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Spotify Wrapped 2023: the big winners and losers of this year's lists

 (ES Composite)
(ES Composite)

Spotify Wrapped 2023 is here, which means that we all have to put up with seeing the breakdown of our friends’ listening habits splattered across social media for several days.

One good thing to come from Spotify’s end-of-year summary is that it gives us a chance to find out who were the most played artists on the streaming service. Given that Spotify now boasts 576 million yearly listeners, it means that this also serves as a decent indication of the year’s biggest and best-loved acts.

This year’s top winner, perhaps predictably, is Taylor Swift, who raked in 26.1 billion streams globally. But there are still some surprises, with PinkPantheress’s Boy’s a liar Pt. 2 being the third most streamed song in the UK. The Weeknd’s Starboy also shares the fourth place spot for most streamed album globally – a pretty impressive comeback given the album was released seven years ago.

Of course, there are tons of extra factors to consider when thinking about Spotify’s end of year recap, such as the demographics of its listeners: according to The Tech Report, 62.9 per cent of Spotify users are between 18 and 34 years old.

Nevertheless, this year’s Wrapped has plenty of interesting revelations. Here is our round-up of some of the biggest shocks and stand-out questions stirred up by this year’s Spotify Wrapped.

The cost of living crisis has had no effect – yet

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

It’s been another tough financial year with the continuing economic fall-out from Russia and Ukraine’s war, Covid, and high inflation perpetuating the UK’s cost of living crisis – even if the effects are being felt slightly less acutely than in 2022. Last year’s looming Winter of Discontent could have had an effect on the kinds of music we listened to next: during the Seventies political and social crises, the UK’s music scene exploded with rock subgenres (folk rock, psychedelic rock, glam rock, and the intensification of punk).

But, as of yet, financial instability doesn’t seem to have had a huge effect on the music tastes of Spotify’s listeners. Last year the top most streamed artists globally were Bad Bunny, Taylor Swift, Drake, The Weeknd, BTS. This year it’s nearly exactly the same - only the order has shifted slightly: Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny, The Weeknd, Drake take the top spots. Mexican singer Peso Pluma has jumped into the fifth spot.

In the UK, the list looks fairly similar, with Taylor Swift, Drake and The Weeknd occupying the top spots. Arctic Monkeys and Ed Sheeran come in at the fourth and fifth positions.

It’s Taylor’s world, and we’re just living in it

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

2023 belongs to Taylor Swift. According to Bloomberg, the American singer became a billionaire in October following the success of her sell-out Eras tour, which is still ongoing: the star will have made 151 performances by the time it comes to a close late next year. At 50-something stops it has already become the second-highest grossing concert tour of all time (when not adjusted for inflation) by raking in $780 million.

Swift’s power is such that she reportedly had a major financial impact on the cities she performed in: “It’s simple Taylornomics: When Taylor Swift comes to town, Swifties go on a spending spree,” said the Wall Street Journal. In July, The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said that Swift’s concerts had helped to increase tourism in the region – a pattern that emerged across the country.

Then according to AMC theatres her October-released concert tour film, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, made $26 million in the first three hours after its advance ticket sales opened. It has now grossed $250 million. Plus, 1989 (Taylor's Version), Swift’s re-recording of her 2009 album, went to number one around the world in late October, including in the UK and the US.

On Spotify, meanwhile, Swift has become the most streamed artist globally, with her 2022 album, Midnights, the second most streamed album around the world. Her 2019 album, Lover, also tops the rankings, sitting at the seventh spot. Starpower doesn’t cover it.

Bey is nowhere to be seen

Beyonce performing at the Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh (Mason Poole/Live Nation/PA) (PA Media)
Beyonce performing at the Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh (Mason Poole/Live Nation/PA) (PA Media)

Beyoncé hasn’t enjoyed the level of success you might expect on Spotify. If someone asked you to name the biggest musicians in the world, it’s likely that the Houston singer would be one of the first artists that you’d list.

Not only has she just concluded one of the highest-grossing tours of all time, but presale tickets for her upcoming concert tour film have already been raking in millions of dollars. Bey has a whopping 32 Grammy Awards, holding the record for the number of Grammy wins. On top of that, she’s one half of the world’s most famous couples (her husband, under-rock-dwellers, is rapper Jay Z) and is regarded, by pop-lovers at least, as the Queen of the genre.

