You’re not the only one who hates the new Spotify update. The multinational streaming company began rolling out a new look to their mobile app this week, and not only is some of the removed functionality annoying, it also paints a picture of what the future of music consumption might look like.
Spotify has simplified the “Your Library” tab, prominently featuring “Playlists,” which opens as soon as Your Library is clicked, and added “Artists” and “Albums” as tabs beside it.
One of the original tabs seems to be removed completely. Which one was that again? Oh yeah, “Songs.” You know, what most people come to Spotify for.
The full list of all the songs you saved is now included in a playlist titled “Liked Songs,” and the screen has less functionality than it used to, removing the A-Z quick scrolling option and some customization and filtering features. The “Albums” tab, as well, only displays albums which have been saved in their entirety.
“Artists” now only shows the ones that you’ve “Followed,” which is a pretty useless feature that notifies you when they release new music. Of course, if you were a big enough fan to hit “Follow,” you’d know when their new music is coming out.
“All your music is still here. And we’ve made finding and accessing the content you want even faster. A tap on the Music tab automatically drops you into your Playlists section, and the artists you follow and albums you’ve saved are just a swipe away,” read Spotify’s official statement.
While a major reason for making this move seems to be the company’s desire to promote podcasts (now displayed in giant letters at the top) just as strongly as music, Spotify’s prioritization of playlists on the musical side of things speaks volumes.
A playlist, by design, isn’t usually something you throw on and actively listen to. It’s the modern equivalent to putting on some smooth jazz over a dinnertime conversation. Their function is to have a list of barely noticeable, similar-sounding songs to be playing in the background, whether you’re partying, exercising or studying.
More and more people seem to be consuming their music primarily through Spotify’s curated playlists tailored to fit a specific vibe. A quick glance at their main page right now offers “Get Turnt,” “Sad Bops” and “Late Night Vibes.”
People’s increased dedication to playlists can easily be seen if you take a look at the Billboard charts. Spotify’s most commonly-listened to playlist is “Today’s Top Hits,” which offers a selection of tracks from all genres getting attention online. A song’s chart position frequently skyrockets once Spotify adds it to their list, its streaming numbers increasing exponentially.
The thing is, the tracks in these playlists aren’t always exactly “Today’s Top Hits.” Looking at the playlist right now, there are songs like “It’s You” by relative unknown Ali Gatie, which has 4 million hits on YouTube. Of course, that’s quite the accomplishment for most artists, but compared to the legitimate global smash hits on Spotify’s most prominent and influential playlist it seems odd.
Gatie’s song fits pretty squarely into every overdone trend of modern pop music, with some simplistic and repetitive acoustic chords, some more hip-hop influenced percussion, and a chilled-out soulful vocal on top. Honestly, it sounds identical to a Khalid track.
Khalid recently took over the title of the world’s most streamed artist from Drake, and he’s likely one of the biggest culprits. His brand of fluid, genreless alt-R&B is universally appealing, never going beyond the surface level on anything he sings about while the innocuous, creeping synth chords and sluggish tempo of his songs make him the perfect contender to throw on at a late-night gathering.
The next time your friend is obsessing over a song they discovered on Spotify by an artist that nobody has ever heard of, you can assume that it was selected because it was just safe enough to be included on their favourite “chill summer” playlist. That it’s likely going to be indistinguishable from Khalid’s latest piece of uninspired alt-R&B is an added bonus.
All of this results in music that is neither good nor influential being included in some of the most popular places to search for it. People are content with whatever the Spotify algorithm delivers to them. Bland and inoffensive music is valued for premium placement since it won’t distract anyone from doing the dishes or folding laundry while the playlist is on.
Take their “Discover Weekly” playlist as an example. It takes elements of all your saved songs, distilling them down into a list of the most derivative, similar suggestions they can find. What’s the difference, when you’re not paying much attention?
More people migrating over to playlists as their primary way of discovering music also continues another trend – the death of the album format. There’s always something to be said about an album with a well-thought-out structure that tells a story from front to back. Just look at what Tyler the Creator recently accomplished with his captivating IGOR narrative.
In a world where streaming is taking over, artists, especially in the hip-hop community, have been dropping more and more content to keep their name in the spotlight and have more options for a popular playlist to latch onto. Thanks to a stronger focus on EPs and standalone singles, less attention is being paid to this classic format by both the artists and fans.
Even when it’s time for another album cycle, quite a few of the most popular artists are increasingly dropping bloated, overlong projects with endless filler tracks, simply to have more out there to boost their streaming numbers. Did anyone listen to all 106 minutes of Migos’ Culture II?
The best music should be about innovation, something that grabs your attention and surprises you because you’ve never heard it before. Something that actually would take you out of whatever party you’re at because you really noticed it. Or at the very least, something that tells an engaging story.
As the great poet Andre 3000 once said, “Y’all don’t wanna hear me, you just wanna dance.”