It’s no secret that, at Startle, we love music. That’s why we get so excited to share our end-of-year music report, That’s a Wrap.
As part of this year’s report, we dove headfirst into which songs and artists had the most commercial success, and used our team’s expertise to find out why. After all, music curation is both an art and a science - the success of these songs isn’t a coincidence. Whether it’s cultural, music, or marketing-led, we’re here to spill the beans. We also picked three of our favourite music moments - ones that stood out to us as having significance to society and culture as a whole, really representing a moment in time.
Here are our favourite music findings.
The top song of the year, Flowers by Miley Cyrus, kicked off the theme of female empowerment for the year. The song even led to Lidl seeing its plant sales surge, saying its flower plant sales rose by 52%. Talk about the influence of music on shopping behaviours.
SZA’s Kill Bill was the 2nd most streamed song of the year, even whilst being only 2:34 long. The song did very well on social media site TikTok, continuing to show the power the app has on the success of a tune (something we saw in 2023, and expect to continue to see in 2024).
The third biggest song of the year was a reappearance from our report from last year - As It Was by Harry Styles. With Styles’ huge international tour Love On Tour coming to a close this year, the song continued to be pushed daily, as well as at awards shows like the Grammys.
It’s no surprise that the biggest artist of the year was Taylor Swift. Re-releasing two of her albums this year, Speak Now and 1989, Swift has continued to work incredibly hard to own the rights to her own music, as well as embark on a huge, career-defining tour.
After being the top artist of 2022, Bad Bunny is our runner up this year. Releasing another album this year which addresses pretty much every rumour about him, Ocasio’s success continues to show the level of success non-English performing artists are continuing to achieve. According to Luminate, Latin Music Revenue hit $627 million in the first half of 2023, and Spanish is now the second most listened-to language in the US.
And thirdly, The Weeknd nabbed the 3rd place for most streamed artists of 2023. Unlike Taylor Swift and Bad Bunny, Tesfaye did not release an album this year. His most recent release was the 1980s funk and electronic inspired Dawn FM, filled with sparkling 80s sounding synths, spacious drums, soaring vocal lines all underpinned by characterful, deep bass lines. We can expect to see an artistic reinvention from The Weeknd at some point soon, with him planning to retire the name.
It’s safe to say, this year has been run by the girls.
The first standout moment of 2023 in music that we spotted this year was the idea of cinematic touring. Of course, touring isn’t a new thing. Hell, filming a tour isn’t either. But the sheer size and cinematic nature of some of the biggest tours of this year have been mind blowing. With Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour having such high demand that it was released as a smoothly directed film in cinemas, and Beyonce’s Renaissance Tour following in its footsteps, releasing as a documentary film in theatres this December, it’s clear just how important touring is to a music artist in the modern day, and how excess demand can be met by creating a cinematic experience based on a tour.
Secondly, how could we write anything about 2023 without talking about arguably the biggest pop culture moment of the year - Barbie! Released in July, the Barbie movie, directed by Greta Gerwig, took the world by storm. It achieved the year’s biggest opening weekend, the largest opening for a female director ever, Warner Bros.’ highest grossing domestic release in history (surpassing Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight), and became the highest-grossing movie of 2023. One of the key elements of the film was, of course, the soundtrack. Barbie: The Album was released July 21st, and was met with critical and commercial success. Although Barbie was a phenomenon, and soundtracks are not a new thing, it does make us excited to see the potential of more mainstream success for them.
And finally, we took a look at how brand authenticity in music has become more important than ever in 2023. In August 2023, singer Lizzo’s three former backup dancers filed a lawsuit against Lizzo, her production company, and her dance captain Shirlene Quigley, accusing them of sexual, religious and racial harassment, disability discrimination, assault, false imprisonment, creating a hostile work environment and weight shaming. Now, we’re not here to discuss legal matters, or whether the allegations are true or not. But what Lizzo’s controversies in 2023 do shine a light on is the importance of musicians as cultural and social thought leaders, as well as the importance of brand authenticity. Audiences like Gen-Z prioritise authenticity and connection, and the alignment of a brand’s image with its underlying values becomes not just a strategic opportunity, but a necessity.
Keep an eye out for our predictions for 2024…
Those are just a few highlights of our Thats a Wrap report. Want to read more? Head here.
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Creative Director at Startle. It's my job to produce and execute our music output, making sure everything is sounding, feeling and performing just right for our customers. When I'm not doing this, you can find me either walking my dog, remixing 90s divas on Logic Pro X, returning overdue library books or throwing weights about in the gym.