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The Beat Goes On: The Status Digital Staff Decide Their Favorite Music Albums of 2023

The Beat Goes On: The Status Digital Staff Decide Their Favorite Music Albums of 2023

In 2023, the musical landscape witnessed a tidal wave of must-hear albums that shook the industry to its core. The indomitable Olivia Rodrigo, following the trailblazing success of her 2021 Sour, reaffirmed her prowess in truth-bomb punk-pop with her sophomore release Guts. Collaborations like underground rapper Billy Woods and beatmaker Kenny Segal delved into uncharted territory, while Paramore roared back, Victoria Monet led an R&B resurgence, and Mitski reimagined the American gothic. Amidst this musical kaleidoscope, the quest for the best music album of 2023 became a thrilling odyssey.

In a year where blockbuster releases by mega-stars like Miley Cyrus and Drake took a backseat, emerging innovators like Tainy, Asake, Burna Boy, and Mr. Eazi stepped into the spotlight. From the infectious rhythms of sci-fi-reggaeton mastermind Tainy to the chart-dominating Afrobeats greats, the musical landscape of 2023 resonated with diversity and creativity. Not to mention, Taylor Swift dropping her re-recorded marvels — Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) and 1989 (Taylor’s Version) — to sweep the competition beyond the ‘Eras’.

music albums of 2023
Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Guts’ became one of the most popular music albums of 2023

As the year concludes, the Prestige team is gearing up to decode their carefully curated picks for the best music albums of 2023, featuring a blend of seasoned veterans and rising stars. Join us as we navigate the sonic labyrinth to unveil a diverse and captivating selection (in no particular order).

The Prestige Digital Team pick their favourite music albums of 2023

1. Bewitched by Laufey

music albums of 2023
(Image credit: Laufey/Facebook)

The scene: me, in bed on a Sunday, nursing a bad cold and something of a heartbreak, doom-scrolling on Instagram as a distraction. A video comes up and it’s Laufey singing “I Wish You Love” with a voice so soothing, so bewitching, so healing that I immediately look her up on Spotify and subsequently spent weeks looping her music on repeat. When Laufey released Bewitched in September, it was like Christmas had come early. More melancholic and with a stronger old-world quality than her first studio album, Laufey sings of love and its many forms – and the frustrations that come with it, urgh – in a way that is just so darn relatable.

“Haunted”, “California and Me” and “Letter To My 13 Year Old Self” feel like short films. “Second Best” and “Promise” will make you want to hug a pillow and ugly cry. “Dreamer” and her viral hit “From The Start” are reminders that love, for yourself and for somebody else, is a beautiful, adorable thing. For the rollercoaster year I’ve had, Laufey’s deep, smooth-like-honey vocals and spot-on songwriting were a solace. I cannot tell you how many times I thought, “Girl gets it!” when listening to Bewitched.

– Candice Chua, Digital Editor, PrestigeOnline Singapore

2. I’ve IVE and I’ve MINE by IVE

music albums of 2023
(Image credit: Ive)

2023 was a year of unexpected changes for me. Chief among them: My early days in my role at Prestige, which was when and how I happened upon my most unexpected musical find of the year. Ask anyone who’s had the misfortune to road-trip with me, and they’ll tell you my playlist is an endless musical smorgasbord spanning multiple genres and artists, favouring no single rhyme, rhythm, nor year. Taylor Swift is a strong contender, and her newly released 1989 (Taylor’s Version) (2023) and the recently released Midnights (2022) vault track “You’re Losing Me” are both personal favourites.

Ditto for Olivia Rodrigo’s Guts (2023), which hit Spotify earlier in September this year, as well as her single “Can’t Catch Me Now”, recorded for the soundtrack for The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. A haunting track inspired by the events of the book-turned-movie, it has singularly taken me through my year-end blues, played on repeat for hours on end.

This brings me to my earlier point: up until I had the good fortune to see BLACKPINK live in concert earlier this year, I had never been much of a K-Pop fan. The irony, then, is this: my very first article on this platform was on K-Pop sensation IVE. To that end, I found myself exploring their discography, which included two albums released this year – I’ve IVE (10 April 2023) and I’VE MINE (13 October 2023).

The former sparked my interest with its range, featuring upbeat and energetic tracks like “Lips” and “NOT YOUR GIRL”, to bass-heavy girl power anthems “Blue Blood”. Each track flowed into the next with ease, which brought a soothing cohesiveness to the entire album that I greatly enjoyed. Likewise, I’VE MINE further expanded on this range, drawing on hip-hop influences for tracks like “Holy Moly”, “OTT”, and “Baddie”. IVE went back to their dance-pop roots for “Off The Record”, which is an absolute bop of a song that has since become a favourite.

