This year’s Spotify Wrapped is now out in the world, marking the end of a year’s worth of careful image curation for some.
Each user can access a customized infographic of their listening data from the past year, and although other methods of sharing listening habits go viral from time to time — from monthly Receiptify dumps to the recent Instafest.app trend — Spotify Wrapped remains the crown jewel of flexing one’s musical taste. Sorry to Apple Music’s new “Replay” year-end stat, but it doesn’t trend in the same way.
“Wrapped day is more important than Christmas to me,” 24-year-old Hannah Lang told BuzzFeed News. “I feel attached to my Spotify account the same way people feel attached to CD, record, or art collections … I love to see myself reflected back to me.”
What began as a marketing campaign for Spotify has morphed into a paradox of image and self-reflection (and also…a very successful marketing campaign). And fans like Lang tell us they’ve been obsessively planning all year for how their Unwrapped will appear.
Lang said her boyfriend’s top song of 2021 was Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” despite his devoted indie and rock band listening habits. If something similar had happened to her, she would have been “in shambles for days.”
“I have a not-like-the-other-girls complex and refuse to have my No. 1 song be a Top 40 hit,” she said. “I get so bummed if I have a top song or artist that’s extremely popular because it feels less personal.”
The 1975 was her top artist of the year, and “T Love” by indie band Quarters of Change took the top song spot.
Rumors that Spotify would stop collecting data for 2022’s Wrapped on Oct. 31 had people both obsessively streaming and abstaining from certain music until they were in the clear, though the company said in a tweet that data collection extends beyond Halloween.
Curating Spotify Wrapped data they’re proud of is a serious undertaking for many of the 10 people BuzzFeed News spoke with. They admitted to setting their Spotify to play certain songs at a low volume overnight, creating playlists with their ideal top songs to stream all day, creating playlists with songs cooler than their usual listening habits to stream all day, and streaming embarrassing songs on other platforms.
Nicole Pacampara, 33, told BuzzFeed News that she stopped listening to background piano and brown noise tracks on Spotify because they didn’t feel reflective of her true taste in music, but she acknowledged the change was performative.
“There’s a hey, I’m cool too thing that happens when a platform summarizes your activity that inevitably changes your taste because now you’re conscious you’re being watched,” she said.
Nicki Camberg, a 21-year-old data visualization expert, told BuzzFeed News that she downloads her progress throughout the year to make sure she’s on the right track. Based on her results, she said she thinks Spotify Wrapped stops collecting data around Halloween even though the company denied that to be true.
Bon Iver has been her top artist since at least 2016, and she intends to keep it that way. But she tries to avoid “internalized pick-me energy,” as she calls it, that keeps her from listening to any mainstream or fringe bops.
“Sometimes the embarrassing stuff can be funny and character-building in a way,” she said. “My No. 3 song last year was ‘Clay Pigeons’ by Michael Cera. Yes, that Michael Cera. And I stand by that.”
Layla Ahmed, who is 30, doesn’t want to see any guilty pleasure songs on her Spotify Wrapped. She plays Top 40 playlists on a loop on her Spotify account, then listens to Celine Dion and other ’80s music that she downloaded to her phone.
“I’m scheming to make my Spotify seem cooler than it is,” she told BuzzFeed News. “It’s a good system. I think I’ll see success.”
She did not. Her top artist was Drake, which she called “slander.”
Though some care passionately about using their Spotify Wrapped to present themselves as cool, others use it to prove their devotion to the artists they stan. Some fans find out whether they were among the top listeners of their top artists. Those who reach the top 0.5% (or 0.05%) share those graphics like a badge of honor.
“If I didn’t end up with Taylor Swift as my top artist, I would be ashamed, then question everything,” 31-year-old Anna Dobben told BuzzFeed News.
She said it’s more socially acceptable to post your Spotify Wrapped top fan percentage on your story than using lyrics to caption an Instagram post.
“You can show people that you’re a fan while staying professional. I’m not going to post the lyrics to ‘Vigilante Shit’ on my story because my family, coworkers, and mom’s church friends follow me,” Dobben added.
She gives Swift extra attention in hopes of booting the classical music she listens to at work and the Peppa Pig songs she lets her cousin listen to so her yearly Wrapped doesn’t give her an “identity crisis.”
Parents often sympathize with others about how their kids’ tastes dominate their top songs. Adam Yosim knows that his 3-year-old daughter’s daily requests for Disney Radio and songs from Cocomelon have destroyed any potential of using his Spotify Wrapped for self-reflection, but he’s excited to see what happens anyway.
“At first, I'd try to keep the requests and playlists separate, especially after I'd get Kidz Bop and other toddler music creeping into my Discover Weekly,” he told BuzzFeed News. “But now I just go with it. Thank God for already curated playlists.”
When Spotify Wrapped dropped on Wednesday, memes immediately seized social media — from jokes about the language used in Spotify Wrapped like “most played” and “top listener” to the names of quirky genres mentioned in the reports.
You probably felt the atmosphere shift online this morning for Wrapped day. For fans, there is a competitive aura. For snobs, it’s affirming. For those of us who indulge in our most feral listening habits, it’s humbling. Time to start planning for next year.