Written by Julie Marasco
2023 for some, was no easy feat. For people like me, we turn to music to get through these hardships and life lessons. So even though this year wasn’t particularly a favorable one of mine, I learned a shit ton. Not only about who I am as an individual, but how I mold into this ever changing world. In lieu of my Spotify Wrapped results, I personally wanted to shout out five songs that got me through this year.
“Flowers” by Miley Cyrus
First and foremost, this female-empowerment song hit its peak for me personally in the early days of 2023. Aside from a girl-power anthem, this song is a reminder of self-love. Throughout all the people that enter our lives no matter their duration, at the end of the day, the only loyal one who stays is ourselves. It’s an upbeat pop ode to remind yourself that you truly don’t need anyone else to romanticize you the way society expects you to be. This song marks the beginning of what would be a year on my journey of true independence, regardless of failed friendships and relationships. I think it’s important at some point in your early 20’s that you date yourself and truly learn your values from within, so you know what you desire in future relationships. No one knows you better than yourself. So buy yourself the damn flowers if you want them.
“What Once Was” by Her’s
I remember I discovered this song in a yoga class. What a bittersweet find it was. It includes an ethereal blend of guitar, bass, a sprinkle of sound mixing and drums to create an alluring and dreamy tempo. The vocalist, Stephen Fitzpatrick, doesn’t stretch his capabilities to meet certain ranges because he doesn’t need to. This melancholy song is ultimately about the unexpected death of Fitzpatrick’s mom. The intro music sparkles in a whimsical way, only to be followed by the melancholic bass. The lyrics go on to explain the buildup of Fitzpatrick learning about the death and how his friends reacted to it. However, the chorus really struck me.
“Baby, I’ve been there before
I was at the point where all I really wanted was someone
And now I’m still hanging on
I was at the end of every tether waiting for what once was”
When listening to this part, you can hear his gut-wrenching pain and the soul he pours into it just overflows. I’m often a sucker for soulful songs, which I think is why this tune struck me. The most heartbreaking part was learning that both members of Her’s, Fitzpatrick and Audun Laading, along with their tour manager, died in a traffic collision in 2019. Such a somber fate for this band, but I’m glad they were able to make a name for themselves before their passing and that people are still playing their music even today.
“After You Cry” by THE ANXIETY: WILLOW and Tyler Cole
If you’re an avid TikTok user, chances are, you’re probably familiar with the hit song “Meet Me At Our Spot” off of this album. I somehow stumbled upon “After You Cry” some odd months ago, and it’s been a great find. Since Willow is part of the talent-filled family as the daughter of Will and Jada Smith, it’s no wonder she inherited a gift. As I’ve recently been honing in on a lot more of her music, I realize that despite her easy stardom, she’s definitely been undermined in the music industry. The range of her vocals going into the second verse just sways me every time.
“If you love me, if you hate me
Yeah, I know I, it won’t change me
I’m the only one that is around when you call
You’re the only one that is around when I fall
Are you seeing anything about what we’ve been through at all?
After you cry”
If you can look beyond the virality of “Meet Me At Our Spot” and explore her discography, Willow has impeccable vocal ranges spread across many genres including R&B, alternative, indie and pop that deserve to be spotlighted. Don’t believe me? Just check out her latest post on Instagram where she freely scats along to Ella Fitzgerald’s “How High The Moon.” I think it’s beautiful that she’s experimenting and having fun with different genres and circling back to the speciality of jazz music that isn’t really popularized as much today. I sincerely hope her music is more appreciated and blows up even more in 2024.
Some of my other favorites that I recommend is “4ever,” “Falling Endlessly,” “Wait a Minute!,” “Time Machine,” and “t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l” with Travis Barker. And of course, I can’t forget the sibling duo of “Summertime in Paris” with her brother Jaden Smith.
Her latest single “alone” came out Nov. 3, 2023.
“Everlong” by Foo Fighters
I’ve been a Foos fan since the early days of middle school. However at that time, I was more of a Wasting Lights fan, with my favorite song being “Walk” because I loved the progressive pacing rock buildup, as you can feel your heart race to the drums and guitars.
There’s just something so alluring about the harmonies of “Everlong” in addition to the instrumentals that captivated my attention. Lyrically, it has the hint of a Kurt Cobain song. When reflecting on the song, Grohl said it’s “about being connected to someone so much that not only do you love them physically and spiritually, but when you sing along with them you harmonize perfectly.” When I read that, not only did I adore it, it all clicked for me. I felt like I found my soulmate in a song. I could truly visualize the embodiment of harmonizing with a person beyond the stereotypical attributes of what defines love. This powerful and romantic song gives me chills everytime I hear this verse. Chances are, you’ve probably seen me play air drums/guitar to this song at one point.
“And I wonder
When I sing along with you
If everything could ever feel this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again”
It’s not overtly a gushy and cheesy romance song. This down-to-earth melody mixed with Grohl’s cool and balanced vocal contrast between subdued and exhilarating is a job exceedingly well done. It may just be my favorite rock song of all time. And to have found that so young, speaks volumes.
“Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” by John Mayer
One of the most beautiful songs I’ve learned to truly cherish this year. This song is also probably one of my favorites of all time as far Blues rock goes. The intro is as soothing as a lullaby. This is one of the songs that made me see the wonders of the Blues so much more. Specifically, THIS version. The outro guitar solo from 4:28-6:25 is probably the most awe-inspiring thing my ears have been blessed to hear. A flawless balance of soul, rock, and blues; even the energy and jiving of the band makes getting into this smooth rhythm at ease. What’s even more spectacular about Mayer is that each live rendition of this song is unique. So of course, I get to obsess over the various versions of his solos, but the Letterman version strikes me the most. Especially for someone like Eric Clapton and at his status, to be “gobsmacked” by Mayer and called him a “master,” is an example of when art appreciates the beauty of other art. A juxtapositioned somber love story embedded by passion that eventually burns away. This emotionally driven song made me fall in love with riff-centric music.
A mix between new and old songs, songs by bands and solo artists, tunes by men and women and those in-between or non-identifying, I’m proud of my versatile taste. Having listened to over 40,000 minutes of music:
- I listened to 85 genres of music
- I listened to 1,318 artists this year
- I also somehow played 3,063 songs this year
Click the link to see my top beloved songs for this year.
While I may not have made it to any traditional concerts this year, I did get to broaden my horizons by checking out the local music scene all the way from New Paltz to Long Island. Shoutout to @thefieldservice, @wrong.coast, @ulband_, @vetroband, @bird.week, @free.vael, @hunterroadofficial, @sharknoises_band, @thegetoffs.band and the many more I anticipate adding to this list next year! Thanks for listening along with me this year.