Like millions of other people this week, I eagerly accessed my Spotify Wrapped, interested to see how 2020 had influenced my sonic leanings.
After going through the catchy and colourful story, my main takeaways from this annual exercise were as follows:
— I haven’t evolved much since I was 13-years-old, as Foo Fighters are still my most played artist (Dave – I am yours forever!) and
— This year, while we’ve been busy Instagramming our homemade banana bread, Spotify has apparently been making up a bunch of new genres to confuse us all.
— Mel Fronczek (@melissafronczek) December 2, 2020
Personally, I was perplexed to be told that I had discovered 121 new genres of music in 2020. How?! When did I have time in between moving countries, throwing death stares at anyone who so much as sniffed in my general vicinity, de-friending an alarming number of QAnon converts on Facebook and apparently listening to Times Like These on repeat?
Maybe I’m a better multi-tasker than I gave myself credit for.
According to the music streaming service, one of the genres I listened to most this year was “Stomp & Holler.” Huh? Is that a playlist created by a bunch of harassed parents whose toddlers are going through the terrible twos? Or perhaps a collection of songs curated by folk who like to chew on wheat stems and use beer jugs as musical instruments non-ironically?
The answer is neither.
The genres are actually the concoction of Spotify’s “Data Alchemist” Glenn McDonald, who developed an algorithm which assesses what a song sounds like or, as McDonald says, its “subjective psychoacoustic attributes.” Some of the rather obscure factors that go into determining a song’s genre include “tempo,” “duration,” “colour,” “modernity” and “femininity.” Okay then.
The eventual genre, or genres, that an artist falls into is, in McDonald’s words: a “cluster of collective listening patterns.” And, if there is no existing genre to assign to a group of similar sounding artists? McDonald just goes right ahead and makes one up.
And that is the — very truncated because it’s pretty complicated and impressive and I’m not sure I entirely get it — way that “Stomp and Holler”, “Escape Room”, “Catstep”, “Shiver Pop” and all of the other head-scratching genres you’ve seen your mates posting about were born.
As for me, while I (sorta) have my brain wrapped around how these new genres came to be, I’m still struggling to grasp why “Stomp & Holler” made it into my top five. A quick click on the link to the playlist revealed an assemblage of 70 songs, only two of which I have ever heard.
But hey, that’s two non-Foos songs that I listened to this year and that, my friends, is called growth.