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The best albums of 2023

A graphic of the list of artists with the best albums.
KAYTRAMINÉ, Reneé Rapp, Raye, Olivia Rodrigo, and boygenius.Lucas Creighton; Katia Temkin; Callum Walker Hutchinson; Nick Walker; Shervin Lainez; Chelsea Jia Feng/BI
  • BI's music reporter ranked the 15 best albums of 2023, using factors like critical acclaim and listenability.

  • "The Record" by boygenius took the top spot.

  • Mitski, Olivia Rodrigo, Raye, and KAYTRAMIN´´É rounded out the top five.

This year was full of beloved songs and breakout hits, but album creation is a different beast.

As Business Insider's senior music reporter, I spend a lot of time thinking about that distinction. What transforms a collection of tracks into an album? And how is it further transformed by its audience?

I always approach my year-end roundups with those questions in mind. This time around, they led me to differentiate the song ranking and the album ranking entirely. Every selection for the list below is a cohesive work of art, better consumed in one sitting than sliced into bite-sized pieces.

Keep reading to see my favorite albums released in 2023, ranked from worst to best. (Please note: SZA's "SOS" came out in 2022.)

15. "Henge" by Gus Dapperton

henge gus dapperton album cover
"Henge" was released on July 7, 2023.Warner Records

Gus Dapperton has been a key figure in the bedroom-pop movement since 2017, when songs like "I'm Just Snacking" and "Prune, You Talk Funny" caught the attention of indieheads online.

"Henge," his third studio album, preserves the easy-listening charisma of his earlier hits. But Dapperton has graduated to bigger spaces. These songs are heavier, brighter, and fuller — the sort of music that would sound great in an arena. Dapperton has expressed admiration for artists like Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen, and Fleetwood Mac — he often covers songs like "I'm On Fire" and "Landslide" during live shows — and "Henge" reflects the scale of that ambition.

It also reflects Dapperton's strong synergistic instincts. "Henge" features a duet with Nigerian singer-songwriter Cruel Santino ("Lights") and a well-placed reunion with his "Supalonely" collaborator BENEE ("Don't Let Me Down").

The album ends with "Sunrise," a spoken-word track delivered by author and poet Ocean Vuong, who thanked Dapperton (among other musicians like Perfume Genius, Etta James, and Frank Ocean) in the acknowledgments for his acclaimed novel "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous."

"The city is doused pink / By the dust of crushed hours," Vuong recites. "And you are alone only in flesh / And the ghosts you've loved walk with you / Here, on the edge of memory."

The closer is a stroke of genius I can't imagine occurring to anyone but Dapperton, confirming "Henge" as a fully realized artistic vision.

Best songs: "Sunset," "Horizons," "Don't Let Me Down"

14. "The Good Witch" by Maisie Peters

maisie peters the good witch album cover
"The Good Witch" was released on June 23, 2023.Gingerbread Man Records/Warner Music UK

In his collection of essays, "The Triggering Town," Richard Hugo argues, "If you are a private poet, then your vocabulary is limited by your obsessions."

"It doesn't bother me that the word 'stone' appears more than thirty times in my third book, or that 'wind' and 'gray' appear over and over in my poems to the disdain of some reviewers," he writes. "If I didn't use them that often I'd be lying about my feelings, and I consider that unforgivable."

This passage may offer some comfort to Maisie Peters, who is as much a poet as she is a singer; much like her mentor Ed Sheeran, Peters is credited as the primary songwriter for every piece of music she's released.

In fact, Peters told Rolling Stone UK that being "obsessed" is the core motif of her sophomore album, "The Good Witch."

"I think women are pretty private with their obsessions, apart from to other women maybe," she said. "Sometimes it's funny because people are like, 'Oh, you're so obsessed.' And you're like, 'You have no idea.'"

