It's the most wonderful time of the year. Food, families, giving, reflection, and the celebration of the glorious algorithmic geniuses behind Spotify's "Wrapped" telling me how I reflected on the year through my musical choices. I'm a huge music person. Always have been. It was kinda soul-crushing when—given limited storage and the realities of digital music at my fingertip—I recently traded in seven large file boxes full of thousands of CDs only to have the kind folks at Amoeba Records accept a single box. The rest met their fate at the recycling center. But Spotify's "wrapped" was exactly what I needed to soothe my broken music heart.
My music choices are likely a lens into my head and heart. I'd like to think that I'm a searcher, a wanderer. Someone who is always looking for depth, meaning, and inspiration. For a long time I summed up that self-realization in what I declared was my theme song, "I Love the Unknown," by songwriter Eef Barzelay (who also leads the band, Clem Snide).
"The doctor asked him what he was afraid of? What was he running from? And he said it's not a fear of success nor of closeness. But of going through life feeling numb."
So what would "Wrapped" tell me about how this year went? How I was feeling? Well, my audio aura was wistful and focused. Yes! I get it! There was a lot of hope for 2021. Many of us entered the year yearning to be together again. That travel might resume. That we wouldn't be fearful of getting sick or infecting someone else. For a bit of grace following a completely wrecked 2020. For SimpsonScarborough, we were hopeful that the glimmering positive signs for our agency would lead to greater success and a vision of working with our clients to help make both them and their institutions better.
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And what was I listening to? Well, a lot of Taylor Swift apparently. I'm a 51-year-old dad who is a non-apologetic Swiftie. I'm proudly in the top 4% of Taylor Swift listeners according to Spotify. And what was my top listen for the year? Wait for it ... Taylor's "This Is Me Trying," a song released in 2020 but one that really summarizes what many of us felt much of 2021. For Taylor, it's a song of yearning. For most of us, it's a line that summarizes how we went through the year.
Person: Hey, do you remember that one Taylor Swift song?
Me: I remember every Taylor Swift song, go on.
Original Meme Credit: Lark Normandy
Earlier this year one of our agency faves, Adam Grant, seemed to hit the nail on the head when he noted that we were all languishing through 2021. That's how it felt in April. Things were seemingly getting better. At SimpsonScarborough, things were really heating up as we brought on new clients and projects, new team members, and new capabilities. But much was still missing. We hadn't been together, hadn't been with clients, didn't have any moment to celebrate, and while so much was different so much felt like the exact same thing over and over and over.
I know that many of our clients felt the same. They were trying. Languishing. And coming to a realization that maybe they just couldn't continue to push the boulder up the hill in their current role or at their current institution. The "Great Resignation" has been caused, in part, by the "Great Meh." But I know I'm not the only one out there that loves the unknown. Seeing the twinkle from a new idea, a colleague that embraces a new opportunity, or a client with a big challenge is just the little motivation that many of us need.
As I look ahead to 2022 that twinkle and that fire has grown brighter. It's fueled by our fantastic team, including a wealth of new hires we've made that have richly added to our culture and given those of us that might have been languishing a bit of a recharge. It's made deeper by amazing clients and opportunities to do work that matters. The "meh" has transitioned into a shared confidence with our clients of "let us show you what this would look like if we shared the confidence to take a risk." We all could use a bit more of that.
So thank you, Spotify, for the peek into how music reflected my year. And, thanks, to all of you for helping us thrive in an otherwise "meh" year. We are so ready to celebrate alongside you and be your biggest cheerleaders in the year ahead.
Btw, check out our agency's collective 2021 songs of the year. It's eclectic, but we have some great taste in music.
Jason is CEO & Partner at SimpsonScarborough. Before coming to SimpsonScarborough in 2014, Jason led the marketing communications teams for the University of California System and North Carolina State University. In 2013, he was named Higher Education Marketer of the Year by the American Marketing Association. Known for being our chief Peloton evangelist, he and his wife, Meredith, live in Oakland CA with their daughter, Amelia. Learn more about Jason here.