Spotify Wrapped: Unwrapping My Favourite Holiday Present


Juliette Barlow rounds off the holidays by discussing everyone's favourite streaming gimmick

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Image by Juliette Barlow

By Juliette Barlow

Everyone has a favourite holiday. For some, the festivities of Christmas markets and mulled wine warms their cold, wintry hearts. Others love the hopefulness and chocolate-filled celebrations of Easter, whilst there’s always one who makes their birthday a week-long celebration. But for me, my favourite holiday is Spotify Wrapped Day.

Launched in 2016, Spotify Wrapped, which usually comes out at the start of December, not only curates a playlist of the top 100 songs you listened to that year, but also breaks down which songs you have listened to the most, your top five artists of the year, and your favourite music genres. Maybe it’s my inherently nerdy side, but I revel in having my entire personality broken down into neat statistics.

Last year, the ‘Wrapped’ stories included a quiz about your personal music habits; shamefully, I got my own question wrong, whilst my friends proved that they know more about me than I do myself. This year, they have created a Myers Briggs-esque ‘Listening Personality’, where the listening habits of Spotify users are analysed on whether they prefer Familiarity or Exploration, Timelessness or Newness, Loyalty or Variety, and Commonality or Uniqueness. As an ‘ENVU’, I am apparently ‘The Adventurer’: ‘a seeker of sound’ who ‘ventures out into the unknown’ searching for ‘gems yet to be found.’ Whether or not this is true is debatable, but somehow it makes me feel seen, and plays into my deep-rooted individuality complex. Similarly, I can’t help but get a kick out of knowing that I played music more than 96% of other listeners in the UK, or that I am in the top 1% of Taylor Swift listeners this year.

The brilliance of ‘Wrapped’, however, lies in its ability to bring people together. As soon as the ‘Stories’ came out, my housemates and I started comparing notes, finding out if we had any of the same top artists, seeing who listened to the most music this year and listening to each other’s favourite songs. The last page of my ‘Wrapped Stories’ which gives a neat summary of your top five songs and top five artists, along with your total ‘minutes listened’ and top genre of music, was shared widely amongst my closest friends. Likewise, I revelled in getting theirs back; an intricate snapshot into the depths of their personalities.

The concept itself is a clever marketing tactic, designed to be shared and create a culture of FOMO for non-Spotify users. Although other music streaming services, such as Deezer and Apple Music, have tried to emulate ‘Spotify Wrapped’ to capitalise in on the hype, their seasonal recaps just don’t generate the same buzz and excitement. It’s genius really; instead of worrying about how much data Spotify is collecting off of us, we look forward to having our personal information splayed across colourful imagery, desperate to dissect its analysis and share it with friends.

Statistics aside, I also love the fact that I can listen again and again to my favourite songs of the year. Although I often enjoy listening to new songs or shuffling through random playlists (naturally, due to my ‘ENVU’ personality), sometimes there is nothing more comforting than putting on a playlist where you know you love every single song. This is exactly what Spotify has created through the ‘Top Songs’ playlist. As an eternal Spotify user, I find it comforting to go back and look at all my ‘Top Songs’ playlists since 2016. I can literally see, through my music taste, the development of my personality and how much it has changed (or not) throughout my life. There will always be the same classics on there for 7 years running, but I find it particularly fascinating to literally be able to pin down the year that I got really into that one specific indie band.

Looking through my old playlists also helps uncover long forgotten memories, elements of my personality I haven’t seen in years. For me, playlists serve as time-capsules for specific moments in my life. Putting one on can literally take me back to that time, to a version of myself that no longer exists. In times of stress, solace can be found through my past favourite songs; it allows me to reminisce about the times when my biggest worry was my Year 10 exams. Listening to these songs, those playlists, helps me to rediscover the experiences that have helped to shape me into the person I am today.

I personally believe you can tell a lot about someone from their Spotify. Most people, when they are tasked with doing the background check on a friend’s potential new suitor, do the cursory Facebook and Instagram stalk. I, however, like to go much deeper: the Spotify check. Although playlists do not equal compatibility, I believe that someone’s music taste is a window into their soul. On social media, people can curate themselves to a particular image they want to project. What they listen to, however, reveals hidden bits of their personality that you might not suspect. That rugby lad who is in every Salvos Wednesday with the boys? Turns out he actually loves Dua Lipa. That emo girl who only wears black and listens to grunge? Might have a bit of a soft spot for Take That. Although I like to think of myself as indie and underground, somewhat different to the crowd, my Spotify all but shatters this illusion. It reveals that, under the façade, I am exactly like everyone else, and I just really love Taylor Swift.

As well as allowing me to achieve ultimate self-awareness, Spotify also helps me to connect with my friends. As someone who is eternally unreachable through social media, I love checking on my friend’s profiles, exploring to see if they have made any new playlists, or looking at what they are currently listening to from the sidebar on Spotify Web. Based on what they are playing, I can tell their mood, or guess what they are up to, making me feel more connected to their lives. It’s not a psychic connection that makes me send that ‘are you okay?’ text at exactly the right time, it’s because I’ve seen them listening to ‘Songs To Cry To’ for the past hour.  Similarly, my friends have often commented that they can guess what I am up to based on what I’m listening to; if it’s ‘Peaceful Piano’ I will be doing my readings, or if it’s throwback hits from 2010, I’ll be getting ready to go out.

However, for the upcoming weeks, there’s only one playlist that I’ll have on repeat, and that’s my ‘Top Songs 2022’. Listening to every song I have loved will give me a chance to reflect on everything that has happened this year, and how much I’ve changed as a person. But above all, it will give me an immense sense of relief that I have shed the skin of my 2021 self, and that my Top Song of the year is no longer ‘Heatwaves’ by Glass Animals.