The Top 25 Most Poptastic Singles of 2023

It’s time for my annual reemergence to commemorate the most poptastic songs of the year, but this time around I’m doing things a little differently. I decided to break out from the confines of my usual formula, and this year I’ll be sharing a top 25 instead of just a top 10, as I felt more inspired to write about the trends and themes of the year than to zoom in on just a few songs.

One reason for this is that although there have been some iconic pop moments in 2023, and there were a few songs I knew would be in this list as soon I heard them, there wasn’t an obvious no.1 compared to other years.

There are two songs which I think represent 2023 in pop for me, and for most pop fans of the ‘been to a few gay bars in their time’ variety: Kylie’s Padam Padam and Troye Sivan’s Rush. Most pop music today is either made for teenagers or adults whose music taste was shaped by their teenage years, and the latter can sometimes feel dated. But both these songs are stellar examples of queer pop anthems that appeal to that nostalgic comfort seeking, while also feeling totally relevant for 2023. I’d love to see more hits like this in 2024.

Also providing the queer pop anthems and responsible for the best album and gig of 2023 is an artist I hadn’t paid much attention to in previous years: Chappell Roan. I included Red Wine Supernova as it was such a highlight of her gig, but Hot To Go is my favourite – despite the fact that every time I listen to it, it takes me days to stop singing ‘H-O-T-T-O-G-O’ round and round in my head. It’s cheerleader pop harking back to Bring It On and Gwen Stefani, but the fact that Chappell works with the same producer as Olivia Rodrigo is also very evident from the jubilant grunge-pop energy this song exudes.

Speaking of Olivia, I was very pleased that her second album saw her recognise that Good 4 U was the direction we really want from her, despite being best known for the dreary Drivers License, and she gifted us with songs like Bad Idea Right? and Get Him Back, full of the teenage disdain and pop-rock energy I was looking for. I’ve never fully gotten over what a wet blanket she was on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series so it doesn’t feel quite right to call her one of the era’s best pop stars, but she’s making some of its best pop music.

We’re definitely not in a peak era for girlbands at the moment, but we do have a few on the lower end of my top 25. There’s new British teen trio Say Now (previously known as needanamebro), who have put out some really nice songs this year, especially Better Love, but it’s such a blatant attempt to create a 2020s Sugababes that it feels a bit forced and calculated (see also: Flo). There’s also American indie-pop girlbands The Aces and The Beaches, who produced some of the catchiest tunes of the year in I’ve Loved You For So Long and Blame Brett, but are otherwise inconsistent.

What I would call the best girlband songs of the year actually came from collectives of female artists: songwriter-turned-artist Kamille’s collab with Tamera (yes, the one from X Factor 2013!) and Bellah is the lost Little Mix single we never had, while Caroline Polachek got together Grimes and Dido for the ethereally uplifting Fly To You, which is one of the songs I’ve come back to the most throughout the year.

Also in my top 10 are some new artists that deserve a shoutout for creating some really unique, fun and totally poptastic tunes. Firstly, the super cute and high energy Updown by Piri & Tommy, which is what the genre hyperpop really should be used to describe (as opposed to a ‘thinking man’s’ version of pop a la PC Music). And the most original and exciting pop song of the year in my opinion, Mama’s Eyes by Mette – the singer/dancer/actress you might recognise as Video Girl Barbie from the Barbie Movie. I don’t think I can describe this song better than I did when I first heard (and tweeted) it: Tove Lo meets Renaissance meets gospel. I’m hoping there’s a lot more creative cool pop to come from Mette in 2024.

The final theme of my top 25 is one that’s definitely not new for this year… Eurovision! Having Eurovision in the UK felt like the culmination of a redemption arc for the BBC, who had been gradually getting their act together for several years, and they didn’t let us down. It was a total joy to see the UK properly embrace the opportunity without disdain or irony, and it also happened to be a great year for entries, with Sweden’s Loreen and Austria’s Teya and Selena making my top 25. I even snuck in a Melodifestivalen entry with Kiana’s brilliant debut, Where Did You Go.

I deliberated over whether to make Tattoo my no.1 this year. It felt wrong for the same reason it felt wrong to vote for it on the night: it just doesn’t match up to Loreen’s previous Eurovision entry, Euphoria. But not matching up to the best Eurovision winner of the 21st century is hardly a big failing. Tattoo is an incredible feat of a song, performed effortlessly by Loreen, whose talent and presence is very rare to find. She’s one of those artists that doesn’t quite seem human. It’s hard to listen to it without having Euphoria in mind, but regardless, it’s clear that this song completely deserves the status of Eurovision winner and most poptastic song of 2023!

You can enjoy my top 25 below and listen to my full playlist of 2023 here.

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