“In 2021 you did what you had to do.”
“You always understood the assignment.”
“You deserve a playlist as long as your skincare routine.”
No, these phrases were not uttered by a TikTok star or a cool mom. Instead, they are idioms that appear in the annual data-driven marketing campaign known as Spotify Wrapped.
The feature, which was released on Dec. 1, shows users of the streaming music service the songs and artists they listened to most throughout the year. Its arrival reliably inspires a number of screenshots and memes on social media. In 2020, for example, people posted about how fittingly depressing (or soothing) some of their most-listened-to tracks were.
This time, much of the commentary revolved around the campaign’s use of internet slang (“living rent-free in my head,” “vibe check,” “main character”) and its references to popular topics (NFTs, skin care regimens). In one meme, a Twitter user joked about personal finance using the tone of the Spotify campaign: “Your checking account balance was in the bottom .003%. Weird flex but ok!”
Some users also noted surprising revelations about their listening habits. (Who knew they were in the top .05 percent of Doja Cat listeners?) Others found something resembling self-knowledge in the “aura” readings that Spotify generated based on the moods suggested by their music tastes. (One person on Twitter jokingly reported that Spotify had deemed their audio aura as being “fertile and breedable.”)
After the feature’s Dec. 1 release, the hashtag #SpotifyWrapped trended for a couple of days, and the memes have been endless. In short, Spotify has collected a lot of data and is now reaping the benefits.
Kelsey McGarry, 28, who lives in Los Angeles and works as a grant writer and coordinator for the city’s homeless services, spent practically a whole day poring over her own Spotify Wrapped. She said that the results felt like an accurate read of who she is.
“My Spotify Wrapped is very gay,” said Ms. McGarry, who added that her top artist of the year was Charli XCX. She enjoyed looking back at her year in music but noted that the language in this year’s Wrapped was occasionally distracting.
“My skin care routine isn’t even long,” Ms. McGarry said. “Like, what are you talking about?”
Rajat Suresh, a 26-year-old comedian and writer, was one of the many people online who joked about Spotify leaning into playful language and buzzwords.
“In 2021, you were not cancelled,” Mr. Suresh wrote in a meme he posted on Twitter. “Bye Felicia! You got your Fauci Ouchie, and that’s got the whole world shook.” Along with the image, he added a question: “Why does Spotify talk like this?”
Ms. McGarry said that for her, those “cringe” moments, where the app seemed to be pulling phrases from a word cloud of popular slang and search terms, were a reminder that Spotify was a corporation and that sharing snippets from its Wrapped campaign on social media was “free advertising.”
According to Taj Alavi, the global head of marketing at Spotify, the company is always looking for new and creative ways to connect with Spotify listeners, of which there are more than 381 million worldwide.
“We often lean into playful language and user experiences — it’s a core part of who we are as a brand,” Ms. Alavi wrote in an email. “When we consider what the user experience will include, one of the most important factors is connecting with culture, not just making it all about Spotify. So you’ll notice playful references to cultural trends from 2021 reflected in the interactive user experience.”
Mr. Suresh said that he uses Spotify a lot, making it “one of the companies that knows everything” about him. For him, though, this year’s roundup reached a little too far.
“It just felt like a classic Twitter thing of when the brand is trying to seem like a human or something,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Brooklyn, noting that he’d rather just see the data.
That’s not to say he didn’t check his Spotify Wrapped with genuine curiosity. His top artist, he said, was Elliott Smith.
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