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2023: Top 40 Smiles Tracks!

I’ve gone back-and-forth on writing a blog or creating a podcast discussing my favorite songs of 2023. I was thinking that creating a podcast would be "so much easier,” but then I realized I would still have to do the same amount of research, and I was overdue for writing something anyway. Long story, short, I came full circle and wrote this blog. If there are typos, forgive me, as this was originally going to be a special podcast edition! At least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!


Reach out to me to let me know what you think of my song choices. Do you agree with the songs I’ve selected as my favorites of the year? Do you think I missed something? Let me know at jimmysmiles07@gmail.com, and any missed tunes just might show up on my year-end tally for 2024. And, YOU will get credit for the song discovery, too...win win!


To get the best experience when reading the blog, have The Smiles Show Spotify playlist open.


Chart Methodology and History (for the hardcore nerds out there): I keep a Top 10 list of my favorite recently-released songs each week and have been doing so since 1995. At the end of each calendar year, I present a list of my Top 40 favorite songs. On my weekly charts, each song gets one point at Number 10, two points at Number 9, three at Number 8, and so so on, with ten points at Number 1. In addition, each song gets an additional five points each week it’s at Number 1. Peak position is important, but chart longevity is, too, as you will see as you read this blog. Told you I was a "nerd" about this stuff!


And now...on with the countdown!

 

40.  Unholy Sam Smith Featuring Kim Petras. This song is a "carryover" from 2022, when it was the 19th biggest song of the year . I love the production quality and lyrics and video for this one! Steamy and provocative! There were certainly some unholy moments in 2023, as there were in 2022. This song will probably still be quite relatable in the year ahead...for better, and certainly for worse, too! Hang on tight, and keep arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times.


39.  DJ Play A Christmas Song Cher. This is the first Christmas song on my year-end countdown since 2021 when Ed Sheeran and Elton John teamed up and had a Top 40 hit on my countdown with the song, Merry Christmas.  This song debuted and peaked at Number 2 on my chart in December 2023. I was thinking it had been so long since Cher was on my year-end countdown, but it was just back in 2018, when she had the Number 20 song of the year with a remake of the classic ABBA tune, Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight).


38.  Better With You Simply Red. Lead singer Mick Hucknall continues to sound great with this latest offering from Simply Red! A lot of people think the group stopped recording back in the 1980s, but they have continued to record new and intriguing music over the last 30 years. This is Simply Red‘s first chart appearance on my year-end countdown since 2003, when they had the Number 34 hit of the year with Sunrise, a song that sampled Daryl Hall & John Oates song I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do). We won’t talk about the challenging year that Daryl Hall & John Oates have had. Big sigh.


37.  Calm Down Rema Featuring Selena Gomez. This was a big hit on the Billboard Hot 100 this past year! With all that’s going on these days, the message of calming down is more apropos than ever. This song was Rema's first appearance on one of my year-end countdown tallies. Selena Gomez had three songs on my year-end Top 40, so we'll hear more from her a bit later in the countdown!


36. Did You Know That There's A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd Lana Del Rey. This is the first of four(!) Lana Del Rey hits on my Top 40, and the only one not to make Number 1 on my weekly charts. It peaked for three weeks at Number 3, one of those weeks being in late 2022. I wouldn't feel too badly for Lana if I were you... ;-)


35. Tonight Phoenix Featuring Ezra Koenig I wasn’t familiar with the group Phoenix until this past year. I was a little familiar with Ezra Koenig based on his work with Bruce Hornsby on a previous song, Sidelines, from 2022 featuring Blake Mills. In any case, I enjoyed this tune with its catchy beat and strong lyrical quality and production value.


34.  Playing For Time Peter Gabriel. Peter Gabriel released multiple singles throughout the year, making up for a really long drought of new music. For his fans, it was a most welcome treat. This first of his four appearances on my year-end countdown peaked at Number 2 on my weekly charts. This was the first appearance by Peter Gabriel on one of my year-end countdowns since 2002, when he had the Number 19 song of the year with The Barry Williams Show, about a Jerry Springer-esque type of talk show. And, RIP Jerry Springer, who passed away in 2023.


