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Wrap It Up With All The Spotify Wrapped-Alikes

They're barely even trying!

Valve

As far as Spotify’s crimes go, its annual Wrapped feature – which needs no introduction at this point – is pretty low on the “most heinouslist. I’m willing to admit that I’ve even gotten excited about it in previous years, if only because I really enjoy sharing and talking about music (members of the Aftermath subscriber Discord can attest to this). But now, eight years after the feature first debuted, everything has its own version of Spotify Wrapped: other music services, livestreaming platforms, video game consoles, manga apps. I’m over it.

Part of this is because the conversations Wrapped generates aren’t actually that interesting. Most Wrapped posts across social media amount to cries of “Look at me!” or branding exercises. Sometimes you get fun responses like “Haha I also listen to too much [insert artist here]” or, if you’re a big Mitski fan, “I am also clinically depressed,” but it’s rare that the form elicits conversations with much depth. Wrapped, like many other sets of decontextualized statistics, is a drive-by, and when everyone is doing drive-bys all at once, it just feels like carnage. 

One element of this year’s Spotify Wrapped was at least decently enjoyable, and it demonstrates what so many others get wrong: Users were told which city their musical tastes belonged in, which led to a geyser surge of confused but amused memes. "Spotify is trying to make a gay commune in Berkeley, a lesbian commune in Burlington, and a bisexual commune in Cambridge," reads one viral tweet from late last month. (Due to my love of Coheed and Cambria, The Dear Hunter, and Sleep Token, I should apparently move to… Pittsburgh. Weeks later, I still have no idea what to make of this.)

If you’re gonna collect a ton of data on me against my wishes, at least use it to tell me something I don’t already know.

This stat was unexpected. Like many others, it offered no further context, but at least it got Spotify users talking about why specific cities might play host to so many fans of particular artists. It was a curveball that drove home my larger feeling about Wrapped in the year 2023: If you’re gonna collect a ton of data on me against my wishes, at least use it to tell me something I don’t already know.

On this front, the other Wrapped-alikes with which I have interacted are not even trying. For example, I opened my Steam year in review earlier this week, and I learned how many games I played, how many achievements I unlocked, and when all of that happened. I already knew all of that! Because Steam told me elsewhere! The spider graph of which kinds of games I spent the most time with was at least sort of interesting, but it also suggested that rhythm games were a fixation for me, even though the only game I played this year with a significant musical component was Hi-Fi Rush, and I finished that in 11 hours.

My Twitch recap was similarly un-illuminating. I did not need a glossy widget to tell me that I spent hundreds of hours watching Hasan Piker. I remember doing it! And why give me little achievements like “Top Twitcher,” “Category Champion,” and “Wonderful Watcher” if you’re not going to tell me what they mean? Offer me something even slightly thought-provoking like – I don’t know – which of my chat comments was viewed by the most people. I can at least chew on that for a little bit. I’ll take anything!

Meanwhile Shonen Jump, a manga app, just gave me a list of the series I read the most. No further information. No hours, no percentages, no anything. Come on! What page did my eyes linger on the longest? Which series have the greatest number of people started but failed to stick with? There are so many possibilities, but nobody seems to be taking the bait.

It’s clear at this point that for most companies, Wrapped-alikes are just an easy, low-effort means to the end of cheap social media engagement. But the annual Wrapped-alike roll out has grown rote. It’s a Christmas tree adorned with low-hanging fruit, a procession of obsessions only interesting to the specific user sharing them. Either give me something I can work with or wrap it up already.

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