Dissecting my listening habits

I’m thankful to our streaming overlords for making something worthwhile and seemingly not evil.

Cataloguing your listening is an overwhelming and time-consuming affair. It’s not like watching films or reading books, where you make a concerted effort to ingest something you’ll likely enjoy. Once you’ve finished, you remember and you move on. Your year-end tally for both of these mediums probably won’t be very high.

This is why I always look forward to when Spotify releases my Top 100 songs of the year playlist. I can’t remember what I was listening to a month ago, let alone at the beginning of the year. Much of it is dependent on my mood and cravings, which go in waves of a couple of weeks at a time. (My Four Tet wave earlier this fall, and the Lone wave that followed it, were dope.) I’m grateful to our streaming overlords for using our data to make something worthwhile and seemingly not evil.

I haven’t read anything which lays out the science behind the playlist, though I’d be surprised if it went beyond “these are the songs you listened to the most this year.” My friend Brandon offered a hypothesis:

“I assume they’re roughly ranked in some kind of order but I think e.g. if your top three songs were the first three songs off sweetener, they would find a way to space them out rather than run those as the first three,” he wrote. “I think they may also be privileging stuff from earlier this year over more recent stuff so that you’re more likely to go ‘ohh yeaahhh’”.

They must have cut it off a few weeks ago, too, since songs I’ve been playing nonstop in Q4, like “Potato Salad” or “thank u, next,” are nowhere to be found. It also makes complete sense that radio hits such as “God’s Plan” make the cut, because sometimes you have to do it for the kids.

Anyway, here’s my list.

For me, this list is a cause for self-reflection. What does it say about me that “Magnolia” by Playboi Carti is my most-listened song? How did all those Rhye songs sneak their way to the top? When the hell did I listen to “Finesse” by Bruno Mars? What was going on in my life when I was bumping all that Isaiah Rashad?

“There’s more Tim Hecker and Bibio than I expected,” my friend Reis told me over text about his own list. “That kind of year I guess”.

It most definitely was that kind of year. Let’s do some analysis.

There really can’t be any explanation for these songs cracking my Top 100 other than my college reunion trip to Phoenix in March. You know what they say: When in doubt, play “Man of the Year.”

OK, I can explain “No Brainer” — that was a late-summer entry into the SOTS race, a song with production and performances I genuinely enjoy. But I really have no answer nor alibi for “Bartier Cardi.” I mean, it bangs and all, but I can’t recall a situation where I thought, “You know what I really want to listen to right now? ‘Bartier Cardi.’” The radio gave me enough of that.

I went on an unforgettable road trip along the Spain-France border with some good friends in October. We made a tried-and-true playlist for the ride, and “Self Control” and other songs off Blonde were on heavy rotation. As for “Pete Standing Alone,” I had a short but powerful BoC phase around the 20th anniversary of Music Has The Right To Children. That was also a nice little time. “Heat Wave” and “50 Euro to Break Boost” are two of my favorite songs of the year.

Let’s look at something a little more straightforward:

These songs are just Classic Miguel™. The colorful electronic music, the footwork, the Four Tet, the Bryson Tiller feature, “OUI.” Not sure if a screenshop has better encapsulated my music taste. Plus, it has the best track off an album I initially hated but grew to love over the year. Backing down on my previous statements? You know it!

This one shows some of my early 2018 love. I learned of Gianluca during my trip to Chile for the holidays, and I first heard “On My Mind” in late 2017, so it rolled over to this year. I’m honestly surprised “Droogs” isn’t higher (ha), since I played it a stupid amount of times upon first listen this summer. And Curren$y put the Pilot Talk trilogy on Spotify, so I went in. We do this for Trademark and Young Roddy.

Finally, these are the songs at the top of my list. What you can’t see is “Magnolia,” which was a consistent track on my commute to work, and “Montego” by Cosmo’s Midnight, another short and sweet highlight. “Piñata,” a regular around the Otárola household, got some more play after Mac Miller died. Why his songs off Swimming didn’t make this list, I don’t know.

That Rhye album did keep me nice and warm during the worst days of winter, and “Planet Hase” was the cool down for the summer. Like my friend Brandon speculated, I think any of the songs off CARE FOR ME by Saba and Compro by Skee Mask could’ve made the cut here.

One thing I was disappointed in was the lack of non-male artists on my list. It’s probably not a good look for my listening habits, even though albums by Rosalía, SOPHIE, Snail Mail, Soccer Mommy and Tirzah were some of my favorites of 2018. Again, it’s a time for self-reflection, to see the ways I can improve my own personal listening when nobody is paying attention.

If you’ve read all the way to the end, please share your lists with me! If you wanna talk them out, just hit me up online.