PBS NewsHour | Critics look back at the epic 2023 year in music | 2023 season

2023 HAD IT ALL IN MUSIC, RECORD TOURS, UNIQUE SONGWRITING AND NEW ARTISTS ON THE RISE.

STEPHANIE LOOKS BACK AT THE MUSIC THAT MADE 2023

STEPHANIE: 2023 WAS THE YEAR THAT GAVE US THE POST-PANDEMIC REBIRTH OF SOLD-OUT STADIUM CONCERTS BY ARTISTS LIKE TAYLOR SWIFT AND BEYONCE, AS WELL AS THE METEORIC RISE OF NEW ARTISTS LIKE NOAH KHAN AND ICE SPEE S.

THE YEAR ALSO FOCUSED ON MORE CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES IN MUSIC THAN THE USE OF AI

ARTIST SONGWRITING TECH CONTINUES BATTLE FOR FAIR PAY WITH MUSIC STREAMING SERVICES.

UNPACKING THE YEAR IN MUSIC WE HAVE MAURA JOHNSTON, FREELANCE MUSIC WRITER AND CRITIC, AND CANDICE McDUFFEE, SENIOR WRITER AT THE ROOT.

THE FIRST QUESTION I WANT TO START WITH YOU CANDICE IS, HAVE YOU SEEN ANY THEMES EMERGING IN THE MUSIC OF 2023?

CANDICE: I THINK THERE’S A BIG CHANGE IN 2023 THAT’S REALLY UNLOCKED THE COMPLEXITY AND FULLNESS OF THE BLACK EXPERIENCE.

YOU HAVE ARTISTS LIKE JANELLE MONAE EXPLORING SEXUALITY AND WEIRDNESS AND IN A REALLY VISUAL AND INTENSE WAY.

>> ♪ LOOKING AT ME IN THE MIRROR LIKE WHO IS THIS?

♪ ♪ CANDACE: ANDRE 3000 STEPS BACK FROM THE MIC TO DO A RETRO FIRST FLUTE ONLY.

AND THEN ARTISTS LIKE KILLER MIKE, WHO IS EXPLORING HIS IDENTITY AS A BLACK MAN IN AMERICA, DEALING WITH STRUGGLES AND, YOU KNOW, LOSING HIS MOTHER, LOSING HIS GRANDMOTHER.

♪ KILLER MIKE: ♪ MY MOM DID, MY GRANDMOTHER DID, KEEP IT HONEST AND DEPRESSED, I FEEL SCARED ♪ ♪ CANDICE: WE’VE HEARD THESE STORIES BEFORE BUT I FEEL THAT THIS YEAR WAS REALLY A LOT MORE UNAPOLOGICAL AND A LOT MORE, UHM, GRABBING ATTENTION FROM THESE PERFORMERS.

MAURA: I THINK THERE WAS A LOT OF PRESSURE TO CONNECT WITH PEOPLE.

FOR CERTAINLY THE INCREASED VISIBILITY AND POPULARITY OF THE BIG CONCERTS AND EVEN THE SMALLER SCALE REALLY HELPS THAT.

AND I ALSO THINK THERE WERE A LOT MORE SONGS THAT CAME FROM UNEXPECTED PLACES, WHETHER IT WAS PLACES OUTSIDE THE US OR EVEN FROM THE PAST.

MIGUEL IS AN AWESOME ARTIST, SUPER INNOVATIVE, BLENDING GENRES.

HIS FOUR ALBUMS ARE AMONG MY FAVORITES OF THE PAST 15 YEARS.

TIKTOK TOOK HIS SONG “SURE THING” AND SPEEDED IT UP AND TURNED IT INTO A SENSATION AND BROUGHT HIM BACK TO MAKING MUSIC AGAIN.

SO THAT’S AWESOME.

THIS IS A NICE SUCCESS STORY.

STEPHANIE: CANDICE, I’M CURIOUS, HAVE THERE BEEN BREAKTHROUGH ARTISTS THAT YOU’LL NOTE AND ANY FAVORITE NEW ARTISTS FROM 2023?

CANDICE: I FEEL LIKE A SEXY RED.

SHE’S A FEMALE HIP HOP ARTIST, HAD A RIDICULOUS YEAR.

THE SUCCESS OF “POUND TOWN”, THE SUCCESS OF “SKEE” AND GETTING A LIMITING REACTION FOR THAT NUMBER EVEN THOUGH MALE ARTISTS IN HER GENRE HAVE BEEN DOING THIS FOR DECADES.

IT WAS A PROBLEM WHEN SHE DID IT.

SO IT’S INTERESTING TO SEE HER INTRODUCING HER SEX AGENCY WITH HER PLATFORM AND GETTING THE RECEPTION SUCH AS SHE DID.