The key difference is that I would never describe Peters' vocabulary as "limited." Across the same tracklist, she compares herself to an Ancient Greek epic ("Baby, I am 'The Iliad,' of course you couldn't read me"), a Biblical outlaw ("So Samson blamed Delilah, but given half the chance, I would've made him weaker too"), and Peter Pan's young heroine ("Behind every lost boy, there's always a Wendy").

Peters' references are rich and varied, adding an academic edge to her coming-of-age story that balances the colloquial, heavy-handed moments ("Watch," "BSC," "Run").

Some of these choruses are clearly designed for group singalongs. It's an album arranged with a setlist in mind, but that's a big part of the draw. Peters is not just a private poet; her music is best enjoyed in a crowd of fellow Delilahs and Wendys.

Never underestimate the power of a woman embracing her obsessions. Samson and Peter never stood a chance.

Best songs: "Coming of Age," "Body Better," "Wendy," "History of Man"

13. "10,000 Gecs" by 100 gecs

100 gecs album cover 10,000 gecs
"10,000 Gecs" was released on March 17, 2023.Dog Show Records/Atlantic Records

Listening to "10,000 Gecs" for the first time might've been the most ridiculous, confusing, and exhilarating 27 minutes of my entire year.

The sophomore album by experimental duo Dylan Brady and Laura Les, better known as 100 gecs, is unlike everything else on this list — and that's very much by design. Brady and Les are musical provocateurs, the Gen-Z version of '90s punk rockers.

The album opens with the THX sound test (enjoy the show!) before launching into a hyper-pop spree with "Dumbest Girl Alive," "757," and "Hollywood Baby." Brady and Les spend three songs thrashing, throwing glitchy distortions in your face, but just when you think you've got them figured out, "Frog on the Floor" — a ska song — arrives like a punchline.

"10,000 Gecs" is full of weird choices: doo-wop crooning, death-metal growling, a song called "Doritos & Fritos" that reminds me of "Blitzkrieg Bop." Weirder still? It all sounds good.

Best songs: "Dumbest Girl Alive," "Billy Knows Jamie," "The Most Wanted Person In the United States"

12. "Raven" by Kelela

kelela raven album cover
"Raven" was released on February 10, 2023.Warp Records

As in Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem, the raven is traditionally a symbol of death. But in the titular track of her second album, "Raven," Kelela reimagines the black-feathered bird as a harbinger of hope: "Through all the labor / A raven is reborn/ They tried to break her / There's nothing here to mourn."

These lyrics speak to Kelela's personal return — "Raven" arrived nearly six years after her lauded debut — as well as the sociopolitical context that informed the album's creation.

In 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement was reignited by tragedy. The ensuant "uprising" inspired Kelela to "service the people who are there in the front row and have always been there," she told Billboard. "Queer Black people."

"As a person who has always felt outside, there's a deep catharsis in finding an entire social network of people who are also on the outside and making a group based off that marginalization," she added.

"Raven" is the work of an artist with community and catharsis on the mind. It's an album to sink into — a rich, gelatinous refuge from the exhausting attention economy.

Even in the album's more upbeat moments, when Kelela's reputation as a club darling kicks in, the tracklist progression is smooth and natural. Each step flows into the next, like waves on a shore, or a tried-and-true skincare routine. Put down your phone and close your eyes, because Kelela's voice can wash you clean.

Many critics agree, praising Kelela for her deft "mood-building" and "sensuous, unfurling soundscapes." In a rave review that earned Pitchfork's "best new music" label, Eric Torres described "Raven" as a restorative experience that toys with tension and release.

"Kelela's music is hydration for the soul, seductive and relatable even as she continues to refine and evolve her sound," Torres wrote. "You can be drawn in by 'Raven's' all-encompassing atmosphere, but it's even better to lose your whole self in it. "

Best songs: "Happy Ending," "On the Run," "Contact," "Holier"

11. "With a Hammer" by Yaeji

yaeji with a hammer album cover
"With a Hammer" was released on April 7, 2023.Yaeji/XL Recordings

"With a Hammer" is a fascinating blend of club trends, synth-pop quirks, jazzy infusions, and complex questions about trauma, inheritance, and self-awareness. It seems impossible that one album could tackle so much until you hear it.

