December 1st marks the set-in of holiday shopping panic, the official descent into madness of retail workers who’ve already been listening to Mariah Carey for two months and, arguably above all, the release of Spotify Wrapped.
Spotify Wrapped is the compilation of Spotify users’ year of music, with a breakdown of their most-listened to albums, artists and songs, all neatly sorted into little graphics in the perfect dimensions to post on Instagram stories.
They take a little artistic liberty with it every year. This year, there was a “Your life is a movie,” moment where they gave you the soundtrack of your life based on your most listened-to songs. The opening title to my life as a movie is apparently “Daddy Issues” by The Neighbourhood, so I personally really love when they do this.
Every year, Instagram turns into a madhouse with everyone’s Wrapped screenshots on their stories, usually a mix of all of the year’s top pop hits with a caption about how embarrassing it is to listen to the same songs everyone else was, or a bunch of indie artists no one has ever heard of with some variation of the emoji with sunglasses.
Instagram becomes like prom court nominations in high school all over again -- an insane popularity contest where everyone suddenly starts showing off their coolest outfits (or song choices), complete with the retaliation of the kids too cool for school (“I use Apple Music,” or, “Stop posting, no one cares,”).
I’m here to say that I care about your Spotify Wrapped. Speaking as someone whose top-listened songs included Dua Lipa and Justin Bieber and was in the top 1% of The Neighbourhood listeners, I will look at every single person’s Spotify Wrapped screenshots and think about how lovely it is that you enjoy that music. Here’s why:
There is an intense pressure in society, especially as a college-aged gen-Xer, and even more especially as a college-aged gen-X woman, to listen to “cool” music, and it’s completely stupid.
As a whole, pop music is considered music only for teeny-boppers with braces and pink eyeshadow instead of being recognized for what it is- literally, popular music that reached its place on the radio music charts based on the amount of listeners. Typical top 40 pop music has started to fade away to be replaced by R&B and rap -- which are both excellent genres with extremely talented artists -- but why does this mean that pop is embarrassing?
There is a distinct stigma that pop music is only listened to by teenage girls, and that to listen to it, even as a teenage girl, is embarrassing.
I’ve talked to plenty of people that agree, too. My friends say they’ll change their music playing in their earbuds when they’re walking on campus in case anyone can hear what they’re listening to as they walk by.
They’ll put on significantly different music when people are in their car than what they listen to normally in the effort to please their passengers, playing H.E.R. instead of Halsey. I’ve even given up DJing in my own car in favor of just letting whoever is driving with me connect to my car’s Bluetooth- and for what?
The root of this mockery, I believe, is in the fact that things that a lot of people like are embarrassing, especially when most of those people are young girls. Everything from Starbucks to scrunchies to Glossier lip gloss and Hydroflasks with stickers -- they rise to popularity, and then all of a sudden it’s basic and cringey and God, “cheugy,” now, and it gets associated with young girls because they’re the only ones bold enough to continue enjoying the things they love.
We, as a society, need to learn to let people enjoy things.
Let’s talk about Taylor Swift, for example. She sings about heartbreak, friendships and family. So does every other music artist in the world. So why did everyone hate her so much before her edgy folk rebrand? Because she was a young woman, and young women listened to her, and therefore Taylor Swift was embarrassing.
Another example: One Direction, the height of “basic” teenage girl idolhood. Earning their popularity on the X Factor, a TV contest in the U.K., they have grown through adolescence into adulthood in the spotlight. They reached fame to the point that they tied with The Beatles, one of the biggest bands in history, for having three members put out Billboard 200 number-one albums.
They are the only two bands to have ever achieved this. In their history, people had compared them to The Beatles with the way they blew up so quickly and so widely throughout the globe, and people were so upset about that- how could these boys whose biggest fans were girls possibly be as huge as The Beatles, or even comparable?
Well, as people may recall, The Beatles got their fame thanks to girls, too. Beatlemania, anyone?
One of the biggest moments for girls everywhere in pop history within the last decade or so involved 5 Seconds of Summer, a band who shot to fame by opening for One Direction. 5SOS did an infamous interview with Rolling Stone, where they flaunted their booze-drinking, cig-smoking rocker life and bragged about sleeping with tons of girls on their tours, heavily implying the easiness of those girls.
They talked about how they wanted to be like the band Blink182 but were forced to go more pop -- a genre which they rode to their success, by the way. Girls everywhere were hurt at their disrespect toward other women when most of their fanbase and success has been thanks to them.
Even worse, Ashton Irwin, a member of 5SOS said, “Seven-five percent of our lives is proving we’re a real band… We don’t want to just be, like, for girls.”
Right, you don’t want to be just for girls -- the fanbase who are nearly single-handedly responsible for your careers’ success. Good luck with that one.
Harry Styles, former member of One Direction, and arguably one of the most successful members to come out of either One Direction or 5 Seconds of Summer, stood up for the millions of young women whose love for his music helped his career to be as successful as it is today.
In Styles’ Rolling Stone interview, he said, “Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music -- short for popular, right? -- have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy? That’s not up to you to say.”
He added, “Teenage-girl fans -- they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there. They don’t act ‘too cool.’ They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.”
The point is that music is music, and you shouldn’t hide what you’re listening to out of embarrassment. You like it, so let yourself enjoy it. My response to the endless tweets of, “Absolutely no one cares about your Spotify Wrapped,” that will inevitably emerge this month? Absolutely no one cares what you think about anyone else’s music taste.
Listen to what you want, and be proud of what you like. Be like a teenage girl.
Also, post your Spotify Wrapped. I’ll read it.
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Mandy (she/her) is a senior studying journalism and public relations. She spends her free time shopping, writing and hanging with friends.