33. Bubbles Up Jimmy Buffett. Unfortunately, Jimmy Buffett also passed away in 2023. He was in the process of releasing new music around the time of his passing. Bubbles Up is a really joyful, yet introspective, and thoroughly enjoyable song. It’s a great way to remember his life, and also a great reminder not to take life for granted. It’s important to enjoy each day to the fullest. 


32.  Road To Joy Peter Gabriel. This second appearance by Peter Gabriel is a more funky affair! I really like the groove and overall production on this one!


31. Take Me Home, Country Roads Lana Del Rey. I’m usually not a huge fan of remakes, but I make an exception in limited cases, including this wonderful remake of the classic John Denver tune! I really like Lana‘s interpretation of this song, as she really makes it her own. I can’t compare the two, since her version is totally different. And that’s what makes this interpretation so good. The song spent one week at Number 1 on my weekly charts in December 2023. It’s the lowest ranking Number 1 hit of the year on my countdown, but that’s only due to its timing on the chart. I will share the lowest-ranking Number 1 song later that had a full chart run in 2023. I know, I am a true chart nerd!


30. Single Soon Selena Gomez. Selena is excited about being single soon, and she wants to invite everyone to the party! This is a straight-ahead pop song that will likely resonate with anybody who has been in a relationship that just isn’t working. Even if you aren’t in her predicament, her infectious exuberance and energy will make you want to be part of the festivities!


29.  Cool About It boygenius. I just recently discovered boygenius, and I’m in love with them! I will definitely be exploring more of their music in 2024. For now, this song is my first foray into their library of tunes. It’s a haunting, introspective and psychologically deep song. The video is also very intriguing and rather dark. This song spent two weeks at Number 1 at the end of calendar year 2023 on my countdown.


28.  Miracle Calvin Harris Featuring Ellie Goulding. Calvin and Ellie and Ellie were last together on my countdown at Number 29 in the year 2014 with their collaboration Outside. This year, they were back with another one word-titled song. The song peaked for one week at Number 2 on my weekly charts in the spring of 2023.  Like their earlier collaborations, it’s a great song to dance along to!


27. Panopticom Peter Gabriel. This was the first Peter Gabriel release of the year. It was so good to finally hear new music from Peter after all these years! This song peaked at Number 2 for one week on my charts in late winter 2023.


26.  Love Is A Drug Kenny Rogers. This was one of the posthumous releases from the late great Kenny Rogers in 2023. Kenny sounds so fresh and exuberant, and downright funky on this great little tune. The production quality is crisp, the tune is fun, and it’s too bad that Kenny is no longer with us. This song has the dubious distinction of being the lowest-ranked Number 1 hit on my yearly countdown, accounting for its entire chart run. It debuted at Number 1 on my weekly charts, spending one week there, and spent a total of 11 weeks on my charts.


25.  Ghosts Again Depeche Mode. The '80s are back, baby, and this is evidence of that fact. Depeche Mode are sounding great on this tune that spent one week at Number 1 on my chart, in the spring of 2023.  For some listeners, this might be their first introduction to Depeche Mode, but for a lot of us, we grew up with their music. It's so nice to have them back again. This song spent 10 total weeks on my charts.


24.  World On Fire Dolly Parton. Dolly was everywhere in 2023, she was cheering on the Dallas Cowboys as one of the cheerleaders in November! She recorded a rock ‘n’ roll album, with some original tunes, and some interpretations of classic rock tunes. World on Fire was the song that resonated with me, debuting at Number 1 on my chart in the summer of 2023, and spending 13 total weeks on my charts.


23.  Your Side Of Town The Killers. For what it's worth, The Killers were just on my year-end chart in 2022, with the Number 4 song of the year, Boy! This year they didn’t do quite as well, but they did have this song that spent three weeks at Number 2 in the fall of 2023. This is another classic tune by The Killers! I am amazed at their continuous output, with each song sounding fabulous. 


