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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

Thank you for sharing your Spotify Wrapped

Diane Park | The O
Diane Park | The Observer

The first thing I realized when I watched my first Bob Dylan interview was that he talked like my uncle who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s. Their Midwestern accents were paired with a syncopated rhythm and constant mystery that had me hanging on every word. I’ve noticed similarities between people I know and their favorite artists countless times over the years — there is no secret that the artists we love become a part of us. 

I hosted a radio show this semester where I talked to friends about why they like the music they do. I went into the show thinking I would find new artists left and right, but I didn’t really. People would bring music they knew we could talk about, music they were passionate about and what was important in their lives. Often this music has a community around it, a generational value that we were both a part of in different ways, that we are all a part of in different ways. We redefined which bands were boybands and if One Direction is as culturally important as the Beatles. The show didn’t introduce me to many new artists, but it did display in full color all the ways that I and my friends talk about music.

Maybe it’s my insufferable knack for nosiness, but I love seeing people’s Spotify Wrapped — I love seeing everybody’s Spotify Wrapped so much that I am making people I enjoy a lot spend time over their winter breaks editing this. The short, engaging graphics presenting a person’s most-streamed artists and songs offer a peek inside their listening habits. It also only takes two seconds to look at them instead of a full hour talking on a show.

The truth is everybody is a little ashamed of their music taste. The guests on my show wiggled in their seats the same way when picking which live version of a Grateful Dead song they wanted and when deciding which Glee cast song to play — spoiler alert: it will always be “Teenage Dream (Acoustic).” One person is just as afraid of appearing pretentious as the other is afraid of appearing shallow — society offers no middle ground.

It’s strange the way some people took it so seriously as if they spent hours waiting for the opportunity to talk at length about music, and how some people came in, sat down and proceeded to mock their music taste, giggling every chance they got. They were surprised when we talked about One Direction, 5 Seconds of Summer or songs they discovered off of teenage soaps as seriously as one might talk about Indie Rock or Jam band music. I remember one person saying he didn’t want to call himself a Deadhead because the fan base was so hardcore. Data betrayed him, and the Grateful Dead was his number one artist on this year’s Spotify Wrapped. In all fairness, another guest argued that you’re a Deadhead if, after listening to the first half of “Truckin,” you liked it.

It may be sappy, but the truth is music is music. It doesn’t matter what it is, all that matters is that it matters to you. Everyone is a little ashamed of their music taste because everyone’s music taste brings them joy. It brings them pleasure, and it’s profoundly personal. People are taught to present what makes them happy between spouts of humility, to be ashamed of it and all the parts of ourselves we borrow from others, especially when we are young.  

Looking at all of your Spotify Wrappeds, I’m reminded of just how much of my music taste I borrow from you. I look at my music choices and think of the person who played Vampire Weekend the first time I really listened to the music in the basement of South Dining Hall, to the greasy high school boy who first mentioned Dylan seriously. I think of my best friend playing Caamp as we looked at houses we could never afford in Mequon, Wisconsin. Many of these people topped their lists, along with artists in stratospherically different genres. I can only hope that people sometimes think of me when they listen to their favorite songs. 

Countless guests teased me over the fact that my show would be better labeled as a Vampire Weekend fan show. True to my personal brand, they were not only my favorite artist but also all of my top five songs. In my defense, one was a cover. I’m embarrassed about this, but I shared it because I know everyone who has entertained themselves in their own imaginations while I droned on would get a kick out of my predictability. I was surprised to not see the same sort of predictability from my friends. I talked about music for hours with about a dozen people but could no better pair them with their Spotify Wrapped as I could pair them with their brand of toothpaste. I don’t know if this is a reflection of Spotify Wrapped, them or me, but it’s all the same. I enjoyed seeing everyone’s tastes in cold statistics — there is something beautiful in everyone doing an embarrassing thing together.

There are downfalls to Spotify, specifically the criminal rate at which it pays artists (so if you really do love that indie artist in your top five, considering buying their record or their merch). Still, Spotify and other streaming services make it easy to use music to connect with others. One person had already shared half the playlist they brought to the show with me the year before — one of those shows found a place on my Spotify Wrapped playlist. Spotify and Apple Music make it incomprehensibly easy to share music, and the year-end Wrapped feature is just one example.

Songs that mean the world to me didn’t show up on my Wrapped, and presumably, others went through a similar experience. My Wrapped did not account for how many times I played and replayed the B-side of Lucy Dacus’ “No Burden” while folding laundry or how many times my friends and I watched the “Night Changes” music video on YouTube while “doing homework.” It doesn’t account for all the times, in a feeble search for some serotonin, I watched Car Seat Headrest perform “Bodys” on “The Tonight Show” on a bookmarked Korean video platform because Jimmy Fallon took it off of YouTube. It also didn’t account for how much I love some songs that I don’t play very much. It won’t tell you that I have never skipped “All That and More (Sailboats)” since one of my friends put it on a playlist we traded at 2 a.m. on a Thursday of sophomore year or how I still can’t help but sing the verses of “Hallelujah” no matter how mainstream it gets or how tonally challenged I am.

What Spotify Wrapped allows is for us to share a small fraction of our music taste to as many people as we want in an easily digestible graphic, and I love this. I love finding out whatever I can about what you are listening to, but I still want to talk to you all. Not just because I’m insufferably nosey but also because everyone is insufferably interesting — at least when it comes to music. I treasure knowing what music you play. Thank you for not succumbing to your anxiety over being judged or your “not like other girls or guys” complexes and posting your Spotify Wrapped. Thank you to all the Apple Music listeners, too, but at the same time, sorry.