For many reasons, I hate Spotify Wrapped – it’s clearly a marketing ploy for a streaming service that notoriously pays artists a pittance and has turned discovering new music from an act of curiosity and exploration into an algorithmic exercise.
I miss the days of finding new music from blogs, niche MuchMusic shows that would play late at night and mix CDs from friends. Yet while I’m nostalgic for this bygone era, I must admit, I still like Spotify for its convenience, how you can see what your friends are listening to and how easy it is to create collaborative playlists. And, despite my opening statement, I do like the soul searching Spotify Wrapped prompts. This year’s edition, which debuted Wednesday, offered an unfiltered snapshot of my listening habits over the past 12 months. Did I really play that song that many times this year? How could my purported favourite artist not even make it into my top five?
Canada’s most listened to artists are fairly predictable – Drake, Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, Kanye West and Eminem – while the top groups were BTS, Imagine Dragons, Coldplay, The Beatles and Maroon 5. Globally, Bad Bunny was the top-listened to artist, for the third year in a row. If you haven’t checked out your Spotify Wrapped yet, you can find it only on the mobile app on the home screen.
The Globe’s music nerds from across the newsroom are sharing their Spotify Wrapped lists: the embarrassing, the surprising, the highs and lows.
– Samantha Edwards
Let It Be (on repeat)
In a very embarrassing reveal, my top artist of the year is my partner’s indie rock band, No Frills. (No, they’re not sponsored by the Westons nor are they the discount grocery store’s house band. They just have the same name). So to avoid a potential conflict of interest, I’ll instead focus on my number two artist, The Beatles.
I’ve always loved The Beatles, but I went binge mode in 2022 after watching the nearly eight-hour documentary Get Back. Seeing the group write some of their biggest songs in real-time – Paul McCartney composing the doc’s title track was pure magic – made me appreciate Let It Be even more.
One of my top-listened songs is the lo-fi pop song Do You Wanna by Tokyo-based artist Nana Yamato. I found Yamato through my personally curated Discover Weekly playlist, so I have the algorithm to thank for bringing this small, indie artist into my life. Other notable highlights from my top songs are Waters of March by Art Garfunkel, a song I became obsessed with after it was used in the final scene of The Worst Person in the World, and Julianna Barwick’s See, Know, an intense, synth-driven number that anchors an ambient playlist I listen to on repeat when I’m writing.
– Samantha Edwards
At home with the intuitive streamer
I wasn’t surprised to find Daniel Romano’s All the Reaching Trims at No. 24 on my song list. It’s a lovely finger-picked folk-rock ballad from 2018. The song is moody but peaceful, cryptic but spiritual – I’m put at ease by the second verse, even if I’m not sure what Romano is singing about. I don’t think I purposely played the song all that often. Instead, on numerous occasions, Spotify’s algorithm chose it for me.
Country rock was my go-to genre. Wilco’s Cruel Country, for example, received a lot of action.
I leaned on mellow music during my year of anxiety, and the intuitive streamer sensed I needed some low-key Romano magic. “The crest will crack and spill the brine,” the troubadour sings, “omissions of us leeching little children.” Yeah, it was that kind of year. Spotify gets me.
– Brad Wheeler
Periodically, but not forever
Like most years, I spent a considerable amount of time listening to float house, art pop and new wave music.
Artists like Arthur Russell, FKA twigs and Larry Heard dominated my earbuds, but the top song on my Spotify Wrapped was unlike everything else, and honestly, caught me by surprise.
Periodically is a number from A Strange Loop, the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning Best Musical written by Michael R. Jackson. My husband and I were lucky enough to catch it on Broadway during a May trip to New York a few weeks before the show garnered a slew of Tony nominations and repeatedly sold out.
The timing was bittersweet: Our vacation came with some life-changing health news for my husband, and in the blur of accompanying emotions, A Strang Loop – full of bold and emotional songs – left an impression, with Periodically a highlight. The cheerful bop sung by Jaquel Spivey and John-Andrew Morrison in the original Broadway cast recording is about complicated familial love surrounding queerness and Christianity, and based on a voicemail Jackson’s mother once left him. At home, I’d listen to the song and be transported back to the theatre and that New York trip. The lyrics remind me that life and love are beautifully complex and – periodically, but not forever – turbulent.
