Roll Out the Red Carpet… This Is We Plug Good Music’s Best Albums of 2023!
As we turn the page on another year in the ever-evolving world of music, it’s time to celebrate our best albums of 2023. This year has been a captivating journey through the highs and lows of the music industry, filled with groundbreaking events and poignant moments.
2023 was a historic year for Pan-African music with the international chart success of artists like Burna Boy, Asake, Tyla, Rema, and Tems. The Grammy Awards also announced the introduction of the ‘Best African Music Performance’ category, set to debut at its 66th annual ceremony in February 2024, with this new category signifying a step towards the GRAMMYs embracing the rich diversity of Pan-African music.
The year was marked by thrilling reunions and releases. NSYNC returned to the spotlight, presenting at the VMAs, while Girls Aloud confirmed a reunion tour, and Blur announced a major gig at London’s Wembley Stadium. The Beatles surprised us with “Now And Then”, a posthumous release featuring all four original members, completed with a blend of old recordings and new technology.
However, 2023 was not without its sorrows as we bid farewell to musical talents such as Sinéad O’Connor, Tina Turner, AKA, De La Soul’s Trugoy The Dove, Costa Titch, Harry Belafonte, Magoo, MohBad, and Lisa Marie Presley. We remember and honour them for the indelible marks they left on the music world.
After years of anticipation, fans were delighted by the return of Paramore, Kelela, Skrillex, Rae Sremmurd, Janelle Monáe, and Macklemore, each releasing their first albums in five or more years, adding fresh sounds to our playlists. On the other hand, and in a show of continued unparalleled dominance, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift captivated audiences with their individual world tours, earning the two highest-grossing tours of all time by women.
Chart milestones were set with Morgan Wallen’s “Last Night” and Dave with Central Cee’s “Sprinter” dominating the Billboard Hot 100 and UK Official Singles Chart, respectively. Morgan Wallen’s One Thing at a Time and SZA’s SOS reigned supreme on the Billboard 200 Album Chart, with SOS marking a significant achievement as the year’s longest reigning number-one on the Billboard 200 by a female artist.
Rihanna made a triumphant return to live music at the Super Bowl halftime show, her first live performance in six years, while Ed Sheeran emerged victorious in a legal battle over his song “Thinking Out Loud”. Britney Spears, on the other hand, gave us a glimpse into her life with her memoir The Woman in Me, adding a personal touch to this year’s music narrative.
As we reflect on the vibrant and varied landscape of music in 2023, from chart-topping hits to soul-stirring albums, let’s delve into the sounds that defined our year. Prepare to be captivated by the depth and diversity of We Plug Good Music’s Best Albums of 2023.
While you can revisit our list so far here, prepare to be captivated by the depth and diversity of We Plug Good Music’s Best Albums of 2023, from #30 to #21 below.
30. Guvna B – The Village Is On Fire
Guvna B’s 2023 album The Village Is On Fire is an emphatic and reflective 12-track journey that delves deep into the heart of East London, portraying both its challenges and triumphs. The album stands out for its unflinching grappling with the aftermath of unprovoked violence, its intimate musings on marriage and fatherhood, and its exploration of the virtues of self-actualization. Guvna B’s approach is far from preachy; instead, it’s evocative, cohesive, and profoundly affective, demonstrating his skill in addressing hard truths while championing marginalized communities through his multifaceted lyricism.
The album opens with “Bridgeland Road,” featuring Michaela Coel, which sets the tone for the album with its candid revelation about the inspiration drawn from Guvna B’s experiences, including racial aggravation. This track, along with others, showcases his commitment to raising awareness about the issues faced by his community, while also inviting listeners to engage in a dialogue through his music.
Highlights of the album include the intense “U Get Me?” featuring Mercury Prize-nominated Ghetts, which solidifies their status as leaders in the grime genre. The upbeat “Amplify,” featuring rising Ghanaian artist DarkoVibes, pays homage to Guvna B’s Ghanaian heritage. “Everyone’s A Hypocrite” expresses his frustrations, while “Alright,” featuring gospel Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Kierra Sheard, honors the church where his musical journey began.
The album is a testament to Guvna B’s growth as a musician and a melting pot of the sounds that surrounded him during his upbringing in East London. It’s a powerful, emotional, and uplifting collection of songs that reflects on London in all its complexity, encompassing both its hardships and triumphs. The Village Is On Fire is not only a commentary on the city but also a personal reflection of Guvna B’s journey, making it an essential listen for those looking to understand the realities of life in East London and the power of music as a medium for storytelling and community engagement.
