Spotify Wrapped
BRAZIL – 2020/02/15: In this photo illustration the Spotify website seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

For the most part, we loathe the idea that big tech is collating our data, but once a year, we put privacy concerns to the side and rejoice in the release of Spotify Wrapped. Yesterday the streaming platform dropped their annual report for 2020, which presents users with a wide-ranging spectrum of their listenings habits over the past twelve months.

As is so often the case with algorithm-based data, people on the internet proceeded to lose their minds.

There were the usual “ZOMG I feel seen!” responses, some users still shocked at just how accurate the data was, which is confusing because it is literally data.

At the same time, there were a select few who refused to accept their Spotify Wrapped was on the money.

Just admit it, you comfort cried to Folklore on repeat, and that’s OK, 2020 has been rough. Taylor is the perfect tonic.

That’s A Wrap

Since beginning in 2006, Spotify Wrapped has become a much-anticipated date at the back end of the year, with people desperate to review and promptly share their results online.

But in 2020, Spotify Wrapped feels more important, or at least, more telling than ever. The explosion of COVID-19 in March has altered every facet of our lives, including the way we listen to music, and what we listen to.

This years’ Wrapped took on increased significance because it held a mirror up to a time in our lives no one will ever forget.

While some things may not change – John Mayer remains my most-listened-to artist three years running – the data doesn’t lie. And the response to Spotify Wrapped has perfectly captured the tumultuous reality that is 2020.

COVID Inspired

My most streamed song this year was ‘Inside Friend’ by John Mayer and Leon Bridges, which seems incredibly fitting. The track was written during COVID and is a timely anthem dedicated to all the iso-buddies who survived the great indoors together.

“You can be my inside friend,” croons Mayer.  “Come through with your hair still wet, Yoga pants, sweatshirt on the bed.”

The pair even shot a film clip from their individual houses and then stitched it together. How meta is that?

In Australia, The Weeknd’s ‘Blinding Lights’ came out on top as our most-streamed song, clocking up 1.7 billion plays. But more interestingly Taylor Swift was our second most-streamed artist, despite not making the top 5 at all in 2019.

Makes sense, though, doesn’t it? Folklore was an impromptu album, written, recorded and released in lockdown. A sixteen song time capsule that hums with the energy and frustration of 2020.

Meanwhile, the most-streamed Australian song went to Tones And I for ‘Dance Monkey’ for the second year running. I can only assume this is some kind of sick joke given how deserted our dance floors were for much of this year. Spotify Wrapped has also reflected our deep desire to escape reality and lose ourselves in the world that isn’t hemmed in by case numbers, hand sanitiser and temperature checks.

In the US, Disney+ ditched plans to premiere the Hamilton film in October 2021 and instead brought the release forward to July this year. It immediately became the most-watched film on Disney, and that popularity bled back into Spotify as users revisited the musical numbers.

It Was All A Stream

The Spotify Wrapped trend is reflective of a broader content consumption shift that can be traced back to COVID. I know it seems like a decade ago but remember when all anyone could talk about was Tiger King, the documentary that launched a thousand memes.

Netflix released Tiger King on March 20th, peak pandemic, and it became a bizarre Tiger-themed refuge for a global audience. Who can worry about a pandemic when you’re concerned that Carole Baskin legitimately fed for her first husband to a tiger?

The same goes for The Last Dance, which remains the most scintillating sports documentary ever made. In a year where live sport has been cancelled, revived, but forever changed, The Last Dance filled that gap. Watching NBA GOAT (and 90s style icon) Michael Jordan air his dirty laundry was as close as we could get to the thrill of competition.

Food For Thought

Based on the positive response to Spotify Wrapped, it’s only a matter of time before other platforms jump on the bandwagon and start releasing end of year wrap-ups. I could get around a Strava wrap celebrating my (very slow) runs, or even a Google Map wrap which highlights the many exciting routes I travelled in one year.

But please, spare me UberEats: A Year of Gluttony In Review.

No one needs to relive how many calories they consumed from the couch, probably while watching Tiger King.