An underwhelming unwrapping: Spotify’s end of year statistics reflect a banal year

An underwhelming unwrapping: Spotify’s end of year statistics reflect a banal year

Words by Georgia Lenton-Williams

Raise your hand if you were embarrassed by your 2020 Spotify Wrapped.

It’s that time of year again. Carols play in Woolworths and everyone you follow on social media is sharing their Spotify Wrapped, like the unveiling of their taste in music is a divine Christmas gift.

It might seem against the holiday spirit, but contrary to popular belief I find this round of Wrapped a totally underwhelming reflection of the year that’s been.

The revelation that I listened to ‘Rock This Party’ by Bob Sinclair ‘ironically’ so many times throughout the year that it made it into my Top 100 playlist begs a reckoning with my true identity that I’m absolutely not ready to confront.

A TikTok meme depicts the true banality of many people’s taste: the coveted Top Song spot going to a continuous fan sound that the video’s creator would play at night to soothe her as she fell asleep. Nice.

Anecdotally speaking, many of my friends and people I follow online have turned back to the comforts of well-worn songs. The repetitive melodies, lyrics that we’ve all already memorized and predictable structures provided a sense of reassurance to many of us throughout a year that was anything but.

This makes our Spotify Wrapped playlists a dull, slightly embarrassing acknowledgement of the lack of growth in our music taste.

It can be partly attributed to the complete stall in our live music scene and to the desire to use music as a kind of shelter from the global chaos occurring outside. As bizarre as it sounds, for me, playing ’90s pop and R&B hits has the same calming effect as taking refuge under a warm blanket with a cup of tea.

It’s also hard to muster the same enthusiasm for a newly discovered band when I know it’s unlikely you’ll be able to enjoy their sound in person for about a year. And even then, is the vibe at a socially distanced gig going to be anything near what we’ve all grown to expect?

Of course, there’ll be exceptions to the unsurprising and uncool Wrapped summaries. Maybe you’re one of the few who turned to music as a form of escapism and exploration throughout 2020. Or maybe you’re just one of the lucky ones who manages to always listen to something that reflects the image you’d like to portray on social media. Good for you.

Oh? You discovered eight new genres and listened to 120,000+ minutes of music? That’s so worldly. At a guess, I’d say I listened to ‘Can’t Stop’ by Red Hot Chili Peppers about 1,000 times.

Seriously though, props to you if your listening habits evolved during a period where everything else ground to a halt. It’s particularly important we foster emerging Australian bands when the music and entertainment landscape has been challenged on so many fronts.

For those of us who cringe at the confronting honesty of our Wrapped playlists, let’s try to remind ourselves that there’s actually nothing wrong with turning back to old favourites. If a song reminds you of a happier and healthier time, you may as well enjoy it and the memories it evokes, rather than worrying about what others think.

Unfortunately, it could be a very long time before we have the ability to enjoy decent dancefloors again. So why not chuck on some classic bangers in your living room in the meantime?

Maybe have a look at the ‘Missed Hits’ playlist or your ‘Discover’ feed, or get off Spotify entirely and try a different way of listening to make sure we give new players a chance and grow our taste.

Let’s find some new music and try some varying sounds, so we have fresh tunes for the new (and hopefully better) year on the horizon.

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