This summer had a number of amazing album releases that made a mark on the music industry. From big artists to up-and-comers, these albums are definitely worth adding to your playlist. Here’s what I think are the top four from the summer of 2023 (please don’t flame me).
Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), Taylor Swift
For the past three years, Taylor Swift has been re-recording her old albums to gain the rights to her music. Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) is not only an improved version of her original album, but also—like Red and Fearless—comes with incredible unreleased songs from “The Vault.” One of my favorites is “Foolish One.” The song explores Swift’s journey through a toxic, one-sided relationship that she used to take the blame for. It highlights her experience of beginning to realize that she wasn’t the problem after all. This album really displays how much Swift’s voice has matured and improved since she recorded the original album in 2010.
As always, her lyrics are advanced and well thought-out. Every song expresses in detail Swift’s intense emotions regarding its subject. One of my favorite lyrics from this album is from the song “Never Grow Up,” when Swift sings, “Remember the footsteps, remember the words said, and all your little brother’s favorite songs. I just realized everything I have is someday gonna be gone.” These lyrics take on a new meaning now that she is older—which makes her connection to many of the songs on the album even stronger.
Best tracks: *All Taylor’s Version* “Mine,” “Back to December,” “Speak Now,” “Dear John,” “The Story of Us,” “Never Grow Up,” “Innocent,” and “Foolish One (From The Vault).”
UTOPIA, Travis Scott
Travis Scott’s new album UTOPIA was all the rage this summer. He announced it soon after “The Astroworld Tour” in 2020, and it was well worth the wait. The album includes a number of collaborations with big artists including Drake, Playboi Carti, Beyoncé, 21 Savage, The Weeknd, Young Thug, Kid Cudi, Bad Bunny, SZA, and Future. Because of the broad scope of the album, UTOPIA drew in many other artists’ fan bases, furthering its success. “Utopia” is said to be an imaginary place that is perfect. After the release, Scott said in an interview with Billboard, “There are people who achieve Utopia every day. They may not be the richest people with the dopest cribs, but it’s a utopia wherever they are, and that’s the most you can have,” He then went on to say that the reason behind the name of the album was solely that he wanted people to realize “utopia” can be found anywhere, and is completely in your control. In “Telekinesis,” a collaboration with SZA, Scott brings up the idea of “Utopia” by saying he “can’t wait to live in glory in eternal lastin’ life.” These lyrics not only showcase Scott’s talent, but also connect back to the idea of “Utopia.” Overall, the album matches with the chill vibes of summer.
Best Tracks: “THANK GOD,” “SIRENS,” “MELTDOWN (feat. Drake),” “I KNOW?,” “TOPIA TWINS (feat. Rob49, 21 Savage),” “LOOOVE (feat. Kid Cudi),” “TELEKINESIS (feat. SZA & Future)”
Pink Tape, Lil Uzi Vert
Combining multiple styles of music, including metal and club, Pink Tape pushes the boundaries of hip-hop, creating a new, diverse style of music. A trailer released on June 26 set high hopes regarding this album, and it did not disappoint. Uzi shows real vulnerability and openness in the song “Rehab,” which details how their family and friends helped them get through a tough time in their life. Meanwhile, the album also includes unserious, empty boasts addressing media speculations about their sexuality, such as, “First of all I f*** eight b****** a day.” Overall Pink Tape seamlessly blends several different genres and viewpoints.
Best Tracks: “Flooded the Face,” “Mama,” “I’m Sorry,” “Just Wanna Rock,” “Patience (feat. Don Toliver),” “Rehab”
Mirror, Lauren Spencer Smith
At just 11, Lauren Spencer Smith blew up for her outstanding vocals in a viral YouTube video, where she sang on stage with Keith Urban. This was her first video to blow up, however definitely not that last. She went viral multiple times after, and continued her singing career from there. After making it to Top 20 on “American Idol” the following year and releasing multiple singles, she has just recently released her debut album, Mirror. In her songs, Smith details the stages of romance—from first meeting someone all the way to breakup and acceptance—the experiences of falling out with a close friend, and so much more. One of her songs, “28,” expresses Smith’s overwhelming emotions linked with her father dating someone who was only 28 years old. In the album’s opener, “Never Been in Love,” Smith explains how her home life affected her current love life, making her music relatable for many. She sings, “I’ve never been in love. When I was growing up, my only example were people who handled it wrong.” Her lyrics in each song are touching and portray her feelings in an emotional, cinematic form.
Best Tracks: “Never been in Love,” “Fingers Crossed,” “Narcissist,” “28,” “Best Friend Breakup,” “Hey,” “That Part.”