Music, like any form of art, is a vibrant and passionate journey of discovery, one that doesn't end when the calendar year does. As 2016 comes to a close, Spotify has taken a moment to reflect on what truly was a phenomenal and landmark year for music: full of surprises, artists of all levels reaching new heights and, frankly, the bar for quality being set to a new standard.
While every #NewMusicFriday is a reason to celebrate -- with the playlist receiving weekly updates featuring 50 of the freshest new tracks -- for the playlist's final Friday edition of 2016, it's only right to pay homage to the diverse, impactful tracks that soundtracked our year -- as well as toast to what is yet to come. As we look back on a year's worth of Spotify's #NewMusicFriday playlists, one question comes to the forefront: How exactly do you tell the story of a year in 50 songs?
Throughout the past 52 weeks, #SpotifyNMF has highlighted a harmonious blend of new songs from 2016's bright-eyed rising artists and established heavyweights alike, as well as debut 2,815 tracks and grow its following to 1.7 million. Along the way, while impressive streaming records were made, something else happened that isn't quite as easily evaluated or summarized solely by a statistic. Thanks to #NewMusicFriday, artists were able to experience significant life-changing growth in the course of one week -- all before the playlist was updated again and a new batch of different artists found themselves highlighted in the mix. With every artist, there's a different story, and #NewMusicFriday is not only a platform to help showcase that story to a growing audience, but also a hand in helping craft that narrative.
As exemplified a plethora of times throughout this year, #NMF played an integral role with some of 2016's success stories, unfolding its curious magic by directly influencing the careers of talented, hardworking artists, such as The Chainsmokers, Maggie Rogers, FRENSHIP, Kent Jones, D.R.A.M., Cheat Codes and countless others.
As many can attest, the beginning of 2016 looked drastically different from the way it does now, and surprisingly enough, one duo in particular has an interesting combination of a designer spandex retailer, a voicemail recording and #SpotifyNMF to thank. James Sunderland and Brett Hite originally met while working together at a Lululemon store, going on to make music under the pseudonym FRENSHIP. The duo recorded a track inspired by a voicemail that featured guest vocalist Emily Warren's grandmother left her and from there, the rest is history. After being discovered on a blog months after it was recorded, their collaborative track "Capsize" was first added to #SpotifyNMF on April 15, going on to hit over 286MM streams. As the single helped lead the group to signing a record deal with Columbia, they will always look back on "Capsize" fondly, remembering how they felt upon first discovering the track was added to the playlist and running around their hotel room celebrating the new milestone in awe. "'Capsize' has created a moment for us," Hite adds. "I think it's up to us to turn it into a career. We just want to make it last as long as we can."
Cheat Codes can definitely echo that sentiment. After living together in the same room (literally) and making music together day after day, each of the three members tirelessly sought opportunities to advance their distinctive sound forward. After lightheartedly making a seemingly far-fetched bet that if one of their songs hit 100 million streams, they would all get matching tattoos about it, Cheat Codes was in for quite the surprise. Their track "Sex" was added to #NMF on Feb. 2, later going on to hit 354MM streams. Interestingly enough, the track was originally released without fans knowing who created it, with many speculating it was created by legendary electronic acts, such as Major Lazer or DJ Snake. Now, with their name on the board, Cheat Codes is determined to put out new music, setting out to surpass their own impressive streaming numbers. "2016 was like laying the foundation and now 2017 we have such a solid foundation to really show the world what we're capable of," member Matt Russell shares.
Meanwhile, in the middle of the summer, NYU student Maggie Rogers went to from simply going to class to being featured on the cover of #SpotifyNMF on June 17. Coupled with a now-infamous cosign from Pharrell Williams, Rogers went on to witness firsthand how one three-minute song aided in her becoming a viral sensation, solidifying her as one of 2016's most exciting breakout artists. The day after the 22-year-old covered the playlist and her track "Alaska" was featured, she went backpacking in the Swiss Alps, figuring that whatever was happening in her career music-wise would be eagerly waiting for her when she got back.
"As I would enter new timezones, my Spotify kept switching, and I was still on the cover," the singer-songwriter reflects. "I was on the train with my cousin and we were in the middle of a conversation and all of a sudden, my phone started blowing up." While Rogers pokes fun at the phrase, playfully pointing out the insane amount of messages she received after the playlist went live, the growth her fanbase experienced as a result is no laughing matter. With her single at 21MM streams and counting, Rogers is eager to see where her music takes her next, adding, "A lot can happen in a year. I don't know what I'm capable of making yet. I'm excited, I feel like my life is just starting."
Similarly, when Kent Jones originally created, "Don't Mind," to him, it was just a song on a mixtape. However, after being included on #SpotifyNMF, the track was given new life, quickly becoming the standalone record that fans gravitated towards from his new project. As the song began to circulate, Jones won over a younger audience who helped the song reach viral heights, further strengthened by a distinctive series of dance moves, branded as the #DontMindChallenge. "It just felt good," Jones says, of the track's feel-good vibe and the now-viral Internet challenge. "All my tracks do that though, it's weird. It just captures you like that." The song, which references Barry White's 1994 smash, "Practice What You Preach," has since reached 239MM streams, securing the title of most streamed hip-hop track this year. "It hasn't stopped yet," Jones adds, excitedly. "It's not that I'm surprised, it's just the fact that it's just right now still going." As a gifted musician who simply creates the music he "hears in his head," Jones is beyond ready to keep the momentum going into the new year.
While the astonishing success that these artists saw stemming from #SpotifyNMF is arguably unprecedented, the most exciting, bewildering fact is that our work here is far from finished. If 2016 has been any indication, we can't wait to see what 2017 may have in store for us, full of new music waiting to be discovered, nourished and celebrated. Perhaps Young the Giant's Sameer Gadhia words it best: "The artists that are going to make the biggest impact in 2017 are the ones that no one's heard of yet, the ones that people least expect."