Matty Healy The 1975

The Heroes & Villains of 2023

As the year draws to a close, what better time to reflect on who’s absolutely crushed it over the past twelve months, and who’s suffered their annus horribilis.

2023 has been a wild ride. As the year draws to a close, what better time to reflect on who’s absolutely crushed it over the past twelve months and who’s suffered their annus horribilis? Roll up, roll up, here are your heroes and villains from 2023.

2023’s Heroes

The Beatles 

beatles now and then story 3

2023 saw the return of The Beatles, in spirit at least, with a hefty dose of help from Peter Jackson and an AI-assisted John Lennon vocal. It was a triumph. Reviving ‘Now and Then’ – the final of three basic demos recorded by Lennon back in 1980 – Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr tied up the loose ends in what was in many ways a love letter from John to Paul after the pair reconciled some years after The Beatles’ bitter break-up. It was emotional, both bittersweet and reflective in its nostalgia, leaving a lump in the throat of even the stoniest of the Fab Four’s detractors.


Photo: Frazer Harrison

Indie supergroup Boygenius – the sad girl trio of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus – couldn’t put a foot wrong this year. Releasing their exquisite debut record, aptly named The Record, the trio achieved critical and commercial acclaim aplenty whilst remaining effortlessly likeable. Their soon-to-be-iconic protestations against Tennessee’s anti-LGBT laws by dressing in drag at a gig was just the icing on the cake. 



After her viral hit with Ice Spice, ‘Boy’s a liar Pt. 2’, the UK’s biggest breakthrough mainstream musical export became the TikTok-propelled song of summer 2023. Writing, producing, and performing every facet of her imaginative music, PinkPantheress is arguably the most interesting and authentic success to come from British shores for some time, especially compared to the conveyor belt of guitar-toting pale popsters in your Ed Sheeran’s of this world and blandness personified in George Ezra. Expressing her nerdy admiration for Narduwar in their recent interview also gave the producer additional brownie points.

UK Jazz


Though it’s long been simmering away as one of the British Isles’ most creative music scenes, UK jazz was finally the bride and not the bridesmaid in 2023, after London troupe Ezra Collective were justifiably awarded the Mercury Prize Award. Lauded but never awarded, no longer was jazz a tokenistic inclusion at a major awards ceremony. Kudos to drummer and bandleader Femi Koleoso too, who used the acceptance speech to spotlight the necessity of youth clubs and nurturing future talent.

Elton John

elton john glastonbury
(credit: Getty Images)

Elton John brought his epic, seemingly never-ending farewell tour to a close on 8th July 2023 at a tearful concert in Copenhagen, calling time on his fifty-plus years as a touring artist. Before Elton called it a day, however, he wowed Glastonbury Festival with a headline performance for the ages. With guests galore, glittering suits, and the requisite level of bitchiness and bravado you’d expect, the ‘Rocket Man’ ended his set with his signature song whilst a record-breaking 7.6 million waved farewell to a music legend through their televisions.

2023’s Villains

Royal Blood

Royal Blood
Royal Blood are one of many bands committing to afternoon performances whilst touring

Brighton duo Royal Blood went viral for all the wrong reasons after their tantrum at BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend, masquerading as ‘rockstar’ behaviour. Irked by the audience’s lack of whooping and hollering at their paint-by-numbers stadium rock, singer and bassist Ben Thatcher remarked: “We’re called Royal Blood and this is rock music. Who likes rock music?” to which a surprising amount of people did actually respond with a cheer. “Nine people, brilliant,” he sniggered, adding: “We’re having to clap ourselves because that was so pathetic.” It’s pretty clear who the pathetic party was here.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Credit: Press

Now, if you want an idea of what actual ‘rockstar’ behaviour entails – inflated egos, a touch of megalomania, and often self-destructive tendencies – then look no further than cult psychedelic rock outfit The Brian Jonestown Massacre. 

Renowned for in-fighting, debilitating substance abuse, and inter-band squabbling with The Dandy Warhols, as detailed in the excellent 2004 documentary Dig!, bandleader Anton Newcombe was at it again. Inciting fisty-cuffs with his guitarist for reasons unbeknownst to us still, the group had an on-stage meltdown at a show in Melbourne, Australia, leaving the crowd both bewildered and short-changed, with the remaining dates Down Under getting cancelled too after the fracas.

Matty Healy 

Matty Healy
Photo: Mauricio Santana

Can anyone please just take this nob’s microphone off him? Please? Whilst The 1975’s Matty Healy certainly knows how to stir up some discourse and play to our social media overlord’s algorithms, the nepo-baby extraordinaire got a festival cancelled in Malaysia back in August for kissing his bandmate, an act that was blasted by the gay community in Malaysia for making their daily situation more difficult. 

Next up in his non-stop shit streak, Healy then made racial comments against Asian people, which Rina Sawayama – his fellow Dirty Hit labelmate – called Healy out for. Following his meek non-apology, Rina responded during a live performance, declaring: “So I was thinking a lot about apologies. And it’s just funny how some people get away with not apologising, ever. For saying some racist shit, for saying some sexist shit… so let’s try this. Why don’t you apologise for once in your life without making it about your f***ing self?”


spotify jobs loss Music and Politics both exist on Spotify
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Not content with not paying artists fairly to rent their music, streaming leaders, including Spotify, have shifted the goalposts once again, effectively making over half of the songs on the platform ineligible to receive even the meagrest of royalty payouts. And they’ve just binned off 17% of their global staff. Is Spotify Wrapped worth it? To some folk, yeah. No streamers are ideal by any means. We could all buy more physical copies. But at least Tidal pays a little bit more for our favourite artists to afford their Christmas dinners. 

UK Government / current Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer

Concert Crowd

An easy target, for sure, but our current circus of a government has left grassroots music venues to flounder, as we’ve seen recently with Moles in Bath and many others across the past twelve months. Despite Music Venue Trust’s CEO Mark Davyd’s consistent campaigning to continue 75% business relief rates (which was successful), there are still calls for 5,000 plus capacity venues to pay a levy to preserve grassroots venues and the live music ecosystem we hold dear. France does it, and surely the UK can, too.

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