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Spotify Wrapped points to what we need most

Since 2016, Spotify has offered its users a feature that rounds up the details of our usage, allowing us to look back over the year through the specific lens of our listening habits.

While this may initially sound a little dull, it’s actually quite the piece of marketing genius. Every year Spotify Wrapped becomes more and more of a social ritual.

It may be somewhat of a storm in teacup, the teacup being Gen Z. But still, a storm it most certainly is.

This week, thousands of people have taken the data provided by Spotify and posted it on their social media. Their top artists, the songs they’ve had on repeat, the number of minutes they’ve spent in the company of their favourite albums. In other words, their listening habits served to us on a plate. And that’s not all. This year, Spotify has gone a step further: it’s attached a narrative to our data, imbuing it with meaning and romanticising it for us. The ‘Me in 2023’ feature defines you on the basis of your music tastes and streaming habits.

So here we have it: the story of our 2023, as narrated by Spotify. The state of our souls, as outed by our devotion to Taylor Swift. I find it fascinating. Which I guess is the point. Bravo, Spotify.

But what’s even more interesting is that these deeply personal insights, made for our eyes only, are being plastered on social media. Spotify Wrapped has become a kind of soft launch of our own brand, a low-stakes way of putting ourselves out there.

We’re so desperate to be known, aren’t we? A symptom of expressive individualism, perhaps. A nagging need to show people who we are. Flicking through endless Instagram posts dedicated to Spotify Wrapped announcements reminded me of this Tim Keller quote:

‘To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything.’

This innate heart cry is fuelling the success of this marketing ploy. While Spotify may not be aware that they’re highlighting what we need more than anythin’, that’s what it’s doing. What a challenge to be reminded of every person’s need for God, and what a joy to be able to tell them that the one who knows them best is also the one who loves them most.

Dr Belle Tindall
Reporter, Centre for Cultural Witness

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