Observer Wrapped: A peek into the musical tastes of student journalists
Aidan Thomas | Wednesday, January 19, 2022
A newsroom is an interesting place, and ours is no different. The Observer is made up of four different primary departments — Sports, News, Scene and Viewpoint — that work together to produce the content you all read. Despite their penchant for collaboration, though, writers for these various departments vary greatly in their interests and personalities. What better way to look at and celebrate this wild combination of personalities that write, edit and pull office all-nighters than through an analysis of their favorite music? After all, music is a common tie among our generation, but, much like the members of The Observer themselves, personal tastes can vary widely.
So what happens when you break down the musical preferences of each department, analyzing Spotify Wrapped data from five members of each department? You get electro, pop, rap, rock, country and a whole wide variety of tunes up and down the spectrum of musical interests. Feel free to check out each department’s 25-song playlist to get a peek at the veritable mosh pit of personalities and talents that converges on the basement of South Dining hall to produce each paper. It’s dually chaotic and entertaining — something that just felt right for this project.
Top Five Artists: Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, Olivia Rodrigo, Anderson .Paak, The War on Drugs
The News Department came in with very bipolar results. The dominating preference leaned towards pop music with a clear preference for Taylor Swift. Out of five writers surveyed, three had Swift as their top artist. Eight of her songs cracked the department’s 25-song playlist.
Harry Styles and Olivia Rodrigo also proved to be popular among this group, with Styles also appearing on three top-artist lists. Rodrigo only appeared on one person’s list, but as became a theme, her wildly popular 2021 album “Sour” produced a couple of massive hits that kept her among the most prevalent artists of the year.
After the top trio, the vibe switched a little bit. Anderson .Paak, boosted by his 2016 song “Celebrate,” surged into the top five, giving News a little bit of rap to diversify their results. Meanwhile, War on Drugs provided a rock presence and rounded out the top five artists for News. On the department’s playlist, you’ll see 16 different artists covering a diverse set of musical tastes. That being said, be ready to hear some more Taylor. There’s a lot more of that coming.
Listen to the News playlist here.
Top Five Artists: One Republic, Taylor Swift, Machine Gun Kelly, Florida Georgia Line, The Brian Jonestown Massacre
The Sports department provided some very interesting results. Interests ranged greatly, including pop, electronic, country, rock and — pauses for dramatic effect — Taylor Swift.
The top spot was a duel between Swift and One Republic, but the dominance of the band’s 2021 hit “Run” was enough to push the latter into the lead. Swift took second, and Machine Gun Kelly rode a handful of very popular songs from his recent albums into the top three. Despite being the artist most prominently featured on the sports playlist, MGK did not claim top artist as he only appeared in one response.
Much like News, there was also a definite shift towards the bottom of the list. Here, Florida Georgia line brought us our first true country representation for The Observer, while The Brian Jonestown Massacre added some rock to Sports’ playlist. Overall, the playlist’s 25 songs feature 19 different artists.
Listen to the Sports Playlist here.
Top Five Artists: Phoebe Bridgers, Sufjan Stevens, Jeremy Soule, Joe Hisaishi, Olivia Rodrigo
Scene’s results brought us some more variety and a dip into indie music. Notably, they were the only department to not feature Taylor Swift in their top five. For certain writers (read: me) who occasionally suffer from Taylor Swift burnout, this was a nice change in pace.
The results from Scene were highly interesting. Only Phoebe Bridgers made a repeat appearance, as many of the individual writers turned in Wrapped data that was widely varied but also very tilted towards just one or two artists. For example, Sufjan Stevens only appeared on one person’s Wrapped, but three of his songs populated that person’s top five. Symphonist Jeremy Soule and Japanese classical composer Joe Hisaishi added a couple of new genres not seen to this point, while Olivia Rodrigo rounded out the list.
Despite these varied results, you’ll see just 17 different artists on this playlist, so be sure to dive into what I’d argue is the most unique playlist of the four departments.
Listen to the Scene playlist here.
