Final Update!: The Spotify Playlist Challenge

Monday, July 15, 2019

Spotify playlist challenge your girlfriend's mix tape Gigi Hadid
In October of 2014, one month into my graduate program, I took on a gargantuan task: to listen to virtually every. single. Spotify playlist. that existed before I graduated from my program in late December 2015. (You can see the original post here, along with the name of every playlist I listened to, and comments where pertinent.) At the time, few people would have been able to identify the girl in the Spotify playlist photo. Now, most people of a certain age would be able to recognize her as Gigi Hadid, or at least be familiar with her face.

In November 2014, I realized I had to be more systematic about my quest, as Spotify had added a slew of playlists and I began to see no end in sight. By January of 2015, I had archived all the playlists to my account for easy tracking.

The numbers:

793 playlists, total (not counting those I stupidly listened to more than once)

I'd say each playlist probably averaged, on the low end and not including ads, about 5 hours. The vast majority of playlists fell in the range of just under 3 hours and a little over 6 hours. One was 59 minutes long and another was 59 hours and 35 minutes long.

That's about 3,965 hours or 237,900 minutes of listening (again, not including ads because I don't have Spotify Premium).

That's just over 165 straight days of listening.

So could I have completed the task in the 14 months I gave myself? Probably.

Would I have been able to get good grades and focus on my reading if I had? Probably not.

I am SO relieved to have completed this stupid task I set myself to, because now I can finally catch up on "new" music I've been wanting to check out. Like Khalid's "new" album, which came out just a little over 3 months ago. And the new Banks, the Julia Michaels EP, that Dermot Kennedy guy everyone keeps namedropping ...


Is the Scott Borchetta/Scooter Braun vs. Taylor Swift thing really a male vs. female issue?

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Taylor Swift and Scott Borchetta | Getty Images

I don't know who's right, who's wrong or, let's face it, who's being more honest or more deceitful in the Scott Borchetta/Scooter Braun vs. Taylor Swift issue because I do not know any of the three parties. What I'm about to say is not about that.
In her statement about Scott Borchetta's selling her masters (but actually all of Big Machine Label Group) to Scooter Braun, Taylor Swift says:

This is what happens when you sign a deal at fifteen to someone for whom the term ‘loyalty’ is clearly just a contractual concept. And when that man says ‘Music has value’, he means its value is beholden to men who had no part in creating it.

When I left my masters in Scott’s hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually he would sell them. Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter. Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words ‘Scooter Braun’ escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to. He knew what he was doing; they both did. Controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them. In perpetuity. That means forever.

Taylor Swift is not dumb. Tone-deaf in all senses of the word, maybe, but not dumb. I have followed this girl - nay, this woman - since fall 2006 when her deftly written self-titled debut album was released, and I refuse to believe she is anything but intelligent, business savvy, calculated, even. But her logic here is not quite sound: "Music has value" to a record label president/businessperson will always mean its value is beholden to businesspeople who had no part in creating it. When her contract expired, Taylor walked away from Big Machine and her masters because she found a better offer elsewhere. Taylor, more than anyone, probably knows that business is business and, in business, money always speaks loudest of all.

I don't know whether there were offers greater than the reported $300+ million Scooter Braun paid for Big Machine Label Group. If Scott Borchetta had a larger offer from someone who was not Scooter Braun yet still accepted Scooter's offer, the implied collusion between the two men that Taylor hints at might have some feeble legs to stand on. But this was a business transaction Taylor took no part in and, it sounds like, per her original Big Machine contract had no right to take a part in.

Now Taylor Swift and some members of her squad (namely Cara Delevingne and Halsey) are fixing a lens of sexism, misogyny, betrayal, men vs. one woman upon the issue -- or, perhaps said in another way, appealing to others' emotions and creating a narrative. And Taylor Swift fans are eating it all up, with some angrily demanding Taylor's other celebrity friends to take her side (see responses to an innocuous Shawn Mendes tweet). It seems Taylor's use of the Madeleine Albright quote "there's a special place in hell for women who don't help other women" has been interpreted to mean "there's a special place in hell for women who don't side with other women simply because they are women," which is possibly the exact opposite of what the feminist movement is trying to achieve.

I'm not taking sides (and really, what are we even being asked to take sides on? Of course all artists and creators should own their work. And legal contracts should also be honored). But I also cannot forget the times Taylor Swift has stated her victimhood and backpedaled, been discredited, or asked to be excluded from the narrative.

