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The 10 Best Albums of 2023

From behind-the-scenes hitmakers stepping into the spotlight to a glitter bomb of a soundtrack and a double dose of rap genius, The Hollywood Reporter’s senior music editor picks his favorites.

Of course SZA’s SOS was the album I played the most in 2023 — but remember, it came out in December 2022 and I ranked it second on last year’s list of top albums, obviously under Beyoncé’s Renaissance.

Though SZA owned the year, several great albums showed up in 2023. Here are the projects that lived rent free in my home and in my headphones.

1. Victoria Monét, Jaguar II
It’s a beautiful thing when someone working to help others achieve their dreams steps into the limelight. With Jaguar II, that’s Victoria Monét. The songwriter behind hits for Ariana Grande and others has been releasing incredible music for years — check out 2018’s Life After Love, Pt. 2 and 2020’s Jaguar if you’re just arriving at her fan club — but she’s finally at the forefront, and her major label debut album is a masterpiece. She’s bold and bombastic on “On My Mama,” soothing on “How Does It Make You Feel,” tantalizing on “Party Girls,” sultry on “Smoke (Reprise),” hilarious on “Stop (Askin’ Me 4Shyt)” and classic on “Hollywood,” which features Earth, Wind & Fire and Monét’s 2-year-old daughter, Hazel. She’s a Jill of all trades — she can sing, write, produce, engineer and dance. “That’s just ‘cause I’m heaven sent,” she sings on “On My Mama.” Damn right.

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2. Kali Uchis, Red Moon In Venus
“It’s like Valentine Day’s every day,” Uchis sings on the Rodney Jerkins-produced R&B adventure, “Endlessly.” I’d use that quote to describe how it feels listening to her extraordinary album. Uchis’ brand of Latin R&B is sexy, exquisite, elegant and damn-near perfecto. 

3. Sam SmithGloria
From mid-tempo numbers (“Six Shots,” “No God”) to upbeat gems (“Gimme,” “I’m Not Here to Make Friends”) to the guitar-tinged “How to Cry,” Smith’s Gloria is glorious. 

4. Various artists, Barbie: The Album
Listening to the Barbie soundtrack is just like playing with the famed doll: You’ve got options, and all of them are fun. The singles — from Dua Lipa’s disco bop “Dance the Night” to Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice’s bad-ass “Barbie World” to Billie Eilish’s lush and lovely “What Was I Made For?” — are superb. And the album cuts are equally as grand. Sam Smith’s “Man I Am” is like a piece of candy: short, sweet and addictive. Khalid is smooth AF on “Silver Platter,” Ava Max is ready to f**k shit up on “Choose Your Fighter” and Tame Impala’s “Journey to the Real” world is epic and dreamy. Barbie may be plastic, but this album is the real deal.

5. NasMagic 2
Nas worked overtime in 2023, releasing two albums that serve as the sequels to 2021’s Magic. Continuing to build on his partnership with superproducer Hit-Boy, Nas offers vivid storytelling that’s unmatched. His 16th and 17th albums further prove this lyrical king is the best rapper alive. 

6. Nas, Magic 3
See above.

7. Troye SivanSomething to Give Each Other
Sivan’s third album sounds like freedom. From its thrusting singles (“Rush,” “Got Me Started”) to my personal favorites (“In My Room,” “What’s the Time Where You Are?”), Something to Give Each Other is full of seductive house music and heavenly pop, and it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

8. Leon Thomas, Electric Dusk
Like Monét, Thomas has worked tirelessly behind the scenes as a songwriter-producer. With Electric Dusk, it’s his time to shine — and he doesn’t disappoint: The R&B album with acoustic feels takes you on a journey with highlights including “Breaking Point,” “Crash & Burn,” “Sneak,” “Slow Down” and more.

9. Olivia RodrigoGuts
Emo pop-rock goodness with sharp songwriting and playful storytelling, Guts perfectly captures the emotional rollercoaster of young love, dating and dusty boys. 

10. Coco Jones, What I Didn’t Tell You [Deluxe]
Jones caught our attention with her sultry No. 1 R&B hit “ICU,” but with the deluxe edition of her debut EP, all eyes remain on her. From the thumping album opener “Crazy for Me” to the SWV-sampled “Bounce Back,” What I Didn’t Tell You tells you everything: This girl can sing, and those five Grammy nominations are proof.

Honorable mentions: Lana Del Rey, Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd; Killer Mike, Michael; Zach Bryan, Zach Bryan; Destin Conrad, Submissive; Kelela, Raven