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Rory’s 2023: Music

A sonic recap of 2023! I split my time between Apple Music, Spotify, and YouTube, and because I don’t have my YouTube history turned on, this is more a general glance at 2023 musical highlights than an complete reflection of all my stats. (I did work mostly from Spotify Wrapped and Apple Music Replay, though.)

Note: Some artists, albums, and/or songs have special capitalization, spacing, or other flourishes that I ignored, mostly because I’d never post if I tried to get them all right. Sorry about that. I tried to get spellings, accents, pronouns, and all things most reflective of identity correct, though; let me know if I missed anything.

General favorites

1. Unreal Unearth by Hozier: My favorite new album of the year! I saw Hozier tour Wasteland, Baby! in 2019 because I really clicked with him in that era (and also because he played in town and that basically never happens for musicians I like, heh). Unreal Unearth specifically has a great combination of grand songs and smaller songs, although my favorites tend toward the former: “Eat Your Young”, “First Light”, “Who We Are”, and “Abstract (Psychopomp)”. “Eat Your Young” had one of my favorite music videos of the year, too.

2. Woodkid: There’s a lot of songs to which I listened that I couldn’t name or even sing along with because I often spend time with Sara while she plays music videos. Luckily, when Woodkid appeared, I knew him already, both from an Assassin’s Creed Revelations trailer that’s basically forever imprinted on my brain and because “Run Boy Run” was everywhere around the same time. In 2023, I think the specific video that Sara had been watching was “Goliath”, but it also could have been “I Love You”. Either way, I dove in and realized that the singles from The Golden Age had connected videos (I love a consistent concept!) and also that the video for “Reactor” was weird and great. Then I made a playlist (which also included “Guns For Hire”, my top Woodkid song of the year), and the rest is history.

Warning if you go to any of the Woodkid videos: a lot of people talk about processing personal grief in his comment section. (I have a theory some of this is AI because I’ve been seeing this kind of trend in more places, but that’s a whole other topic.)

3. Calm albums: I’m far from the only person whose playlists reflect necessity nearly as much as my tastes. I have a section for when I need to amp up (with specific ones for work and exercise), cool down (stress, sleep), seasonal purposes (mostly Halloween), and “I need to express whatever feelings are stuck” (this is largely why Hozier and Woodkid were so big this year). As far as new albums go, Andre 3000’s flute album New Blue Sun was an immediate hit for me when I felt like I was at my limit. Massive Attack’s Mezzanine is a long-established classic for this use, too. No particular songs are standouts for me; go listen to the entirety of both, if that sounds interesting.

4. K-Pop, featuring Ateez and Blackpink: I could point to a lot that happened in 2023 to change my idol K-Pop stance from “listen to a couple songs here and there but try to stay out of it otherwise” to “use basic curiosity to get more cultural context for the industry in Korea”, but one of the most obvious was Blackpink’s performance at Coachella. I try a lot of different music at Coachella, but they were the only ones to make a real presence on my top lists this year.

Still, the real story was me randomly clicking with Ateez in December this year; they made enough of an impact at the last second that four of my top ten on Apple Music are Ateez songs, and even if I stopped listening this second, they would also probably have a notable presence on my 2024 playlist. It’s funny because I’m less into the songs themselves than I am their dancing and concept—one reason I’ve never done more than like a K-Pop song here and there is because most acts don’t fit my tastes sonically—but their songs are exactly the energy I need to get me through a shower.

(Remember my amp-up playlists? Blackpink was my a big part of that playlist for spring-fall; Ateez took over in winter.)

After I wrote the bulk of this post, but before I posted it, the 2024 Coachella lineup was announced, and Ateez is on it! Nice full-circle moment.

Top Blackpink songs of the year include “How You Like That”, “Kill This Love”, and “Pink Venom”.

Top Ateez songs of the year include “Guerilla”, “Bouncy (K-Hot Chilli Peppers)”, “Halazia”, “Wonderland”, and “Deja Vu”.

5. Olivia Rodrigo: One of the nice things about getting older is that the trends of your youth tend to cycle back in a new (and often better) way. Olivia Rodrigo has a punk edge to her pop, and I love it. Her new album Guts had a lot of smart writing, and “Vampire” immediately made it onto my Halloween playlist because it’s exactly the kind of thing I want for it (either I want vibes or specific monster metaphors, and this has the latter). Top songs include “Vampire”, “Bad Idea Right?”, “Brutal”, and “All-American Bitch”.

