Each Monday morning ,Spotify kicks off the week by providing us with a new set of songs that are supposedly calibrated to our specific tastes. Any user of the streaming service might be familiar with the Discover Weekly playlist, which works exactly like the name suggests. It's a weekly updated playlist that offers a generous amount of tracks from different artists, each granted a space based on your listening history.
As someone who avidly pirated Taylor Swift and frequented 8tracks in middle school, streaming music has always felt like a personal experience rather than a series of random iTunes purchases or artist stations from Pandora. Even now, the music that rings out of my dorm room is reflective of each specific day. Sunday nights swallow up jazz studio albums; physics review sessions are paired with dream pop and my favorite Beach House album that week. My Discover Weekly, as a result, becomes an odd amalgamation of these eclectic genres.
The truth is, many of the thirty tracks updated each Monday aren’t worth a spot in my library. They’re often from random artists, and feel merely like a watered–down version of those I actually enjoy. This is a result of the algorithmic foundation of Discover Weekly—though it attempts to bring you music you’ll enjoy, it often misses the mark somewhere along the way.
But the random nature is what makes the feature so intriguing. It’s the idea that there is something both automated and made just for me. In the vast musical canon that’s offered in Spotify’s catalog, it becomes increasingly difficult to sift through every project. Discover Weekly is the platform’s effort to assist me, directly, beyond basic genre–titled or mood–oriented playlists available for everyone. It also becomes a game, as my friends and I pine through each other’s weekly compilation in an attempt to see who has received the best of the round.
It can be argued that, with this feature, Spotify is taking the individualism out of music; it bypasses the organic process of discovering music for yourself. Through Discover Weekly, and arguably streaming in general, it becomes less about the actual process of finding a song through a friend or at your favorite coffee shop, and more about trying to make your music taste a data set.
However, this hasn't been the case for me. My song library is fluid and stems from so many different aspects of my life—from my favorite movie score to guilty pleasures—so it's difficult to quantify my taste, or strip it of its individuality. Even if I do end up playing a song off my Discover Weekly that week, it quickly becomes a part of my taste, too. It becomes associated with my walks to class as I listen it over and over, and topic of conversation the next time I have the aux in a car full of my best friends.
As the era of tangible music hangs on by a thread, there's much less investment in individual projects, and instead an emphasis on the services that offer it all. Through Discover Weekly, Spotify highlights some of the personality behind one’s music taste by reminding us that there is value to this taste—that it is worth paying attention to. Maybe next Monday I’ll only fall in love with one of thirty random songs Spotify presents to me. But it’s one song I wouldn’t have found otherwise, and for that, it’s worth it.