There was an undeniable hysteria around the July 2022 release of her seventh studio album Renaissance, which included production from highly acclaimed artists and producers including Honey Dijon, Skrillex, The-Dream and Mike Dean. The songs (which heavily leaned into the dance genre) became soundtracks of the summer - you could barely go to a bar or club without hearing one of the feel-good bangers. The album was listed by Time as the third best album of 2022, and went to number one in the UK Official Charts and the US Billboard 200.

So it is a bit of a shocker to see no sign of the Crazy In Love singer on this year’s top lists. While Bey didn’t rack up the highest numbers on the streamer last year, her sell-out tour looked like it might change this. Feid (who is the sixth most streamed artist globally) but no Bey? Karol G (who then sits at ninth position worldwide), but no Bey? We could go on.

Drake can do no wrong

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

It’s happy days for Drake, who has held onto his 2022 position as Spotify’s third most streamed artist globally. On reflection, perhaps it’s not a massive surprise: Drake just keeps on releasing music (meaning there’s an endless well of tracks for both fans, and new listeners, to enjoy). The prolific music maker released six singles this year, as well as an October 2023 album, For All the Dogs, which went to number one in the UK and the US album charts. He also released two albums last year: the June-released dance album, Honestly, Nevermind, and his November-released 21 Savage collaboration, Her Loss, which was closer to a straightforward rap album.

Ye’s fanbase, it seems, has finally been shaken

Ye in 2016 (PA Archive)
Ye in 2016 (PA Archive)

Then comes the news that Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, has dropped down the most-streamed artists lists. Last year, the Chicago singer was the ninth most streamed artist globally, and fifth most streamed artist in the UK. This year, on these lists he’s nowhere to be seen.

It is intriguing to see that Ye’s fans - who have been long tested - seem to have finally backed off from enjoying the music of the cast-out rapper. Outrageous comments are nothing new for the rapper ( “George Bush doesn't care about black people” he said on TV in the early 2000s) and the same year as his curveball presidential run in 2020, he infamously wore a MAGA hat.

But the Grammy-winning pariah’s antisemitic outburst last October, which followed a White Lives Matter incident at his Yeezy fashion show the same month and resulted in Adidas ending their super-lucrative partnership with him (apparently Yeezy sales next year were set to be worth approximately $2 billion), seems to have lost the rapper some of his most dedicated supporters.

While the stats could also be related to the fact that Ye hasn’t released much new music (other than the single Vultures as part of his newly formed supergroup ¥$) this was also the case in 2022. It indicates that fans might be concerned with the age-old question about the ethics of consuming the works of creatives who hold unappealing opinions or political positions - whether it is possible to separate the work of an artist from the artist. They seem to have decided it is not.

Styles has dropped down the list too

 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

Last year, Harry Styles was everywhere. He starred in two of last year’s biggest film releases: Michael Grandage’s heartbreaker My Policeman, where he starred opposite Emma Corrin, and in Olivia Wilde’s scandal-ridden Don’t Worry Darling, which also starred Florence Pugh and Chris Pine.

His music video for the track As It Was has now garnered a whopping 642 million views, and the track itself topped Billboard’s top 100 chart for over 15 weeks. His third studio album, the May-released Harry’s House, went to number one in the US and UK as well as numerous other countries, including Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Sweden. He also went on tour for over a year - his Love On Tour tour started in September 2021 and ended in July 2023.

But this year Styles has fallen out of nearly all of Spotify Wrapped’s lists, although Harry’s House remains the tenth most streamed album globally of the year.

SZA whizzes to the top

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

It’s been a huge year for SZA, whose December 2022 album, SOS, secured her a place on multiple Spotify top rankings this year. As well as being nominated for two Grammys, it won the BET Awards’ album of the year, and went to number two in the UK and number one in the US.

Not only has SZA now become the eighth most streamed artist globally on Spotify, but SOS is the third most streamed album both globally and in the UK. Its second track, Kill Bill, has become the second most streamed song globally, and the third most streamed song in the UK.

It’s an extraordinary rise for the 34-year-old artist, who wasn’t on any of the top lists last year.