Oh, no! MORE music stats? WHY?

Yesterday I wrote a long boring post no one will read about music I listened to in 2020. Everyone loves spreadsheets about music! Today I realized I forgot the thing I normally add: the iTunes list of most heard songs.

You'll always be iTunes in my heart. You play music. Tunes are music. YOU ARE ITUNES.

Here, another spreadsheet for you!

I’ve posted it in some form every year, and every year it grows more inaccurate at showing what I actually listened to during the year. The problem is that it doesn’t just include this year; it’s every play of every song in my library since I started counting. Prince’s “Baby I’m a Star” sits at number four even though I (probably) haven’t listened to it for a year.

Good song, though.

And right at the top is “He Will State The Obvious (Captain Obvious Theme Song)” That I originally found on the now-gone

Many years later I found Andrew Huang’s youtube channel and had no idea he was the songstowearpantsto guy, which is funny because his channel is named songstowearpantsto. I’m not smart.

At number 13 is everyone’s favorite song, “Track06.” I can’t find it online, but it’s a station ID from Oldies 103.3, a Boston oldies station (Los Angeles, think KRTH) that went off the air 8 years ago. It’s very short, so if it pops up on shuffle it almost always plays through.

According to this list I haven’t listened to The Magnetic Fields’ “The Book of Love” since July of 2019, but that’s a damned lie. I’ve listened to it a bunch because it’s one of the songs Spotify has decided to always play for me.

Stephin Merritt’s voice always sounds like it’s about to slide out of tune. Maybe the crazy deepness of it makes me notice the pitch more.

Number 44 is “hulk[1]”, a quote from the Incredible Hulk TV show.

Check out Bill Bixby’s sweet mom jeans!

Number 56 is Echo & The Bunnymen’s “Lips Like Sugar,” folled at number 57 by Echo & The Bunnymen’s “Lips Like Sugar.” Maybe they’re different versions; maybe they’re the same version on different albums. Who knows? If they’re the same one, then they win for most popular Luke song of all time, apparently.

Jonathan Richman’s “Miracles Will Start to Happen” would be next if you combine the 16 plays at numbers 135 & 136.

The most recently played song on the list is number 93, Adam & The Ants’ single version of “Cartrouble,” last heard on December 8th. The least recently heard is number 22, the Dead Kennedys cover of “Viva Las Vegas,” which played September 19, 2017.

So, two days of music stat posts. What have we learned?

Not much!


Too much about music stats

There’s a web page called How Bad Is Your Spotify? that looks at your Spotify playlists and listening habits and judges you like the record store guys in High Fidelity. You cannot win. If your tastes are too mainstream, you’re mocked for being a mindless drone. Too eclectic/obscure and you’re mocked for trying too hard. It’s amusing. My report started with:

Your spotify was heavy-eyeliner-post-punk-suburban-80s-nobody-puts-baby-in-a-corner bad.

Thank your obsessions with Talking Heads, new wave, and (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life – From “Dirty Dancing” Soundtrack for that.

Mostly reasonable. I’m a 54 year old guy who grew up with KROQ as my background music, so new wave and Talking Heads fit pretty well. But I don’t remember the last time I listened to anything from Dirty Dancing.

Though I did make this last year.

Also, this comes up later:

You listen to these tracks too much:

  • Dress Sexy At My Funeral by Smog
  • Chelsea Hotel #2 by Leonard Cohen
  • Stella By Starlight by Miles Davis
  • Different Drum by Stone Poneys
  • These Things by Looper

And I do listen to most of those, but Chelsea Hotel #2 only comes up because Spotify has decided to add it to my Daily Drive mix, and apparently counts playing any part of it (even after I skip it) as a play.

This isn’t a complaint about the “How Bad” page; it’s using the only data available to it. But it highlights how inaccurate Spotify is at knowing what I want to hear, or even what I usually play. Most of my music is stuff I play from iTunes (or whatever Apple wants to call iTunes these days). I have tons of music that doesn’t exist on Spotify, and I usually let it play randomly. The problem is that iTunes/Apple Music only keeps two data points about a song: when you last played it, and how many times you’ve ever played it. I wanted to have a list of my most played music of 2020, but it can’t be done without an outside assist. I used and got this list of songs:

That’s better, but it makes it look like I’m a huge fan of White Hassle when it’s really the iTunes shuffle algorithm failing to effectively randomize stuff mixed with my letting music play in the background without paying attention to it.

The top artists list is slightly more reflective of what I listened to in 2020:

But that one has some issues as well. For one thing, slight name changes count as different artists; if you add Elvis Costello to Elvis Costello & The Attractions, they move to second place.

…and this still doesn’t really reflect my “shuffle ’em all and let the algorithm sort ’em out” listening. I mean look at this list of over 4500(!) songs I listened to exactly once in the last year:

So, what have we learned? My main takeaways:

  1. Music stats are difficult.
  2. I can write long and boring posts.