Streaming service stats are some of the most fun nuggets of music information that nerds get every year, and today Spotify have released theirs. Along with a feature where Spotify users can see their own most-listened songs and artists, the service have also released a list of their most played artists and songs globally. And, lo and behold, it is largely exactly what you'd expect.
Based on chart performance, it's not surprising that it's topped by Ed Sheeran, who takes over from Drake, the most streamed artist of last year, and this year bumped down to second. Sheeran's only real competition would have been Taylor Swift, who, despite having the year's biggest selling album with Reputation, kept the record off streaming services until last Friday 1 December, and its November release probably would have meant a smaller number of streams anyway.
Sheeran's third album ÷ (Divide) came out in March and took over the world and the global charts and everyone's brain (explain the success of "Shape of You" otherwise???). All 16 songs from the album were in the top 20 of the UK singles chart at one point, literally forcing the UK chat company to rethink their rules, so I guess it does make sense that he's been streamed so much: 6.3 billion times on Spotify alone this year (rounding out the top five most played, if you're interested, are Drake, The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar and the Chainsmokers, because women, of course, do not make music.)
But: think about it. Don't most people you speak to actually feel sort of indifferent to Ed Sheeran? Mostly just don't really get how a lad so ordinary who once bought a loop pedal could have become such a colossal star? No real problem with him but also come on what the fuck, how's he doing a duet with Beyoncé? How is this The Most Streamed Artist of 2017? It's mind-boggling.
I wanted to get to the bottom of it. I thought about it: where have I actually heard Ed Sheeran recently that isn't like, a supermarket, The X Factor, or my mom's car radio? And then I had it. I had recently heard Ed Sheeran's Beyoncé duet ("Perfect Duet," which, lol) Round The Corner.
Let me explain. Round The Corner is what everyone (me) calls a little annex of the London VICE office where the lovely post-production and IT people sit, and where the tech cupboard lives. Quite honestly, Round The Corner is a musical hinterland. Sometimes, at 4PM on a Wednesday, you'll hear Elton John piping from their speakers; sometimes you'll get in at 9AM on a Tuesday and they'll be playing a trance mix that sounds exactly like the sesh when it gets to 6.42AM and you realise no one needed that last bump. It's something of a mixed bag. It is no surprise that I had heard Sheeran coming from such wild and loose musical cannons.
Intrepid, I headed Round The Corner to find out who controlled their music selections. Quickly I was thwarted: I expected a dictatorship (what else would justify the Sheer Man?), but I was informed that Round The Corner was actually a democracy, where everyone had access to the music controls. I asked around. "Is it you playing Ed Sheeran?" "Is it you?" Head shakes, shrugs, silence (I imagine because people were trying to, you know, do their jobs rather than talking to someone asking incessantly about Ed Sheeran).
Despairing, I thought I would never gain the knowledge I required. finally got to Yasmine, an on-the record Round The Corner representative. This would be the definitive answer. Finally, we would find out why people actually choose to listen to Ed. I took a deep breath, and I asked the big question: "Why did you lot have Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé on earlier?" She said simply:
"We literally just put it on because he sings with Beyoncé. If it wasn't with Beyoncé we wouldn't have played it."
It really must just be mind control, which is what I've been saying since March.
Lauren is an Ed Sheeran truther on Twitter.