Top Five Artists: Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers, Lorde, Bad Bunny, Greta Van Fleet
Rounding out our departmental playlists is Viewpoint with another eclectic mix of artists. After shocking no one with Taylor Swift coming in at number one, Viewpoint saw Phoebe Bridgers claim the second spot, followed by Lorde at number three. Taylor dominated again, appearing as a top-three artist on three of five Viewpoint responses, and Bridgers appeared twice. Lorde settled in at third with three songs on the Viewpoint playlist.
Bad Bunny, powered by his trending 2021 song “Dakiti,” came in at number four. The music video for “Dakiti” recently entered the billion-views club on Youtube, and Bad Bunny rode the song’s late-year success. Greta Van Fleet provides some more rock music to the Observer playlist. Their song “Heat Above” was a popular one in multiple departments, but they had enough momentum within Viewpoint to claim one of the top five spots.
The Viewpoint playlist features the fewest number of unique artists with just 14. Five different artists are featured at least three times each. It’s also worth noting that Sovereign Grace Music is represented three times and just barely missed the top-five cut behind Greta Van Fleet.
Listen to the Viewpoint playlist here.
Observer Music Awards
Top Five Songs
- “drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo
- “Heat Above” by Greta Van Fleet
- “good 4 u” by Olivia Rodrigo
- “deja vu” by Olivia Rodrigo
- “august” by Taylor Swift
Album of the Year: “Sour” by Olivia Rodrigo
Top Five Artists
Greta Van Fleet
This one was surprising even to me as I compiled the results. Rock certainly made its appearances throughout this article, but Greta Van Fleet only appeared as a top-five artist for the Viewpoint department. There was an admittedly steep dropoff between number four and number five on our list, and Greta Van Fleet earned their spot by being the top artist for multiple writers across various departments. However, their hit “Heat Above” was also present on two department playlists, contributing to their ranking.
Our News department may have singlehandedly carried Styles to his ranking. This result also came as a bit of a surprise, as none of his songs truly dominated. He was an outlier among the top artists, as every other top-five artist on this list released a 2021 album, and Styles hasn’t released an album since 2019. Similarly, his 2020 single “Golden” is the only song to appear on the 100-song Observer playlist. However, Styles’ variety of very popular singles, plus some definite traction from his 2019 album “Fine Line,” kept Styles as one of 2021’s more popular artists despite his lack of top-end recent hits.
Indie music gets its representation with the inclusion of Phoebe Bridgers, a commonly played artist during late-night production shifts in the office. Given that her 2021 EP “Day After Tomorrow” released the day before Spotify released their Wrapped data, it wasn’t her most recent music populating our charts. Rather, her 2020 album “Punisher” produced a couple of fantastic songs. If you listen to the full compiled playlist all the way through, you’ll hear three songs from Bridgers, including “Kyoto” and “Garden Song” from “Punisher.”
An incredibly dominant performance from “Sour” boosted Olivia Rodrigo all the way to spot number two. The world has been lying in wait for her next album after the 18-year-old lit up the musical world with “drivers license,” “good 4 u” and “deja vu,” among other songs. More music is certainly on the way, but for now, we’ll continue to blast these hits in the offices. There’s just something about that “good 4 u” vibe at 3 a.m. on a Friday morning trying to push through the final stages of production.
Bet you didn’t see this coming.
To no one’s surprise, Taylor Swift comes in at number one. Of the 20 writers that contributed their Wrapped data to this article, Taylor appeared as a top-five artist nine times. Only one of her songs — “august” — cracked our top five songs, but the overall breadth of Taylor’s music reverberated throughout the Observer’s musical preferences. On the overall playlist, you’ll hear Taylor 11 different times, making her the most popular artist there by far (no other artist appears more than five times).
Can you imagine if “Red (Taylor’s Version)” was released a little earlier in the year? As an individual with a mere one Taylor Swift song on my Spotify Wrapped top 100, I quake at the thought. But I digress. If you are ever placing a bet on what we’re listening to in the office, the safe bet is Taylor — we sometimes listen to multiple albums in a single night.
And to quote our Sports Editor and huge Taylor Swift fan Mannion McGinley, that’s simply “as it should be.”