Way back in June, my cousin and I joined the pilgrimage of people who came of age in the mid-aughts trekking to New York City to see the musical adaptation of Mean Girls on Broadway. Though we were definitely going ironically, I believe that familiarity with the material is crucial to appreciating any theatrical performance, so on our drive up, I cranked the campy, sugared soundtrack on repeat until our ears were ringing. We listened to it again on the way back, and again the next day, and then I was immensely sick of it.
And then, last week, I and more than 83 million other Spotify users were treated to this year’s release of the music-streaming service’s annual Wrapped tool, which provides users with an animated slideshow breakdown of their individual listening history for the year. For example, mine told me that I listened to “non-mainstream music 90 percent more than the average Spotify user.” That is, my most played album of 2018 was the Mean Girls soundtrack, streamed for a total of four hours.
People love Spotify Wrapped. We love the stories that the thousands of hours of music we listened to this year tell about us. We love the embarrassing revelation of a guilty pleasure, or the reinforcement of a cultivated musical identity when the bands at the top of the list match the T-shirt collection in our drawers. If you use social media, you’ve almost certainly seen people you know posting screencapped portions of their Wrapped results alongside some highly enthused observation: Their top five artists “so perfectly encapsulated” them. Their data were thrown out of whack after they fell asleep one too many times listening to artists with names like White Noise for Baby Sleep. A friend texted me that “seeing top songs on Spotify Wrapped is like seeing an old best friend that you lost touch with.”