Year End Music Countdown # 22: 2023

For the past 22 years that I’ve been scrutinizing, analyzing, and criticizing modern music I’ve never gone through a full year as uninspired and boring as 2023. The entire year felt as though the world was collectively waiting for a big event that never came. A massive hit song, a masterpiece album from a celebrated act, a festival performance unlike any other before it – none of these materialized in the past twelve months. It was an empty expanse, a landscape void of genuinely big moments.

This will be further explored in an upcoming post diving into the trends of 2023, but in the meantime here are the meagre gems I managed to pluck from the wasteland this year.

The Top 25 Songs of 2023

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The Canonization of Taylor Swift

Despite her BFF and occasional producer Jack Antonoff’s rabid protestations, Taylor Swift is not a good songwriter. When left to her own devices Swift creates monotonous, repetitive choruses that range from one to three notes and recycle the same handful of chord progressions every album cycle. She is also a surprisingly unremarkable singer – a statement so uncontroversial only her most ardent fans would disagree.

Yet she has undoubtedly become the world’s biggest pop star, certainly of this moment, but also arguably of all time. A monolithic presence that has outsmarted every media trap, sidestepped every music industry pitfall, and calculated every single necessary action to outshine not only her peers but also some of the most popular artists to ever grace a concert stage. Her marketing and PR team have turned her into a phenomenon thanks to one mantra: it’s not about the music.

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Yet another screed on poor production

It’s hard to break from my regular talking points when contemporary artists refuse to move forward with their sound and abandon the reductive notion that analog/organic production sounds better, so here we are yet again with another few paragraphs about how bad modern music sounds.

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Year End Music Countdowns #21: 2022

In a rare bit of optimism I can definitively state that music – particularly alternative rock – had a good year. Even stalwarts like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Liam Gallagher managed to successfully deliver memorable hits worthy of inclusion on future greatest hits compilations. More importantly, this was the first year in a very long time where I had to carefully parse the top 10 tracks and there was an actual deliberation process as to which song would take the top spot. Though it may not have been the absolute strongest year for music I’ve lived through (the second half was a little weak), it was absolutely better than 2021.

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