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The Daily Tar Heel

It’s that time of year again.

2023's biggest artists, songs and albums — from SZA's "SOS" to Zach Bryan's self-titled project — are all over social media. 

Spotify Wrapped, which was released on Nov. 29 this year, provided users with concrete data about their music streaming habits. 

First released in 2016, the annual analysis is a marketing campaign by Spotify, the most-used music streaming platform in the world. On the day of its release, users are given a colorful, funky slideshow with information about their top artists, songs and genres that can be easily shared on other digital platforms.

Chloe Johnson, a DJ at student-run radio station  WXYC, said she expected to see a diverse range of music from N.C. listeners. Johnson said she envisioned bluegrass and folk music being particularly popular across North Carolina this year because of the state's mountain region. However, among the students and social media posts she saw, the most frequent artists were Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Drake.

Johnson said she has seen listeners gravitating toward more alternative and underground artists. She said she believes that people would rather find community within smaller fan bases than identify with more mainstream artists.

Junior Kassandra Fernando  is a member of GuiTar Heels, a guitar jam group on campus. She said she expected an increase in alternative and indie rock listeners this year, especially with the September release of Olivia Rodrigo’s newest album “GUTS."

“It was definitely a big difference from her first album, which I thought was really cool because she’s expanding her horizons and trying something new,” Fernando said.

Rodrigo’s new album was a dive into 2000s “teen-angsty” rock, she said. Fernando said Rodrigo's first album “SOUR” seems more pop-inspired, compared to the driving guitar and screamed lyrics in "GUTS." 

Nava Little, fundraising head of the Albums and Record Society, has also seen a dramatic increase in indie music interest. 

“I feel like indie is very much turning into pop, or at least it's trending in that direction,” they said.

Fernando said she feels that the gravitation toward indie rock this year could be attributed to trending songs on TikTok. 

According to Little, indie artists are thriving because people are actively seeking out underground music. They said they have also noticed club music, such as drill — a subgenre of hip-hop music — and Afrobeats, trending on TikTok. 

Little said they have enjoyed seeing artists be more experimental and expressive with their production over the years, such as the mixing of jazz sounds in rap music.

First-year Reid Weikel also noticed the expansion and intermixing of genres in the industry. 

He said he sees the focus shifting from industry giants to individual artists. This allows creators to make their own sound, instead of following what executives tell them is marketable, he said. 

“I think there's a lot of genres now that wouldn't have existed 25 years ago,” Weikel said.

There was a "wide, eclectic combination" of artists from various genres in the Top Five lists that Weikel said he saw this year. 

“I've seen people have Travis Scott and Luke Combs in the same top five,” he said. “I've seen people have K-pop and Taylor Swift and JPEGMAFIA in the same top five.”  

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Little, however, said they were expecting more variability among the most played artists of listeners. 

“A lot of people seem to stick to their genre,” they said.

This year's Spotify Wrapped also featured some new statistics — including a new system that assigns listeners a matching "Sound Town" based on their musical preferences.

Weikal was assigned to a small town in California, which he said made sense to him as an indie rock fan. His top artists included The Beths, Peach Pit and Briston Maroney — artists he thought California residents would gravitate toward. 

For Weikal, this was easily the best feature of 2023's Wrapped. 

“It was a really cool thing I wasn't expecting to see,” he said. "I think it was a fun little tidbit, a little bit of context."

@dthlifestyle |