Yaeji has described herself as a "detail-oriented work freak." But after a lifetime of repression and self-censoring, she wanted her debut album to be a practice in pressure-release therapy. She would no longer deny the effortless pleasure of anger. Instead, she would pick up a hammer. The album title is just about as literal as it gets.

When Yaeji was interviewed by Cat Zhang for Pitchfork, the two women even visited a "rage room" in Brooklyn to smash ceramic plates and old electronics. The album is just that: demolition through a controlled, intentional lens.

"I had lived 20-whatever years thinking, 'I'm not going to cause any problems, and if something crazy happens I'm going to push it down,'" Yaeji said. "And now there's this new, spunky kid who has just awakened and is trying to scream."

As Zhang noted, Yaeji's Korean-American background can't help but inform this awakening. There has been a rise in violence against Asian people, especially women, in recent years; paired with harmful stereotypes about Asian women being quiet and small, that's one hell of a repression drug.

Given this context, Yaeji's decision to rebel becomes even more poignant. "With a Hammer" is transformed from a personal purge into a universal lesson about honoring your emotions, caring for yourself, and, in turn, caring for others.

"Thinking now, my anger doesn't take the form of a rage room," Yaeji's told Zhang. "It's abstractly about how anger is shapeshifting and how it passed through me. In a sense, the record is me just living and breathing."

Best songs: "For Granted," "Away x5," "Happy"

10. "Snow Angel" by Reneé Rapp

renee rapp snow angel album cover
"Snow Angel" was released on August 18, 2023.Interscope

Maybe it's her Broadway background, but Reneé Rapp is one of a handful of pop stars who sound like they mean what they sing.

Rapp's theatricality courses through the veins of "Snow Angel," her official debut album. Her delivery adapts and twists to compliment each song: rambling in the bridge of "Talk Too Much," flirting in the second verse of "Pretty Girls," and giggling in the outro of "Poison Poison" while she tells her nemesis to "shut the fuck up and die." Her commitment to the bit is unparalleled.

"I'm a very dramatic person," Rapp told me back in April. "People have always been like, 'Oh, you know, shouldn't hold grudges. You shouldn't hold blah blah blah.' I'm like, 'I'm 23, I got time to hold a grudge.' I'm actually OK too. I don't mind it."

In many ways, "Snow Angel" feels like a living document. Just as Rapp's performance is always shifting, so is her emotional state. She goes from wallowing to seething in five seconds flat; she blames an entire city for her heartbreak ("I Hate Boston"), takes the blame herself ("Gemini Moon"), puts a curse on her ex's future children ("Tummy Hurts"), and wills herself to "care less" ("23"), all across the same tracklist.

Rapp seems to savor her regrets, roll them around on her tongue, just to spit them back out and start the process again. Every flavor is important and precious.

"You don't just have one attitude," Rapp said. "I really don't know how to pinpoint exactly what I feel, but I do know that I feel multiple things at once."

Best songs: "Snow Angel," "Pretty Girls," "Tummy Hurts," "Willow"

9. "This Is Why" by Paramore

paramore this is why album cover
"This Is Why" was released on February 10, 2023.Atlantic Recording Group

Paramore has cast a long shadow over the community of emo-pop fans, especially those of us who were active during the Warped Tour era. Songs like "Misery Business" and "The Only Exception" are seared into the annals of our psychology.

But "This Is Why," the band's first album in nearly six years, does not rely on nostalgia to propel its appeal.

In lieu of rehashing their glory days, the bandmates cast their withering eyes on the ridiculous phenomena of adulthood, some of which they summarized neatly on a list: agoraphobia; apathy; moral superiority.

The very first song, which shares the album's name, details the band's refusal to leave the house and to engage with other people. "If you have an opinion, maybe you should shove it" is the very first line.