29. Troye Sivan – Something To Give Each Other
Troye Sivan’s 2023 album Something To Give Each Other emerges as a vibrant and introspective exploration of queer love, personal growth, and the complexities of modern relationships. This album, released by EMI Music Australia and Capitol Records, marks Sivan’s musical journey since his earlier works, Blue Neighbourhood and Bloom. It’s a culmination of lessons learned over the past decade, showcasing his evolution in both lyricism and production.
The album begins with “Rush,” a track that immediately pulls listeners into an atmosphere reminiscent of a gay club. It’s a powerful opener, rich in emotional charge and vocal dynamics, skillfully exploring the themes of desire and intimacy. The song’s transformation from a melancholic ballad to a lively EDM and house track illustrates Sivan’s creative versatility and his ability to capture the spirit of liberation and confidence.
Something To Give Each Other thrives on its exploration of queer experiences and societal pressures. In tracks like “One of Your Girls,” Sivan unapologetically addresses the emotional struggles faced by queer individuals, crafting lyrics that resonate with the listeners’ own experiences and feelings. The song combines a seductive, tropical groove with poignant lyricism, making it one of the album’s strongest offerings.
Sivan’s collaboration with Guitarricadelafuente on “In My Room” adds a unique dimension to the album, blending bedroom pop vibes with Spanish verses, creating a rich, euphoric atmosphere. The album also delves into themes of lust, longing, and the complexity of relationships, as seen in songs like “Got Me Started” and “Honey.” These tracks navigate the excitement and chemistry of new relationships, as well as the struggle to balance physical desires with emotional boundaries.
Something To Give Each Other doesn’t shy away from exploring pain and heartache. Tracks like “Can’t Go Back, Baby” and “How To Stay With You” reflect on past mistakes, the difficulty of moving on, and the longing for reconnection. Sivan’s ability to weave together the past and present, to explore the fears and hopes for the future, is a testament to his growth as an artist.
Despite its themes of heartbreak and introspection, the album maintains an overall positive outlook. Sivan celebrates the present, emphasizing the beauty of experiencing life’s various phases. The album’s treatment of Sivan’s voice, particularly in songs like “Got Me Started” and “Silly,” adds to the narrative of desire and pleasure, showcasing his range as a vocalist and storyteller.
In essence, Something To Give Each Other is a vivid tapestry of emotional depth and musical innovation. It’s an album that speaks to the heart of queer experiences, balancing introspection with a celebration of freedom and self-discovery. Sivan’s latest work is not just a collection of songs; it’s a journey through the complexities of love and identity, making it a standout addition to the list of top albums of 2023.
28. KAROL G – MAÑANA SERÁ BONITO
MAÑANA SERÁ BONITO, the 2023 album from Karol G, is a vibrant and emotive journey that solidifies her status as a dynamic force in the Latin music scene. This album, marked as her fourth studio release, is a cathartic and colorful collection that beautifully showcases Karol G’s versatility and emotional depth.
The album encompasses a variety of genres, reflecting Karol G’s adventurous spirit and her ability to blend different musical styles seamlessly. From reggaeton and Latin pop to Afrobeats, Mexican banda, and electronica, MAÑANA SERÁ BONITO takes listeners on a diverse sonic journey. The inclusion of multiple collaborations further enhances the album’s appeal, allowing Karol G to explore new sounds and push her creative boundaries.
“Provenza,” one of the album’s highlights, is an Afrobeats-infused track that stands out for its dreamy and idyllic vibes. The song “Besties” is another notable addition, a reggaeton anthem that empowers women to embrace their freedom and enjoy life. The fiery “TQG,” a collaboration with Shakira, is a standout track where both artists showcase their lyrical prowess and vocal strength, making it a powerful anthem of self-assertion and resilience.
Karol G’s exploration of emotional themes is evident throughout the album. She delves into her feelings and experiences, from the highs of success to the internal struggles that come with maintaining a tough exterior. This emotional honesty adds depth to her music, making the album not just a collection of songs but a reflection of her personal journey.
MAÑANA SERÁ BONITO has been well-received critically, praised for its authenticity, emotive melodies, and Karol G’s skill in crafting evocative songs that transcend language barriers. The album has been described as her best work yet, highlighting her growth as an artist and her place as one of Latin music’s true originals.
Overall, MAÑANA SERÁ BONITO is a testament to Karol G’s artistic evolution and her ability to connect with listeners through a rich tapestry of sounds and heartfelt lyrics. It’s a celebration of her journey, her emotions, and her undeniable talent, making it a significant addition to her discography and one of the top albums of 2023.
