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My name is not Spotify Wrapped, it is Elliot Rose

John Cusack says in High Fidelity, ‘what really matters is what you like, not what you are like’. Whilst I cannot speak to the truth of this statement, which sounds slightly too much like a ‘I think therefore I am’ variation (and BTW High Fidelity is a pretty problematic movie), it does speak to the highly consumerist nature of modern culture. Western advancements mean that we no longer must physically do anything, or even prove ourselves to society; to be forced to fight in wars, to hunt for food, to search for wood to keep ourselves warm. All the life-or-death moments that have defined the human experience for thousands of years have become archetypal activities that we no longer have to partake in. However, this can make life seem, dare I say, meaningless?? Even the traditional notion of a job, some civically defined purpose has disappeared. A greengrocer two generations ago is today’s data analyst, but what the fuck is a data analyst? How can someone tie a sense of identity to such an occupation, what would crunching large data systems into understandable streams of information say about me? At least as a greengrocer you are providing a valuable service to the community, as a data analyst you are mostly serving the bourgeoisie. 

The point that I am trying to make is that, for many of us at least, we suffer from this sort of existential emptiness that can make the prehistoric battle between Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals sound like a roller-coaster, and the reality of modern life feel like a quasi-vegetative state. Modern life can sometimes feel as if we are all connected to a serotonin machine, carrying out daily tasks with no great consequence, ultimately leading a life without identity or purpose.   

To escape from this dreary reality, we cling on to vague cultural phenomena as an alternative. We may consider ourselves fans of Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones, deflecting ourselves from the fact that whether we prefer one to the other is irrelevant, and rather indicates our willingness to spend hundreds of hours watching other people act out the life-and-death activities that our society deems profound, while saving ourselves from doing these bothersome activities. Or we subsist on constructivist personality indicators like astrology, or the Myers Briggs personality type indicator if astrology is considered too moronic. Real character is developed working 14 hours a day in a coal mine for a menial wage, with the knowledge that you may be crushed at any second, your consciousness blown into the void. Which leads me on to the craze that is Spotify Wrapped, a glorified statistical summary of our listening habits. Many, including myself, will plant these all-over social media shamelessly. But why? why would anyone genuinely care that Radiohead is my top artist? Does it make me edgy?? Oh, sorry, fellow Instagrammers whilst you make way for my highbrow artistic tastesLook at me, I am too cultivated for pop, even though that is exactly what The Beatles were considered 60 years ago, and they happen to be second on my top artists list. 

Spotify Wrapped has in my opinion, like astrology or Myers Briggs become another form of identity generator. A way of cumulating our musical consumption and arranging it in a way that is a unique representation of ourselves. Yet is it a sad reflection of our what we have all become? Why is it ok to flaunt one type of music or another as a representation of who we are, thousands of listening minutes to yield the label ‘interesting’ or ‘profound’ to describe ourselves. In truth, the only people who should be able to flaunt Radiohead, for example, as part of their identity, are the former band members of Radiohead. Music and art should be considered influences in the transformative realisation of becoming something, rather than an end in themselves. 

To that end, John Cusack in High Fidelity is precisely wrong. What really matters is how what you like changes the way that you are. Will I still plant my Spotify wrapped all around my social media? Yes, not only because it is a Wednesday afternoon, and I have little else to do, but also because ultimately that is ok. I can healthily consume Radiohead’s music in a way that can inspire and lead myself on to other things. This does not mean that I am describing myself predominantly as someone who likes to listen to Radiohead. Sometimes it can be enjoyable to express your musical interests whilst being your own unique assembly of an individual. My name is not Spotify Wrapped, it’s Elliot Rose.  Whether I post my Spotify Wrapped on my Instagram or not will not change that fact. 

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