It's difficult to review an album that evades critique by design. However, harsh words don't always convey the truth. Hayley Williams, the band's lead vocalist and songwriter, has always used sarcasm, humor, and rage to cope with complex emotions. Here, disdain is a mask for the real problem: she fears the world is too cruel to reenter.

In a press release for the title track, Williams said it summarizes "the rollercoaster of being alive in 2022, having survived even just the last three or four years."

"You'd think after a global pandemic of fucking biblical proportions and the impending doom of a dying planet, that humans would have found it deep within themselves to be kinder or more empathetic or something," she added.

Thankfully, the album is not a nihilistic doom spiral with no glimmer of hope. "This Is Why" may open with a song about shutting down and shutting people out, but losing faith in humanity fixes nothing. The band spends the next 33 minutes fighting that urge, grappling with anxiety, calling out bad guys — even falling in love.

By the final song, "Thick Skull," Williams is confronting her fears head-on, embracing all the frustration and malaise that life has to offer: "Same lesson again? Come on, give it to me, give it to me, give it to me, give it to me." There's still cruelty, of course, but at least she's alive, fully present in her body, and head-banging away.

Best songs: "Big Man, Little Dignity," "You First," "Figure 8," "Crave"

8. "Fountain Baby" by Amaarae

fountain baby amaarae
"Fountain Baby" was released on June 9, 2023.Interscope

Amaarae was anointed a rising star when the "Sad Girlz Luv Money" remix, her collaboration with Kali Uchis, became a magnet for the internet's coolest choreographers. The viral hit ushered Amaarae onto a broader stage, introducing a new set of fans — myself included — to her cherubic voice, sticky beats, and, in her words, "undeniable swag."

As it turns out, "Sad Girlz Luv Money" was only a primer. The Ghanaian-American singer's sophomore album, "Fountain Baby," takes everything that song did well and doubles it, triples it, then bathes it in the spring of eternal youth.

It's rare for an entire pop album to sound so fresh and so palpable, as if I could reach through the cover art and catch droplets of water on my hand. Amaarae is a master of texture and motion; the songs on this tracklist may ripple, swirl, or slosh around, but they never stop moving. I describe "Fountain Baby" as pop because it's so danceable, but in truth, Amaarae is working with a vast palette, including Afrobeats, R&B, and electro-house.

Similarly, as a songwriter, she's interested in her own versatility. She paints herself as a god, a seductress, a "sociopathic dance queen" — but it's hard to parse the boasts from reality. Amaarae croons about careless wealth and expensive brands on songs titled "Counterfeit" and "Disguise." Later, she begs, "Please don't pop my pretty bubble."

Whether she's lying, manifesting, or simply lost in her fantasy, it's never quite clear.

"Fountain Baby" sounds like a damn good time from top to bottom, and that's enough. But underneath the surface, there's a conversation churning about posture, identity — the delights and limits of conscious self-creation.

Best songs: "Angels In Tibet," "Co-Star," "Counterfeit," "Sociopathic Dance Queen"

7. "Javelin" by Sufjan Stevens

javelin sufjan stevens album cover
"Javelin" was released on October 6, 2023.Asthmatic Kitty Records

In the months since the release of "Javelin," the 10th album by Sufjan Stevens, there have been times when I worry I'm not smart enough to "get" it — or at least to articulate its genius. Stevens is an expert sonic architect, able to stack many intricate layers of instrumentals, crescendos, harmonies, references, and abstract images.

But this isn't an album to dissect or analyze. This is an album to feel.

During my first full listen, I was on the verge of tears throughout the entire first half. Then I heard the final lines of track five: "Give myself as a sacrifice / Genuflecting ghost I kiss no more." I broke.

Stevens wrote, recorded, and produced "Javelin" almost entirely alone. His solitude comes through in his songwriting; he calls himself "a man born invisible," pleads with the void, "Will anybody ever love me?"

Stevens has made albums before as a one-man show, but sadly, this time, his solitude is not a choice. Upon its release, Stevens dedicated "Javelin" to his partner Evans Richardson, who died a few months prior.

