The fear of Spotify Wrapped is real: why analysing our musical taste fills us with dread

Written by Leah Sinclair

From the fear of being judged by others to revealing what our music choices say about us, the anxiety that comes with Spotify Wrapped is real – and here’s why.

If I were to ask who your number one artist on Spotify is this year, who would it be?

For me, it’d probably be Beyoncé (Renaissance has been firmly in rotation since its release in July) followed by Brent Faiyaz, Snoh Aalegra and Drake.

But despite what I may think, the data may tell me differently. After all, I do have a particularly random coffee shop instrumental playlist on rotation, a relaxation playlist filled with endless brown and white noise and a penchant for diving deep into my 90s nostalgia and playing songs from my childhood that I’d rather not name.

My eclectic music choice and the songs that have shaped me this year are something that I’ve started to think about a lot more as we approach the end of the year and the infamous Spotify Wrapped list that comes with it.

The music app provides users with information on their music taste throughout the year after analysing hours of data – and that time of the year is back again as the app shared the 2022 Spotify Wrapped round-up with its users on 30 November. 

From revealing our top five artists and songs to our most popular music genres, Spotify Wrapped reveals all and makes us reflect on our musical choices over the past 12 months – something that can be tricky to confront and has led to a rise in ‘Spotify Wrapped anxiety’ as a result.

Take a scroll through Twitter and you can see the number of people who are sharing their anxiety around Spotify Wrapped and what it may reveal to themselves and the world – but why exactly does it make us so anxious? I asked some of Team Stylist to share the root of their Spotify Wrapped anxiety, and it was truly revealing.

“My Spotify Wrapped anxiety lies in the knowledge that mine will, yet again, just be the same albums on repeat as last year,” says deputy editor Ellen Scott. “I’d love to be the type of person to have loads of really cool new artists on mine and to have expanded my musical horizons by listening to songs that actually came out this year, but instead it’s just going to be Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and Beyonce.”

Digital editor-at-large Kayleigh Dray shares that her Spotify Wrapped anxiety stems from acknowledging that a lot of her music taste lies in her nostalgia. “I always fear Spotify Wrapped, because it tends to expose my penchant for living in a nostalgic bubble of endless relistens,” she says.

“Spotify Wrapped may not be a big deal, but this year I’ve found its looming approach more intensely than usual,” says digital writer Lauren Geall. “Whether it’s the pressure to post your inner music taste across social media or being confronted with the fact that I’m in the top 0.0000001% of Taylor Swift listeners worldwide, it’s all quite a lot.”

The conversation around Spotify Wrapped and what it reveals about who we are is one that continues to surprise me. Surely, not one app has the power to reduce us into a state of nervousness as we await the results each time we open the app and prepare for it to tell us exactly who we’ve been this year.

But Spotify Wrapped anxiety goes a whole lot deeper than mild embarrassment at having Robbie Williams’s Millennium on rotation (this is a safe space right?).

“As Spotify Wrapped allows listeners to relive their most memorable listening moments of the year, this can prove to be anxiety-riddled for some listeners for many reasons,” says psychologist Dina El Adlani. “Some of these include associating certain music with negative moments that may have occurred during that year and therefore people experience the same emotions again.

“On the other hand, some causes of this anxiety could also be due to listeners being afraid of what their listening habits could reveal about them to social media.”

This sense of anxiety that can come with Spotify Wrapped can be closely linked to how our music taste can be seen as a representation of who we are as a person – and when it reflects who we truly are and not who we perceive ourselves to be, it can be a rude awakening.

“One’s identity is made of many components and I believe that what we wear and what we listen to is usually an expression of who we really are,” states El Adlani. “Of course, this isn’t always the case but in private we may allow ourselves to be more vulnerable and perhaps listen to music that truly expresses our personality.”

This form of anxiety is compounded by the pressure to share our Spotify Wrapped results on social media along with the idea that this one app is able to sum up the tone of your life over the past 12 months.

“Some listeners may feel that their taste in music or musical choices may be up for judgment from those who see them in a completely different light, which can be a source of anxiety – but there’s also the data capturing element to it too.

“Although we are aware that giant companies are capturing our data, it can be very overwhelming to be faced with how much of our personal life can be reduced to algorithms, patterns and trends,” she explains. “This can bring forth a feeling of loss of control, resulting in anxiety along with the pressure of sharing the results and the judgments that may arise.

“However, this can be dealt with by understanding that there are millions of listeners experiencing the exact same feeling as you and that there is no guilt in listening to the type of music you like.”

El Adlani advises that those dealing with Spotify Wrapped anxiety should remind themselves that a snippet of our listening habits does not and should not place us into any particular box. “If anything it makes us a more unique individual with layers. I believe that using affirmations to ground yourself will really help with the anxiety.”

So, while Spotify Wrapped may be looming over us, this is an important reminder that there is nothing to fear. I, for one, will be proudly sharing my Spotify Wrapped list and the chaotic musical choices I’ve made this year. 

Image: Getty

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