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What Do We Make of the Year-End Billboard Hot 100?

Mr. Nimbus | 12/12/2023

In late November, Billboard released its Year-End Hot 100 chart, ranking the 100 biggest hits of the 2023 chart year on the marquee songs listing. It was topped by Morgan Wallen’s 16-week Hot 100 No. 1 “Last Night” — one of his eight entries on the chart, most of any artist, all hailing from parent album One Thing at a Time — with Miley Cyrus’ “Flowers” and SZA’s “Kill Bill” following behind at Nos. 2 and 3.

With a little time to reflect on it, Billboard‘s staff is taking a look at some of the more interesting entries and trends on the Year-End chart. What songs were higher or lower than we expected? And what songs on the current weekly Hot 100 will we expect to be high finishers on the 2024 Year-End rankings? Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.

1. A top three of “Last Night,” “Flowers” and “Kill Bill” feels about right for 2023. If you had to pick just one of the three to really capture the year in music, which would it be?

Kyle Denis: I’d have to go with “Kill Bill.” By all accounts, this was SZA’s year and the endurance of “Kill Bill” – even alongside another solo SOS single with comparable success (“Snooze”) – is a testament to how effortlessly she dominated 2023. 

Lyndsey Havens: It is pretty amazing that the top three songs really do represent what this year in music looked like, from country music’s dominance to pop music’s self-aware era. And while I’m tempted to pick the monster-hit “Flowers,” I have to go with the only right answer here: “Kill Bill.” Despite arriving in 2022, the way in which SZA remained front and center throughout 2023 — and the way in which this single alone never lost steam — makes it the obvious pick to represent the year. With the moody and menacing SOS hit, SZA not only made her long-awaited return but also helped other emerging R&B artists cut through — and proved that no genre is off limits for her, or anyone who is up next. 

Jason Lipshutz: While SZA’s SOS became a defining album of the past year, Miley Cyrus’ “Flowers” captured the year in music more than “Kill Bill” for me by functioning more like a traditional mega-hit. For the first few months of 2023, “Flowers” was absolutely everywhere — atop streaming playlists, on multiple radio formats, blasting in retail stores and across social media. “Last Night” owned the chart-topping longevity and “Kill Bill” was a months-long TikTok sensation, but I’ll remember the multi-quadrant enormity of “Flowers” most clearly.

Joe Lynch: SZA’s “Kill Bill.” With that woozy intro and the homicidal lyrics, it’s got a bit of an edge, but it’s total radio catnip. It works as pleasant background music for some and sing-along fodder for others – it’s well-suited for this era of vibey, low-key music, a market where listeners don’t seem to respond to maximalist pop or hip-hop that’s so hard it would net a 10 on the Mohs scale.  

Andrew Unterberger: I’ll say “Last Night,” which is representative of both the most most commercially ascendant genre of 2023 and of the way pop listening has become diffuse enough that a 16-week Hot 100 No. 1 could seem like the biggest song of the year to some and barely even make the notice of others.

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2. Do any of the songs in the top 25 particularly surprise you — either because you didn’t realize they were that big or because you don’t think of them as being that relevant to 2023? 

Kyle Denis: “Unholy” at No. 11 surprised me a little bit. For me, that song feels very attached to 2022 and it didn’t really seem to be driving much conversation during 2023, so a placement just outside the top 10 is impressive. 

Lyndsey Havens: I think what surprises me the most is just how prevalent country music was this year — eight out of 28 songs on the tally belong to the genre. But beyond that major takeaway, I’m most surprised by Chris Brown’s “Under the Influence”… a song I managed to go all year without hearing?… (And yes, I realize I am calling myself out ). My main thought is: “Must be from TikTok.”

Jason Lipshutz: If you gave me 100 guesses at songs in the top 20 of the 2023 year-end Hot 100, I don’t think I would have named Morgan Wallen’s “Thinkin’ Bout Me” — which is mostly a symptom of the song being the third-biggest Wallen hit of the year, as well as the slew of bigger country hits (Zach Bryan’s “Something in the Orange” and Bailey Zimmerman’s “Rock and a Hard Place” among them) above it on the list. “Thinkin’ Bout Me” coming in at No. 19 on the year-end chart speaks to Wallen’s gargantuan chart impact in 2023, where his One Thing at a Time album wasn’t just limited to just one smash single; maybe “Thinkin’ Bout Me” doesn’t persist as a durable hit, but Wallen’s 2023 achievements will stand for a long time.