"If you happen to find that kind of love, hold it close, hold it tight, savor it, tend to it, and give it everything you've got, especially in times of trouble," Stevens wrote. "Be kind, be strong, be patient, be forgiving, be vigorous, be wise, and be yourself."

True to his word, "Javelin" is kind, strong, patient, forgiving, vigorous, and wise. It's also lonely, sore, intimate, devout, deeply heartfelt, and hopeful against all odds — in other words, an album full of love.

Best songs: "A Running Start," "Will Anybody Ever Love Me?," "So You Are Tired," "Shit Talk"

6. "Desire, I Want to Turn Into You" by Caroline Polachek

caroline polacheck desire i want to turn into you album cover
"Desire, I Want to Turn Into You" was released on February 14, 2023.Perpetual Novice

The opening track on Caroline Polachek's fourth album, "Welcome to My Island," was released as a single last December.

"Hope you like me, you ain't leaving," she sings. "Nothing's gonna be the same again."

At the time, none of us knew how prescient those lyrics were. Unveiled two months later on Valentine's Day, "Desire, I Want to Turn Into You," is like the Bermuda Triangle of albums. Once you're drawn in, you cannot escape.

There is always something new to discover in Polachek's warm, vivid realm. With each listen, her elastic vocals assume new shapes; her enigmatic lyrics reveal new secrets. Her island doesn't abide by normal rules of space and time.

"Desire" is a rare breed of experimental pop, a genre that can sometimes push the boundaries so far that the music becomes unlistenable. "Desire" is odd and avant-garde, yet easy to like. It's immersive without ever getting redundant. Each song captures a unique sensation, whether it's yearning, swooning, dissociating, or romanticizing pain like an A24 movie — but the titular word is always pulsing at the center.

Best songs: "Pretty In Possible," "Crude Drawing of an Angel," "I Believe," "Blood and Butter"

5. "Kaytraminé" by KAYTRAMINÉ

kaytramine album cover
"Kaytraminé was released on May 19, 2023.Kaytranada/Venice Music

So many artists are eager to jump on a remix or provide a guest verse. These days, collaborations are usually done remotely, while a producer is tasked with stitching all the pieces together.

Only a few of these artists are truly collaborating — fusing personal styles to create something new, something that neither person could have made without the other.

"Kaytraminé" was recorded during a creative flurry when two friends rented a house together in Malibu, California — and it shows. These songs thrum with the energy of hot sunny days, clear starry nights, and face-to-face rapport.

Kaytranada and Aminé have been mutual admirers since 2014, when the Portland rapper remixed one of Kaytranada's songs and uploaded the new version to SoundCloud. Aminé was very much still unknown, but the Montreal-based producer made a point to reach out and praise his work. He even offered to give Aminé free beats for his next mixtape.

They decided to make a full-length album in late 2020, after a night of "smoking, drinking a little bit of wine, and dancing in the studio together," Aminé told W magazine.

The result, "Kaytraminé," is collaboration at its finest. It doesn't sound quite like anything they've done before, but it's not totally unfamiliar, either. Both artists were bringing their A-game — perhaps eager to impress each other, or at least to explore new methods of creation.

"It has some of the best Kay beats that he's ever made, and some of the best singing and rapping I've ever done," Aminé told W. "It really leveled up my artistic capabilities."

Best songs: "Master P," "Rebuke," "Eye"

4. "My 21st Century Blues" by Raye

raye my 21st century blues album cover
"My 21st Century Blues" was released on February 3, 2023.Raye/Human Re Sources

"My 21st Century Blues" kicks off with a modest preamble: "Hello, it's Raye here. Please get nice and comfortable, and lock your phones, because the story is about to begin."

It's not hard to imagine why Raye felt a reintroduction — and a request for our attention — was necessary. Even though she's been active for nearly a decade, "My 21st Century Blues" is her first full-length album.

