’ celebrates everything that’s great about being a girl – or a Barbie – which is just the frivolity we needed in 2023. This zippy track is guaranteed to have you bouncing off the walls – my only qualm is that I wish it was longer.

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India Lawrence
Contributing writer
‘Prada’ by Raye, D-Block Europe and Cassö
Image: Ministry of Sound Recordings

12. ‘Prada’ by Raye, D-Block Europe and Cassö

Every summer needs a dance anthem, and in 2023 ‘Prada’ delivered the goods. Producer Cassö took Raye and D-Block Europe’s original track ‘Ferrari Horses’ and pumped it full of trance-inspired energy, building up to a euphoric drop as Raye sings her now-iconic ‘I want Prada’ line. If TikTok virality is any measure of success (let’s be real, it’s pretty much the only measure these days), ‘Prada’ is the blueprint: the song is the soundtrack to hundreds of thousands of videos, including one of the original TikToks that sent Tube Girl to stardom.

Read our cover interview with Raye here.

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Grace Beard
Travel Editor
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‘worlds greatest emoter’ – bar italia
Image: Matador Records

13. ‘worlds greatest emoter’ – bar italia

It’s too early to say if London three-piece bar italia’s breakthrough, two-album 2023 represents a kind of flashing ‘fasten seatbelts’ sign for the raucous indie guitar revival me and my Libertines-era tunic have been waiting for, but I’m hopeful. This garage rock stomper – New York new wave cool meets sardonic London insouciance – definitely feels like a pre-tremor for something big. Check out the video, too, in which the three of them wander around a marsh in hats like they’ve just escaped from a Dickens novel.

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Phil de Semlyen
Global film editor
‘Infinite Surprise’ – Wilco
Image: Wilco / dBpm records

14. ‘Infinite Surprise’ – Wilco

As someone with a borderline addiction to buying Wilco tickets, I feel particularly qualified to complain about the overly-hushed tone that sometimes drags down the band’s past decade of releases. But that all changes within the opening seconds of ‘Cousin’. Producer Cate Le Bon has injected a lively, unpredictable weirdness into ‘Infinite Surprise’, a track that interrupts its steady, echoey ticking with fragments of electric guitar squeals, pops of static and synth horn blasts. Heartbeat-like layers of percussion build atop Jeff Tweedy’s apologetic, reflective chants and it all wraps up with an electric crackle that sounds somewhere between popcorn and fireworks – a fitting finale for a track as enjoyable as both of those.

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Michael Juliano
Editor, Time Out Los Angeles
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‘Gold’ – Cleo Sol
Image: Forever Living Originals

15. ‘Gold’ – Cleo Sol

As one of Cleo Sol’s biggest fans (fact), even I can admit that her 2023 album ‘Gold’ didn’t quite hit as hard as ‘Mother’ and ‘Rose in the Dark’. Luckily, the last song on her new album shows Cleo at her absolute best; a proper soul song, with chilled acoustics and a full gospel choir. It’s giving jazz club and Tiny Desk all at once, plus the joyful, mellow tones of old-school soul classics by Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye – especially as it fades out on ‘I believe that your love is gold’. No doubt Cleo’ll disappear now and then drop an album silently out of nowhere again next year, but that’s why we love her.

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Ella Doyle
Guides Editor
‘Snooze (feat. Ryuichi Sakamoto and WOOSUNG of The Rose)’ – Agust D
Image: BIGHIT Music

16. ‘Snooze (feat. Ryuichi Sakamoto and WOOSUNG of The Rose)’ – Agust D

Chasing your dreams has always been a recurring theme in BTS’ music, but of all seven members, it is Suga – known in his solo work as Agust D – who truly hits all the right notes with ‘Snooze’. This dramatic rap-rock ballad is dedicated to aspiring musicians, a comforting voice from someone who has been through it all, survived and came out on top. Agust D’s signature drawling, raspy rapping takes on a more soothing and rhythmic quality here, melding perfectly with Woosung’s transcendent vocals. Snooze is made even more special by the late composer Ryuichi Sakamoto’s beautiful piano melody – this track was one of his last projects before his passing in March this year. 

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Catharina Cheung
Section Editor
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‘Agora Hills’ – Doja Cat
Image: Kemosabe Records / RCA Records

17. ‘Agora Hills’ – Doja Cat

I’m a fan of Doja Cat’s entire fourth album (and the lead single ‘Paint The Town Red’ is a super catchy opener) but it’s ‘Agora Hills’ that I’ve had on repeat. Undoubtedly a talented rapper, Doja is also a vocalist with a gentle, almost dreamy voice. Her delivery of both – plus some cutesy, purposefully cringey ad-libs – juxtapose so well and mimic the fun, confusing, slightly messy early stages of dating. ‘Agora Hills’ is mellow, atmospheric and all about finding new love and wanting to flaunt it. 

