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How Last.fm ruined my life

staff note

I’m obsessed with music data. At this point, I might as well just call it what it is: an addiction. The more I can get, the better. How many songs do I listen to each day? What genres do I listen to the most? Unfortunately for me, there’s an enabler for this addiction. Its name is Last.fm. 

When I first connected my Spotify account to my Last.fm account on the last day of September last year, I thought it would be a harmless way to track my listening habits. Little did I know that within a month, it would irreversibly change how I listened to music. The problem, you see, is that having constant running charts with more data than I could ever want inevitably leads to competition on those very charts. Even though the top spot in each chart has not and likely will never change (thanks, Taylor Swift), there’s plenty of fighting to be done for each and every spot below. 

The constant competition on my personal Last.fm caused me to start listening to certain artists just for the sake of causing them to rise up (or to cause others to fall down!) the charts. While it’s not very entertaining or novel to see John Mayer so high up, I can simply stop listening to him. And how can I profess to know anything about music if I don’t actually keep up with the Billie Eilishes and Lizzos of the world? Granted, this self-enforced purging of my music taste certainly does have its success stories. It made me explore and eventually adore Maggie Roger’s discography, led me to Rihanna’s standout album “Anti” and even brought me around to the entire Lauv aesthetic. But for every Lauv there’s a Meghan Trainor, somebody unpopular enough who I can neglect in favor of a spiraling free fall at the hands of data.

Perhaps worst of all is that Last.fm has gotten me away from listening to what I love. A quick glance at my top artists chart plainly tells of my partiality for Taylor Swift’s music. What you might not be able to see is that recently I tried to cut back on the time spent listening to her songs. While the effort may not have been very effective, it was still a symptom of a larger problem with my Last.fm addiction. If I’m not listening to what I love, then what’s the point of even opening up Spotify? 

I don’t seem to be the only one with an unhealthy obsession for data. If you’ve spent any amount of time on Twitter, you are sure to have encountered stan culture. On the social media platform, fans go mad over their chosen artist’s stats, streams and sales. Constantly promoting and feuding, accounts use Twitter as a battleground to pit their favorites against each other. Profiles dedicated solely to charts proliferate, often with multiple for a single artist. I even follow a few of them, if only to stay up to date with the artists I love most. 

While our obsession with our favorite singers’ performance on the charts may arise naturally from our competitive nature, it certainly doesn’t help that a handful of artists lean into their devotees’ fixations on these data points. Recently, Justin Bieber practically begged his fans to stream and buy his rather disappointing comeback single “Yummy” in order to achieve a number one debut on the Billboard Hot 100, resulting in constant live-streaming, five separate vinyl releases and a whopping nine music videos to boot. Much to the glee of the stan Twitter accounts that despise Bieber, “Yummy” failed to top the Hot 100, debuting at number two behind Roddy Ricch’s viral hit “The Box.” 

Thankfully for Twitter, stan culture is very slowly lessening its dependence on charts. Artists have warmed up to the “we all have crowns” mentality and are increasingly more willing to support each other, even if it means giving up a number one for themselves. Some, including Roddy Ricch, will even join in their opponent’s chart campaigns

Lately, I’ve decided to fight back against my obsession with my Last.fm charts. Although I’m not going to go cold turkey on the website, I’m not going to let it dictate my music choices either. If you happen to check out my Last.fm, hopefully you’ll find me listening to what I love: “Sweetener” on repeat, a dash of Post Malone and yes, some Taylor Swift. Maybe I’ll even set aside some time for Meghan Trainor’s new album come Friday.

Jonathan Pertile is a Trinity first-year and Recess staff writer.

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