Again, I'd like to make the assertion that Taylor Swift is not dumb. So I am continually surprised when she makes a staunch claim which is later discredited with evidence or "receipts". And because I believe that Taylor Swift is not dumb, my more cynical rationalization of this behavior is that she aims to taint someone's name or reputation in the time it takes for the other party to pull out the receipts by mobilizing her still enormous and devoted fanbase. My less cynical rationalization? That it's a marketing scheme. (Justin Bieber put it more basically: "seems to me like it was to get sympathy".)

Because look how neatly Taylor ties her statement together with a perfectly placed bow: "And hopefully, young artists or kids with musical dreams will read this and learn about how to better protect themselves in a negotiation. You deserve to own the art you make. I will always be proud of my past work. But for a healthier option, Lover will be out August 23."

Further reading on this topic:
Taylor Swift's statement
Scott Borchetta's "rebuttal"
The Wall Street Journal article from which Taylor allegedly learned her fate
Yahoo! Finance's stance on the whole thing because, oh yes, they have one


... is this thing on?

Monday, July 01, 2019

Hello, hello! It truly has been a very long time since I last checked in here. Does anyone still read this thing? Around 2016, I turned my focus from this blog to my YouTube channel, which is now mostly dormant. And I have Timothée Chalamet to blame for that.

In one of the (many) Timothée Chalamet interviews I watched or listened to, he spoke in what I would consider an abstract way of his fear of being "boring." I still don't feel I 100% grasp what he means by "boring," but what he said got me thinking: are my videos helpful? Do they add value? Are they entertaining, if nothing else?

And even before I fell down the TC rabbit hole, I'd long thought my videos were becoming less and less interesting, helpful, valuable. Simply said, I was running out of original, fresh ideas. There are (and were, before I even started) so many people doing the same thing I'm doing on the internet, and I don't feel that I need to be adding onto that.

Timothée, in another interview, stated that he uses social media as "another expression of self" rather than self-promotion. John Mayer shared a similar, if not less positive, view of social media back in 2011 when he quit Twitter. (Never fear: not only is he back on Twitter and other forms of social media now, but he hosts a mostly weekly Instagram show called "Current Mood.") John made what I thought were very valid points about social media taking over one's mental energy and draining them of their creativity.

Overall, it seems there is a growing sentiment towards going back to a simpler time. Natural beauty. Whole, organic foods. And, maybe more for environmental reasons than anything else, a greater focus on reducing and reusing rather than recycling.

In a paragraph, in the three years since I last really wrote in here, I've: moved back to New York City, started a new job, seen Harry Styles in concert!, gone back to London!, seen John Mayer in concert!, visited the Canadian Rockies! (2017 was an exciting year), gotten my own place, visited Washington, D.C., seen Gary Clark, Jr. in concert, seen James Bay in concert. Most of which has been documented on my Instagram.

But in my everyday life, I've pared down my beauty "routine" to a place I'm mostly happy with, in terms of number of products and "cleanliness." Since 2013, I've worked on switching over to more natural beauty products, and while I'm not 100% there yet, I would say 80% of the products I use are free of chemicals that I find questionable. This year, I've also made more of an effort to consume things in a more sustainable way, whether that's in the foods I buy and eat, or the materials of the products I buy. It's early days yet, but I've been earnestly seeking ways to cut down on the plastic that comes into my life, and I've begun collecting my food waste and dropping it off with GrowNYC every week to create compost.

And in my everyday life, to go back to Timothée Chalamet and John Mayer, I've missed creating. Writing, mostly. If you haven't already noticed, my blog is called "Maxine Writes." There are some things about me that will probably never change: I will always love consuming pop culture, I will always love food, I will always love music, I will always love traveling, and I will always love writing.

So here we are.

I don't know how many people are reading or have ever really read this blog, but I'm writing in here because I love writing, and that's really all that matters, right?

I hope to make this a regular thing, but I want it to be mindful writing rather than content that's pushed out for the sake of this blog being active. And I don't really know what form this blog is going to take. Will it be about clean beauty, sustainability, music, Timothée Chalamet, life in general ... all of the above? I guess only time will tell.

But thank you for reading, if you're still with me at the end of this long soliloquy, or after years of being away. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


What I'm Reading