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Music

Student and staff 2023 top music recap 

To close off 2023, students and staff share their music highlights from the past year. 

Every year, we are blessed with new music releases, visits from various artists hosting concerts and showcases in Montreal, and countless music-based events throughout the seasons. Last year was no exception. Concordia students and staff at The Concordian share the music they most interacted with in 2023 before we collectively jump towards the music 2024 has to offer. 

Aidan Matthews, a photography student in his last semester, got to spend two nights at the Bell Centre as part of the photo team for Drake’s It’s All A Blur Tour after getting the call the morning of the first show. “Watching Drake come down the steps to ‘Look What You’ve Done’ gave me goosebumps both times,” he says. 

Matthews had been listening to Drake since high school so it was a real full-circle moment and a key music memory of his year. Otherwise, 2023 was a year when he became bored with a lot of the music he was listening to. “I listened to less rap than in previous years,” Matthews adds. The Pinegrove Shuffle trend on TikTok pointed him to Pinegrove, who became one of his most listened-to bands in 2023. Matthews also listened to a lot more pop, folk and alternative with artists like Zach Bryan, Del Water Gap, Toro Y Moi, and Caroline Polachek.

Another photography student, Simaiya Shirley, primarily listened to indie and alternative-based artists. She wanted to release pent-up rage and leave room for love, which translated to the music she engaged with in 2023. Recent releases she gravitated toward include Billie Marten’s Drop Cherries, Feist’s Multitudes and This is Why by Paramore. These projects and others from past years have all become musical crutches for Shirley and are still artists that she consistently returns to for belonging and guidance.

Graduate student in Women, Gender and Sexuality studies Akira De Carlos comments on how “Loading” by James Blake was definitely their song of the past year. “James Blake is probably my favourite artist of all time and 2023 was very much a ‘damage in repair’ year for me, so ‘Loading’ felt very reflective of that,” they share. De Carlos rode their bike a lot to that song and it always hit, because it felt like a very transitional but powerful song and 2023 was just that kind of year for them. The graduate student has always loved James Blake for the emotion he evokes in them and this song was another good example of raw vulnerability which reflected De Carlos’ “in my healing” era of 2023. “I knew I was setting myself up for greatness but I wasn’t quite there yet and ‘Loading’ feels exactly that,” they add.

As for studio arts student Viva Egoyan-Rokeby, their most exciting new music moment of 2023 was seeing post-punk and noise rock band Model/Actriz live in Montreal last spring. That show was most definitely memorable for them and they are still looking forward to any future music project. Although Egoyan-Rokeby mostly listens to older music, 2023 was a year in which they branched out into listening to newer stuff from their favourite genres. “Some notable new-ish artists I discovered this year were Aurat, which is a Pakistani American darkwave/coldwave band, Second Still (more coldwave), and De Ambassade (even more coldwave, but Swedish this time),” they share. Last year was also a huge PJ Harvey year for them.

The Concordian’s video editor Jacqueline Lisbona’s favourite music moment of 2023 was the Morgan Wallen concert back in September. She’s a huge country music fan and it was one of the best concerts she’s ever been to. “I also loved ending off 2023 with Tate McRae’s Think Later album because it really helped me get through the last push of exam studying and I love her music so much,” Lisbona says. Her favourite tracks on the album include “stay done” and “grave.”

News editor Emma Megelas’ music highlight was the day Bad Bunny’s new album, Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana, came out as a complete surprise to everyone. “It was the best day of my life and I had no idea what to expect,” Megelas says. That album resonated with her 2023 so much she got to discover new parts of herself, grow in new ways and just be present without any expectations of what would happen next and that album is the perfect description of her 2023. Megelas definitely sees herself bringing Bad Bunny over to 2024.
As for myself, I always seem to surpass the amount of music I listen to each year and find new music gems. I’m also immensely grateful to have been able to attend performances overseas in 2023 from some of my top listened-to artists like Yves Tumor and Kendrick Lamar on stage during NxWorries at Primavera Sound Festival, and incredible live shows in Montreal such as Yaeji and James Blake. New artists on my radar in 2023 included Swiss rapper Makala, and French composer and singer Chassol. My rotation in terms of favourite 2023 album releases were Sampha’s Lahai, Kelela’s Raven and The Rat Road by SBTRKT. I thoroughly am looking forward to all upcoming 2024 music moments.

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Music

Taste test: behind the hype about Spotify Wrapped 

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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Music

What does your favourite music merch item mean to you?

Students at Concordia share clothing pieces featuring their cherished artist merch and tangible music.

How meaningful really is a t-shirt with your favourite artist printed on it hanging in your closet? Whether purchased from a random vintage store or official website, your favourite artist has most probably sold tangible items under their name. 

The concept of merch in the music industry is for one, an obvious promotional aspect. Limited edition drops can be found on artists’ official websites to promote their newest musical release. 

Another popular way for people to get their hands on some goods is by attending a concert and purchasing directly at the merch tables there. Fan-made products sold online are also widely accessible and used among fans. Even acquiring the setlist of a show at the end of it definitely counts as meaningful (and free!) merch. 

Merch articles can take various shapes, from t-shirts and hoodies to hats, keychains, pins, bags and so much more. Collecting vinyls and CDs is also an option—and this way of interacting with the music of a loved artist can make it more personal. 

You can tell so much about someone even without exchanging a word just by noticing a merch product on them. And it may be a great way to spark up a conversation!

The Concordian spoke with some of the students on campus about their favourite merch from a musical artist and what it means to them. 

Alfred, a human relations student at Concordia shared how important it was to him to acquire a staple piece after seeing Kaytraminé over the summer. He got a t-shirt from the duo to commemorate his “favourite time of the year.” Liz, another student in human relations and organization development, talked about her vintage Ice Cube shirt, which gave her nostalgia for watching movies and listening to the rapper growing up. She simply had to buy it when she saw it in a store, she added. 

Studying creative writing, Wu-Tang Clan is at the core of Kreeashon’s dear merch item that she acquired from her brother. It features the artist’s first album and is the reason why Kreeashon got into hip-hop in the first place. As for Yasmine in Communication Studies, her friend got her a Dominic Fike t-shirt from a live show they attended a couple of years ago. For her, it acts as a reminder of the moments they shared together at the show. 

Kikah commented on a CD she holds dear and close to her heart. Using her DJ Quik CD lets her immerse into the world of hip-hop “in its purest form,” and, coming from New York, it is also a way for her to reminisce about the earlier style of the genre. 

Whether it’s an item that you can wear outside or display and use in your personal space, music merch can hold a special place in the heart and bring you a sense of connection and nostalgia to your treasured artists.

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