– Michelle da Silva
The Shazam-to-Spotify pipeline
This year, my Spotify Wrapped labelled me an “Adventurer,” which I like to think is the streamer’s way of telling me that my music taste is so eclectic I successfully confused its algorithm.
My Wrapped playlist is indeed a bit on the eccentric side, but what Spotify doesn’t know is that I use my account to help me with exactly three things: working out, going to sleep and figuring out which song was playing as the soundtrack to a TV show, movie or random internet video I just watched. This Shazam-to-Spotify pipeline helps explain why Nocturne No. 1 in B flat minor by Chopin is in my Top Songs of 2022. Might seem high-brow but I’m almost certain that came to me via a “Royalcore” playlist discovered in the wake of watching Bridgerton, season two.
Fade Into You by Mazzy Star is a great track that I’m pretty sure I revisited after reading a bonkers interview with Machine Gun Kelly in GQ, during which he took a break to slow-dance to Mazzy with Megan Fox.
Other forensic tidbits and their origin points from my Year in Pop Culture, according to Spotify: Strange by Celeste, from the Ted Lasso soundtrack. For the Girls by Hayley Kiyoko, the opening song in the Netflix movie Do Revenge. The 1957 hit Little Bitty Pretty One by Thurston Harris, the backing track for about a zillion TikToks and Instagram Reels.
I think my Wrapped doesn’t quite know what to make of me, or the year I had. And honestly, Spotify, same.
– Kate Wilkinson
I Don’t Live (T)here Anymore
I spent much of 2022 as a giant stressbag, juggling the final drafts of a book with daily reporting and the logistics of moving out of my apartment of a decade.
To decompress, I would go on long walks through Toronto’s west end every night, usually listening to Low’s Double Negative – an album with such deliberately warped production that it feels as though the audio file is disintegrating as you listen to it.
I assumed my most-listened-to songs of the year would be Low’s back-to-back Tempest and Always Up, which run your ears through orderly chaos before a hauntingly melodic palate cleanser.
Instead, Spotify claimed my most-streamed song of 2022 was … the same as my most-streamed song of 2021: The War on Drugs and Lucius’s I Don’t Live Here Anymore. If it wasn’t a Low song, shouldn’t it have been Alvvays’s Belinda Says? Did the algorithm fail me? Or did I not grow as a person? I have a lot of thinking to do.
– Josh O’Kane
The Constant Basic
As an Apple Music user, I don’t get any personality-driven insights from my streaming service. Instead, Apple Replay just lists your top stats in big type (despite their efforts to zhush up their graphics this year).
If they did give me a label, it’d probably be something like “the Constant Basic,” because my top artists are the same as in previous years. Namely, Drake, The Weeknd and Lana Del Rey.
What’s new for 2022 would be my TV-turned-music obsessions: the Euphoria soundtrack from Labrinth (Still Don’t Know My Name from that album is also my No. 1 song) and Succession theme song from Nicholas Britell. I gobbled up both shows and both original scores are perfect for when I’m trying to get in the zone at work.
Notably absent: my running playlist (a sign my habit has fallen by the wayside) and my sleeping tunes (my husband’s algorithm takes the hit for that – his number one artist is Brian Eno, for all the nights we fall asleep to Ambient 1: Music for Airports.)
– Ming Wong
A British invasion
On the internet, no one knows you’re two partners sharing a single Spotify account. So with Spotify’s 2022 Wrapped end-of-year look at my – our – listening habits, the split musical personalities of this marriage are on full display.
Out of 28,496 listening minutes this year, our – my wife’s – No. 1 song was Grapejuice by Harry Styles. Actually, the British boy wonder took four out of our five top spots. Which makes sense, given that we spent $481 to hear him croon his sugar-sweet pop live in concert.
