Let’s Talk About Stats: Spotify Wrapped 2020

Detour through Statslandia time! The B’s have, I think, about 200 songs more than the A’s did, so it seems like a good time to shift gears for a couple-three jiffies. Plus, I’m obsessed with my Wrapped this year and wanna gush about it a little. (And I feel like Last.fm doesn’t do their EOY stuff ’til, like, January, so there’s some nice distance between the two.)

I don’t mind admitting that I can’t stomach Christmas music before Thanksgiving — and even after, it’s in extreme moderation — but you’re goddamn right I was checking Spotify every five minutes as soon as December landed because I needed those sweet, sweet Wrapped stats.

This was my first full year as a dedicated Spotify user: With the bonus of working from home presenting the perfect opportunity for all-day music playing free from the fear of being a nuisance to my coworkers, I was entirely too eager to see what this year’s Wrapped had to tell me about myself. Where Last.fm provides near-constant and easily customized feedback about my listening habits directly from my iTunes cache, Spotify is much less transparent and has me at the mercy of its library (from which 77 of “my” tracks are missing, as of the”Bui-” songs — and please know that I am suuuuuper pissed that the charmingly experimental, rawly emotional beauties comprising Regina Spektor‘s 11:11 are primary among those glaring absences I am choosing to take as a personal attack, notably because “Buildings” is a lovely piece of music I’ll have to find another, less convenient way to share with others). And that manufactured suspense absolutely, unabashedly had the intended effect on me.

But just because I wasn’t surprised doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth the wait. I didn’t think I listened to Dawes’ new album all that much, but there is nothing else at all that shocked me about any of this. (Two Wrappeds later and I still have no idea what Stomp and Holler is but you do your proprietary genres, Spotify.)

These were a little unexpected, though, and it’s entirely because they’re proof that 12,700 Songs actually has had a visible impact on my listening habits. I didn’t realize how often new favorites got some serious play time, or how I really can get stuck on one song (you’d never know I fell hard for “Bobcaygeon” literally weeks before Spotify stopped tabulating 2020’s musical date because hooooleeee shit, did I ever play that song for the entirety of a 45-minute round trip and then some), or how often I’d put a song on repeat for inspiration if the words weren’t coming easily enough. More than 40 of the 100 tracks on my Top Songs playlist were direct results of 12,700 Songs — to say nothing of the songs I fell in love with because one song often led me back to a bountiful gift of an album — and that was not at all something I was expecting.

Anyway. On the topic of pleasant surprises:

I don’t really think of myself as being a genre-exploratory music listener, but I do make an effort to be open-minded about giving outside-the-box music a sincere chance. And it was nice to have some kind of confirmation that my taste in music is inching toward being as all-over-the-place as I’d like it to be. The first time I indulged in alphabetical listening was considerably motivated by wanted to feed my entire iTunes library to my Last.fm radio for a more varied shuffle option, and the spirit of that intention getting a sort of echo here tickles my storytelling glands. Thanks to friends whose recommendations I trust and, begrudgingly, some gems that my husband brought to the shared chaos of our iTunes repository, I have been able to venture beyond my rock-centric comfort zone.

Oh: I didn’t include a screen shot but the final tally for my “Break the Sky” plays was 29, to which my knee-jerk reaction was “Wait, that’s IT!?” Which I guess qualifies as a legit Wrapped surprise.

But it turns out that the biggest shocker had nothing to do with my stats themselves but rather how I seemed to be a rarity in my response to them: While I was delighted and minimally surprised by what my Wrapped results reflected (and so pleased with my Top Songs playlist that I’ve had it on almost non-stop this past week), articles started popping up everywhere about scads of folks were mortified by their own listening habits. Like, first of all, confronting two months of musically bingeing the “Hamilton” soundtrack isn’t the worst result by a long shot; secondly, did these people never live through an emo phase that waaaay outlasted its welcome? You love what you love and you listen to whatever’s a life raft at that moment: A snapshot of what you got you through this most regrettable smear of a year doesn’t have to be dismissed as a guilty pleasure or reduced to the same asterisk that most facets of 2020 bear.

Me? I wear my stubbornly demonstrative affinity for mid-aughts indie rock proudly. Sure, there’s apparently all kinds of nifty stuff out there that I’m alienating with the comforting time capsule of my favorite music, but I’m not going to feel bad about that yielding a playlist spilling over with six and a half hours of longtime and newly discovered loves giving me everything I come to music for: a direct route to familiarity, joy and escapism lined by the songs that make me go “Ooohhhh, I LOVE this one!” and sing along despite the tepid protests of common courtesy.

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