Spotify Wraps 2023
Friday is fun because it’s about music. And so that means there’s always a playlist or two. Today, ‘Tis the season for Spotify to give us its wraps.
Guilty pleasures shared on Instagram stories. This is Citizen Music Journalism. This is the new set of ‘reviews’. I listened to this, therefore that. I am data. My data is me. Here is a picture of us sharing some time together…
Spotify’s end of year Wrapped is the new measurement; the new way of knowing. We’re all out there listening, while we’re gaming, or gyming, and if we’re not slimming then we’re still racking up clicks for Taylor and Doja Cat and Billie Eilish as we blast their music - or The Beatles or Joe Walsh or Country Joe McDonald and The Fish, or, urgh, Phish from the car as we drive to get our non-discounted but now-so-good-for-you smokes, approved by Dr. Shane Cigar-Reti no less!
Spotify Wrapped is the new music journalism. There is no place for reviews - and no time to read them. We are busy sharing what we’re listening. And since everything new ‘drops’ on a Friday we can all be the reviewer; we can certainly beat the reviewer. So there’s really no need. Ah, but what about sorting the wheat? What about giving some educated, or at least curated picks? What about that then, eh?
There’s been this weird bunch of articles and angles of late - people thinking they’re going to save music journalism. People just noticing it’s gone. And hey, I’m not being smug at all about publishing a book with the catchy title, The Death of Music Journalism three years ago. I’m just genuinely baffled that now is the time people have decided they want to save it; want to White Knight the fight because the time is somehow right.
Chris Schulz has been leading the charge in New Zealand - somewhere on this app/platform. So if you Google his name and ‘Substack’, you’ll find his ramblings. But Duncan Grieve wrote a bit about it earlier this week for The Spinoff. He’s the founder/publisher and was the editor, but he moved out of that role recently and is back on the tools. Duncan is a fantastic writer. So that’s everyone’s gain that there’s more writing from him. Also, it’s good for me - as he’s kinda obsessed. I have told him I’m happily married. But that doesn’t stop him writing about me.
People used to hate-read me? Me? The guy that barely made a penny out of writing about music every day for 16 years very much in public? Wow. Learn something every day! I had no idea. It was interesting to read about the decline in media revenues chipping away at the salaries offered to music critics though. That must have impacted 2-3 people max. I know I never drew anything even resembling a salary. That probably won’t surprise Duncan Grieve. Still. At least I’ve never owned a news and media website, shut down its own music plaftorm, due no doubt to a lack of numbers where it matters, then decided to write about about places and spaces for music writing needed to exist.
That would just be embarrassing, eh.
Anyway, all this concern for music journalism - I’d love to go back to how it was too. In some ways. But also, no thanks. I have successfully removed myself from the pit that is Facebook, the steaming turd-pile that was Twitter and is now X or whatever, and I’m a lot happier for not having to check in multiple times a day because someone decided that me not liking their new favourite band or album was actually a hand grenade I threw directly at them. Fuck that noise, as they say.
The insinuation that I disappeared though. Quite weird. And it’s popped up a few times over the last few years. People asking where I’ve gone. I bump into people in the street and they ask if I’m okay. And not because I didn’t see them and literally bumped into them, I mean they ask if I’m happy and okay with life. And I get to say that not much is better than a life lived quite far away from music reviewing; or at the least away from life lived thinking that my next big story or great line could somehow maybe hopefully just kinda possibly lead to an actual full-time, mediocre-pay-but-so-grateful job in pop-culture writing or some form of related media. I worked so hard to get a gig at RNZ that it was basically embarrassing. And I removed myself from ‘working’ for them in the reviewing capacity because it was essential to regaining some shred of dignity.
But yeah, I miss the old days a bit too, still. Because we’re all weird. And can contain multitudes. And should. And it’s okay to pine for the best aspects of some other time whilst not at all missing the worst bits. That’s really quite human I think. If a bit spoiled and privileged. And I can’t hide from that either - and why would I?
Anyway, that’s all wildly tangential really - but I couldn’t help but see this weird link in this Spinoff story of concern arriving, well written though it was, the week that Spotify Wrapped popped up in its seasonal way, like a Mariah Carey chestnut. Ready for that open-fire roasting then!
Let’s see how finger-on-the-pulse this (‘erstwhile’) music critic guy is then eh:
It’s no surprise at all to find me right in there across the music of the day. My top artist for 2023 should reflect that. Still sniffing out the hot new acts with the hot new music, so if only those old fashioned newspapers still made room for the reviewers, still had those salaries to hand out eh. Why, I’d be in there just helping a little known and contemporary act like Tangerine Dream to really make an impact. They too could ditch Facebook and Twitter/X. They could just chill and make another 137 albums with all that social media downtime. Imagine if they could get the break they deserved, just get some music-writer oomph behind them. We can but dream…orange-y hues of course!
