Spotify Sentiment Analysis: The Joy of the Jam

  • What you listen to influences your emotional state
  • It’s interesting to use music choices as a chance for reflection on the past
  • A R I Z O N A is a great band

I have been trying to figure out what to write about for a long time. Everything felt wrong or off that was outside of COVID-19, and I truly can’t contribute to that conversation, as much as I would like to. Not a virologist. Not an epidemiologist. I had a Waffle House dataset that I was going to use to model expected virus impact via number of store closures, but that felt wrong (if anyone wants it, reach out).

I recently learned that Spotify will send you your data (similar to the Wrapped they send). It comes in a JSON file, but I just queried it over into Excel.

I thought it would be interesting to do an analysis of my music compared to what was happening to me at the time. I have had a whirlwind past few months (hasn’t everyone), and I use music as a tool to adjust my emotions (i.e., calm down before bed, ramp up before a big workout) so I figured it would be a good tool to get some insight into my listening habits.

I have found this quarantine time to be almost alarming in terms of the self-reflection it requires. If you’re anything like me, when you hang out with yourself for most of the day, you begin to realize 1) you’re a bit odd and 2) you can be very annoying. But this time also allows for opportunities to learn how to appreciate those things and realize that 3) you deserve to be appreciated by yourself, especially considering that you are carrying this brain around in your body on Earth.

I broke down my last ten months into personal and professional impacts, which I thought might influence my listening habits.

Here are key assumptions about my data:

  • I listen to instrumental music when I sleep (up to 6 hours a night)
    • This can skew the data towards songs that I would never listen to when I am awake and can inflate my total listening time.
  • I listen to exclusively rap / hard EDM music when I workout
    • This can skew the data towards my workout routine rather than my personal life
  • I like music a lot
    • If I can, I put in my headphones. Grocery shopping, working out, working – I like to hear new songs and learn about different music types
  • I have been listening to a LOT more music in isolation
    • For several months, I didn’t listen to music at all during the day because I was at work. Now, it’s a big part of my day.

Kyla’s Past Ten Months

Here is a brief look at how the past 10 months have been for me. In May of last year, I was a college senior (my heart goes out to current seniors), enjoying spending time with my friends, and traveling a lot. As you can see in March of this year, ten months later, quarantine has weighed a bit on the general level of adjustment, and thus, what I am listening to.

Working out varies a lot for me, and thus, so does my music choice. I am committed to a daily routine, but my focus shifts depending on the month. I was running a lot over the past summer, and then once winter hit and I began working a bit more, I shifted into a weight-lifting focus. In January and February of this year, I was really focused on yoga. Now, I am running a lot more, but am shifting into a calisthenics/yoga focus again soon.

Lifting correlates into heavier rap songs, whereas yoga and running are usually lighter, indie variations. You can usually tell which month was a heavy lifting month for me by the songs I was listening to.

T1: May 1 2019 – June 18 2019

In May, I was graduating college, spending time taking tests and studying. I was also in a relationship. I was spending a lot of time with friends. I graduated on the 13th, and then traveled around the country.

(It is crazy looking back at merely a year ago and the massive change since then in the world. Once again, my heart goes out to our current seniors).

I have limited the below chart to artists that I spent more than 10,000,000 ms listening to, which is > 166 minutes or 2.7 hours! This totaled 23 artists, for a total of 115 hours.

My top five artists are below. I color-coded them on my self-created Happy Scale (ah yes, very scientific- conditional formatting in Excel based on a numeric ranking).

The deeper the yellow, the happier the band is, according to my analysis. Blue is sadder. So A R I Z O N A is a pretty happy band (deep yellow), all things considered. Dermot Kennedy is a soulful singer that has made many people cry with his vocals, so he is a bit lower on the Happy Scale (blue).

A R I Z O N A and X Ambassadors were the clear favorites. I saw A R I Z O N A in concert twice that summer. They are also my absolute favorite band. X Ambassadors are just really fun, and they have awesome range. They have sad songs, fast songs, running songs, lifting songs, yoga songs – so I utilized their versatility a lot.

My standard deviation was much higher with A R I Z O N A, so there are definitely a top few songs that I favor with that band.

I spent 117 minutes listening to “People Crying Every Night” by AZ.  Almost 2 hours. I am going to link the YouTube pages of each of the artists as well as their Spotify at the end of this blog, if you also would like to listen to one song for two hours (I highly recommend “People Crying Every Night” by A R I Z O N A). “People Crying Every Night” is one of their sadder, slower songs, but the vocals are phenomenal.

T2: June 18 – July 31 2019

I turned 22 on June 19th. I was traveling all over the country! Florida, Minnesota, back home to Kentucky, and finally, I moved all the way to Los Angeles on June 25th. I started working in Los Angeles on July 1st (yay!)

Dermot Kennedy was a clear favorite during this time. I listened to 1,049 minutes of him. Imagine Dragons was second and Kanye West was third. A R I Z O N A dipped during this time frame.

I broke up the data by month. I only took the half month of June because of the massive change that occurred at the end of that month (moving to Los Angeles). Here’s where the data gets interesting.

The month of June was heavily skewed towards Kanye West. This is because I spent the month of June basically just working out. I had just graduated, hadn’t started working full-time, so all I was doing was writing and working out. However, once July started, there was a shift, and rightly so. I extrapolated my data for June, making it a full month worth of data, and the theme remains. Kanye.

However, in July, I began to listen to Ed Sheeran and Dermot Kennedy. What do those two artists have in common? They are sad singers. This makes sense. I was kind of sad in July. I missed my partner, who was in Minnesota, and Los Angeles was an adjustment from my small Kentucky town of 70,000 people.

