Updated: Mar 9
December is fast approaching, and we’re all eagerly anticipating one thing: Spotify Wrapped. Now more revered than the birth of Christ, music lovers worldwide can hardly wait for this annual roundup of their top songs, artists and genres. People lie in bed anxiously the night before, crossing their fingers that their top artist isn’t the Glee cast or Ed Sheeran so they can prove to their Instagram followers that they’re cool. As soon as the first of October rolls around, droves of the population make concerted efforts to listen to “good” music and carefully craft their results to present the ideal version of themselves.
In this age of public music streaming, listening to music has been transformed from a private practice of self-expression to a performative act to help curate the ideal image of yourself. Spotify, it seems, is becoming a new form of social media, as you can see what your friends are listening to at all hours of the day and night. This can of course prove useful, an eye-opening insight into your friends’ mental states and nudging you to check on those who have suddenly started streaming inordinate amounts of Phoebe Bridgers and Joni Mitchell. But it’s also made people start listening to the wrong music for the wrong reasons, to impress rather than to enjoy.
Everyone has become a dictator of taste. What can be considered “good music” is now more divisive and political than Brexit. However, one thing is clear: The lesser known, the better. There is an increasingly obsessive need to be niche, leaving lovers of the mainstream marginalised. To be adequately cool, you must listen exclusively to unheard of, “underground” indie bands, for fear of being condemned to the depths of Hell. Or worse, being branded “basic.” There is also an increasingly fine line between what is deemed overrated and underrated, with some people even casting off their favourite artists once they become too popular or at the other extreme gatekeeping them in an attempt to hinder their growing audience.
Now, don’t get me wrong—I am undoubtedly one of Fife’s most avid Spotify users and greatest advocates. For me, the problem is not with Spotify, but with our approach. Rather than a means to broadcast your edginess, try instead to utilise Wrapped it as a way to look back on yourself and another year past. Much like a personality quiz or horoscope, Spotify Wrapped satiates our innate human desire to know ourselves. Our unwavering fixation on classifying ourselves through endless lists, rankings, labels and categories, only fostered I’m sure by Buzzfeed’s unfortunate stronghold on society in years gone by. This love of labels, however, has perhaps reached a new low with Spotify’s obscure microgenres. Metropopolis, Yacht Rock and Aussietronica, believe it or not, are all genuine genres that feature on Spotify.
Nevertheless, rest assured that Spotify’s effect on our relationship with music is not all bad. Music is more accessible than ever before, and classic artists are being reborn among a younger demographic. We have Spotify to thank for 13-year-old diehard Beatles lovers and an ever-increasing number of teenage Fleetwood Mac fanatics. Spotify has also enabled music to become a communal experience, with shared playlists allowing us to create playlists both with and for our favourite people, in a sort of revival of the ’80s mixtape.
Finally, and probably most notably for me, is how Spotify and its yearly Wrapped release can function as a diary, capturing specific moments in time. Through monthly playlists featuring my top tracks of the previous four weeks, I can create a soundtrack to my life, with certain songs transporting me back to exact places, moments and feelings. You don’t even need to carry out this hard work for yourself. Search almost any feeling or situation, and you can be sure someone will have made a worryingly specific playlist to perfectly match your mood, perhaps events you have never even experienced. Some highlights include “Songs you’d hear in a 2010s commercial targeting millennials” and “Classical hits for moody French Revolution nights.”
So I promise I’m not trying to spoil the fun; I’m just trying to stop Spotify’s statistics from spoiling yours. Reclaim Wrapped as something personal, not performative. Last year Spotify Wrapped was released on 2 December, but Spotify told its users on 8 November to “get ready” for 2021 Wrapped. Act accordingly and get excited for this insight into your listening habits of the last 12 months. But please remember not to be embarrassed by or proud of the results and just start listening to what you really love. The one exception to this rule, however, is “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran.