Some artists won’t be boxed

By Beverley Knight

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You can’t beat a good band tee. Championing your favourite artists and starting heated conversations at the local pub is a time-honoured tradition. But, in 2016, a new phenomenon and marketeer’s dream was born: Spotify Wrapped. Ok, it plays a different role to a humble garment, but there are similarities to sharing your musical wins.

A short burst of anticipation bubbles before the winter release of digital music service Spotify’s Wrapped: a presentation that looks back at your year. Clever animations reveal your top five artists, songs, minutes listened and more. In 2023, AI DJ and Brooklyn’s finest Xavier Jernigan or X to you and me, stuck around, chatting away and playing stuff that didn’t make your top cut and bundling favourite tracks together.

Whatever your opinion of the streaming platform, Wrapped catches the attention of millions of music lovers, especially in the social media stratosphere, with the graphics sitting comfortably on Instagram stories. All a bit of fun? Some have noted it stems from extensive personal data collection, but it’s music, often an art form we want to shout about from the rooftops, not just down the pub.

The report is pretty good at showing you what you might not realise. However, it can get a little skewed. Take a long car journey with kids, Disney’s Frozen soundtrack stuck on repeat; not one to brag about with your high-brow music pals in the office. 

Maybe you’re a vinyl collector, choosing Spotify to listen to things You don’t have in your beloved LP assortment. Music is part of one’s identity. So much so that some fans play songs or artists on repeat to make sure they appear in their yearly round-ups, proving their devotion. 

Day to day, the platform considers listening habits and tailors the experience. Choose any song, and your pal Spotify will recommend something similar that you might dig. You might not. But it’s worth lending your ears for, at the least. Along with the other cute facts, Wrapped looks at genres, like the whole platform itself. It couldn’t function as it does without it. 

Genre can be a minefield. As time and technology advance, debate arises in this day and age. And just who decides what genre someone should be? One man’s jazz could be another man’s swing. Some artists fancy a change in genre to keep things fresh, upsetting die-hard fans. 

There are the ‘won’t be boxed’ artists and the blenders who take genres and mould them into one, creating a new sound entirely. MGMT is a worthy example. Psychedelic overall, they took indie pop, synth-pop, indie rock, rock electronica and lesser-known styles and made it their own. Their fifth studio album, Loss of Life, lands on Earth on 23 February 2024. Who knows where this one will go?

And what about Parisian pair Justice and their categories? Heavy metal, classical, disco, to name a few. Affectionately known as French Touch 2.0 amongst friends, it comes out as Filter House on Spotify. Who knew? Coincidently, the pair also have their fourth studio album dropping this year. The date: longed for, as yet unknown. 

But really, there’s no need to get bogged down by it all. Genre gives a sense of belonging and community. And just like wearing your threadbare t-shirt from the 2000s and seeing someone with the very same, it’s an instant connection. “What music are you into?” The answer is usually a genre. Already, there’s common ground and much to talk about. It’s ok, genre, you can stay. Fire up the jukebox. Fancy a pint? 

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Cover Image: Justice by Simon Fernandez