Music News

2023’s biggest moments in music

And just like that…it’s 2024! Still processing 2023? Headliner rounds up the biggest moments in music from the year that gave us pop culture moments including those big red boots, Barbenheimer, the SAG-AFTRA strike, Netflix’s password crackdown, Victoria Beckham insisting she’s from from a working class family, Twitter becoming X, hip hop turning 50, Angela Bassett doing the thing, King Charles III ascending the throne, Prince Harry’s memoir, Gwyneth Paltrow’s ski trial, the rise of ChatGPT, Trump’s mugshot, The Idol tanking, while the world said goodbye to stars including Tina Turner and Matthew Perry.

The Beatles release their final song

Dubbed "the last Beatles song”, Now and Then was released on November 2 2023. Recorded by John Lennon around 1977 as a solo home demo, it was completed by surviving bandmates Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, using overdubs and guitar tracks by George Harrison (who died in 2001) from the band’s abandoned 1995 sessions.

The final version features additional lyrics by McCartney, while Lennon's voice was extracted from the demo using machine-learning-assisted audio restoration technology commissioned by Peter Jackson for his 2021 documentary The Beatles: Get Back.

It topped the charts in the United Kingdom, Germany and Austria, and reached the top 10 in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. It is the only Beatles UK number one single not attributed to the Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership.

The single became The Beatles’ first UK number one song in 54 years since their 1969 single The Ballad of John and Yoko, setting a record for the longest gap between number one singles by any musical act.

In other Beatles news, Here Comes The Sun (written by George Harrison) became the band’s first song to surpass one billion plays on Spotify, and is the first song from the ‘60s to achieve the milestone.

Elton John bids farewell to performing

Elton John completed his international Farewell Yellow Brick Road: The Final Tour at the Tele2 Arena in Stockholm, Sweden. Upon opening the show, John said, "Good evening Stockholm, well this is it".

Since the launch of his first tour in 1970, the 76-year-old singer has played more than 4,000 performances in over 80 countries, including the Sunday headline slot at Glastonbury Festival in June 2023 on the Pyramid Stage. John closed the festival with a two-hour performance which saw Pinball Wizard played live for the first time in over 10 years.

The event drew in the largest ever TV viewing figures in the UK with a peak of 7.6 million and an average of 7.3 million. The BBC also announced it had almost 50% of all viewers across all stations viewing the event.

Rihanna’s record-breaking Super Bowl halftime show

Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime show (in which she also revealed her second pregnancy) performance in 2023 became the most-watched in history. The performance racked up more than 121 million viewers across TV and digital platforms, overtaking the NBC airing of Katy Perry's Super Bowl XLIX halftime show (2015) to become the most-watched halftime show in US television history.

Following the performance, Rihanna's song catalogue increased by 140% across all on-demand streaming services in the US. On February 12-13, the artist’s songs received 62.2 million on-demand official streams nationwide. 

Sales-wise, the singer sold 42,000 downloads in the US during those two days alone. Umbrella and Diamonds were Rihanna's most streamed songs following the performance, with 3.8 million and 3.2 million streams on February 12-13, respectively.

In the week ending February 16, Luminate reported that Rihanna had earned 166.13 million on-demand streams in the US across her full song catalogue – her best streaming week in the country ever.

Who run the touring world? Girls!

Beyoncé and Taylor Swift lead a touring boom in 2023, with more tours than ever grossing above $300m (three), $200m (seven) or $100m (17).

The top 10-earning summer concert tours were held by Taylor Swift (1), Beyoncé (2), Ed Sheeran (3), Coldplay (4), P!nk (5), Harry Styles (6), Elton John (7), Morgan Wallen (8), Luke Combs (9) and The Weeknd (10).

2023 saw Swift perform 66 shows in the US, Mexico and South America on The Eras Tour, generating more than US$900 million in ticket sales, according to estimates from Billboard.

Moreover, 2023’s gross for The Eras Tour is expected to nearly double in 2024, which would make it the first concert tour in history to gross more than US$1 billion.

Meanwhile, The Eras Tour film became the highest-grossing concert film of all-time, earning $250.3 million worldwide, while it was the 10th-highest-grossing film of 2023 in the US.

Swift’s year also included her being named Time's Person of the Year, while the release of two re-recordings (in order to regain control of her previous recorded work), Speak Now (Taylor's Version) and 1989 (Taylor's Version) saw the singer-songwriter become Spotify’s most-streamed artist of the year.

Beyoncé, meanwhile, grossed $579.8m and sold 2.8 million tickets on her Renaissance World Tour between 10 May and 1 October, according to figures reported to Billboard Boxscore.

During Billboard‘s tracking period of 1 November 2022 and 30 September 2023, the Renaissance World Tour earned $570.5m and sold 2.7 million tickets, plus another $9.3m and 53,200 tickets in Kansas City on 1 October.

The tour broke ticket sales records worldwide, becoming the eighth highest-grossing concert tour of all time, the second highest-grossing tour ever by a female artist, the highest-grossing tour by a black artist and achieved the two highest monthly tour-grosses in history.

Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé grossed over $42 million at the global box office. Following Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, it marked the first time two different concert films opened at number one at the domestic box office in the same year.

Beyoncé makes history at the Grammys

The 65th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony was held on February 5, 2023, and saw Beyoncé break the record for the most Grammy Award wins of all time – totalling at 32 – after taking home four awards at the 2023 ceremony.