But you know. I was everywhere. Getting right in amongst it. Not just T/Dream, as I call ‘em. There was a lot more from the cutting edge that the cut of my jib could have given the kind of boost it needed, if only we had salaried music-writer roles still and all those column inches to burn:
I didn’t just go ga-ga for T/Dream folks. I was spreading that aural love around, with a bit of the ole Hans Zimmer too, thank you very much. And a nice big slab of Brian Eno. Would be nice to see him getting the props he deserves, no? Also Robbie Robertson - he died earlier this year, but that didn’t stop him making one of the albums of the year now did it? Well, it would have of course, but he’d completed his work on the score for Killers of The Flower Moon and just as well. We’re all the richer for that very fine music to that very fine film. And if you’re wondering who Rob Simonsen is, you might guess (from the “Top Genre: Soundtrack” clue, if nothing else) that he’s a film composer also. And he was big in my world at the start of the year, given he had scored The Whale. So I started the year listening to The Whale score on a loop, and finished it (well, up until October) listening to Robbie’s Killers OST on a loop.
My top songs saw me reaching back to John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness score - although actually it’s the newly recorded version for his Anthology II, so, again, pretty, pretty, pretty cutting edge there! And I revisited old mate Bob James for old fave Angela (aka theme to ‘Taxi’). The final three spots in my top five all go to tracks by Robbie Robertson (R.I.P.) and his Killers of The Flower Moon score. Another 2023 release. So, you know, if only we had the space for reviews, and people had the mental bandwidth. I’d just be giving the people exactly what they want, right?
I listened to a heap of songs, because I always do, across a heap of genres (over 200 genres Spotify tells me) and for as long as I could, all day, and all of the night in some cases. Because I am Kinda Kinky like that.
I was surprised, I guess, that my Spotify Wrapped didn’t include Natalie Merchant, or Sly & The Family Stone. I felt I listened to them a lot more than I listened to Rob Simonsen, but my penchant for falling asleep to film scores was always going to throw a Zimmer in the works.
If they gave you your Wrapped in January then mine would likely feature The Beatles, since I’m listening to them non-stop at the moment. Or it would probably actually give me Wings, since they’re the band The Beatles could have been! But I got this list. Just like you got your list. I also got a playlist out of my top songs, which I have no shame sharing with you - it’s basically a bunch of film score cues, with Phil Collins’s Easy Lover and Tears for Fears’ Everybody Wants To Rule The World and James Brown’s Funky Drummer interrupting. Tyler The Creator pops up - because Oscar always plays him in the car, from my phone. And those other three are my top tracks for practicing the drums along to.
I miss music journalism as much as the next ex music journalist. But I gained a paycheck by leaving it well alone. And the freedom to write silly things about Spotify Wrapped or how I’m never going to ever stop listening to The Beatles, or horror movie soundtracks being the calm I need in this world.
And I still do review music - gigs, and albums, but because I’m hiding on Substack and not spamming social media with it twice a day apparently no one knows. I think I rather like that. Wouldn’t want them all just hate-reading me again. That would be a waste of everyone’s time.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, Peter Gabriel’s first new album of original songs in over 20 years is out. And I must! I must listen to it like I want it to be number one on my 2024 Spotify Wrapped. There’s your review! And here’s the album for you to listen to, share, or ignore.
And please share below, the guilty pleasures and not-so-secret secret findings of your Spotify Wrapped, if you celebrate. And if you have a tip for a top new album you’d like me (or anyone else reading) to hear you know you can always share that in the comments too. I’ve got my best recommendations over the years from readers. But I still like to read reviews if I ever find them. So if you know someone, or somewhere were the album reviews are hiding you could share that too.
I had to laugh at this as well.
Don’t get me wrong, Charlotte is right. Men on a music panel = lame. I’ve been there. I’ve been one of them. Though not that often, actually. I was never invited to panel chats too often. And, well, put it this way, I was never invited back. Probably didn’t say enough suck-up, too-kind things. But really Charlotte should be berating her producer/s that book the talent. I mean she’s 100% right here, but I’ve been told the standard at RNZ when it comes to producers is very, very high. (Literally told that, in those words, to my face, when I tried to get me one of them there jobs). So surely, with that super-high standard they could get that right?
Happy Friday. Happy weekend. Happy music listening. And spare a thought for the reviewers out there, wondering why no one is reading them. Spare a thought for the musicians who have this fancy, flakey new paradigm to roll around in. But have to do their own social media too. Oh my. Look, I do not know what the answer is, but I do know that pining for the way it used to be never really works. It’s never been easier to have music at your fingertips. So enjoy that. And find what you can, or ask a friend.
Kia pai to mutunga wiki.
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