27. Kylie Minogue – Tension
Kylie Minogue’s 2023 album Tension is a tour de force in pop music, showcasing her enduring ability to dominate the dancefloor. With this being her 16th studio album, Kylie continues to evolve as an icon in the pop music landscape, delivering a collection of tracks that embody the joy and escapism of dance music.
The album opens with the hit single “Padam Padam”, which has become an anthem of hedonistic joy and a standout summer track. Its infectious rhythm and Kylie’s distinctive vocals make it a call to the dancefloor, resonating with both long-time fans and a new generation of listeners. The success of “Padam Padam” illustrates Kylie’s ongoing relevance in the music industry, as it marks her first UK top 10 hit in over a decade.
Tension is characterized by its vivid sonics and varied musical styles. Tracks like ‘Things We Do for Love’ offer warm synth-pop, while the title track ‘Tension’ blends house elements with catchy piano riffs. Other songs like “One More Time” and “10 Out Of 10” bring in Eurodance vibes, and “You Still Get Me High” combines 80s synth-pop with a slinky sax riff. “Hold On To Now” is a late-night gem, echoing the jubilation of some of Kylie’s earlier hits.
The album showcases Kylie’s ability to blend different genres and experiment with sounds. The track “Hands”, for instance, harks back to the ’90s with “Vogue” like vocals, adding a nostalgic touch to the album. The creative project is filled with originality and proof of Kylie’s adaptability as a pop icon. Overall, Tension is a celebration of the power of dance music and Kylie Minogue’s place as a pop culture phenomenon. It’s an album that not only delights with its immediate appeal but also adds a meaningful chapter to Kylie’s illustrious career.
26. Zach Bryan – Zach Bryan
Zach Bryan’s self-titled album, released in 2023, is a monumental work that cements his status as a paramount figure in contemporary music, particularly in the country genre. Bryan’s album is a masterful blend of the traditional and the modern, weaving together the soul of country music with a contemporary sensibility that appeals to a broad audience.
The album opens with “Fear & Fridays (Poem),” a spoken word piece that serves as a poignant introduction to Bryan’s introspective and vivid storytelling. This track, along with others like “East Side of Sorrow,” showcases Bryan’s ability to delve into deeply personal themes, such as the loss of loved ones and confronting personal fears. “East Side of Sorrow” is a song that beautifully juxtaposes its somber subject matter with a message of hope, a theme that resonates throughout the album.
Bryan’s knack for collaboration is another highlight of this album. The tracks “Holy Roller” featuring Sierra Ferrell and “Spotless” featuring The Lumineers are particularly notable for their seamless integration of Bryan’s style with that of his collaborators. These songs demonstrate Bryan’s ability to create a harmonious blend of voices and styles, making for a listening experience that feels both familiar and fresh.
The song “Oklahoman Son,” the album’s closing track, brings a heartfelt reflection on Bryan’s roots and identity. It’s a powerful conclusion to an album that traverses a wide range of emotions and themes, from personal struggles to broader reflections on life and loss.
Overall, Zach Bryan’s album is a standout in his discography and a significant contribution to the music world in 2023. It’s an album that balances introspective lyricism with accessible melodies, deep personal reflections with universal themes, and traditional country sounds with modern musical elements. This blend of qualities not only makes the album a critical success but also a deeply resonant work for a wide range of listeners. Bryan’s unique voice in the country music landscape continues to evolve, and this album is a testament to his growing artistry and impact.
25. Davido – Timeless
Davido’s Timeless album emerges as a rich tapestry of afrobeats sounds and emotional depth, showcasing his artistic evolution and resilience in the face of personal challenges. This album, his fourth studio release, marks a significant moment in his career, intertwining personal storytelling with universal themes, and cements his status as a force in the global music scene.
The album opens with “Over Dem,” a track where Davido boldly reasserts his strength and resilience, a theme that resonates throughout the album. This song sets the tone, blending a message of overcoming adversity with the infectious energy characteristic of Davido’s music. “Godfather” is another standout track, reflecting Davido’s confidence and gratitude for his blessings, while highlighting his belief in a higher power.
“Unavailable,” featuring Musa Keys, is a highlight that perfectly blends afrofusion and amapiano, creating an anthem likely to dominate both South African clubs and Nigerian parties. Its catchy hook and seamless collaboration make it a standout on the album. “E Pain Me” delves into the theme of romantic betrayal, adding a personal and vulnerable dimension to the album, showing Davido’s ability to convey deep emotions through his music.
