Countdown to 2024: The Top Music Artists of 2023
2023 gave us career-defining work from a wide range of music artists, proving that music remains a fertile ground for creativity and innovation — no matter the genre.
We broke down the top artists of 2023 and how they made their mark on the year. Whether it was with groundbreaking world tours and performances, trendsetting albums, or artful songcraft, these artists led in artistic and cultural impact. Let’s get into it.
1. Taylor Swift
From her Eras Tour, featuring sold-out stadiums packed with screaming Swifties, to her public NFL tour of sold-out stadiums watching her boyfriend, football star Travis Kelce, Taylor Swift has dominated 2023. The Eras Tour broke all kinds of box office records, becoming the highest-grossing tour ever by a female artist. In October, her concert film, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, hit the silver screen and quickly became the highest-grossing concert film of all time. Two weeks later, she released 1989 (Taylor’s Version), her re-recording of 2014’s 1989. The album reached the top of the charts, selling over a million copies in the first week. Seven of the singles off the album reached the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100. Only a select few legendary artists have dominated a single year quite like Taylor Swift.
SZA’s second studio album, SOS, was released in December 2022, but singles like “Snooze” and “Kill Bill” came out in 2023, with the latter becoming her first chart-topper. Also, earlier singles like “Smoking on My Ex Pack” and the soulful “Shirt” stayed on our playlists throughout 2023. The album delivered SZA’s unique mix of smoky vocals and electro-blues vibes combining soul, R&B, and hip-hop. In February, she kicked off the SOS Tour, a 90-minute showcase of the album, along with select songs from her debut album, Ctrl. Ticket sales took off, leading her team to quickly add additional dates and extend the tour into autumn.
3. Luke Combs
One of the top country music artists, North Carolina native Luke Combs released his fourth album, Gettin’ Old, in March before setting out on a supporting tour through October. The album is the singer’s most mature yet, with themes about family life and changing perspectives. Interestingly, its biggest hit was his cover of Tracy Chapman’s 1987 standout, “Fast Car,” which became his first crossover success, hitting number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the country charts. His cover version even earned Tracy Chapman a Song of the Year Award at the 2023 Country Music Association Awards, the first time a black female songwriter has ever won the award (and over 35 years after she originally wrote it). But the song was far from his only success — “Love You Anyway,” about his love for his wife, also hit number one on the country charts.
Recently making their debut in 2022, NewJeans has quickly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the world of K-pop, along with the wider music culture at large. Their brand of sunny, R&B-tinged electropop comes with bright colors and coy smiles — and the recipe works. The band won the “Rookie of the Year” award at this year’s Korean Music Awards, along with a slew of other accolades. In August, NewJeans made their mark on history in their US live debut, becoming the first female K-pop group to perform at the Lollapalooza Festival. Soon after in November, they performed at the Billboard Music Awards. They’re even making their influence felt in the world of fashion, with a number of designers naming their wholesome style as inspirations for their own work.
5. Doja Cat
Doja Cat had a seminal year in 2023. The Los Angeles-born artist released her fourth studio album, Scarlet, in September, which reached as high as number four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The lead single, “Paint the Town Red” — a hook-heavy rap about fame and success, layered against a laid-back beat and sample of Dionne Warwick’s “Walk on By” — became her first solo song to top the charts, hitting number one in both the US and the UK. The song has also been nominated for a 2024 Grammy Award, topping off a year that saw her launch a tour with supporting acts Ice Spice and Doechii.
The enigmatic EDM DJ and producer dropped his second studio album, Quest for Fire, in February, almost nine years after his debut album, Recess. The very next night, Skrillex released his third studio album, Don’t Get Too Close. Both albums, in different ways, show an evolution in the songwriting prowess of the innovative artist. Quest for Fire features collabs with names like Missy Elliott, British vocalist Aluna, and Palestinian singer Nai Barghouti to explore new styles and sounds, opening with the dance floor-ready song “Leave Me Like This,” before giving way to more experimental pieces like the hypnotic “Inhale Exhale.” Don’t Get Too Close, meanwhile, offers a more cohesive experience, with raps layered over shimmering synth lines and more subdued beats. Both albums show the power of EDM and one of its biggest stars.
7. Olivia Rodrigo
After the stellar year Olivia Rodrigo had in 2022 — her debut headlining tour, three Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album — the former Disney TV star only rose higher in 2023. In June, “Vampire,” Rodrigo’s lead single from her second album, GUTS, debuted atop the Billboard Hot 100. The album itself also jumped atop the Billboard album charts, while all twelve of the album’s songs would ultimately reach the Top 40 singles chart. Next year looks just as promising, with Grammy nominations in hand for Album of the Year for GUTS, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year for “Vampire,” among other nominations, as well as talk of a potential Coachella headlining slot.
The indie three-piece supergroup boygenius dropped two new records this year, their debut studio album, the record, in March, and a four-song EP, The Rest, in October. The Record is filled with their stripped-down, guitar-bass-drums sound, led with warm harmonies and introspective melodies. It’s the perfect listen for coffee houses, Sunday afternoons, and some deep reflection, and was nominated for Album of the Year at the 2024 Grammy Awards. The Rest, meanwhile, continues the vibe, with earnest, well-crafted lyrics and subdued production. A slot at this year’s Coachella Festival in April gained buzz, and a musical guest appearance on NBC’s Saturday Night Live in November capped off their year in style.
9. Dua Lipa
Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night” — the theme song to summer 2023’s movie blockbuster “Barbie” (featuring a soundtrack stacked with bangers) — ruled the airwaves. It brought bold disco beats back into the spotlight. In November, she dropped the first single from her upcoming third studio album, “Houdini.” It’s another disco banger, with a driving beat and an infectious melody, all capped by Lipa’s rich vocals. But the singer’s reach goes beyond music. Lipa has recently explored interests in fashion, appearing on the cover of Vogue France and the New York Times style magazine. And, in addition to a memorable cameo in Barbie, she joined the cast of the upcoming Apple Studio ensemble film, Argylle, alongside Henry Cavill and Samuel L. Jackson.
10. Eilen Jewell
Idaho-based Americana singer-songwriter Eilen Jewell released a comeback album of sorts this year, after several years of fallout from a complicated divorce (things can get dicey when your ex is both your drummer and your manager). But, if Get Behind the Wheel is a comeback, it’s also a triumph, filled with haunting lyrics, plaintive melodies, and rich instrumentation — what Jewell calls “roots noir.” It’s the kind of work she’s been producing for years, but also includes a rawer, rougher sound as well, scarred with distorted electric guitar riffs and more forceful percussion. Like the best artists, Jewell has turned personal turmoil into beautiful expression. As she says in the opening song, “Gotta get behind the wheel, you gotta drive, baby how you feel? I feel so alive.”