As the lines between private and public spaces became ever blurrier, the music of 2023 pondered the meaning of self — who creates it, who defines it, who controls the rights to manipulate it.
Here are our 20 favorite albums of 2023, in descending order.
1. SZA, "SOS"
Technically, it came out at the tail end of 2022. But SZA does so many things so well on her instant classic of a second studio album — plush R&B slow jams, boom-bappy hip-hop, manicured bubble-grunge pop — that perhaps she knew we'd need an extra few weeks to process it all. Which isn't to say that the familiarity of "SOS" (nor its ubiquity on streaming charts and amid nominations for next year's Grammy Awards) has softened the sting of SZA's confessions: "I hate me enough for the two of us," she sings in one of many lines that can still take your breath away.
2. Kali Uchis, "Red Moon in Venus"
Dreamy psychedelic soul music from a casually bilingual Angeleno with a world-class glare and an unerring sense of groove.
3. Megan Moroney, "Lucky"
The year's best country album laments what Moroney calls her "horrible taste in men" — a gag that gets only funnier as she keeps writing circles around them.
4. Ryan Beatty, "Calico"
A decade after he flamed out as a Radio Disney heartthrob, Beatty finds his true calling in an exquisite chamber-folk suite built around his quietly confiding vocals.
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