I have a friend who makes a playlist on his iPod every year of his most played songs from the year just passed. It’s always been a practice I’ve admired but as I listen to my music on a wide range of untraceable media – CD’s, vinyl, rickety old iPod’s, tape decks, YouTube – it’s often difficult to trace. For example, this past week I’ve been listening to Noel Gallagher and the High Flying Birds new album at home on CD though how many times I’ve played it I couldn’t quite count accurately – suffice to say it’s been a lot.
I’ve had Spotify for around seven years now and it’s always served me well not only in the extensive collection of music in terms of artists, albums and genres it has, but also in its customization interface and it’s user friendly quick drop playlist options. I can get a hook or a line from a song stuck in my head and with a few flicks of the finger on Spotify – I’ve found the song, the artist, the album and have it at my disposal for a million and one smashes of the replay button.
One thing that I always noted with my friend when I was looking through his rerun playlists was that he always seemed a lot cooler than his most played list made him out to be and the truth is, I think in our heads we are all a lot edgier when we are trying to give an impression of who we are than we are when no one is watching.
This year saw a very raw and emotional me. There have been moments of unadulterated beauty and swathes of self discovery and laughter, but dripping from the walls of 2017 there is mostly pain, frustration and sadness. This is mirrored massively in my Spotify breakdown because even though I had happy days, many happy days, this year, they were only made happy by the company I kept in the small hours of the morning trying to sleep with my music playing next to me promising me that I wasn’t alone and that I could get through this and that, yes, every little ‘ting was gonna be alright.
This breakdown means a lot to me, not only because it reads like a list of the awesome people I’ve hung out with this year, but also because it proves to me how important these incredible strangers that sing these strange, magnificent and sometimes absurd songs actually are. The top five artists are there because they make sense to me. Their words have lifted my head high, put tears in my eyes, rocked me to sleep, got me out of bed in the morning and kept me going every minute in between.
They’re not just songs to me – they’re my life and the people that sing them – my family. Some of them I’ve been with forever, some have come along this year just when I needed them the most and given me hope. Where does this hope come from? Not entirely just from the fact that the people that write and sing these songs know how I feel because let’s face it – I’m probably never going to befriend Brian Fallon or Butch Walker in real life, but in the back of my mind I know that somewhere, out there, laying in bed trying to sleep, there is someone who feels the same as me, listening to the same song as me and wondering, just like me, when we are going to meet and fall apart in love together.
To call them musicians or artists cheapens what these people are. They are saints, holier than though, gurus and shaman bringing together all the beaten broken nearly beloved bastards of the world and gathering them in small sweaty rooms together where they all stand in awe of the stranger that feels like home to them. It’s not the camaraderie of the artist and the fan, more so than the feeling of absolute belonging that the fans have among each other. And yeah, we’re always going to fight over which album was better or whether or not Dylan should have gone electric but what we will always agree on is that life would not be worth living without these people because our lives would be unimaginably awful without them.
So thank you, to all the artists that made it onto this list and for whoever thought to offer a breakdown like this to the people that use Spotify. I can remember a plethora of moments when the most played songs were blaring through my headphones and when the artists that made the list were the only voice I wanted in my head. It fills me with ripples of self awareness and, well, I think pride, really. Pride that I did it. I survived another year. And that my faith in music and the people I love, whether I know them or not, will never let me down.
Because there will always be a song that has the words when you don’t.
To tell you that you’re okay.
That’s you’re doing your best.
And that you have never, and will never, ever be alone.