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It's A Wrap

A brisk week has positioned itself between now and last week’s opening of over 547 million Spotify Wrapped stories. A renowned stamp on people's final months of each year. It’s a time to celebrate our musical obscurities, but to what extent?

Spotify is the gift that keeps on giving. If adopting AI as your personal DJ and weekly release radars isn’t enough, hopefully, a succinctly engrossing narrative of your musical expression is.

This annual phenomenon began in 2016 and has since replaced Christmas as the most anticipated end-of-year event. That’s not true, but you could think as much from the brewing excitement amongst Spotify’s subscribers.

Opening your Wrapped requires comfort and concentration and a pair of decent headphones. I opened my bespoke listening story and instantly became fixated on the data before me, frantically trying to retain it all. I couldn’t help but resist the urge to feel individualistic.

As my fellow Spotify users began sharing their stories around the living room table, my mind jumped ahead to the other few hundred million premium subscribers and what their results might look like.

An irrefutably neat option Spotify offers is a tidy little card summarising your year: top artists, top songs, top genres, and the number of minutes spent listening. All are revealed and delicately displayed on a well-designed card. Choosing your colour is the cherry on this personality cake and the final task. Six colours are offered, all representing a slightly different version of you.

I took to my humbled three-hundred Instagram following to taste a crumb of this cake’s enormity. Almost everyone had shared their decorated listening cards. Some with undertones of self-deprecation. Others with unadulterated allure for their glimmering artistry.

I spoke to my premium contemporaries about the topic and was met with polarising takes. One friend claimed it to be a self-righteous act and could only see praise as a benefit. Another friend countered this opinion with a more optimistic approach and stated that it’s a harmless activity and shouldn’t be overly examined. I couldn’t help myself.

Geetu Vanjani, a senior counsellor at the Indigo Project, discussed the inner motives behind sharing our Spotify Wrapped data. Vanjani outlined how it’s human nature to make sense of a situation and gather understanding. Our Spotify lists are not exempt and can’t resist one’s inclination to be investigated. We, the social media fanatics, then take it a step further by projecting a version – a façade – of how we want our fashionably buzzworthy coevals to perceive us.

The rest of social media quickly cottoned on to showboating, and we soon saw an influx of trending videos centred around people’s expectations of how others should react.

There is some solace in the comfort of Gen-Z’s response, though. We clambered together to expose the conceit of our peers, whose heads had grown a tad larger than what was advised. I commend the viral influencers who, rather than join the vanity train, decided to make content despite it all. And maybe this is too pessimistic, but there’s something amusing about the grounding of the cool kids.

Then, out of the rough came a band of people who had no association with perceived images. They understood the lack of importance of this data. With sense on their shoulders and a penchant for not taking themselves overly seriously, they posted their stories. We saw names from the brightly coloured, vowel-concentrated ear of music, also known as the early noughties. There were tracks featured on the Now That’s What I Call Music CDs. All sorts of music were listened to at all sorts of times. And for whatever reason.

Sharing our music is a vulnerable admission; in this case, it’s left to be ripped apart with no context, leaving the ruins of a once jubilant hobby that most of us lean on for stability, motivation, and focus.

We can’t dictate what we like to hear – we can try to oppress it – but we cannot and should not alter the fate of our listening proclivities. Cool or uncool. New or old. Esoteric, or damn right overplayed. It doesn’t matter; it says as much about who you are as your preferred pair of Monday socks.

Right from the start of our wrapped journeys, we are implored to believe we are special. It’s the crux of any good marketing stitch and is a ploy widely used across advertising. We’re given such explicit data in such an uplifting way that it’s perhaps more of a challenge to resist self-importance. As tempting as it might be to gloat away your insecurities on whatever platform you choose to do so on, try and remember, no one really cares. Unless, of course, you’re sitting at the cool table.

Stay humble, and stay kind, peeps.

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