Tracks like “Kante” featuring Fave, and “Na Money” featuring The Cavemen and Angelique Kidjo, showcase Davido’s knack for collaboration. These songs blend various elements, from Afrobeat to Highlife, illustrating his versatility and the album’s rich sonic landscape. Fave’s contribution to “Kante” is particularly noteworthy, adding a unique dimension to the track.
The album also includes “U (Juju)” featuring Skepta and “No Competition” featuring Asake, both of which stand out for their unique collaborations and thematic depth. These tracks exemplify Davido’s ability to blend different genres and styles, creating a diverse and dynamic listening experience. Timeless closes with “Champion Sound,” which ends the project on a celebratory note. This track, along with the rest of the album, underscores Davido’s ability to balance introspection with universal appeal, solidifying his place as a major figure in modern music.
Timeless is not just a collection of songs; it’s a journey through Davido’s life, his struggles, and triumphs. The album’s ability to connect personal experiences with broader themes of resilience, love, and celebration makes it a compelling listen. With “Timeless,” Davido has delivered a mature, well-rounded project that showcases his growth as an artist and his ability to resonate with a global audience.
24. Kelela – Raven
Kelela’s 2023 album Raven is a profound demonstration of her growth as an artist, both in her music and in her personal and philosophical explorations. Returning after a five-year hiatus, she presents a work that is a transfixing ode to human connection, interpersonal communication, and Black femininity, set against a backdrop of atmospheric electronica and progressive R&B. The album is like a journey through a dark water slide, full of twists, turns, and lurches, ending in an unexpected and enlightening destination.
Raven showcases Kelela’s evolution from her debut LP Take Me Apart, but maintains her distinctive sound – a harmonious blend of synth undercurrents and transfluid melodies. The album opener “Washed Away” immediately sets the tone with its crashing waves of synth, leading into a seamless flow of tracks that display her top-tier production choices. This is particularly evident in the transition from “Raven” to “Bruises,” which is nothing short of breathtaking.
Kelela’s exploration of various themes in Raven is as intimate as her romantic musings. Songs like “Happy Ending” and “Contact” may appear as club anthems on the surface, but they delve deeper into unexpected encounters and the urgency of re-engaging with something uncertain. The album features standout tracks such as the Kaytranada-produced “On the Run,” the samba-infused “Missed Call,” and the club banger “Contact,” each standing strong on its own while contributing to the album’s cohesive narrative.
Raven is not just about romance; it’s also an examination of broader societal themes like the stoicism of men, white people, the powerful, and the culpability of non-Black people of color. In “Holier,” Kelela delivers a sermon on connection and relationships, emphasizing the necessity of both to sustain ourselves. This blend of personal and universal themes is a testament to Kelela’s skill as a storyteller and artist.
The album is meant to be experienced in its entirety, as each track blends into the next, creating a mesmerizing haze of synth. Raven is a response to anyone who doubted Kelela during her hiatus, a powerful statement of rebirth and resilience. She uses the symbol of the raven, often seen as forbidding, to represent herself as an otherworldly agent of rebirth, prophecy, and insight. This nuanced portrayal confirms Kelela’s place as a unique and powerful voice in the music world.
Overall, Raven is an alluring soundscape that offers a soundtrack for introspective, late-night drives through buzzing cities, reflecting Kelela’s empowered journey and carving a new niche in the music industry. The album’s clever writing and production, with motifs seeping from one track to the other, make it a compelling listen and a significant addition to Kelela’s discography.
23. The Clientele – I Am Not There Anymore
The Clientele’s 2023 album, I Am Not There Anymore, is an ethereal journey that beautifully dovetails various genres without ever defying them. This London-based indie pop band, known for their extensive tours in the United States and their significant influence in the indie scene, has created an album that reflects on memories, introspection, and the surreal aspects of existence.
Opening with “Fable Of The Silverlink,” the album immediately immerses listeners in its unique, trippy world. This over-eight-minute track is reflective and expansive, with strings and horns enhancing its dreamlike quality, reminiscent of some of David Bowie’s more thoughtful pieces. The inclusion of instrumental interstitials, like “Radial B,” adds a stark, piano-based composition that changes the album’s focus between songs, providing a thoughtful pause amidst the sonic journey.
