Taste test: behind the hype about Spotify Wrapped 

Graphic by Keven Vaillancourt @kindaokev

Why is Spotify’s annual retrospective such a big deal?

With December on the horizon, music consumers have already begun preparing for one of the year’s biggest holiday traditions. Were you thinking of Christmas? You would be wrong—Spotify Wrapped comes first. The streaming giant has already begun teasing the yearly recap campaign on its social media accounts, which will likely be revealed at the top of December.

Spotify Wrapped presents you with an objective portrait of your music taste throughout the year: here are your stats, up to you to deal with them now. It has created a phenomenon where you are reduced to your top five songs and artists, causing a string of silent judgments and reactions between users. Some fans even adopt an elitist stance based on their list being more “underground and niche” than others.

Wrapped can accurately indicate the music that one connects to most profoundly. Communications student Marwa Lakehal got to see all of her top five artists of 2022 in concert over the past year. Yet, anyone’s list can be defined by the surprise factor of having an unexpected contender crack your top five. Lakehal jokes about how a sad song wound up as her most streamed track last year. “I listened to it 52 times in one day, I must’ve been going through it,” she laughed.

Listeners have found loopholes to fine-tune their end-of-year results in advance. Websites like Stats for Spotify provide you with rankings for your top songs and artists over the last 4 weeks, last 6 months, and all-time, allowing you to check in whenever to see how things are looking. Some people will even use the “private session” feature to block certain music from interfering with the data tracking for Wrapped (I’m looking at you, Drake). 

Mathias François, also in communications, has acted upon this bias upon noticing that his streaming statistics differ from his personal ranking: “I’ll be like ‘why am I listening to more of this artist than another?’ and start listening to the other one instead.”

These quirks and surprises have turned Wrapped into a cultural phenomenon that dominates social media every year, even creating lore on TikTok. Enter, the girl whose top song was mouse-repellent noise, or better yet, the joke about Drake infiltrating nearly everyone’s top five list.

Apple notably birthed Apple Replay in 2019, its own recap feature for Apple Music. Replay differs from Wrapped with select features like year-round access to data, album-specific statistics, and milestones upon clearing a number of plays or minutes listened. As an Apple Music user, François appreciates the ability to check on his numbers but prefers Spotify’s surprise method. “You already know your results. It’s not the same hype,” he explains.

Local R&B singer Marzmates tips her hat to Spotify for getting listeners and artists to spend more time on their app by giving them incentives. “It has become a challenge to listen for more minutes than the previous year,” she said. “For artists, you get to look back and track your growth.”

No matter which app tries copying Spotify (Instagram’s Standouts being the latest cheap imitation), none of them can generate the excitement behind Wrapped. All that is left is to wait for the fateful day when everyone’s Wrapped posts overtake our feeds before we go back to worrying over which songs will and will not make it.

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