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Unwrapping Spotify Wrapped

Unwrapping Spotify Wrapped

Every year in the first week of December, eager Spotify users and avid music listeners alike await Spotify’s annual gift: Spotify Wrapped. The streaming platform creates an individualized summary of each listener’s most played artists, podcasts, songs, and genres of the year, culminating in a comprehensive unique list that floods social media feed for 24 hours.

In addition to presenting data for each individual on the app, Spotify also released information on global and national trends, including the top ten artists, songs, and albums this year. Globally, Latino artist Bad Bunny took the lead in the artist and album categories, with his album YHLQMDLG earning him the most streams of the year. However, R&B singer The Weeknd landed the top song of 2020 with his record-breaking hit Blinding Lights, which spent the most weeks ever in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100.

Despite using their carefully created algorithm that is so often praised, this year’s Spotify Wrapped seemed to miss the mark for a number of people. After seeing incessant complaints on Twitter, I decided to turn to my own following on Instagram to hear the people’s thoughts. Through Instagram stories, I asked my followers if they felt their Spotify Wrapped was accurate and, in the following slide, asked them to leave comments on what they liked or disliked about the service.

Out of 114 responses, 82 people felt their Wrapped was accurate, a whopping 72%. This left 32 people, or more than a quarter, who did not feel that their Wrapped properly represented their music taste for the year.

Now, a disclaimer: Spotify Wrapped only accounts for music listened to between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31 of that year, leaving out an entire two months. Additionally, there is no actual way for the Wrapped to be invalid, considering it uses data provided by the listener, with no proven fabrication found.

However, that being said, there are certainly many factors to take into consideration when discussing the reliability of the results. For example, if one shares an account with a parent, then the Wrapped certainly will not represent that individual’s sole music taste. Also, if someone listens to music over a variety of streaming platforms, then their Wrapped will not represent their entire music taste.

In the responses to my story, my followers had many interesting and important questions for Spotify to which I found no answer, quickly learning that Spotify releases no public information about their algorithm. A few people, including Rutgers University freshman Kishan Dalal, questioned how Spotify counts featured artists when calculating a user’s most listened to artists.

He theorized that songs where a featured artist is credited then that artist is counted toward the final calculation, however songs where the artist is not credited, such as Drake on Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode,” do not count toward top artist calculations. While I could not find any proof to verify or disprove this, this discrepancy could lead to some inaccuracy in results.

One follower, Northwestern freshman Laya Neelakandan, did not like having to see her Wrapped at all, saying it “made [her] feel insecure about [her] own music tastes.”

This was a sentiment many shared, leading to confusion about how some artists or songs showed up more than they expected.

On the contrary, Northwestern junior Cole Sias said she “liked all the detail provided, and it made [her] feel special.”

“It showed my appreciation for pop perfection,” Northwestern sophomore Jude Cramer said. “I felt kind of basic but it was definitely accurate.”

While Spotify users certainly had differing perspectives on their Wrapped results, many had a few suggestions and ideas that they wished Spotify would implement.

Multiple people said that it would be interesting to see how their music taste changed by month and would like to see a timeline over the year.

“It would be cool if they analyzed how you changed over the year,” Northwestern freshman Nick Francis said. “My January to March bops were not the same as the rest of the year.”

A few other suggestions included counting most queued songs over shuffled songs when calculating top songs, aggregating data on albums users streamed the most, and refining the way Spotify defines their genres. The genre question is one Spotify has been posed in the past, as people were confused last year when Spotify told them their top genre was “Pop Rap,” a genre that is an oxymoron in nature.

Suffice to say, this year’s Spotify Wrapped left many unanswered questions and a case for accusations of “inaccuracy.” Yet, this did not stop the outpouring of posts and memes on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. One thing remains clear: Spotify Wrapped Day could be a national holiday.

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