Spotify Wrapped 2021 is here!
Spotify Wrapped 2021 is here! (Image courtesy of Spotify)

This year’s Spotify Wrapped has finally launched! The annual feature, which is only available on Spotify’s mobile app this year, takes an algorithmic look back at all the music you’ve listened to over the past year and delivers your top artists and songs, plus some other little insights, in an Instagram stories-ready graphic. Like so many year-end and best-off lists, it’s an opportunity to indulge that seasonal impulse to look back at the year that was and try to make some sense of it. What music did I listen to the most this year? And why? And what does that say about me? Does anyone else get this…introspective about their Spotify Wrapped?

I want to say upfront that I always feel a little guilty about listening to music on Spotify. Call me old fashioned (not an insult), but I think that if you love an album or a song, you should purchase it. I mean, I don’t know how much sense that actually makes these days—as someone recently pointed out to me, it’s not like there are a lot of mom-and-pop record shops left in the world from which to buy music—but this is the source of my probably irrational angst about Spotify.

And actually, part of the reason that the songs on my Spotify Wrapped have, in the past, seemed a bit baffling to me, is because I tend to use the app kind of like the radio, in the sense that I use it to listen to playlists full of unfamiliar or new artists, to try things out and discover new music rather than to listen to favorite artists. This is how I explain the presence of HAIM’s “The Wire” at #5 in my 2021 list of top songs. I know I made a point last year of listening to the band’s 2020 album Women in Music Pt. III, but I have no memory of ever listening to this track from their 2013 debut! I mean, maybe the takeaway is that if somehow a song you don’t think you’ve ever heard ends up in your Top Songs, maybe you’re listening too passively? Like, maybe listening to music more intentionally should be on your list of New Year’s resolutions.

Let’s say that the rest of your Top Songs are dominated by one band. Let’s say—picking completely at random—that band is Fleetwood Mac, who also happen to be your top artist. And let’s say, completely unrelated, that your #2 artist this year was Stevie Nicks. And let’s go so far as to say that, whoever you are, you weren’t at all surprised by this—except maybe that you might have expected their positions to be reversed, but as the three Fleetwood Mac songs in your top five are all Stevie Nicks songs, it’s really a distinction without a difference. If you find yourself in a similar situation to this completely hypothetical and not at all real one that I have 100-percent fabricated based on no real living person, it’s possible that maybe you should broaden your musical repertoire. Listen to something else, for Christ’s sake!

Or, you know, maybe you’re just fine enjoying the thing that you love most. It’s your call.

Spotify Wrapped's new Audio Aura
Spotify Wrapped’s new Audio Aura (Image courtesy of Spotify)

This year, Spotify Wrapped has also included a new feature which they’re calling your “Audio Aura.” It’s supposed to be a kind of vibe check, a rendering of your 2021 mood in undulating colors. Mine is dominated by acid green with patches of white and subtle hints of black. It reminds me of this canvas carryall I’ve had for the past decade or so, which everyone I know says reminds them of the Wicked Witch of the West. According to Spotify, this indicates that my music moods were “spooky” and “lit.” So, I guess that all checks out.

On their website, Spotify indicates that those of us with green auras tend to be “calm, analytical, and introspective.” “These listeners gravitate toward complex music to tame their fast-moving minds,” according to the site’s breakdown of the six potential Audio Aura colors. They also have a short Q&A with Mystic Michaela, a podcaster and reader of auras, about what we’re supposed to take away from these psychedelic insights.

My Audio Aura has "spooky" and "lit" vibes
My Audio Aura has “spooky” and “lit” vibes

“When listeners go into their Audio Auras, I really feel like they are going to be able to see more of themselves and have an inward conversation. You know, ‘Who am I and why do I listen to what I’m listening to? What am I seeking? What is my inner self actually saying?’” she explains. Our Audio Auras reveal the energy we feel comfortable in and the vibes we’re trying to borrow from the music we listen to, she explains. She suggests asking ourselves some questions about the traits that correspond to the dominant color of our auras: “Is this me, or is this something that I strive toward?”

Or, you know, you could just listen to “Gypsy” for the 300th time this year.