Spotify Wrapped offers surprises, insights

Photo courtesy Spotify

The long-awaited gift by music streaming platform Spotify was given to its users on Tuesday evening. The annual analytics list the user’s top tracks, artists and more along with several curated playlists to fit the user’s previous listening sessions.

Spotify Wrapped 2020 is available to view on the Spotify mobile app for iOS or Android. The virtual experience highlights a user’s top artists, tracks, genres and podcasts from their year via vibrant visuals. A new addition includes mini in-app quizzes to reveal a user’s top podcast, artist and decade. Spotify users all over the world are feeling mixed emotions about their results for this year’s round-up. This raises the question:  Did the pandemic affect music listening habits?

Living during a pandemic is an obvious mental olympic. People have found many ways to cope with their isolation, and that definitely includes streaming music. It holds the ability to trigger many emotions in the human mind. Prior to the pandemic, live shows and festivals were the happy place for many music lovers. However, concerts were moved to a virtual or non-existent setting, which eliminated most of the emotional connection. Listeners were left to enjoy their favorite band or artist via their earphones or speaker.

University of West Florida student Dominique Nicholson wasn’t shocked to see Frank Ocean as her top artist on Spotify.

“I was not surprised that Frank was my number one artist, since I go back and forth from Spotify to Apple Music to listen to Frank’s playlist and his music on Spotify often,” Nicholson said. “Apple Music has his ‘Endless’ video which I appreciate and listen to often.”

Nicholson actually uses Spotify and Apple Music, so she found similarities within her annual results for both streaming platforms.

“I had Love Affair by Umi in my top list as well, and I was happy to see her there,” Nicholson said. “I’m happy that both artists were Black and that there were women. Last year, men dominated my top listening tracks and artists, so I wanted to be intentional about the range of artists I support.”

Another female artist who ranked high on Nicholson’s list is pop songwriter Caity Krone. Her debut EP, “Work of Art,” was an easy stream for Nicholson throughout the year.

Another student at UWF, Adam Williams, is happy with the results of his Spotify Wrapped, but he noticed an album in his top charts that is directly related to his quarantine streams.

“I think quarantine definitely affected my top artists, because ‘The New Abnormal,’ The Strokes’ new album, came out right at the start of the lockdowns in April,” Williams said. “I went through a period of time where my mental health took a dive with no end in sight for the pandemic, and ‘The New Abnormal’ was one of the few bright spots, so I listened to it religiously for months.”

Williams is an avid listener to The Strokes, since they have remained on his Spotify Wrapped for three years in a row. Although his top three artists have been consistent, Williams found himself exploring different genres this year.

“I found myself branching out to listen to way more pop-punk and emo music that was really popular in the early-to-late 2000s that I largely avoided for years,” Williams said. “A lot of long drives made me start listening to them to mix it up, and I remembered how much more I loved the genres than I thought I did before.”

Genre bending has been trendy this year and is visibly shown in the new results of everyone’s listening habits. Many artists have stepped outside of their usual sound, which encourages their audiences to listen to other genres. Spotify shares the analytics for specific genres each year, and users were surprised to see their results.

Kaylan Richbourg, a political science student in Pensacola, believes her music taste is a reflection of the character growth she’s developed this year.

“I used to listen to a lot of rap or metal music, but COVID-19 made my neurotic, anxious behavior skyrocket, so I took the extra time that I had to develop a better sense of self to ground me,” Richbourg said. “During my process of self-discovery and growth, I stopped listening to a lot of old artists. This year, I took the time to learn to enjoy the small things, and I started to appreciate lyricism more and beats less, although good guitar chords always gets me.”

It’s obvious that we listen to music to cope and get through the day, but quarantine absolutely had an effect on our listening habits. Whether it’s an educational podcast or a guilty pleasure artist from your childhood, audio is comforting and can lead to releasing dopamine.