It’s been another incredible year for new music. Every week we fill up our Best New Country playlist with only the very finest releases in country and Americana, and it brings us so much joy.
This year we had so many songs to choose from, but we’ve managed to whittle it down to just 25 of our favourites.
So, here are the long ones, the right ones and wrong ones, the silly, the serious and the sad. Here are the songs that got stuck in our heads for days on end - even when we didn’t want them to – and the songs that slowly found their way onto our playlists and into our hearts.
We don’t always get to choose what we fall in love with. Sometimes the songs we love choose us. So along with the obvious, we’ve got the unlikely. Songs that we found ourselves singing merrily along to even when the odds were against them. Songs that we’re not embarrassed to love, because you should never be embarrassed to love something.
We’ll probably end up listening to these 25 songs for many years to come, but they will always take us back to 2023. Because that’s just what songs do.
Here are Holler's Songs of the Year 2023.
Zimmerman flexes his lyrical muscles in the hook with a clever, spiritually-minded turn-of-phrase - “Praying hard just to stop the hurt / 'Cause I don't have the only woman who was there for me, religiously” - as he wraps his signature vibrato around the melody, injecting an additional sense of fragility to this forlorn anthem.
- Maxim Mower
The debut single from the viral trio set an exciting marker for what's to come.
Weaving their highly melodic pop sensibilities into homegrown neo-traditional sounds, Ellie, Powell and Lily paint a vivid picture of heaven and home in the Georgia pines.
- Ross Jones
Sam Hunt bumps into his ex-girlfriend’s mum in a grocery aisle carrying the daughter his ex-girlfriend had, and as he stands there holding a bag of potato chips, the existential emptiness of his own bachelor life is thrown into painful juxtaposition with the adult life his ex-girlfriend is obviously leading without him.
The poet laureate of country started off the year with this poignant break up ballad, before releasing a string of near perfect pop country singles throughout 2023. A bag of potato chips has never held so much pain.
- Jof Owen
“I’m like Grace Kelly in a cowboy hat,” Tanner Adell announced in her sultry country twang on ‘See You in Church’. A breezy dancehall beat bobbed beneath her throughout the song, which sounded like Miranda Lambert working with Chaka Demus & Pliers.
Mixing a love for 90s and early 2000s country with trappy hip-hop beats, Tanner Adell served up something truly unique on her debut long player, Buckle Bunny.
One of the standout tracks from 2023's A Tribute To The Judds, the new version of 'Mama He's Crazy' sees a country legend, Dolly Parton, and a legend-in-the-making, Lainey Wilson, join forces to produce one of the best collaborations of the year.
When either of these two icons are involved, magic happens. And now we know that when they combine their talents, stars collide.
- Lydia Farthing
An ode to his late grandpa who fought in Vietnam, Taylor McCall digs deep into the learnings and feelings of hope that can still find a way through such terror in ‘Mellow War’.
From the slow instrumental lead to Taylor McCall’s husky baritone voice, we’ve been swaying and humming along to this track, keeping us warm with comfort on these dark, long winter nights.
- Gemma Donahoe
Although ‘Everything I Love’ stood in the shadow of the sultry, record-shattering ‘Last Night’ upon its release, this unabashedly twangy and retro toe-tapper has since emerged as one of the hidden gems on Morgan Wallen’s One Thing At A Time.
‘Everything I Love’ finds him coasting breezily along a lively, steel-drenched interpolation of The Allman Brothers Band’s ‘Midnight Rider’, with country music’s biggest star again flexing the eclectic sonic palette he draws from.
A storyteller beyond his years, Texan singer-songwriter Dylan Gossett introduced himself with immediacy with the release of his second single, 'Coal'.
Dog-tired but still yearning for a better life, Gossett converses with God and the devil as demons surround him, despairing at how life can keep testing him this way.
The lead single and title track of Chapel Hart's 2023 album, 'Glory Days' boasts the honeyed harmonies, powerhouse vocals, wide-eyed energy and Southern sass the trio are adored for.
“This single is so exciting for us because we are currently living in our ‘Glory Days!’”, Chapel Hart told Holler back in January. “It’s an instant jump in the car and go for a ride anthem!”
As well as having a sinuous hook and a sleek, R&B-driven instrumental, the true beauty of the track is captured in the titular metaphor. The sparse composition and Kelsea’s vulnerable lyricism transport the listener to the soulless, clear-cut countertops and inhospitable ambience of their marital home, which so evocatively symbolises a love gone cold.
A candid and harrowing depiction of familial relationships, '68' was a stark example of Nolan Taylor's deeply vulnerable songwriting.
Like a lightning storm heard around the world, Taylor's voice brews from a gentle temper to a uncompromising growl, channelling years of hurt and trauma into one of the most moving songs you'll hear all year.
When Post Malone first started teasing potential new country collabs, nothing could prepare us for this. Produced by HIXTAPE, 'Pickup Man' is an indulgent, buzzy rendition of Joe Diffie’s original country bop, marking Posty’s first country airplay.
After a successful performance of the song at the CMAs, alongside Morgan Wallen and HARDY, we hope this is just the beginning of Posty’s country career.
If there's an artist who seemingly came out of nowhere this year and became a household name, it's Wyatt Flores.
