This year, I think it’s fair to say, has been a complete and utter shambles. I won’t bore you with the details; suffice to say, we have all, in one way or another, been Going Through It in a big way this year. But now, as we crawl towards 2020’s metaphorical finish line, moving at that agonizingly slow yet bewilderingly fast pace which has defined the last twelve months, I want to raise a glass to Spotify Wrapped, a great source of comfort to me in these trying times.
Spotify Wrapped is, to the untrained eye, a round-up of all your favourite songs, artists and genres from the last year. It wraps up every data point, every minute listened, every playlist created, to unveil (for better or for worse) the stark reality of your taste in music. It’s more than that though. It holds the mirror up to your very soul; it asks you things like “Remember that time you streamed ‘Accidentally In Love’ from the Shrek 2 Soundtrack fifty times in the space of three days?” and “Did you know you listened to 783 unique genres this year, yet your top songs are the same ones you’ve been listening to since you were 16?”
On a related note, one of my top songs for 2019 was South of the Border (feat. Camila Cabello and Cardi B) by Ed Sheeran. I’m just going to let that sit for a minute. I chose, consciously, over and over and over again, to listen to that song. I was too embarrassed to share the list last year, too conscious of how it might affect my personal brand of having an above average taste in music. Was it the influence of social media that made me so hesitant? Seeing perfectly tasteful, cool picks on the playlists of my friends? Or was it the uncomfortable chafing of who I think I am – a musical trailblazer, a tastemaker, someone who Knows Music – up against the data-driven reality, where my top genre is Pop and my second is Indie Pop.
Spotify implores you to wear your Wrapped as a ‘badge of honour’- lord knows, there’s no honour to be found in publicly declaring your love for Latin-infused pop songs by ginger singer-songwriters, but I believe that’s what makes Spotify Wrapped so special. Social media is, after all, a tool of self-creation; every post and every retweet an oath that says, ‘This is who I am!’ Often, the image we propel out into the online universe is glossy and pristine, but sometimes it’s awkward, like looking back on pictures of yourself in 2013, all 3D glasses and Blackberry Curves.
It is for this reason that Spotify Wrapped holds such a precious place in my heart. It’s an opportunity for self-reflection unlike any other available to us in the online world; whether you share yours or not, it brings you face to face with the gap, or lack thereof, between what you think you’re like, and what you’re actually like.
There’s been a lot of talk, this year more than ever, about sharing experiences, about coming together, about finding common ground in the unlikeliest of places. We may not have been able to share physical spaces like we did in the Time Before, but I think sharing your Spotify Wrapped in the online space has an intimacy all of its own. It is, I would argue, one of the most vulnerable things you can do; to hold up your musical taste for judgement by the masses, to admit that you actually listen to, say, the Cats soundtrack, or JLS.
The phrase ‘guilty pleasure’ is thrown around a lot, especially when it comes to music, television, film…anything really that prioritises pure, unadulterated entertainment value over nuanced lyrics or detailed plotting. I think if I’ve learnt anything from Spotify Wrapped, it’s that you should never be ashamed of the things that brought you joy, especially in a year as hard as this. Whether your days in lockdown were spent regressing into your Emo phase, or you took comfort in experimental Hyperpop, Spotify Wrapped should be celebrated as a snapshot of the things that made you happiest – shamelessly.