August 1st – September 18th 2019

This time frame was relatively uneventful. I started a new program at my company in early September, but I don’t think that influenced my listening habits too much. I was settling in well, and was quite happy.

In August, I was listening to a lot of X Ambassadors and Lewis Capaldi. In September, it was a lot more ODESZA, most likely because they are instrumental. Lack of lyrics allows me to focus more on work.

I took the Top 5 songs from each artist or band, and ranked them on the Sentiment Scale. I had a very heavy tilt towards “Dont’ Stay” by the X Ambassadors, which is a relatively neutral song in terms of happy/sad. However, I spent a lot of time with Lewis Capaldi, who is a very emotional vocalist (akin to Dermot Kennedy, in my opinion). Also – “Across the Room ft Leon Bridges” with ODESZA was the song I listened to the MOST.

September 18th – October 31st 2019

This was a rough time frame. I went through a break up, and break ups are a tough thing to go through. It was and is not fun.

This mean that Dermot Kennedy was BACK. His album also dropped in October of 2019, so that can explain some of the discrepancy. But I definitely was listening to some sad songs.

Dermot came on strong in October. I was listening exclusively to him pretty much the entire month.

I have attached a sentiment analysis of Dermot’s music below. The songs I was listening to the most are relatively happy (yellow), but the latter half was definitely quite sad (lighter blue).

October 31st – December 14th 2019

This time I was pretty focused on work, working out, and was rather busy. I am quite surprised by the stark difference between my #1 and #2 artists. NEEDTOBREATHE is an “American Christian rock band” and T-Pain is not that.

I was using NEEDTOBREATHE to go to sleep at night, and I found a song by T-Pain which remains my favorite song, to this day. As you can see, I listened to 460 minutes, or 7.6 hours, of “She Needed Me” making up 87% of my total listening time of T-Pain.

December 14th 2019 – January 31st 2020

So this time frame was also a surprise. Post Malone was my number one. Because it was the holidays, I was working out a bit more, and definitely lifting a lot more, which would explain the shift in focus. Not a huge deviation to any one artist, but definitely a concentration on artists I hadn’t been listening to in a while.

Post Malone’s album dropped in September of 2019, so I was behind that curve. I was also introduced to GASHI early December, and really liked lifting to that beat. AWOLNATION is a classic, and I used to listen to them a lot when I was in high school.

If I had to label my emotions based on the music that I was listening to at this time, I would say “Ready to GO“. I have adjusted the sentiment scale to reflect red for the “Pump Up” songs, and blue for the “Softer” songs. Oh Wonder is a really sweet band that contrasts deeply to Post Malone, GASHI, and AWOL. Diversity is key.

Feburary 1st – March 16th


This is when I really began getting concerned about COVID-19. I had been watching China closely, and was very worried. That first week of March was my first week working from home.

Bon Iver is a classic choice to help calm the nerves. I returned to familar favorites in AZ. James Arthur is a sad singer (Feb was sad). flora cash dropped a new album in March, so I was listening to that, and I discovered Emmit Fenn around the same time. Definitely a softer tone for this time frame, as compared to the previous.

What I think is really interesting is the name and the total shift in sentiment of the songs. All of them qualify on the “sad” sentiment scale (I suppose anything can). A deeper blue means that it is “sadder” whereas a lighter blue means its “less sad” (all very scientific).

But you can tell a total movement in my mindset from the previous month to this time. I wasn’t lifting heavy because I couldn’t go to the gym because of closures. I was stressed to the nines about this virus. And you can see that, based on what I was listening to.

March 16th – April 2nd 2020

Similar story here. Listening to a lot more music during the day, softer songs, usually. I am still learning how to properly manage stress, and pandemic stress is a whole new ballgame.

I relied a lot on instrumental music (ODESZA), old favorites (AZ), softer songs (SYML, Tycho). The Weeknd dropped his new album in March, so I spent some time listening to that.

I colored the artists below on the “chill” sentiment scale. Big shout-out to my friend Nolan for introducing me to Tycho and techno music, which I usually listen to during the workday. A R I Z O N A is closing the gap to number one again. A deeper orange is more chill (relaxing, calming, etc) whereas a lighter orange is more amp-up.

Total: Ten Months

The past ten months have been odd.

I aggregated my data for the 8 timeframes, and pulled my top ten artists for each period. This rather gross table below details my breakdown of listening over the past ten months. I spent 34,451 minutes listening, which is 574 hours or 23 days over the past ten months.

A R I Z O N A was my clear favorite. They had an average ranking of 3.25 in terms of my Top 10, in terms of variation across the eight timeframes, and I spent a total of 4,552 minutes listening to them, or 76 hours.

I have kept my top 4 artists relatively constant over the past 10 months, and have added in some new artists over the past few months, as highlighted in the second yellow box below. I tend to keep listening to artists after I’ve found them.

AZ has been the only one of the top 5 to have been there for all eight time frames. Dermot dropped off during T3 and the last two timeframes, and Imagine Dragons is apparently a distant memory for me.

Overall, it was quite interesting to do a deep dive into my listening habits and see who I am spending so much time with. I am happy that A R I Z O N A has remained such a figure for me. I’ve been a fan of theirs since 2016, and it was such a treat to see them in concert twice this summer.

I think that who we listen to and what we listen to really matters in shaping how we are feeling, and our outlook on the world. Music truly is influential in how we view things. It’s so wonderful to connect with bands and artists and learn their stories, especially now, during this strange, strange time.

Stay safe and healthy everyone.



Dermot Kennedy

X Ambassadors

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