My Chaotic and COVID-Influenced 2020 Spotify Wrapped, Explained

Illustration for article titled My Chaotic and COVID-Influenced 2020 Spotify Wrapped, Explained
Screenshot: Spotify



Are we ready to talk about this list?

I think so. I think I’m ready.

Let’s start at the top, then. James Blake has pretty much cemented his status as the Blacks’ favorite contemporary white in music.


This is true. The Blacks love James Blake, and I am a Black.

I like him too! But “I’ll Come Too”—a song about being a +1 on a girlfriend’s work trips—is your most listened to song this year? Explain yourself!

I just really, really, really dig the chorus. And it has this psychedelic angst thing happening, where it feels like you’re in someone else’s dream but can’t wake up from it. Inception angst. Also, there’s a line where he says “Shall we drive from zone to zone?” but it sounds like “from Zoom to Zoom” and that’s basically been my year.

I’m glad you brought up the angst because that seems to be the connecting theme here. Any year with two Fiona Apple tracks in your top six is an angsty as fuck year.

So, one of those songs is an accident. “I Want You To Love Me” is fine. I like it. The piano stuff is great. It’s fine. But it’s there mostly because I LOVE the way it transitions into “Shameika.”

So, “Shameika.” This essentially is a song about a Magical Negro, correct?


Except the Magical Negro actually exists?

Yup. Shameika (Stepney) is a real person. (And a talented rapper!) And I’m still somewhat mortified Fiona Apple didn’t at least give her a pseudonym.


So why this song?

I just love everything about it. I love how it sounds like she recorded it on my patio. I love the things she does with the piano. I love how the music behind the hook changes a bit each time. I love how chaotic all this shit sounds together—I just gave up trying to distinguish all the different sounds here—and that includes the existential chaos of a white woman recording and releasing a track about a Magical Negro in 2020.


You’re problematic.

I know.

Ok. So “SCAR” might be the most puzzling choice here. It is a song that is rapped and sung from the perspective of Scar from The Lion King—which makes it a song rapped and sung from the perspective of a dead fictional lion.


I mean, if there’s any year to be into rapped dead fictional lion angst, it’s 2020, right?

You make a point. But still.

So yeah, I discovered it while listening to Beyonce’s The Lion King: The Gift. Which means I’ve only been listening to it for maybe three or four months, but I’ve listened to it enough in that stretch for it to climb to third. It’s probably my favorite song this year.


And the best way to explain my affinity for it is that it sounds like something that could have been on Cruel Summer. It is the Kanye-est non-Kanye track I’ve ever heard.


I can see that. It sounds like a sonic sibling of “Sin City.”

It does!

So, I have to bring this up. This is the first wrapped you’ve ever had that contains no Kanye in the top 10.


I don’t want to talk about that.

Illustration for article titled My Chaotic and COVID-Influenced 2020 Spotify Wrapped, Explained
Screenshot: Spotify

That’s fair. So, you’ve already written about “Satisfied.” Have your thoughts on that song changed at all?

Nah. Well, none aside from the fact that this song (from the Hamiton soundtrack) is the 18th-century version of Issa Rae’s “Broken Pussy.” The whole song is Angelica essentially telling herself that Alexander will never be satisfied with Eliza because she got some broken pussy.


That’s quite the interesting takeaway. Moving on, I had no idea you were a KOTA the Friend fan.

That’s because I had no idea who he was until someone dropped his name in a Facebook thread earlier this year. I gave him a listen and liked what I heard.


How would you describe him to people who haven’t?

A chemically and stylistically enhanced C**** T** R****. I want to be nice.

You’re funny. So, there’s much less rap here than usual. And all of the songs are pretty aggressively family-friendly. Why is that?


The way I listened to music fundamentally changed this year. Pre-COVID, my car was my vehicle for that. And so the songs I’d listened to most were the songs I’d play while driving, by myself, to LA Fitness or the barbershop or wherever. Now though, I’m not going places as much—not going anywhere, really—and most of these songs are the ones I also play on my HomePod when the kids are home.

Also, we watch alooooooooooooooot of Disney Plus.

But yeah, you’d have to go all the way down to the 40s to find a stretch of songs that looks how a normal Wrapped would for me. But even that has some Hamilton sneaking in there.

Illustration for article titled My Chaotic and COVID-Influenced 2020 Spotify Wrapped, Explained
Screenshot: Spotify

Anything else?

COVID-influenced playlist aside, I do feel like I’m maybe 10% less into rap than I usually am, and I don’t see that changing. Granted, 10% for me just means my nine favorite songs are rap songs instead of my ten favorites but it’s still a change, and I don’t know if I like it. Please excuse me while I go listen to some M.O.P.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)



I don’t know how you feel about soca, but the new Kes record slaps. The album is called We Home. Look it up. It’s fun, joyful, warm, soulful, and danceable. And the musicianship is on point. The band sounds hot from start to finish. I live alone, and this was very much a “party for one” kind of album in a very isolating year.

That was the point of the album though. Carnival was cancelled in many places because of Covid. The album is made up of re-recordings of various songs from the bands catalog. The idea was to record the songs using the arrangements they would have used live this year. It was all about giving the spirit of celebration at home. I think they succeeded in thar goal.

No Spotify, I have Apple Music. But here’s a Youtube link to one of my favourite tracks off the record.