Our weekly podcast includes in-depth analysis of the music we find extraordinary, exciting, and just plain terrible. This week Editor-in-Chief Puja Patel and Reviews Director Jeremy D. Larson host Features Editor Ryan Dombal for another round of head-to-head track matchups, as we think about what our upcoming Best Songs of 2023 list will look like. This time we break things down by genre: Which is the better indie rock anthem, Wednesday’s “Chosen to Deserve” or Big Thief’s “Vampire Empire”? Which rap collaboration hits hardest, Kendrick Lamar and Baby Keem’s “The Hillbillies” or MIKE and Wiki’s “Mayors a Cop”? And is Troye Sivan’s “Rush” more of an undeniable pop banger than NewJeans’ “Super Shy”? Decisions will be made.
And stay tuned to the end of the show, where singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart talks about his personal dream collaboration.
Jeremy D. Larson: As we consider the best songs of 2023, let’s start with a couple of sugary dance-pop tracks. I’m arguing for Troye Sivan’s “Rush.”
Puja Patel: I have the K-pop group NewJeans’ “Super Shy.”
Larson: I’ll go first. “Rush” was the debut single from Troye’s latest album, Something to Give Each Other. And from the opening seconds of the song, I knew it was going to be great. It starts with a group of men—like the Village People, sort of husky sailor boys—singing their little chorus. Troye recorded the song in the pandemic, trying to capture the energy of that moment between lockdowns in Melbourne when people were able to go back to the club. There’s some amazing production flourishes in it, and I could go long about the music video too: Halfway through it, the camera sort of zooms in through a glory hole into Troye Sivan’s face.
Ryan Dombal: Cinematography!
Larson: It’s what Martin Scorsese would call “cinema.” And that gets at the hedonistic pleasure principle of this song, which I think is diametrically opposed to New Jeans’ “Super Shy.”
Patel: Yeah, it’s interesting that you have the shirtless boys marching, and I have the cutie girl squad over here. I think I’ve revealed myself to be someone who is both pro club and pro vibes, and something that I love about “Super Shy” is that the beat has this waterfall effect. It’s something that you can see playing out in a high-energy dance set, and it’s also something you can have a spa day to. It does both of these things at once.
Also, the fluidity between the English and the Korean is so smooth. This is something that I really loved about Yaeji’s album from this year too: The vulnerable parts of the song are whispered in Korean, so they’re being coy and sexy and seductive, but mostly coy, and then it switches to Korean for a second, and she’s like, “I’m so nervous, I don’t know why I’m so nervous.” And it is such a cutie ESL thing, where vulnerability and anger and all of your highest emotions come out in your native language. I can see them getting to a Blackpink level if they continue down this path. Their EP was so strong.
Larson: Well, Dombal, if you’re having trouble deciding between these two songs, the Troye Sivan video also features a man smoking weed out of a banana—maybe that is the deciding factor.
Dombal: Interesting. Well, I’m still going to give it to “Super Shy.” Not at all because Puja’s my boss or anything…
Patel: Another win for Puja.
Larson: And another loss for the sexual revolution.