This is due to Raye's well-documented struggle with her former label. In 2021, she publicly accused Polydor of holding her music hostage and ignoring her pleas for creative control. Shortly after, they "agreed to part ways."

During a concert in Brooklyn last March, Raye not-so-affectionately called her former bosses "dickheads," adding, "The theme for the new chapter in my life is honesty. Honesty at whatever cost."

Her frustrations are even more understandable now that she operates independently, free to release whatever kind of music she wants. "My 21st Century Blues" makes it clear that Raye is an artist who transcends genre — whose talents deserve to flourish beyond the path of a "polite pop star." It's the year's most impressive meld of soaring vocals, hypnotic beats, and vulnerable lyrics.

Throughout the album, Raye plays many roles. "Oscar Winning Tears" casts her as a thespian Amy Winehouse, while "The Thrill Is Gone" shows off her dry sense of humor, à la Lily Allen. She doesn't shy away from any topic, regardless of breadth or weight: substance abuse ("Mary Jane"); sexual violence ("Ice Cream Man"); harmful beauty standards ("Body Dysmorphia"); climate change ("Environmental Anxiety").

Raye's songwriting is sharp and her voice is palatial, but she never gets pretentious about either talent; she always knows when to pull back and let the production shine. Maybe she's not a pop star, but she definitely knows how to make a banger.

Honestly, "Escapism" alone clears most of the music on this (or any) list, but "My 21st Century Blues" is greater than the sum of its parts. As Raye makes plain from the jump, the whole album tells a story that's well worth your attention: a deeply personal, yet strangely relatable tale of endurance and self-discovery.

Best songs: "Hard Out Here," "Black Mascara," "Escapism," "Mary Jane," "Worth It"

3. "Guts" by Olivia Rodrigo

olivia rodrigo guts album cover
"Guts" was released on September 8, 2023.Geffen Records

After the runaway success of "Sour," Olivia Rodrigo was confronted with a classic conundrum: How could she create another album, equally beloved, under the glare of a magnifying glass?

Everything she released would be compared to her previous wins, picked apart, and scrutinized — even more so as a young female songwriter, from whom society tends to demand radical honesty and constant, shiny newness. Many of her predecessors have dealt with this pressure by taking a hard-left turn into new terrain, or adopting an armored persona.

Rodrigo did neither. She remained fearless and fiercely true to herself while creating "Guts," her salty, spicy, scrumptious sophomore album.

Rodrigo is at her best when she's turning growing pains into punk-rock bangers. "Guts" is bursting with them. She kicks it off with "All-American Bitch," which sounds like "Brutal" caught a God complex, before strutting into "Bad Idea Right?" with the reckless nerve only a teenager could muster.

Later, Rodrigo lands a seamless one-two punch with "Get Him Back!" and "Love Is Embarrassing," two of the year's best songs. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the rowdy social-anxiety anthem "Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl," which earned a Grammy nomination for best rock song.

Rodrigo signs off with "Teenage Dream," a stirring lament that casts a harsher light on the rest of the tracklist: "I fear that they already got all the best parts of me / And I'm sorry that I couldn't always be your teenage dream."

Even at the end of her triumphant journey, she's still glancing over her shoulder like a fugitive missing her innocence. She turned angst and insecurity into art, but was it worth it? And will it be enough?

Rodrigo's tone is reflective, not accusatory — but if you're left with a sense of discomfort, maybe that's the point.

Best songs: "All-American Bitch," "Bad Idea Right?," "Lacy," "Get Him Back!," "Love Is Embarrassing"

2. "The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We" by Mitski

Mitski the land is inhospitable and so are we album cover
"The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We" was released on September 15, 2023.Dead Oceans

I honestly can't think of a better lyric than "Nothing in the world belongs to me but my love, mine, all mine" — except for maybe, "You're my best friend, now I've no one to tell / How I lost my best friend," or possibly, "You believe me like a god / I betray you like a man."

Mitski's seventh album is thick with revelations, these moments of clarity that find her while she's carrying bags of groceries.