6. Janelle Monáe: One of my all-time favorites always! I saw them* opening for Bruno Mars when The Archandroid was her biggest release, and I saw them headline Dirty Computer when she was touring that album. I tend to prefer her more science-fiction vibes, but 2023’s The Age of Pleasure was perfectly sexy and queer. I could pick out a couple favorites from the album, but it’s short and feels like it’s meant to be listened to poolside, so just go listen to the entirety of The Age of Pleasure and bask in those summer vibes. (*More about her pronouns. I alternated usage here.)

7. TikTok songs: One of the best ways to find new music these days is through TikTok, but trends will often bring back old favorites or older songs I missed, too! I keep a running playlist of all the songs that have been on there that stick out to me. Some of the top ones that appeared this year include “Kill Bill (Sped Up Version)” by SZA, “Back on 74” by Jungle, “Church” by T-Pain, “Make Your Own Kind of Music” by Cass Elliot, “Angeleyes” by ABBA, “Le Monde (from Talk To Me)” by Richard Carter.

8. Evergreen rock favorites: Paramore and Fall Out Boy had new albums in 2023, and my playlists reflect these events accordingly, if not in the ways you’d think. Paramore is largely a singles band for me, so I added “This is Why” to my general Paramore playlist instead of really latching onto the album. I liked the new Fall Out Boy album as well, but it mostly reminded me how much more I liked Mania (I am one of possibly two fans who thinks this) and relistened to that a lot too.

Top Paramore songs of the year include “All I Wanted”, “Misery Business”, “Ain’t It Fun”, “Still Into You”, “This is Why”, “Hard Times”, and “crushcrushcrush”.

Top Fall Out Boy songs of the year on my lists include “Love From The Other Side”, “Heartbreak Feels So Good”, “Young and Menace”, “G.I.N.A.S.F.S.”, and also basically all of Folie à Deux. I think I listened to Mania mostly on YouTube, so exact stats are missing, but I listened a lot.

Single song favorites

1. “Bongos” by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion: Kicked off my amp-up playlist for a large chunk of the second half of the year. Between this and the classic “WAP”, I could listen to these two make music forever.

2. “What Was I Made For?” by Billie Eilish: I was generally unimpressed by the Barbie movie and its larger musical contributions. I was even lukewarm on this song when I first heard it. But I saw the movie, and “What Was I Made For?” was the only thing that clicked for me. Highly rec the song and this Vanity Fair video where Billie Eilish and Finneas talk about writing it.

3. “Keep Us Connected” from the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds musical episode: I was initially really into the SNW musical…for about a week, before I realized how much work it needed to fully work as a musical and as an episode. Still, “Keep Us Connected” is a beautiful song and Celia Rose Gooding kills it. It’s out of my range, but I try to caterwaul along regardless.

4. “Hayloft II” by Mother Mother: I love the idea of a song sequel. In “Hayloft” (Nickel Creek’s bluegrass cover is my definitive version), a man discovers his daughter sleeping with a man in the hayloft and threatens him with a gun. In “Hayloft II”, the lover is dead and the daughter’s coming for revenge. Doing the bluegrass cover and then the rock sequel also gives things a sonic change in perspective, as well as lyrical. Killer.

5. “3005” by Childish Gambino: Another being-in-Sara’s-orbit track. We spent the beginning of 2023 watching Community together, so a transition into Childish Gambino made sense, and “3005” is an interesting take on friendship and aging that’s also catchy as heck.

6. “Black Sheep” by Brie Larson: I had a couple minor Scott Pilgrim moments throughout the course of the year, and I believe 2023 was the first time this specific cover of Metric’s song made it to Spotify. Either way, a bop.

7. “Pulaski at Night” by Andrew Bird: This song, on a fanvid for the TV show The Bear, inspired me to make a playlist specifically of songs I like from fanvids. Big Chicago vibes.

8. “All the Way to Reno (You’re Gonna Be a Star)” by R.E.M.: A couple years ago, “Everybody Hurts” was not only my biggest R.E.M. song of the year, but my biggest song of the year period. That “All the Way to Reno” won the first but not the second is a positive sign for my state of mind, I think.

9. “Grapevine Fires” by Death Cab for Cutie: This is an old favorite that comes back into rotation regularly, often when it’s a bad year for wildfires and smoke. 2023 wasn’t bad in my geographic area, thankfully, but this is also just a good song.

10. “The Loneliest Time” (feat. Rufus Wainwright) by Carly Rae Jepsen: Do I need to explain that Carly Rae Jepsen makes bops? Probably not. Rufus Wainwright was a big artist for my early 20s, so the combination was really good for me.

Rory Hume is a rainbow gay, cat whisperer, and concert swag addict.

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