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Liv Kelly
Contributing Writer
‘Preço Certo’ – Pedro Mafama
Image: Sony Music Portugal

18. ‘Preço Certo’ – Pedro Mafama

‘Preço Certo’ was the song of the summer (of the year!) in Portugal. Lisboner Pedro Mafama’s 2023 album ‘Estava no Abismo mas dei um Passo em Frente’ breathed new life into traditional dances, rumbas and marches. O Preço Certo (The Price is Right) is actually one of the oldest TV game shows in Portugal and the popular video by Mafama was filmed in the contest’s studios. Mafama was also the cover star of the Time Out Portugal June digi-mag.

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Vera Moura
Directora Editorial, Time Out Portugal
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‘Catholic’ – Elanor Moss
Image: Elanor Moss

19. ‘Catholic’ – Elanor Moss

Singer-songwriter Elanor Moss crept onto the scene last year with a mournfully moreish collection of ‘sad girl’ ballads. Released back in January, ‘Catholic’ is bigger and bolder. Moss’s usual folky guitars are turbocharged with a rockier, fuzzier edge giving a Laura Marling-meets-boygenius style sound. It also occupies one of my favourite musical genres: ‘Happy sounding songs with sad lyrics’. As ever, Moss delivers sharply chiselled observations about fragility, self-doubt and all the messy parts of life in a hauntingly beautiful way, which paired with addictively catchy guitar licks have kept ‘Catholic’ at the top of my Spotify playlist for the entire year.

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Alex Sims
Contributing Writer and Editor
‘Not Strong Enough’ – boygenius
Image: Interscope Records

20. ‘Not Strong Enough’ – boygenius

Full of honey-sweet harmonies and gut-wrenching lyrics (with a few screams thrown in for good measure), choosing a favourite song from supergroup boygenius’s ‘The Record’ is no easy task. But it’s the goosebump-inducing ‘always an angel never a god’ crescendo of ‘Not Strong Enough’ that just tips it for me. Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus all bounce off one another as they sing of using insecurity to brush off responsibility for another human — ‘like fuckboygenius’, Dacus once said. It’s a cathartic indie belter best fathomed with headphones on, slumped in the window seat, forehead pressed against the glass.

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Amy Houghton
Contributing writer
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‘mine’ (Ty Sunderland Remix) – Kelly Clarkson
Image: Atlantic Recording Corporation

21. ‘mine’ (Ty Sunderland Remix) – Kelly Clarkson

For an album inspired by a divorce, Kelly Clarkson’s 2023 release ‘Chemistry’ is full of a surprising number of certifiable bops. One powerful track in particular, ‘Mine’, is an emotional wallop of a song made eminently danceable in a remix by DJ Ty Sunderland, who’s behind some of NYC’s best gay parties, knows how to get people on a dance floor or — in my case — a treadmill. This was at the top of my most-played list last year for a reason: it’s an excellent running song. (Or in Clarkson’s case, maybe a ‘running from’ song.)

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Will Gleason
Editor, Time Out New York
‘White Noise’ – Hige Dandism
Image: PONYCANYON / IRORI Records

22. ‘White Noise’ – Hige Dandism

Fans of anime series ‘Tokyo Revengers’ might recognise ‘White Noise’ by Hige Dandism as an opening track – though I chanced upon it separately while randomly clicking around Spotify in an overdue attempt to refresh my J-rock playlist. While the band’s earlier hard-hitters ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Pretender’ are near impossible to beat, I’d say this solid newer banger comes pretty close. Starting off mellow, its real eargasmic magic is found in the refrain towards the end. Whether you’re a weeb like myself or otherwise, it’s an exceptional piece of catch pop-rock. 

 

 

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‘I’m Just Ken’ – Ryan Gosling
Image: Atlantic Recording / Warner Bros / Mattel

23. ‘I’m Just Ken’ – Ryan Gosling

The moment I watched Ryan Gosling as Ken croon out this song in Barbie, my appreciation for the movie (and Gosling) grew exponentially. The song, which is a parody of a lot of things, holds up after hundreds of plays, trust me. It’s Gosling’s delivery, the absolutely insane lyrics (‘Is it my destiny to live a life of blonde fragility?’), the ‘Big Dude Sounds’ from actual big-time rockers and the accompanying dance moves that push this song to number one for me. You’ll find me belting along with Ken any day of the week, even though I am a grown-ass woman with an adult job. The ‘kenergy’ is just too contagious!

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Shaye Weaver
Editor, Time Out New York
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