Gone is the pop spectacle of her last album, "Laurel Hell," and even though it was dazzling, I much prefer this new terrain. Despite its wordy title, "The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We" is an unassuming tale of everyday beauty, ache, fear, and moon worship, full of acoustic guitar strums and soft vocals.

Even in the bigger, more bombastic moments ("When Memories Snow," "Star"), Mitski's writing doesn't shock or clobber. It moves gradually, with intention, sinking inside your gut like an anchor.

At the risk of sounding too lofty and conceptual, this album feels like life itself: deceptively simple, privately profound. Even the quietest, most ordinary days are churning beneath the surface; we juggle tasks and errands with pangs of anxiety and thoughts about death. Just because an experience is mundane doesn't mean it's insignificant, as Mitski proves on the opening track, when she sees a bug stuck to the bottom of her drink and somehow finds it holy.

"When I'm bent over, wishing it was over / Making all variety of vows I'll never keep / I try to remember the wrath of the devil / Was also given to him by God," Mitski sings to end the song. She even makes drunken regret sound like a prayer.

Best songs: "Bug Like an Angel," "Heaven," "My Love Mine All Mine," "The Frost," "I'm Your Man"

1. "The Record" by boygenius

boygenius the record album cover
"The Record" was released on March 31, 2023.Columbia

I have already written many, many words about the prowess of "The Record," the official boygenius debut.

When it was released back in March, I knew it would end up as my favorite album of the year. Watching the band perform these songs for the first time at Coachella — head-banging to "$20," sobbing to "We're in Love," cursing the heavens during "Not Strong Enough" — cemented that conviction.

But I didn't anticipate how "The Record" would become such a dominant force in pop culture, a central figure in the queer joy movement, and a Grammy nominee for album of the year.

Of course, boygenius has been precious in queer circles and indie-rock crowds since 2018, when Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus released their first joint EP. "Boygenius" was met with rapturous reviews, followed by years of each member fielding questions about a reunion. (Dacus would always reply, "Gee, I wish!")

The eventual reunion happened organically, when Bridgers began writing the vulnerable ballad "Emily I'm Sorry." Faced with pandemic gloom and pangs of guilt, she texted Baker and Dacus. "I just wanted to talk to my friends," she told Rolling Stone.

Boygenius announced their return by recreating a Nirvana photoshoot for the magazine's cover, prophesying their sprint from niche acclaim to mainstream success. "We want to be a big rock band and not the cool, obscure thing," Baker told The Atlantic.

The band's next-big-thing ambition is an essential part of their power. They made the deliberate choice not to cower or feign humility — an attitude that's built into the band's very name. If boygenius were an all-male supergroup, it wouldn't even be notable.

Baker, Bridgers, and Dacus each bring something distinctive and vital to their joint sessions, but their chemistry is what sets the music apart. "The Record" vibrates with empathy, insight, and mutual respect, both in explicit lyrics and implicit details; Dacus suggested the line "I want to be happy," for example, so Baker and Bridgers would have to sing those words on tour. "The stories you tell yourself about yourself come true," she explained. "It's a spell to cast."

After all the nominations and think pieces from this year, it almost feels redundant to rehash the album's merits. The intelligence, artistry, and technical skill on display are indisputable.

But "The Record" is about more than objective quality. It's more than just an album. It's a spell, a crusade, a safe space — for girls to claim the confidence usually only afforded to boys, for best friends to be in love, and for queer people to feel everything in the open.

"That is what makes [the job] meaningful to me," Baker recently told GQ. "To be away from my family when they need me to be there, to be doing things that I find inane or self-serving. I'm like, 'Dang, look at all those kids.' Like, actually, there's 25,000 little gay kids out there who've heard us talk about things like: be inside of your life. Pay attention to your friends. It's worth it to live."

Best songs: "True Blue," "Cool About It," "Not Strong Enough," "Satanist," "Letter to an Old Poet"

Read about Insider's best songs of 2023 and listen to the complete list on Spotify.

Read the original article on Business Insider