STEPHANIE: MAURA, WHAT ABOUT YOU?

ANY BREAKING ARTISTS YOU WANT TO NOTE?

MAURA: NOAH KAHN IS ONE WITH SECURITY.

NOAH KAHAN: ♪ AND I’LL DREAM EVERY NIGHT SOME VERSION OF YOU ♪ ♪ MAURA: HE’S A VERMONT SINGER WRITER.

HE’S BEEN A LONG TIME, BUT HE’S HAD A BIG YEAR.

ALSO, PESO PLUMA WAS A BIG BREAKTHROUGH ARTIST.

HE’S FROM MEXICO AND WAS ON MUSICA MEXICANA’S FIRST SINGLE TO MAKE THE TOP TEN.

AND IT REALLY, YOU KNOW, BRINGS TRADITIONAL MEXICAN SOUNDS WITH IDEAS BORROWED FROM HIP HOP AND MODERN R&B.

STEPHANIE: WERE THERE ANY OTHER UNUSUAL TRENDS THAT EITHER OF YOU HAPPENED IN MUSIC THIS YEAR?

MAURA: I GUESS FOR ME, SEEING THE AMERICAN RANKINGS BECOME SOMEWHAT MORE INFLUENCED IN GLOBAL LOCATIONS.

YOU HAVE JUNGKOOK AND OTHER BTS MEMBERS HAD A LOT OF SUCCESS THROUGH STREAMING.

YOU HAD TYLA FROM SOUTH AFRICA HAVING A HIT WITH ‘WATER’ AND THOSE ARE JUST A FEW OF THE ARTISTS WHO, YOU KNOW, NOT ONLY WERE FROM OTHER COUNTRIES BUT ALSO USED THE MUSIC INSPIRED FROM WHERE THEY WERE FROM TO MAKE THE FULL TEN.

AND I FEEL LIKE THAT’S PART OF THE LOSS OF THE GUARDIANS AND PEOPLE TO RAISE SONGS FROM THE BOTTOM UP THROUGH STREAMING.

CANDACE: I THINK IT’S BEEN GREAT TO SEE BLACK WOMEN EXPLORING, YOU KNOW, DARKER THEMES IN THEIR MUSIC.

SZA’S BIGGEST HIT THIS YEAR IS ABOUT REVENGE FANTASY.

“KILL BILL”, MURDER YOUR EX-BOYFRIEND.

SZA: ♪ DON’T YOU KNOW I DID EVERYTHING FOR US AHHH I JUST KILLED MY EX ♪ ♪ CANDICE: THE DOJ CAT DRESSES UP AS THE DEVIL AND ENJOYS HER SHOWS AT PAINTING THE TOWN RED.

JUST TO SEE THIS DIFFERENT KIND OF IMAGE, OBVIOUSLY, OF BLACK WOMEN WHO ARE NOT AFRAID OF THE MOMENT, WHO ARE NOT AFRAID TO GO TO THESE PLACES THAT OTHER ARTISTS HAVE GONE.

STEPHANIE: WHEN YOU LISTEN TO A SONG LIKE SZA’S “KILL BILL” OR, YOU KNOW, WHEN YOU SEE SEXUAL BOLDNESS FROM SOME OF THE MUSIC VIDEOS THAT CAME OUT THIS YEAR, HOW DOES THAT FEEL TO YOU AS A BLACK WOMAN CONSUMING THE CONTENT?

CANDICE: I LOVE IT.

I FEEL WE NEED TO SEE THIS REPRESENTATION.

WE HAVE TO EXPLORE THESE PLACES WE HAVEN’T BEEN YET, WE HAVE TO EXPLORE OUR FULLNESS.

YOU TOO TAKE RISKS.

IF LADY GAGA CAN WEAR A MEAT DRESS I MUST BE IN CHARACTER TOO.

[LAUGHTER] SO — AND THE DIALOGUE THAT COMES FROM THAT MAKES PEOPLE UNCOMFORTABLE.

LET’S TALK ABOUT IT.

LET’S UNDERSTAND WHY THIS RESONATES.

STEPHANIE: MAURA, WHAT WERE SOME OF THE MOST INTERESTING MUSIC RELEASES YOU HEARD?

MAURA: I WOULD SAY CHAPEL ROWAN WHO RELEASED AN ALBUM CALLED THE RISE AND FALL OF A MIDWEST PRINCESS WHICH IS PROBABLY THE FUNNIEST POP ALBUM OF THE YEAR.

AND IT’S REALLY BOLD AND BOLD AND VERY SEXUAL.

AND SOMEONE FOLLOWS HER ON HER JOURNEY, DISCOVERING HER SEXUALITY.

