When Spotify Wrapped season came around last year, I rolled my eyes. I complained. Of course, I lingered on everyone’s Instagram story, judging and condemning like the hypocrite I am – but that was beside the point. Vocally, I was the Grinch of Spotify Wrapped, too indifferent and removed to care about what you were listening to – why would you even think otherwise?
I hated Wrapped day and its culture, and I felt like I had good reason to. I hated the performative nature of it all. I hated the excuses – I share it with my sibling, my friend, my great aunt Mildred and that’s why a cool indie artist doesn’t appear in my top five listens (except in my case: I really do share it with my sister). I hated the smugness of those sharing their Wrapped songs when they know they are cool and I hated the franticness of those trying to justify the uncoolness of their music with a self-aware dig or claim of irony. I hated that I took perverse joy in looking at others’ Top 100 Songs of the year, judging their choices right down to number 100.
But after my years of loudly scoffing and occasionally berating, wondering whether people had such intense main-character syndrome that they genuinely believed that others cared what they were listening to, I am changed.
This year I am relishing it. I am living, breathing and positively thriving in finding out what music other people have been enjoying. Maybe it’s because there’s seldom else to find joy in or maybe it’s because of the year that was in it, all the chaos and trauma that seems to be often reflected in the music people have chosen to listen to. Maybe it’s because I always cared and am only now allowing myself to embrace it, to find the communal nature of it reassuring rather than self-serving.
But after my years of loudly scoffing and occasionally berating, wondering whether people had such intense main-character syndrome that they genuinely believed that others cared what they were listening to, I am changed
I am delighted to have Taylor Swift as my most listened to artist for the third year running since she overtook Fall Out Boy’s two year streak, and I am not even going to justify any of that. Folklore only came out in August and still makes up four of my top five songs? That is beautiful and I am abundantly proud of myself. This year has wiped me clear of any need to rationalise what I enjoy listening to.
This year, I am treating these Instagram stories as invitations, akin to someone opening the door of their home to me and allowing me to poke around for a while. What do you listen to? Who do you love? You spent how many hours listening to “WAP”?
I have taken notes of songs with cool cover art or names that have shown up on my Instagram, ready to give them a try. I have shed myself of judgement: I smile with glee at the appearance of One Direction on a Top 5 artist list, and I laugh along with the self-deprecating joke that accompanies it.
I am deeply, unabashedly interested in what friends, enemies and total strangers have been using to get them through an impossible year. I am converted to the childish joy of Spotify Wrapped, the present-under-the-Christmas-tree of a digital age, not sure what you are going to get but knowing that whatever it is is only the half of it: the true excitement is in the waiting.
I am deeply, unabashedly interested in what friends, enemies and total strangers have been using to get them through an impossible year
In a time where it’s easy to feel more alone than ever, when friendships are hard to maintain and there are people we haven’t seen for months, this feels like a brief reprieve. Friends I haven’t seen since the pre-pandemic era may feel far away, but I have been able to catch up with them today without even having to send a message. It feels personal and almost invasive to see someone’s listening habits laid bare, which is why I’ve started to find beauty and pure sincerity in the sharing of these lists on social media, rather than just the narcissism that I previously attributed it to.
So this year I am a convert, willing to put aside the thoughts of what a good corporate ploy it is for just a day or two while I enjoy the music my friends are sharing – a sort-of digital audio catch-up. I have gone from “nobody cares about your Spotify Wrapped” to “please, give me every detail of your 2020 listening history”. It’s been a long old year and this feels like the closest we’ll get to a party for another while yet, so it’s fun to embrace it. Bandwagons are made to be jumped on, after all.