– Emmelyn Mah, Associate Digital Editor, PrestigeOnline Malaysia

3. Fallen (20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) by Evanescence

Millennials of a certain vintage would be well-acquainted with “Bring Me To Life”, the runaway hit that propelled rock band Evanescence to global stardom back in 2003. Characterised by its haunting piano riff, and the call-and-response juxtaposition of lead singer Amy Lee’s plaintive vocals against guest rapper Paul McCoy’s aggressive verses, it was the first single off Evanescence’s debut album Fallen, released that same year. The album went on to bag two Grammy awards out of six nominations — an unexpected win that saw a teary-eyed Lee looking overwhelmed as she gave her speech, and disgruntled fellow nominee 50 Cent walking onstage to express his displeasure.

Twenty years (and several band lineup changes) later, Evanescence has released a special anniversary edition of their seminal album, and it still retains its magic. The track list features remastered versions of its 12 original songs, alongside several B-sides, acoustic performances, and live recordings. A demo of “Bring Me To Life” is particularly fascinating, with its incorporation of synths and a distortion effect added to its opening lines. McCoy’s rap is absent and replaced with an electric guitar solo. It’s surprisingly polished for a demo, and hints at the vastly different direction the band’s music could have taken if they had chosen it for their debut. Also included is a stripped-down, acoustic version of the same song for AOL Sessions, featuring Lee singing alongside co-founder Ben Moody’s guitar accompaniment. It allows her dulcet, powerful voice to shine, and is a treat to listen to.

Remastered versions of the dreamy “Imaginary” and the deliciously theatrical “Whisper” — which unlike its name, swells into an ominous choral outro sung in Latin — are a fantastic nostalgic throwback. Meanwhile, B-sides like the wistful “Missing” and the piano-driven ballad “Breathe No More” — inspired by Lee’s experience of being in a toxic relationship — remain just as soul-stirring as when they were first released in 2004.

A live rendition of “My Immortal” from a 2022 concert at London’s O2 Arena, featuring the audience singing along and cheering, rounds off the album — a triumphant conclusion to a key chapter of the band’s musical evolution.

– Sara Yap, Digital Editorial Director, Prestige (Regional)

4. Have a Nice Day! by Aaron Taylor

(Image credit: Aaron Taylor)

Aaron Taylor’s Have a Nice Day! is like a beam of sunlight that wakes me up and gives me a kickstart into the day every day. Undoubtedly, I think it’s one of the best music albums of 2023. Most songs have that bright, bubbly, and calm personality that are easy to connect to, and they never fail to cheer me up. On many days I wake up to the soul/R&B groove of “Have a Nice Day” and go to sleep with “Rest Your Head”.

– Paint Chayanin, Lifestyle Writer, PrestigeOnline Thailand

5. Chemistry by Kelly Clarkson

best music albums 2023
Kelly Clarkson is one of the most successful American Idol winners of all time, and her new release Chemistry is easily one of the best albums of 2023. (Image credit: Kelly Clarkson/ Facebook)

It’s been a turbulent three years for Kelly Clarkson, whose seven-year marriage to music producer Brandon Blackstock ended in 2020. Their acrimonious divorce was a drawn-out battle fraught with custody, alimony and property tussles, with Blackstock demanding massive payouts for monthly spousal and child support, along with ownership of their Montana ranch. They finally came to an agreement two years later; but Clarkson is still angry. And she channels her fury, hurt and heartbreak into the sucker punch that’s Chemistry, a 14-track album that’s captivating from start to finish and fuelled by Clarkson’s distinctive, powerhouse vocals.

The opener “Skip This Part” lays out her vulnerability on full display with lyrics expressing a desire to escape the brutal fallout of her divorce. It segues into the equally poignant “Mine”, where she grieves but craves vengeance: “I hope one day someone will take your heart and hold it tight/ Make you feel like you’re invincible deep inside/ And right when you think that you’ll try again, they cross a line/ And steal your shine like you did mine.” “Lighthouse” is another raw, moving tune reflecting on the last embers of her relationship.

In “Red Flag Collector”, she turns her rage into an upbeat, country-tinged ditty that calls out her ex’s behaviour, gleefully proclaiming “You can take my money/ Drag my name ’round town/ I don’t mind, I changed it anyway”. If there were a musical equivalent of a raised middle finger, this would be it. “Rock Hudson” references Clarkson’s 2015 “Piece By Piece”, a romantic ballad originally penned about how Blackstock restored her faith in love, and boldly declares “By the way, piece by piece/ I found out my hero’s me.”

But like the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes, Clarkson is beaten down but not broken. Strength, resilience and determination make their presence known in Chemistry. “Magic” looks to the future with optimism, while “Favorite Kind Of High” is a dancey number that sees Clarkson effortlessly belting out high notes while pondering about romance. Then there’s “I Hate Love”, a fun bop that mocks rom-com The Notebook and name-drops Only Murders in the Building actor Steve Martin, who plays the banjo on the track.