“Garden Eye Mantra” is a standout track, melding lush dub reggae with psychedelic elements and adding vocals halfway through to give it a sound akin to Love’s ballad-like numbers. “Lady Grey” charms listeners with its retro vibe, drawing comparisons to the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” but with a Donovan-esque vocal style. Another track, “Blue Over Blue,” written by Alasdair MacLean about being lost in the woods with his son, offers a mesmerizing listening experience, illustrating the band’s ability to create compelling narratives within their music.
The album is a mix of reflection and introspection, with tracks like “My Childhood” and “Stems Of Anise” adding depth and emotion to the narrative. The closing track, “The Village Is Always On Fire,” is a reworking of “My Childhood,” offering a different perspective on the album’s themes. In summary, I Am Not There Anymore is a thoughtful, well-constructed, and melodic pop opus. It’s a joyful and thought-provoking album that successfully achieves the feeling of an out-of-body experience or dissociative episode, making it a significant addition to The Clientele’s discography and one of the top albums of 2023.
22. Róisín Murphy – Hit Parade
Róisín Murphy’s 2023 album, Hit Parade, emerges as a vibrant and eclectic addition to her discography, showcasing a blend of innovative electronic dance-pop. This album marks a departure from the more optimistic tones of her previous works, delving into a realm of darker musings and brooding synths, under the guidance of producer DJ Koze. The album’s opening track, “What Not To Do,” sets the tone with its moody synths and experimental vocal effects, establishing an atmosphere that’s both dark and introspective, yet undeniably creative.
Songs like “Hurtz So Bad” and “This House” encapsulate the thematic essence of the album, exploring the complexities and often oppressive nature of relationships. “Hurtz So Bad” captures the sense of navigating a minefield in a relationship, while “This House” portrays love and desire as confining rather than liberating. Yet, in “You Knew,” Murphy breaks free from these constraints, questioning the expectations placed upon her and asserting her independence.
One of the album’s standout tracks, “CooCool,” demonstrates Murphy’s playful side through its whimsical lyrics and innovative electronic motifs. “Free Will” is another highlight, blending groovy percussion with reflective lyrics, although its length of over six minutes gives it a somewhat drawn-out feel. “Two Ways” is arguably the album’s strongest moment, offering a different instrumental feel and excellently mixed vocals that add a fresh dynamic to the flow of the record.
Overall, Hit Parade can be seen as a bit of a mixed bag in places, but it stands as a strong entry in Róisín Murphy’s career, showcasing her ability to push musical boundaries and songwriting norms. The album’s ambition is evident in its willingness to experiment with different sounds and styles, making it a significant and intriguing addition to the 2023 music landscape. Murphy’s unique approach and creative energy make Hit Parade a noteworthy release for her fans and electronic dance-pop enthusiasts alike.
21. Housefires – How To Start A Housefire (Pt. II)
How To Start A Housefire (Pt. II), the 2023 album by the Atlanta-based worship collective Housefires, stands as a transformative addition to their discography and the contemporary worship music scene. Released under Capitol CMG / TRIBL Records, the album invites listeners into a vibrant, immersive experience that blends a variety of musical styles, including R&B, soul, pop, gospel, and contemporary worship.
One of the defining aspects of this album is its ability to create an inclusive and vulnerable space, welcoming listeners from all backgrounds to join in a unified, spiritual experience. Housefires, known for re-inventing the worship genre with their immersive live recordings and intimate sessions, continues this tradition with an album that is both celebratory and introspective.
The album kicks off with the ’90s R&B-infused track “Can’t Nobody,” which sets an uplifting and comforting tone, reminiscent of the Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love.” The song “I Thank God” serves as an exuberant anthem of thanksgiving, while tracks like “Look Around,” “We Have No Good,” and “Rest On Us” reflect on God’s blessings and finding peace amid hardship. “Garments” offers a message of rising from rock bottom and becoming stronger, and the album closes with “Mercy,” a joyful note of overcoming struggle.
Housefires has integrated a diverse roster of featured artists, including 2x GRAMMY-nominee DOE, Noah Schnacky, Mariah Adigun-Bernard, Davy Flowers, Cecily, Ahjah Walls, and Harvest Grapevine. Each artist brings their unique voice to the project, enriching the album’s sonic landscape.
In summary, How To Start A Housefire (Pt. II) is not just a collection of worship songs; it’s a multi-faceted project that mirrors the collective’s journey through personal challenges and spiritual growth. The album’s mix of genres, coupled with its heartfelt and earth-shattering choruses, makes it a standout release in 2023, resonating deeply with listeners and contributing significantly to the evolution of worship music.
Click HERE for a full list of our Top 50 Albums of 2023!