22. Hits Different Taylor Swift. This is the first of Taylor‘s five(!) appearances in my year-end Top 40 of 2023, and her only song not to be in the Top 10 for the year, as well as the only song not to peak at Number 1. This song did peak at Number 3 on my weekly charts. Don’t feel too badly for Taylor, She is doing quite well for herself...thank you very much!


21. The Court Peter Gabriel. Some people have noticed that this song has a bit of a Tori Amos '90s-esque production quality about it. I love the lyrics, the wit, and the fun that seems to emanate from this last of Peter Gabriel‘s four appearances on my year-end countdown for 2023! Glad that Peter is back, and gracing us with new music again. This song spent one week at Number 1, and only nine total weeks on my chart. This tied for the shortest run for a Number 1 song in 2023.


20. Living In the Sunshine Bruce Hornsby. Love me some Bruce Hornsby, and I got my "fix" in 2023, with this song that was released for the first time as part of the album release of Spirit Trail, 25th Anniversary Edition. I’m looking forward to seeing Bruce in concert later in 2024.  I saw him once years ago, and his show definitely did not disappoint. He covers so many social, environmental, and relationship topics, and his lyrics and music definitely resonate with me! This song spent two weeks at Number 1 on my charts in the summer of 2023.


19. Let The Sun Come In Pretenders. The unmistakable voice of legendary Chrissie Hynde is in full effect on this new tune by the Pretenders. I was first introduced to this song from the online classic radio KZAP radio station in Sacramento. It’s classic Pretenders all the way. If you miss the tunes of the '70s and '80s, this is the tune for you. Plus, it's cool to have two back-to-back songs about sunshine on the countdown! The song debuted at Number 1 on my chart in the summer of 2023, spending a total of 10 weeks on my weekly charts.


18. Spin Jive Perry La Marca. I was introduced to this song from my friend, KC and his online radio station, Humboldt 101, based out of Eureka, California. The station features lots of wonderful easy-listening music from the '60s through today. This song is a fabulous upbeat instrumental. There aren't a lot of instrumentals anymore on the radio, and I love having the opportunity to feature one on my year-end song list of 2023. This song spent a long 18 weeks on my weekly charts in the spring and summer of 2023, including two weeks at its peak position of Number 2.


17.  Giddy Up! Shania Twain. I was sure this song was going to be a big hit in 2023, but alas, I was wrong. In any case, it was great to have Shania back in action with new music. This was the biggest hit of the year on my countdown not to have hit Number 1 or Number 2 in its weekly chart run. This song spent one week at its peak position of Number 3, but had a long 18 weeks total on my chart. The video is cool too. If you’re feeling stuck or unmotivated, this song will get you into a better frame of mind! The last time that Shania was on my charts was way back in 2002 when she hit Number 34 for the year with I’m Gonna Getcha Good!


16.  Tower Of Babel Natalie Merchant. Unlike the previous song, this song only spent half as long total on my weekly charts, but two of those weeks were at its peak position of Number 1. In other words, chart run is important, but so is peak position on the chart. This song is definitely a social commentary on the times. As always, Natalie does a wonderful job of explaining things melodically, and honestly to really resonate with so many of us. The warmth of her voice and candidness in her songs continue to make her one of my favorite artists. Last time that Natalie hit my charts was in 2014 when she hit Number 12 for the year with Ladybird.


15. Flowers Miley Cyrus. This was one of the biggest hits of the year on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2023, and it had two separate chart lives on my chart during the year. In its first chart run during the winter, it spent six weeks on my chart peaking at Number 9. It returned with a vengeance in the summer, starting a second chart run at Number 1 for one week with an additional 10 weeks on my chart. Music tastes can be fickle sometimes, just like flowers! in any case, I like the message on this song, the vocal quality from Miley is great, and the song grew on me over time. I instantly like some songs  while others take a little more time for me to truly embrace.


