Spotify's '2020 Wrapped' Is a Time Capsule of Our Collective Misery

Whether you were listening to Megan Thee Stallion on repeat or just bumping the 'Hamilton' soundtrack, Spotify's retrospective is a snapshot of just how weird this year was.
December 2, 2020, 5:14pm
spotify wrapped 2020
Image by Dessie Jackson

After mid-March, there was no more going to the club, no hanging out at bars, no partying with friends, no belting out songs at concerts, and little to no collective public consumption of music. This year, we mostly listened to music at home, privately. The only external markers of song popularity were the off chance you heard something playing from a passing car. For the most part, our Spotify #2020Wrapped reflects this weirdness. 

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Maybe you listened to Phoebe Bridgers and only Phoebe Bridgers. Perhaps you’re somehow in the top .1% of Taylor Swift listeners. Or maybe, instead, you spent your year reaching for 14-year-old My Chemical Romance songs that feel more like comfort food. It's possible your Spotify 2020 retrospective doesn't actually reflect your headspace at all. Did you just long to be able to scream the lyrics to “WAP” while swilling beer with all your sweaty friends? So did we. Were your listening habits bizarre? Ours were too. See for yourself, and be sure to also support artists directly by buying their albums and merch.


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Spotify Wrapped reminded me, a 29-year-old white dude with a beard, that I listened to a lot of Fleet Foxes this year and had a pretty big Stereolab phase before the world shut down. These aren't surprises but what is a bit eyebrow-raising is that, apparently, I listened to 438 genres in 2020 including "133 new ones." This is ridiculous because there are maybe 17 actual genres of music, tops. I don't remember listening to anything that could be construed as "garage-psych" but according to the algorithm, it was my top 4 genre of the year. —Josh Terry

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According to both XTC and "White Noise for Babies," this year was very "senses working overtime." —Amy Rose Spiegel

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Spotify began by saying, "Let's start you off with a win," implying they'd be calling me a loser later on, which is pretty rude to do to a paying customer. My top song was "Rascal" by RMR, my top artist was Alchemist (thanks to his collaborations with Boldy James and Freddie Gibbs.) Spotify says I listened to 1,273 artists this year, which feels high, I can't remember more than 1,134 of them. My top genres ranged from rap to pop to alt hip hop to indie soul to trap, which is somehow different from rap. Because I listened to "All Business" by Hit-Boy featuring Benny the Butcher before it hit 50k streams, Spotify says I am a Pioneer whose next mission is to find the new "Millennial Pink." I had to Google "Millenial Pink" to find out what it was. All of Spotify's pretty data analysis shows me I only listen to my gym/running playlist. —Ashwin Rodrigues 

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What does this compendium of songs and artists that includes both Disney hits 100 Gecs and say about me? That I am a mom, but like, a reasonably cool one? I would feel the need to explain why Ty Dolla $ign was my top artist whe "You're Welcome" from Moana was my number one song, except I've seen a number of parents on Twitter sharing very similar sentiments. You have to laugh. —Leslie Horn

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Honestly… I want a refund (I know it's a free app, but that's beside the point). While Kehlani's "Water" is a great song, I'm stumped at how it was ranked as my top song with a whopping five streams. Surely, I've listened to Pop Smoke's "Dior" and Jhené Aiko's "Pussy Fairy," which rank much lower on my list, more than five times. One thing Wrapped did get right is that I was stuck in the mid-aughts for most of the year. "Gifts" is my most played song from the 2000s, which I played everywhere—the car, the gym, the house—and there are tons of B'Day tracks I rediscovered, because "Suga Mama" hits so much differently when you're grown. —Kristin Corry

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Four out of the five songs I listened to the most this year are off of playlists I explicitly designed to soothe my anxiety, which tells you pretty much all you need to know about my year. Like everyone else, I’ve been stressed out, restless, and miserable—but songs like these helped me get through the shitheap that was the past 11 months. Here’s to hoping next year’s roundup is full of bops. —Drew Schwartz

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Nothing about my results this year really surprise me—I was totally obsessed with Narrow Head's and Hum's new albums, as you'll see in our end-of-year lists. A friend played that George Clanton song, "Make It Forever," for me in his car at the beginning of January, and I got totally obsessed with it and it clearly took over my year. It does seem like I was leaning especially hard into shoegaze and psychedelia, probably because I needed a whole lot of escapism from both my living room couch and the world at large. —Hilary Pollack

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As a meme (I made) once noted, sometimes the side chick aint even a side chick; it's Kacey Musgraves' 2018 release Golden Hour. I could have predicted what my 2020 Spotify Wrapped looked like because, indeed, Golden Hour was my side chick, getting me through a year of global tumult and profound personal reflection. Just as Kacey crooned on my No. 1 played track of 2020, I often felt "Happy & Sad" at the same time. While that means my 2020 Wrapped playlist encompasses the entire album plus Luther Vandross' "Never Too Much" (I'm a drunk auntie in spirit and also physically), and that my most played songs are all tracks from the album, I'm not embarrassed. The music I listen to while alone at home doesn't even crack the top 10 list of things about me that are embarrassing. So I'm going to soak into the Golden Hour bath made of my own happy/sad tears and let it wash over me until this butthole of a year is over. —Alex Zaragoza

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One thing I noticed looking at my full top songs playlist is how many times this year my brain just broke and I listened to the same song on an hour-long loop. All of my top 5 immediately recall individual afternoons spent sitting in bed or at my desk working, just playing the track over and over. One day I listened to Elton John’s “I Think I’m Going to Kill Myself” a ton of times in a row (I’m fine thanks for asking), and another day it was “The Locomotion” by Little Eva. I would also like to add that Spotify is a terrible company and to please support your favorite artists directly when you can. They need your support more this year than ever. —Rachel Pick