Sneaking in at No. 3 was Big Energy by Latto, arguably the song of the summer with its callbacks to Mariah Carey’s Fantasy. More importantly, I had to learn the NSFW lyrical content for The Globe and Mail’s in-house cover band. But not to worry, I rapped the clean version.
My more critical contribution was No. 3 on our top artists list: Ethel Cain, a thrilling Florida-born trans singer-songwriter. Her gothic persona’s most quoted proclamation goes, “God loves you, but not enough to save you.” That would explain Spotify characterizing our nighttime music mood as “morute dollcore gothic.”
An honourable mention: A deeper dive reveals our No. 6 song as Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by the Smashing Pumpkins. The 1990s alt-rock lullaby was the only song that could get our senior rescue dog to sleep at night. She died this summer, so we’ll hold on to this year’s musical memories.
– Cliff Lee
There’s no match for Taylor Swift
A return to concert-going made it a memorable year in music for me. My ritual of binge-listening to artists before seeing them live (Kendrick Lamar, Aminé, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Red Hot Chili Peppers) gave these artists top spots on my Spotify Wrapped.
These were no match to my No. 1 artist of the year: Taylor Swift, who managed to rack up record listens within just one month of the release of Midnights. I expected to see these obsessions represented. But what Spotify couldn’t determine is that my most-listened-to song of the year was, in fact, my most hated song.
“With one song, it was love at first listen,” Spotify tells me, which is somewhat true. When Béyonce’s album Renaissance was released, Break My Soul stood out as motivational banger, so I naively claimed it as my morning alarm clock. Who knew waking up to “You won’t break my soul” sung on repeat and “Bey is back and I’m sleepin’ real good at night,” would only give me motivation to hit the snooze button more quickly?
– Aruna Dutt
A spoonful of Spoon
In previous years, I may have been compelled to provide this caveat to my Spotify Wrapped list: I don’t really use Spotify.
Which is true: I am an Apple Music person. The caveat would be used to explain that, while I use Spotify often enough to generate a Wrapped compilation, the compilation is not exactly representative of my listening habits throughout the year. Except this year. Thanks to a social media-friendly Apple Replay redesign, I know that this caveat would simply be me protesting all too much.
Because, on both platforms, my most-listened-to band was the same. It was Spoon. On Spotify, a platform I barely use, I was in the top 0.1 per cent of listeners for Spoon. Across both platforms, I listened to a combined 5,575 minutes of Spoon. My top song, no matter where I look, was The Hardest Cut, from the 2022 album Lucifer on the Sofa by Spoon. In 2023, I resolve to listen to anything but Spoon.
– Rebecca Tucker
Not a wrap on Spotify
As brand exercises go, Spotify Wrapped rankles this social-media Scrooge more than most: why would people boost a company for free, in exchange for little more than the opportunity to boast about one’s music tastes?
Still, Spotify Wrapped can serve as a useful barometer of how exactly it is you use the streaming service. I subscribe to both Apple Music and Spotify, because they serve different purposes for me: the former for exploring albums both new and stashed-away over my decades in the Apple ecosystem, and the latter because Apple Music’s playlist functions are basically unusable. In these recessionary times, I had hoped to cancel one, and had been leaning toward Spotify.
Instead, Wrapped wound up showing me how playlist-oriented my music consumption habits have become this year. I logged thousands of minutes of playtime but had top songs with just a handful of plays (I apparently listened to Outkast’s Elevators (Me & You) three times this year and it was my eighth-most played song).
Playlists don’t usually encourage remaining with one artist or returning to one song, and to that end, I spent a lot of this year shuffling through “Jam of the Day,” a communal playlist created by my friend Bram years ago, which, with nine contributors, now comprises 410 hours of stone-cold hits from The Rezillos’ Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight to Tevin Campbell’s I 2 I; lately, I’ve been using Spotify to craft multiple playlists to soundtrack different parts of my forthcoming wedding.
It doesn’t capture the new artists and albums I fell for this year, and I may still hate it as a vanity project, but Wrapped has shown me that I can’t really quit Spotify. Bah humbug.
– Adrian Lee