14. Now And Then The Beatles. This song really resonated with me right away. It spent its first three weeks at Number 1 on my weekly charts in the fall of 2023. I had heard a lot of hype about the new single by The Beatles before I actually heard the song, and was a bit reticent for fear I wouldn’t like it. Instead, I found it to be very engaging, bittersweet, a little melancholic, and moving. Everyone has their own opinions about whether or not it’s a "true" Beatles single, since a lot of technological engineering was put into splicing and inserting the vocal tracks for John and George. That being said, I think the final product is definitely a worthwhile addition to their legendary catalog. 


13.  Angry The Rolling Stones. It's funny how the chart muse works! The two songs about sunshine are back-to-back on my year-end countdown, just like the two songs by legendary rock bands. Go figure! The Rolling Stones are sounding great on this latest offering from their recent album. Although the title is Angry, hearing them in such fine form is likely to make one anything but! The song debuted at Number 1 on my weekly countdown in the fall of 2023, spending 12 total weeks on the chart. It was their first appearance on my countdown since 2020 when they had the Number 18 song of the year with Living In A Ghost Town, a song about life in the pandemic world. 


12. Nothing Left To Lose Everything But The Girl. Everything But The Girl have been "missing" from my charts for a long time. Their last appearance was Missing at Number 26 for the year of 1996...See what I did there? In all seriousness, this is a great tune, and I was first introduced to it from NPR (National Public Radio). For what it’s worth, I subscribe to a lot of email newsletters and visit a lot of various music sites to get a well-rounded selection of music in my diet each and every year. Like other EBTG songs, this one does not disappoint! It’s too bad their songs don’t get more radio airplay and exposure, but it’s nice to know they are still recording new and enjoyable music. The song spent two weeks at Number 1 on my weekly chart, including an additional 13 weeks for a total of 15 weeks.


11. Only Love Can Save Us Now Kesha. Kesha continues to make regular appearances on my countdown. Whether she has the $ sign in her name or not makes no difference! I like the production quality and almost gospel-like feel of this tune. The message is strong, and so very important in these often very divisive times. This is her first first appearance on my year-end countdown since 2017 when she had the Number 18 song with Praying.  The song had 16 total weeks on my chart, including two weeks at Number 1!


10. Say Yes To Heaven Lana Del Rey. In a "normal" year, having two songs in the Top 10 would make an artist really stand out, but in a year with Taylor Swift dominating the chart scene, that’s not the case! What is the case, however is that this is yet another beautiful tune that really makes one stop and listen to the lyrics. Lana’s vocals always create an atmospheric presence! The song debuted in "heaven" at Number 1, and had 2 additional non-consecutive weeks at Number 1, and 16 total weeks on my chart in late summer and fall of 2023.


9. A&W Lana Del Rey. This song is not about the root beer! It’s quite a bit heavier than that…and definitely not frothy. It really is almost like a miniseries featuring multiple stories in one song. It’s gritty, dark, and very "atmospheric," like all of Lana’s tunes are. I encourage you to explore the song and give it multiple listens…and each listen will reap new insight, feelings, and emotional impact. This tune spent 15 weeks on my charts, with two weeks at Number 1.


8.  Anti-Hero Taylor Swift. How does the Number 5 song of 2022 end up as the Number 8 song of 2023? In 2022, it racked up eight weeks at Number 1 on my weekly charts, but in 2023, it racked up an additional three weeks at Number 1 making it the longest running Number 1 song on my charts, going all the way back to 1995 when I first started tracking my favorite tunes each week! Had it been released in the middle of the year, it would have ended up being the biggest hit of the entire year. Instead, based on its entry into my charts in later 2022, it splits its chart honors to two top 10 appearances in 2 consecutive calendar years. Not too shabby!. And I still adore the message, production quality and melody on this tune. It is definitely not one of those songs I grew tired of!  That being said, it spent 20 total weeks on my chart in 2023. I am definitely "pro-anti" in this case!


7. My Mind & Me Selena Gomez. Mental wellness is a topic that many openly discuss these days. It’s good to see that the stigma regarding mental illness is being reduced. Songs like this one by Selena are important in the ongoing dialogue. The lyrics are real, relatable, and sung in a vulnerable way. That combination helps to encourage more dialogue in the area around mental wellness. And the fact that it is sung by a pop celebrity may resonate more with younger listeners who may feel less alone in their feelings.  This tune spent 3 weeks at Number 1, with a total of 18 weeks gracing my charts in the late winter and spring of 2023.


