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Spotify Unwrapped 2021: Who will top your very own Top 40 this year?


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Spotify Unwrapped 2021 is almost upon us – the streaming service's annual countdown of our personal listening during the last 12 months. And anyone who hopes to be considered cool to their kids may have some explaining to do.

For the uninitiated, Spotify Wrapped lays bare your musical tastes, compiling a top five of your most listened to artists and a comprehensive countdown of the songs you've listened to most over the course of the year.

Spotify will soon be serving up the top 100 songs listened to by each of its millions of users
Spotify will soon be serving up the top 100 songs listened to by each of its millions of users

It is an algorithm which charts the rhythm of your discerning ear.

It even tells you how long you have listened to them for. This, for teenagers, is probably a necessary badge of honour, proving their commitment to their artist of choice. For those of us of an older vintage, it can be simply confirmation that you have got your money's worth from your monthly subscription.

It's like the good old days of the pop charts where you actually recognise all the songs and can't complain that "they all sound the same".

And given most of us have spent at least half the time home working this year, the chances are it's going to be a pretty accurate description of what floats your boat. What's kept your foot tapping while pretending to concentrate on that Zoom call? What tunes powered you to meet the deadline for that key project you were working on?

Its personalised nature has made it unique in charting our online activity.

Will the ubiquitous Ed Sheeran be sat on top of your listening list?
Will the ubiquitous Ed Sheeran be sat on top of your listening list?

Google, for example, doesn't deliver us a 'your most searched for terms' on an annual basis and Netflix doesn't serve up a 'the TV show you binge-watched the fastest'. And both are probably for the best. They would, after all, expose terrible flaws in the best of us.

However, if you banged on to your friends about developing an appreciation of Beethoven during 2021, or exploring the back catalogue of the Velvet Underground while your top artists prove to be Boyzone and Kylie Minogue, then you will be cruelly exposed.

If you binge-listened to the laugh-a-minute Isolation by Joy Division when you got pinged by Test and Trace earlier this year, it may give you some musical (and topical) kudos, but not if it is beaten to the top by Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers.

The good news is that Spotify's compilation of your listening ended on October 31 this year – which means diving into a Christmas playlist on November 1 will not see Mariah Carey or Wham!'s festive fare feature unfairly highly. Well, assuming, of course, you weren't listening to them in January. But who, in their right mind, would do that?

But given we were all singing along to Sweet Caroline and Three Lions during the summer when England dazzled at the Euros, brace yourself for some surprise high entries. I fear terribly that Ant & Dec's We're On The Ball could attain top 20 status. Which would be a shame. Although there's a chance the appearance of the two 40-somethings may drag down the average age of artists I've been listening to over the past 12 months quite dramatically.

Did watching Tom Jones perform at the Hop Farm this summer send him soaring up your charts?
Did watching Tom Jones perform at the Hop Farm this summer send him soaring up your charts?

Mind you, even in the golden era of the Top 40, there were always some songs that made you cringe (but you secretly enjoyed).

The only issue, as ever, is that if you're someone who likes listening to an album on repeat rather than individual tracks, your top 100 songs could end up consisting of about 10 artists.

Last year, for example, six of my top 10 were the opening tracks from one album. But then I suppose Ed Sheeran does that these days in the real charts these days, doesn't he?

But we live in a world where going to Our Price to snap up the latest physical album seems as archaic today to looking something up in a book rather than a search engine. Streaming services are now the way we consume our music. We own everything and nothing, all at the same time.

And while we may bemoan the loss of poring over sleeve notes and properly investing in an artist, or sympathise with the paltry sums the performers receive for each listen, the reality is we now have the entire contents of a music megastore in our back pockets – available at the touch of a button. For those of us of a certain age, that is still a remarkable achievement. Technology, eh?

Spotify is now as an essential an app as many social media platforms
Spotify is now as an essential an app as many social media platforms

Yet perhaps the most essential service Spotify delivers is reminding ourselves of the remarkable memory jogging power of music.

More powerful than how a scent can instantly take you back to another time, person or place, music can act as a bookmark to a time in your life.

Fall in love to a soundtrack of Whitney Houston (or fall out of it listening to Adele)? Have the holiday of a lifetime listening to Bruno Mars? Spend a fortnight in bed with Covid listening to Dr and the Medics? Well the chances are your list will take you back there. Just without the inevitable heartache/tan/raging temperature.

Spotify Wrapped is expected to be unveiled within the coming weeks.

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