The R&B superstar, who won her first Grammy in 2001 as part of Destiny’s Child, took home awards for Best Dance/Electronic Album (Renaissance), Best Dance/Electronic Recording (Break My Soul), Best Traditional R&B Performance (Plastic Off the Sofa) and Best R&B Song (Cuff It).

In winning her 32nd Grammy award, Beyoncé overtook Hungarian-British conductor George Solti, whose record of 31 Grammys had previously stood for more than 20 years.

The big four winners on the night were: Bonnie Raitt (Song of the Year), Lizzo (Record of the Year), Samara Joy (Best New Artist), and Harry Styles (Album of the Year).

Loreen wins Eurovision for the second time

Loreen of Sweden won the Eurovision Song Contest for the second time, making history as the first woman, and only the second person, to win the competition twice. The winning song was Tattoo and the competition was in Liverpool, England, which hosted on behalf of Ukraine.

The Rolling Stones release new music

Hackney Diamonds was the band's first new album of original material in 18 years, becoming their 14th UK number-one album. This is the first album of original material by The Rolling Stones since 2005's A Bigger Bang and their first since the 2021 death of drummer Charlie Watts.

U2 open the Las Vegas Sphere

U2 opened the first of its kind Sphere venue in Las Vegas with Achtung Baby Live, in what proved to be an immersive audio visual feast for those in attendance.

The Sphere venue in Las Vegas is, as its name suggests, a spherical venue boasting the world’s largest high resolution LED screen, which lines the venue inside and out. It also features an immersive audio system from Berlin-based pro audio and tech company Holoplot, whose speakers sit behind the screens so as not to obstruct the unique visual element of the venue.

Ed Sheeran cleared of copyright infringement

Ed Sheeran was found not guilty of copying Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On for his 2014 single, Thinking Out Loud by a Manhattan federal jury. Legal action was brought against Sheeran, Sony/ATV Music Publishing and Atlantic Records by the estate and heirs of the late producer Ed Townsend, who co-wrote Let's Get It On with Gaye.

Sheeran's lawyers argued that while the two songs have similar building blocks and a specific chord progression, such features are true for many pop songs, and the jury found in favour of Sheeran with a unanimous verdict.

After winning the trial, Sheeran said, "These chords are common building blocks which were used to create music long before Let's Get It On was written and will be used to create music long after we are all gone."

Britney Spears releases tell-all memoir

Britney Spears released her memoir, The Woman in Me, which has sold an estimated 2.4 million copies in print globally. It was reported that Spears signed a $15 million book deal for her then-upcoming memoir, making it one of the biggest book deals of all time, three months after a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge formally ended her conservatorship.

Spotify reveals most streamed artists and songs

Spotify revealed that Taylor Swift was 2023’s top artist, with more than 26.1 billion global streams. Taking second place was reggaeton superstar Bad Bunny, who also had a standout year with a new album, nadie sabe lo que va a pasar mañana. Rounding up the top five were The Weeknd, Drake and Peso Pluma.

The top song of the year, Miley Cyrus’s record-breaking Flowers, had incredible momentum from the day of its debut through the summer months and now counts more than 1.6 billion streams globally.

In the second and third spots are Kill Bill by SZA and As It Was by Harry Styles. The fourth and fifth spots come from Jung Kook with Seven (feat. Latto), and Eslabon Armado and Peso Pluma with Ella Baila Sola.

Barbie’s soundtrack is a hit

Barbie the Album, the soundtrack album for the 2023 hit film Barbie, was produced by Mark Ronson, Kevin Weaver and Brandon Davis. It debuted at number one in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand and reached the top 10 in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and the United States.

At the 66th Annual Grammy Awards, the album was nominated for 11 Grammys including Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media, while four of its songs (Dance the Night, Barbie World, What Was I Made For?, and I'm Just Ken) received nominations for Best Song Written for Visual Media. 

Dance the Night and What Was I Made For? were additionally nominated for Song of the Year and Record of the Year, respectively.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees named

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation announced the following Nominees for 2023 Induction: Kate Bush, Sheryl Crow, Missy Elliott, Iron Maiden, Joy Division/New Order,

Cyndi Lauper, George Michael, Willie Nelson, Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden, The Spinners, A Tribe Called Quest, The White Stripes and Warren Zevon.

To be eligible for nomination, an individual artist or band must have released its first commercial recording at least 25 years prior to the year of nomination.

Vinyl sales increase

Vinyl LP purchases increased for the 16th consecutive year in the UK in 2023 and are growing at their fastest rate this decade, according to BPI analysis based on Official Charts data.

Following a 2.9% rise in unit sales last year, the vinyl market in 2023 increased more than four times as fast with an 11.7% rise to 5.9 million units (this figure was recorded one week before year end).

This is according to analysis of Official Charts data by the BPI, the association for the UK’s record companies and labels and the representative voice of British recorded music. 

The increase has been led by brand new releases from artists including Ed Sheeran, Lana Del Rey, Lewis Capaldi, The Rolling Stones and Taylor Swift.

Image credits:

Main Vegas Sphere: Es Devlin

The Beatles: BBC Studios

Super Bowl: David J. Phillip/AP/SIPA

U2: Sam Jones

Barbie: Warner Bros Pictures