Courtesy of Spotify

December 2, 2021

Unwrapping Spotify Wrapped

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A few weeks ago, I was struck with a horrifying thought: the season of Spotify Wrapped was creeping up on me and I had no idea who my top artist or top songs would be. As it turned out, there was no time left to carefully curate my listening habits; this year, Spotify Wrapped collected data from Jan. 1st to Oct. 31st, and was released on Wednesday, Dec. 1st.

The day Spotify Wrapped emerges on my phone, I open it with anxious anticipation of the most mysterious of holiday gifts. Who will be the unexpected in my top artists? How many minutes were spent listening this year? A digital present exploding with colorful data and clips of music, Spotify Wrapped has a strong presence in the multitude of end-of-year wrap-ups and agglomerations. Right now, Instagram stories are filled with people sharing their top songs, giving their followers plenty of material from which to judge them and (hopefully) deem them incredibly cool. It’s an odd amount of pressure for a feature that’s meant to be fun, an (almost) year’s worth of listening condensed into an upbeat statistical analysis. It’s also, like many Instagram stories, purely self-serving — a means of signaling one’s cultural prowess and fantastic taste in music.

Even Spotify seems to recognize the pressure of having a “good” Spotify Wrapped; last year, they published an article entitled “4 Tips to Make the Most of Your 2021 Wrapped.” Their advice includes using the “Private Session” feature to stop tracking unrepresentative data and utilizing Spotify Family to differentiate listening habits. This all seems well and good, but what about the week when all I want to listen to is the High School Musical soundtrack? Or the five days where I got sucked back into my middle-school Hamilton obsession? These may be short musical phases and anomalies for me, but Spotify Wrapped sees them as significant minutes spent listening. Those five days may be quick, but suddenly at the end of the year, my third most played artist is Lin-Manuel Miranda. Oh, the embarrassment! 

But why should these so-called outliers be embarrassing? If an artist, song or podcast is on your Spotify Wrapped this year, it’s for a reason. The 101 episodes of My Dad Wrote a Porno that I listened to this year were a necessary comic escape from a pandemic, and the fact that Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” was my third most played song in 2019 only makes sense in a year full of relationship drama. At the end of the day, no matter what is on your Spotify Wrapped, it is a snapshot of your year — the basic, the cool, the strange and the sad. 

There’s enough to be stressed about in the world today without adding a Spotify promotional gimmick to the mix. So, as you swipe through your Spotify Wrapped this year, don’t be too harsh. It’s been a long year, and whatever you listened to helped get you through it. Post your stats on Instagram — or don’t. I promise nobody cares as much as you do. And if you must continue to lust after the perfect Spotify Wrapped, just remember, for the next month, you can listen to whatever you want without a trace.

Eliza Salamon is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].