Joe Lynch: Perhaps it’s recency bias, but I didn’t think of the Ariana/Weeknd “Die for You” as such an enduring song to be in the year-end top 10. “As It Was” – which came out a year-and-a-half ago! — is a surprise to see in 2023’s top 25. But the real surprise for me is Miguel’s “Sure Thing” – maybe it’s just his low-profile these days, but that got an eyebrow raise out of me, as I wouldn’t call that a ubiquitous track of 2023.  

Andrew Unterberger: I still can’t believe that “Something in the Orange” (No. 13) was as massive as it was — it never felt unignorably huge (or like the kind of hit that ultimately becomes unignorably huge) in the moment. But it stuck around forever, and now it wouldn’t surprise me if Zach Bryan’s “I Remember Everything” (with Kacey Musgraves) rates even higher on the 2024 Year-End Hot 100.

3. What song outside of the top 25 would you have sworn would finish in the chart’s top quarter?

Kyle Denis: I think I was most shocked to see the following placements: Lil Uzi Vert’s “Just Wanna Rock” (No. 28), Gunna’s “Fukumean” (No. 31), Coi Leray’s “Players” (No. 33) and Nicki Minaj, Ice Spice & AQUA’s “Barbie World” (No. 46). For the Uzi, its placement is understandable considering some of their biggest chart weeks probably fell in the tracking period for the 2022 Year-End charts. Regardless, “Just Wanna Rock” felt like one of the most dominant hip-hop crossover hits of the year, alongside “Players” and “Fukumean,” so all three tracks being absent from the top 25 is pretty surprising. 

I also find it curious that none of the Barbie songs landed in the top 25. The Nicki/Ice track felt a bit bigger than its Year-End peak suggests, as did Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night.” 

Lyndsey Havens: Coming in at No. 26 is “Ella Baila Sola,” the defining musica Mexicana song this year, and as such one of the defining Latin music songs overall this year. I’m pretty shocked it didn’t crack the top 25, though am at the least pleased it got so close. I’m also pretty shocked to see “Vampire” at No. 30, Olivia Rodrigo’s highest entry on this year-end chart. For an artist who seemed to have such a dominant presence this year, I would have guessed this song would have landed much higher.

Jason Lipshutz: I’m shocked that Gunna’s “Fukumean” only clocks in at No. 31 — mostly because it was released in July, so it missed out on more than half a year of chart points, but in my mind, that two-minute-and-change gem lingered in the top 10 of the Hot 100 for months on end. Regardless of where it ended up on the year-end chart, there won’t many more rap songs as year-defining as “Fukumean.”

Joe Lynch: Doja Cat’s “Paint the Town Red.” A three-week No. 1 on the Hot 100, a legit viral song, a radio hit and IMO one of the defining songs of 2023. I’m a bit surprised to see it rank just outside of the year-end top 50 – not even as high as Steve Lacy’s “Bad Habit,” which seems like it came a million years ago. Maybe more listeners left “Red” on read than I thought.  

Andrew Unterberger: I’ll add to the chorus of support for “Fukumean” here, which not only felt like one of the defining hits of 2023, but — to my largely anecdotal experience — felt like it hung in or around the top 10 for most of the year. Maybe just a quirk of the math that it ends up so (relatively) low, but I definitely would’ve guessed top 20 for that one.

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4. It’s not unusual for songs from a Year-End Hot 100 chart to have been technically released the year before, but 2023 is unusual in that four of the top 20 (“Die for You,” “I’m Good,” “Under the Influence” and “Cruel Summer”) were either first released or first teased in the prior decade — while another two (“Creepin’” and “Fast Car”) are covers of songs from even longer ago. Does this fixation on the past say anything particularly interesting to you about pop music in 2023, or is it more of a coincidence than anything?

Kyle Denis: I think it definitely says something about the nostalgia loop we seem to be stuck in culturally. It makes sense that a year that saw a boom of nostalgia-bait podcasts for old T.V. shows and the dominance of a tour literally built on self-reflection (Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour) would be characterized by hit songs that consciously gesture to the past. 

On the other hand, I think that the success of more recent catalogue tracks like “Die for You,” “Cruel Summer” and “Under the Influence” is emblematic of how quickly we seem to move through album cycles nowadays. Outside of a few album campaigns lengthened by the pandemic year of 2020, the past few years have seen our biggest artists opting for quick follow-ups and lengthy tracklists – sometimes at the same time. This, in turn, leaves the consumer with a massive surplus of music to sift through, and, as it happens, not every gem is uncovered in an album’s original release year. 

“Cruel Summer,” for example, has always been a fan favorite from Lover, but Swift only pushed one singles from that record after its full release. She then dropped a pair of new albums the following year. That’s three album’s worth of new material in two years from an artist who used to plot exactly two years between LPs; of course, it took a minute for “Cruel Summer” to elbow its way into the limelight! 

Lyndsey Havens: I definitely think it’s illustrative of consumption habits today and not at all a coincidence. We’ve seen it happen before this year, where old hits become new again — the examples are plentiful — and while for some time that was credited to the all-mighty TV synch, it has become more and more possible due to TikTok, an app that seems to exist outside of linear time. More than ever, consumers are in the driver’s seat when it comes to selecting what songs — new or old — take off. From there, as we’ve seen particularly with a song like “Cruel Summer” or “Kill Bill,” it’s up to the artist to determine how much fuel they want to add to that fire.

Jason Lipshutz: We’re seeing the TikTok-ification of the music industry in real time: old songs becoming new hits after being revived on social media has become commonplace, particularly when, in the cases of “Die for You” and “Cruel Summer,” they involve superstars with huge promotional apparatuses ready to pounce upon bubbling trends. The success of “Creepin’” and “Fast Car” are extensions of that industry evolution in my mind, since their success was predicated upon listeners hoisting them up above the original tracks on Metro Boomin and Luke Combs’ respective albums. The year-end Hot 100 demonstrates that, today, music fans don’t care if a song is old or new, or an original or a cover — they just care if it’s good enough to stream on repeat.

Joe Lynch: I’m hesitant to wax philosophical too much, but here I go. I don’t think it’s coincidence. During fraught, stressful socio-political periods in history, audiences frequently go back to sounds and intellectual properties from the past. Familiarity is comfort for many, and consumers – whether they’re music listeners, movie-goers, Broadway regulars, video gamers or whatever – tend to seek out the familiar in times of national and international uncertainty.  

Andrew Unterberger: It’s about TikTok, for sure — but it’s also about radio essentially acquiescing to TikTok when it comes to determining what a hit is and should be. Two or three years ago, some of these songs might’ve gone viral without ever really being embraced by radio, and without that second wind to their chart fortunes they would’ve faded on the Hot 100 before they got the chance to really make enough impact for the Year-End ranking. But now, top 40 is following TikTok’s lead on songs like “Die for You,” “Cruel Summer” and Combs’ “Fast Car,” and it’s resulting in some of the biggest and longest-lasting hits of the year.

5. If you had to bet, what song that’s currently on the Hot 100 would you expect to finish the highest on the 2024 Year-End tally?

Kyle Denis: I’m putting my money on either Jack Harlow’s “Lovin On Me,” Tate McRae’s “Greedy” or Tyla’s “Water.” 

Lyndsey Havens: I’m going to guess Tate McRae’s “Greedy,” with my runner-up picks being SZA’s “Snooze” and Dua Lipa’s “Houdini” (as Lipa has said herself, her songs are slow burns… and if an album drops next year, “Houdini” will likely enjoy renewed attention). Even so, “Greedy” seems like the obvious choice here, largely given my answer above about the role TikTok plays in sustaining a hit today. And despite McRae recently saying she doesn’t want to make hits for TikTok, her fans have other plans — and they most definitely are using “Greedy” to soundtrack their clips on the app. Because of this, I do think the song will sustain through the holiday season and well into 2024.  

Jason Lipshutz: Let’s go with Noah Kahan’s “Stick Season,” which has peaked at No. 31 and spent 10 weeks on the chart thus far, but Kahan feels primed for a huge, arena-show-packed 2024, and as his signature song, “Stick Season” could keep hanging around the top 40 of the Hot 100 for months on end. Maybe it never reaches No. 1 or even breaks into the top 10, but I’d be pretty surprised if “Stick Season” isn’t high up on the 2024 year-end Hot 100.

Joe Lynch: Morgan Wallen’s “Last Night.” A song this unstoppable in 2023 is going to keep going on radio and streaming well into 2024, making this seem like a “Night” that just won’t end.

Andrew Unterberger: Alluded to this earlier, but “I Remember Everything” is my call for a song that unexpectedly catches a second wind (radio finally getting on board?) in 2024 and lingers on the chart for longer than anyone expects.

This post was originally published on this site

Written by Mr. Nimbus

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