I REALLY LOVED KALI UCHIS, RED – – “RED MOON AND VENUS” WHICH IS JUST A REALLY WONDERFUL SOUNDING, MUST-HAVE MEDITATION ON LOVE AND WHAT IT MEANS.

ZAC BRYAN IS ANOTHER ARTIST WHO HAD A BIG YEAR AND I THOUGHT HIS SELF-SELF ALBUM WAS AWESOME.

IT COMBINES HEARTLAND ROCK AND AMERICA AND COUNTRY WITH A BIT OF INDY ROCK FAILURE IN THIS REALLY FUN WAY.

AND I REALLY LOVE THE PARAMORE ALBUM.

SUPER BRIGHT, SUPER CONFRONTATION, YOU KNOW, SOMETHING TO DROP ALL THE ROCKER BITS FROM THEIR LAST TWO RECORDS AND JUST GO REALLY ALMOST POST-PUNK.

CANDASSIE: I THINK VICTORIA MONET’S DEBUT ALBUM, JAGUAR, IS TWO VERY POWERFUL, VERY POPULAR ALL OVER SOCIAL MEDIA FOR “MY MOMMA”, YOU CAN’T ESCAPE THAT SONG.

– – TO MY MOM, YOU WILL NOT ESCAPE THIS SONG.

AND TO SEE HER TRANSITION FROM SONGWRITER FOR ARTISTS LIKE ARIANA GRANDE DAY AND BLACKPINK TO AN ACT THAT HAS HER OWN SPOTLIGHT SHOWS SHE CAN DO IT.

VICTORIA MONETTE: ♪ LIE LIE LIE I PUT THIS ON MY HEAD I’M FLYING I LOOK GOOD ♪ ♪ KANDASIE: SHE CAN DANCE AND SING AND WRITE SONG AND HAS THIS STAGE PRESENCE THAT’S REALLY IMPRESSIVE.

I ALSO THINK THE “BOYGENIUS” RECORD, I GOT TO SEE THEM EARLIER THIS YEAR AT THE RESTORATION AND THERE WAS SO MUCH AWESOME ABOUT THE RECORD AND I WAS LIKE, I’M NOT GOING TO LISTEN TO IT ANYWAY.

AND I SAW THEM AND I’M LIKE, OH NOW I GET IT.

LIKE, YOU’VE GOT THESE THREE WOMEN, YOU KNOW, JUST SO BRILLIANT AND WHAT THEY’RE DOING SONGWRITING, WRITING THESE REALLY HARD BATTLE MELODIES.

GENIUS BOY: ♪ I CAN’T STOP LOOKING AT THE CEILING AND SPINNING OUT AND ABOUT ♪ ♪ CANDICE: JUST LIKE IT WAS A GREAT RECORD.

STEPHANIE: LAST QUESTION.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE SONG OF THE YEAR CANDICE?

CANDICE: I LOVED THE KILLER MIKE “MICHAEL” ALBUM THIS YEAR.

IT HAS A SONG CALLED ‘DOWN BY LAW’ FEATURING CEILLO GREEN AND ‘VERY POWERFUL’ OPENS THE RECORD.

KILLER MIKE: ♪ MY NAME IS MICHAEL I’M OF THE LAW I’M OF THE LAW ♪ ♪ CEELO: ♪ WILL YOU HELP US OH HOLY FATHER ♪ ♪ CANDICE: JUST GETTING YOUR ATTENTION.

THIS IS VERY GROUNDED.

HIS BARITONE IS JUST HE JUST HUGS YOU AND KIND OF SETS THE TONE FOR THIS EXPLORATION OF HIS SELF IN THIS PROJECT.

STEPHANIE: GOOD ANSWER, MAURA.

MAURA: I THINK IT HAS TO BE A BAD IDEA RIGHT BY OLIVIA RODRIGO.

OLIVIA RODRIGO: ♪ YEAH I KNOW HE’S MY EX BUT CAN’T TWO SOULS GET CONNECTED AGAIN.

I ONLY SEE HIM AS A FRIEND.

THE BIGGEST LIE I’VE EVER TELL ♪ ♪ MAURA: I LOVE HOW SHE USES THE RUGGED TEXTURES OF 90’S ALT ROCK.

MUSICALLY CAPSULE THE STICKY FEELINGS SHE GET FROM SEEING HER EX AFTER A LONG TIME AND I JUST THINK SHE’S A REALLY GREAT ARTIST WHO, YOU KNOW, OBVIOUSLY HITS MY NOSTALGIA.

BUT AT THE SAME TIME SHE DOES IT IN A WAY THAT FEELS VERY NATURAL.

STEPHANIE: CANDICE McDUFFEE AND

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