6.  Lavender Haze Taylor Swift. Colors have graced my top 40 countdown for the last four years since 2020. For the previous three years it was the color blue, and in 2023, it was the color lavender. This song features more of Taylor’s wonderful vocals, as well as a catchy and intriguing production quality. It ran a long 22 weeks on my charts, including two weeks at Number 1! 


5. What Was I Made For? Billie Eilish. No, I haven’t seen the movie, at least not yet! It’s on my "to do list" still. But, I love this song from the soundtrack, so do I get at least partial credit for being a little hip and or relevant? Barbie is the featured attraction in the movie, but this song is all Billie! I love the lyric and production quality, with Billie’s voice complementing the equation perfectly. If you haven’t been a fan of her past music, this song might be worth checking out. It’s a little different lyrically from some of her other tunes, and it’s definitely a recommended listen! It’s also her first appearance on my year-end countdown since 2021 when she had the Number 13 song of the year with Your Power. This song spent two weeks at Number 1, and a total of 20 weeks on my chart in the latter half of 2023! 


4. Evangeline Stephen Sanchez. It’s really cool to hear a younger artist embracing a classic musical quality and production value that really isn’t evidenced in today’s contemporary music. Stephen was first on my countdown in 2022 with Em Beihold with the duet, Until I Found You at Number 16 for the year. In 2023, he was back with a new tune, but with the same wonderful sensibility as his previous hit. This is music for all ages, but it definitely harkens back to an earlier age and time. Highly recommended! Evangeline spent 3 non-consecutive weeks at Number 1, with a total of 20 weeks on my charts in the late summer and autumn of 2023.


3. Cruel Summer Taylor Swift. It certainly wasn’t a "cruel summer" for Taylor! Her third of four songs in my Top 10, this particular song graced my charts from summer, all the way through autumn as well. It’s yet another tune from Taylor that kept my toes tapping and my heart happy! The song spent three non-consecutive weeks at Number 1, with a total of 25 weeks on my charts in 2023!


2 Trustfall P!nk. This is P!nk's best year-end appearance on my top 40! She was last in my Top 40 at Number 10 for the year 2021 with her daughter Willow Sage Hart and their song Cover Me In Sunshine. I love the emotion, lyrics, passion, and earnestness that P!nk puts into each of her songs. She honestly does not have a bad tune in her music catalog! Regarding this specific song, trust is something that most of us have a challenge with at some time in our lives, and that makes a song like this so very relatable on so many levels. Plus, P!nk has the ability to really resonate with a very diverse audience, young, old, and everyone in between, and that means we might all hear this song in a way that helps us trust one another just a little bit more! One can hope…and trust! This song also spent a long 25 weeks on my charts in the spring and summer of 2023, with four non-consecutive weeks at Number 1!


1. Karma Taylor Swift. There is good karma, and there is bad karma. Taylor’s karma was most decidedly on the good side in 2023. She was the Time magazine "person of the year." She had one of the highest-grossing concerts of the year. She also had one of the top movies of the year featuring footage from her concerts. Much like P!nk, Taylor has a way of resonating with a lot of fans, but her fan base is decidedly a little bit younger than P!nk's. That being said, Taylor has matured in terms of the lyrical content in her music, as well as her vocal prowess. Her songs resonate, because she often includes a level of vulnerability with which many can relate. She also includes some self-deprecating humor and light moments that make her songs more approachable and authentic. I am definitely a fan, and this particular song had the longest weekly run on my charts, racking up a whopping 32 total weeks, with 4 non-consecutive weeks at Number 1!


And, that’s a wrap! As always, I appreciate you reading this blog, and also sharing any thoughts or ideas with me. Are there songs that I should consider for inclusion on on my 2024 countdown? It’s a leap year, so I will have a whole extra 24 hours to embrace new music!


Happy New Year!

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