Included on his Life Lessons EP, 'West of Tulsa' sees the alt-country prodigy at his very best as he wrestles with the weight of following your dreams while also tackling life's obstacles. With his heartfelt delivery and masterful lyricism, Flores is on the fast track to stardom.
‘I’m In Love’ is the kind of upbeat bop that will make you feel just as good doing the dishes on a Monday as it does getting ready with the girls on the weekend.
Hailey Whitters explores the first feelings of love, stacking them against everyday things, which shine brighter through lust-coloured glasses. A jingling mandolin and steel pedal propel the twinkly tune into a charming love song for the 21st century.
A world tour and a new album made sure Shania name was on everyone's minds this year! Nothing made a hard day in Holler HQ better than whacking this on the hi-fi and slapping our thighs while riding imaginary horses around our desks. Sometimes a song just needs to make you happy, this one does.
- Baylen Leonard
With 'Light On In The Kitchen', Ashley McBryde gave the country music community a warm and much needed hug.
Touching on weight, complexion, romance, race and inequality, while also peppering in some lighthearted moments as well, McBryde explained to Holler that it was so special to her that she feared it wasn't going to make it onto her 2023 record, The Devil I Know, at all.
"You get these songs that you just treat so precious," she shared. "I knew ['Light On In The Kitchen'] was going to be the song that we sit down, listen back to everything and go 'That one doesn't belong.' Not only did it stay on the record, but it became the lead single, which is the best life that a song can hope for."
Packed with wisdom that she's inherited over the years, this lyrically-driven, contemplative ballad showcases true country excellence in three-and-a-half minutes.
Lola Kirke has always been country leaning, but in 2023 she fully embraced it with a pair of singles taken from her forthcoming Country Curious EP. ‘He Says Y’all’ is what happens when an irreverent New Yorker takes the carefree party ethos of bro-country and recontextualises it as a tongue-in-cheek feminist country classic.
The music video, shot on a Manhattan rooftop, starred Kirke and two backup dancers doing a low budget dance routine in front of the Empire State Building, and it even came with a brief line-dancing tutorial beforehand too.
'Girl in the Mirror' is one of the most poignant and strikingly unreserved moments from one of the albums of the year.
Struggling to recognise the person she's become in a relationship, Moroney's frank, observational storytelling succinctly cements the idea that you should never love someone more than you do yourself.
Despite revolving around tongue-in-cheek tastelessness, ‘Cab in a Solo’ is a plush, luxurious triple-threat.
An irresistible earworm of a hook, delightfully witty wordplay and Scotty McCreery’s charismatic baritone combine to prove why the Opry member-elect remains one of the genre’s most dependable figures.
Scotty finds himself in the same shoes as Rhett Akins on ‘That Ain’t My Truck’ as his grand romantic gesture backfires, leaving our protagonist to drown his sorrows in an expensive Silver Oak 1998 (“Drinking cab in a solo / Solo in the cab of my truck”).
Noah Kahan's rise to stardom hit stratospheric heights in 2023. 'Dial Drunk' was one of the most infectious tunes of the year... even before it got a Post Malone revamp!
Becoming his first song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, ‘Dial Drunk’ sees Kahan's raw, emotive vocals skirting across an energizing, banjo-led instrumental, as he laments a failed relationship in his heartbroken, drunken stupor.
Kahan closed out his milestone year by taking 'Dial Drunk' to the coveted Saturday Night Live stage, marking a storybook ending for 2023.
After we fell hard for her Interpretations album of country covers, Maggie Antone kicked off the year as one of our 23 Artists for 2023. But then she made us wait until June before dropping her first original. Luckily it was well worth waiting for!
'If Only You Played Football...' is a gently strummed, eye-rolling, no-fucks-given riposte to a small-town fuck boi that was equal parts Morgan Wade and Rizzo from Grease. If Taylor Swift had spent her school years smoking pot under the bleachers and cutting class, she might sound something like Maggie Antone.
During one of the CMA Fest headline nights at the Nissan Stadium back in the summer, out of nowhere all the lights turned off and the crowd hushed - no one was sure what was going on. That was until four huge beams of light shot up from the centre ground into the Nashville skies, and there appeared Jelly Roll, like a holy force to be reckoned with. That hush quickly became a choral roar when he started to perform.
A No.1 song from arguably two of the most successful country artists of 2023, Jelly Roll and Lainey Wilson's 'Save Me' punctuates an important moment in the genre's evolution, captured so emotively at his CMA debut.
'I Remember Everything' marks the highly anticipated rebirth of Kacey Musgrave's country career and adds another gong to Zach Bryan's enviable collaboration bank.
Add a musically satiating song, with Zach's gruff smoker's drawl gently joined by Kacey's softly sung verses, and you've got the perfect recipe to spark a worldwide obsession.
A wistful and clever twist through a smoky honky tonk, Lauren Watkins' 'Shirley Temple' is the witty little sister to Hailey Whitters' 'Everything She Ain't'.
Brazen and unlucky in love but unwavering in who she is, Watkins' rues the fact that the person she's fallen for can't see she's everything he truly wants. It makes for a precocious and captivating song that we've had on repeat.
Without a doubt the best song of the year. Could there be any other?! A unanimous decision with zero debate. 'In Your Love' had us crying when we first heard it and we’re still welling up now. A song that is as inclusive as it is specific. Heartbreaking and heart-mending all at once. Timeless.
Listen and subscribe to Holler's Songs of the Year 2023 playlist below: