All wrapped up

Discovering the stories behind the songs and artists students and teachers listened to most in 2020

Spotifys+2020+wrapped+allows+students+and+staff+to+reflect+on+their+past+year+in+music

Photo courtesy of Spotify

Spotify’s 2020 wrapped allows students and staff to reflect on their past year in music

By Anushka De, Mikaylah Du, and Shivani Verma

On Tuesday, Dec. 1, Spotify released its annual Spotify Wrapped, a personalized account of every user’s music history and trends on the app through the year. Presented in a slideshow with accompanying music, Spotify revealed users’ individual data from the number of minutes they spent listening to the number of new genres they discovered. This year, Spotify included five new features in Spotify Wrapped, and allowed non-users to see the year’s global data for the first time. This custom digital experience gave music enthusiasts and critics alike a chance to reflect on the evolution of their music taste throughout the year. 

Looking back on his Spotify Wrapped 2020, junior Ronit Avalani’s top song of the year, “Water” by Beyoncé, Pharell Williams and Salatiel, reminds him of a very specific moment. 

“The memory that [‘Water’] transports me to is honestly just 2 a.m. vibing in my room while I had this blasting,” Avalani said. “I was fully just having a dance party, vibing. I felt like I was giving a full concert to my audience, even though my audience was a total of one stuffed animal on my bed. It made me feel like the vibes were immaculate and I was special. And I was like, ‘Whoa, okay.’”

Avalani remembers loving “Water” so much that he and one of his friends created their own sheet music for a piano cover duet. Before this instance, Avalani had never created sheet music before. Now, he still listens to the song frequently, and he and his friend have inside jokes relating to the lyrics whenever anyone says “something with the phrase ‘water’ in it.” 

However, he thinks that he’s lost touch with some of the songs he had listened to earlier this year. Although there are some songs like “Water” that he consistently comes back to, he believes that there are certain songs that he will “cycle through and spend a solid two weeks on” before moving to the next song. After looking through his “Your Top Songs 2020” Playlist, he remembers how he’d had phases of music in 2020.

“Generally, I feel like there are things that I look back on and … I forgot that that phase existed,” Avalani said. “Also, things just have happened so fast in the past year that it’s honestly hard to remember certain parts. I’ve been referring to quarantine itself as seasons and it’s hard to even remember [it] — I feel like it was so long ago.”  

Science teacher Jenna Smith also found parts of her Spotify Wrapped unexpected, but for a different reason — her top genre was modern rock, which she doesn’t think is accurate based on her music preferences. Because she usually uses her boyfriend’s Spotify account when they’re together, she feels that her own account’s Spotify Wrapped more accurately reflects her year “as a teacher,” rather than what she listens to overall.

“I use [my own] Spotify account more either before or in between classes, when I’m grading or when I’m out exercising or bike-riding on my own, so it did reflect that part of my year,” Smith said. “But it didn’t always reflect my home life, because music is on all the time in my world. If you mesh [my account and my boyfriend’s account] together, it would probably do a better job [of describing the music I listen to].” 

Smith’s top song of the year is “When I Get There” by Big Wild, who is also her top artist. She discovered Big Wild when looking at a line-up for Coachella, and because the artist was later on both her and her boyfriend’s playlists, she ended up listening to him often. Smith uses “When I Get There” during her workouts to get herself warmed up. 

“I’m all about different beats — the melding of them and the musicality of it,” Smith said. “I hate when there’s so much stuff going on it just feels like noise, but Big Wild does a good job of … [building] up the beat. It becomes a mishmash of different songs and you’re like, ‘Where are they going with this?’ And it builds and you can just sit with it. There aren’t necessarily lyrics that you need to be paying attention to, but there are some lyrics that kind of get you in a groove.”

Sophomore Anjali Sharma believes that she’s expanded her music taste from mostly rap to include indie and pop during COVID-19. On the one hand, she was surprised by some of her Spotify Wrapped data, especially her top five songs — she doesn’t recall listening to one, “Feeling Down” by Sharpe, since March. On the other hand, her top artist of 2020 was Khalid, whose music she’s listened to since middle school.  

“I love Khalid,” Sharma said. “I’ve always just liked how his songs are very soothing and calm. And if you don’t want a very hype song, if you want a quiet calmness when you’re listening to songs, I think Khalid is definitely one of the best singers to listen to.”

Avalani also finds that his music taste evolved during the pandemic, a change that started with a playlist that he shared with one of his friends. They spent many hours refining the playlist into a diverse collection of songs ranging across several genres, from what he describes as “upbeat reggaeton” to “tranquil electro.”  

“One thing that my friend really likes to do with her playlist is [that] she orders them so that the progression usually goes from chill music into hype music,” Avalani said. “I think the playlist that we made is very cohesive because each song flows into the next, but if you go from the first song to the last song, there’s actually a huge difference. It made [for] a really nice playlist to listen [to] and it made me feel a lot happier. It became one of my favorite playlists and I honestly didn’t see that coming [because] it was a drastic change from what I regularly listened to and I completely loved it.” 

Like Sharma and Avalani, senior Kavya Patel also believes that the types of music she listens to changed during the year. She explains that she initially listened to what she considers to be sad songs, but as the year went on she began to explore “mainstream rap” — blackbear and Pop Smoke were two of the artists she began listening to more frequently. However, she still continues to listen to sad music, especially by Lauv, who was her top artist this year, because she feels it validates her emotions. 

“[Sad music] definitely helps me focus, because there’s not as much going on inside these days, so your brain doesn’t have to focus on it too much,” Patel said. “It matches how I’m feeling sometimes. It justifies [me]. [It] makes me feel not just what’s going on around me, but what’s going on inside of me. And [I] feel at peace.” 

Avalani notices his own trend towards listening to sadder, slower music when he feels down or stressed. Looking back, he remembers being stressed out due to school and conflicts with friends, which impacted the types of music he listened to. He realizes that this year, he can see his mindset mirrored in his music once again.

“Everything was happening all at once and my Wrapped showed that,” Avalani said. “‘And because of that, part of my New Year’s resolution was to get more into this [mindset of] ‘I’m happier about things that are happening, I am more impressed about what’s happening with my life.’ When it came to my Spotify Wrapped [this year], a lot more of my songs are songs that I get hyped to … It really shows my shift from last year to this year. I’ve actually put in the effort and it showed that I’ve actually maintained my whole resolution of trying to be a happier and more fun, outgoing person.” 

This story was originally published on El Estoque on December 5, 2020.