By the end of Chemistry, you’ll feel like you’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster ride — and if you’ve experienced heartache before, that old familiar feeling of loss, longing and hope.

– SY

6. Diablo IV Original Soundtrack by Blizzard Entertainment

(Image credit: Diablo IV/ Steam)

This year marked the release of Diablo IV, a highly anticipated video game from Blizzard’s popular Diablo franchise. Featuring the work of composers Leo Kalinski, Ted Reedy, Derek Duke, Neil Acree, and Ryan Amon, the score is a masterwork befitting any visual epic, evoking deep feelings of curiousity, anticipation, excitement – and yes, even terror. Each track is beautifully textured, layering instrumental sounds to facilitate the game’s brooding, dark-gothic storytelling roots. With in-game regions taking inspiration from real-world terrains from Eastern Europe to the Middle East, the music similarly followed suit to great success. The composers leaned into the gritty nature of the game to present tracks that are spectacular both in-game, and on Spotify.

– EM

7. The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes soundtrack

(Image credit: Apple Music)

Taking a sharp turn to Hollywood, I found myself particularly drawn to the movie soundtrack for The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Olivia Rodrigo’s “Can’t Catch Me Now” headlines the album; however, it is only one within a bed of similarly inspired melodies. Featuring the vocals of actress Rachel Zegler, the album also evoked a deep sense of helplessness and rebellion, further adding to the storytelling prowess of writer Susanne Collins’ extraordinary world.

Zegler’s rendition of “The Hanging Tree”, as well as “The Old Therebefore” and “Pure As The Driven Snow” are appropriately touching; likewise, Molly Turtle’s “Bury Me Beneath The Willow”, which tells the story of unrequited love, is almost certain to make an appearance on my Spotify Wrapped for 2024.

– EM

8. Layover by BTS V

(Image credit: BTS V)

Layover by BTS V has been my absolute musical fixation this year. Even though it was released in September it’ll still chart as one of my most streamed albums this year. Kim Taehuyng’s affinity towards jazz and R&B shine through every composition of his solo debut album. While he is still a beloved part of the global sensation BTS, his solo project unfolds like a tapestry of musical elegance that’s so independent of the septet’s usual dynamic.

The album is so meticulously crafted, that it feels like a warm cup of tea on a chilly winter evening. V’s velvety voice entangled with the romantic melodies, creates the perfect ambience for an evening of solitude or a long drive with a loved one. Transcending the boundaries of K-pop, V’s honey-dripped vocals touch the heartstrings of every music lover. Like the timeless classics, playing the album on repeat is a habit hard to quit. Also, I don’t really want to. The only thing that could’ve made it better is more songs. Six songs are way too few than what we needed.

– Pallabi Bose, Digital Writer, PrestigeOnline (Regional)

9. Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)

music albums of 2023
(Image credit: Taylor Swift)

In the whirlwind of Taylormania ’23, Taylor Swift’s Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) emerges as a triumph, securing her 12th consecutive No. 1 album at just 33, a feat surpassing Jay-Z’s record. Released amid the spectacle of her Eras Tour, projected to cross the USD 1 billion mark, this third 2023 re-release called for me to rediscover its rock-infused charm, once again.

Beyond the original heartfelt tracks, the album’s magnetic allure lies in the treasures of “The Vault.” Collaborating with Patrick Stump and Hayley Williams on two unreleased tracks injected fresh energy into Swift’s musical narrative. Williams takes the spotlight on the poignant “Castles Crumbling” sharing fears of youthful empires. Meanwhile, the upbeat “Electric Touch” delivers a pop-rock flourish, though vocal contrasts with Stump add an intriguing layer. Delving into “The Vault” reveals the mid-tempo piano beauty of “When Emma Falls in Love,” showcasing a rare third-person narrative. Simultaneously, the scandalous “I Can See You” introduced unfamiliar tones with provocative lyrics, adding a spicy twist compared to the original Speak Now.

As for the core of the album, the goal remained to replicate rather than embellish past work. While some sonics receive a boost—more reverb on ‘Haunted’ and thicker guitars on “The Story of Us” — the most notable exception is the Paramore-esque pop-punk rager “Better than Revenge.” A lyrical change underscores Swift’s prerogative to shape her songbook. However, the decision feels diplomatic, catering to online discourse rather than embracing the unfiltered expression of her 19-year-old self.

