Parsing My Spotify “Your Top Songs of 2018” Playlist

In addition to my own annual music lists, Spotify makes one for me (posted below). I love this about Spotify. It pays for the subscription all by itself. There’s another service called Last.fm that I have used for years that does something similar, collecting data on music you’ve streamed across a variety of platforms and showing it to you across seven day, 180 day, and 365 day stretches. But because, until September, it was mixing together both mine and Kiddo’s listening histories, there’s way too much Hamilton and Camila Cabello to sift through to find my music.

Also, not only does the service compile a playlist for you of the 100 songs you’ve listened to the most during the year, it accompanies that list with a web-based presentation about your music listening habits since January.

I listened to 25,104 minutes of music this year.

I listen to “non-mainstream” artists 71% more than the average Spotify listener.

The oldest song I streamed all year was the 1954 track, “Keep Your Hand on The Plow” by Mahalia Jackson.

I am so much of a sucker for this.

Listening through this automatic “Your Top Songs” playlist is actually a reflective exercise. Sure, a bunch of what’s in there is stuff I picked and played repeatedly on purpose, and most of it was released in 2018 and so overlaps with this playlist. But there’s a lot of surprises in there that break down to a couple of things that were true about 2018 for me.

I spent a lot of time building a shared playlist with a friend from seminary, trying to get him to expand my musical palette and teach me some of the American music history that my suburban Top 40 radio upbringing deprived me of. That list accounts for a lot of what I spent time with, stuff I would not otherwise have been listening to (Billy Bragg, Buffalo Tom, Grandpa Boy, The James Hunter 6).

I also, because of my job, spend hours driving vans full of teenagers. I make playlists for these drives, and I’ve started inviting the students to contribute. Those trips have a discernible footprint on this playlist. They account for  the Walk The Moon, Portugal. The Man, a-ha, Earth, Wind, & Fire (!), Miley Cyrus, Journey, and Barenaked Ladies (one group of students demanded “Don’t Shuffle Me Back” practically every time we got in the van.)

Finally, there are songs in here that I hope will be in my top 100 every year for the rest of my life. These are the songs that makeup the soundtrack of my life. I seek them out repeatedly when I need them. See “Beautiful World”, “Ordinary Angels,” “Tyson vs. Douglas,” and “Joey.”

Seriously, Spotify is an instrumental to my end-of-year reflection as anything else.


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