The significant difference in the new recordings lies in Swift’s more mature and textured vocal performance. Time and hindsight enrich several tunes with new weight and nuance, elevating the apologetic ballad “Back to December” beyond its initial tabloid ties. Similarly, “Dear John,” a fan-favourite soaring ballad long assumed to target John Mayer, now radiates timeless brilliance, serving as a beacon for all lovelorn listeners. Perhaps most intriguing is the evolution of the Grammy-winning banjo-pop single “Mean,” as Swift reflects on critics who once disparaged her, offering a retrospective commentary on her growth and resilience.

While not as expansive as her 30-track Red (Taylor’s Version), this latest re-recording at 104 minutes with 22 songs is a testament to Swifties’ commitment. Investigating liner notes for Easter eggs hinting at the next re-recordings — whether Taylor Swift (2006), 1989 (2014), or Reputation (2017) — fans, like me, got the chance to discover a meticulous replica of one of Swift’s most compelling albums. Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) transcends nostalgia, capturing the essence of a pivotal era in Swift’s career and expanding the musical universe. It invites fans, both old and new, to revel in the walls she crashed through, making it a dazzling contender for the best music album of 2023.

See Also

– Srijoni Gupta Roy, Senior Digital Writer, PrestigeOnline (Regional)

10. Glory 2 Glory by KB

music albums of 2023
(Image credit: KB)

KB has been in the Christian hip-hop scene for some time now but I’m ashamed to say he only appeared on my radar recently. He’s always been great at making music that’s not just utterly enjoyable in its rhythm and beats but also lyrically and theologically rich. As someone who grew up always on the lookout for “Christian” artists who don’t just compose typical worship songs, KB was an immediate favourite. When people tell me that Christian music is boring, KB is one of the first artists I bring up.

Glory 2 Glory, his EP released this year, is yet another testament to this man’s immense talent. His take on the popular worship song “Graves Into Gardens”, which also features Brandon Lake, turns it into an addictive hip-hop anthem while still being replete with Christian truth. “Only You turn mistakes into miracles / Only You make broken stories beautiful”. Like he says in one of his other songs, who says you can’t worship in a mosh pit?

– Eric E. Surbano, Senior Writer, PrestigeOnline Thailand

11. Guts by Olivia Rodrigo

(Image credit: Olivia Rodrigo)

Olivia Rodrigo, following her groundbreaking 2021 debut SOUR, returns with GUTS, an album that not only meets but exceeds the colossal expectations set by her previous work. Divided into two distinct halves, the album explores contrasting moods while maintaining a relatable resonance.

Continuing her Gen Z anthem status, Rodrigo expands her lyrical themes with her 2023 drop. Songs like “Pretty Isn’t Pretty” delve into body image issues, while “Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl” explores social embarrassments, and “Bad idea right?” delves into the lingering feelings of past relationships. The relatability extends to the music itself, as GUTS echoes early-2000s pop-punk, evoking nostalgia with a distinctly Avril Lavigne-inspired sound.

Yet, Rodrigo’s prowess goes beyond catchy melodies. The album showcases her ability to seamlessly transition between powerful pop-punk anthems and gut-wrenching ballads, a duality exemplified in tracks like “Love is Embarrassing.” The album’s softer side, exemplified in “Making the Bed,” reveals Rodrigo’s delicate writing and singing, coupled with the lyrical chemistry between her and producer Daniel Nigro.

Hidden within pockets of introspection, Rodrigo’s heartfelt expression shines, as seen in lines like “Every good thing has turned into something I dread” from “making the bed.” These moments, free from loud choruses and distorted guitars, provide a powerful connection.

“Vampire,” the lead single, attempts to bridge both halves but falls short, creating a clash rather than a cohesive mix. In contrast, the album’s closing track, “Teenage Dream,” successfully marries complexity with simplicity. Lines like “When am I gonna stop being great for my age and just start being good?” cut straight to core emotion, showcasing Rodrigo’s prowess as a writer.

The album crescendos with the phrase “they all say that it gets better,” embodying the Gen Z experience. GUTS is not just a collection of complaints, rants, cries, and yells; it ends in uncertainty, making it not only authentic but profoundly real. Rodrigo’s work is a testament to the genuine, unfiltered expression of an artist at the forefront of her generation, making it undeniably one of the best music albums of 2023.

-SGR

Which of these would you reckon to be the best music album of 2023?

(Main and Featured Images: Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo, Laufey )

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the most listened-to album in 2023?

The most-streamed album of the year for the second year in a row was Un Verano Sin Ti by Bad Bunny, with more than 4.5 billion streams globally, followed by Taylor Swift’s album Midnights.

2. Who has the biggest album of 2023?

Taylor Swift topped the chart for seven weeks with three different records; one of them, 1989 (Taylor’s Version), became the top-selling album of the year. Utopia by Travis Scott became the first rap album since Drake’s Scorpion (2018) to spend its first four weeks atop the chart.

Source: Prestige Online

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