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Olivia Rodrigo: Spotify’s tracking is all about smoke and mirrors

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<span>Photograph: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

It’s Christmas so it must be time for the biggest social media hits

Olivia Rodrigo claimed the top two positions on Spotify’s most-streamed songs list in the UK this year, with just one surprise, given her ubiquity – that the Paramore-esque Good 4 U edged out Drivers License, which is an affront to advocates for the correct use of apostrophes. While other streaming services are available, it is Spotify that has the end-of-year list sewn up; as one internet wag wisely noted, it is the only service to show off about how much it is tracking you and make it seem like fun.

A few years ago, Netflix posted a tweet that read: “To the 53 people who’ve watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: who hurt you?” At the time, it was controversial for being creepy and judgmental. Now, most of us not only shrug off big tech companies knowing what we’ve been doing and when, but help them to promote it.

Spotify’s annual Unwrapped, a personalised animation that shows what subscribers have been listening to, arrives with the advent calendars. That’s about three weeks after everyone has put up their Christmas trees.

I’ve always found the performative aspect of these lists a bit unsettling, like a teenager listening to music on phone speakers so that everyone knows about their love for rap music with lots of swearing in it.

What I listen to is basically mortifying: There Are Worse Things I Could Do from the Grease soundtrack, on repeat, so I can sing along at top volume and daydream about an amateur production that would take a 39-year-old Rizzo (to be fair, Stockard Channing was 33 when she played her in the film). I know, in theory, that there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, but is it dignified to shout about repeat-listening to Monster by Kanye in order to perfect the Nicki Minaj rap?

This year, I have seen more memes about Spotify Unwrapped than actual lists; either everyone’s pandemic streaming was too exposing to be made public or people don’t see themselves reflected in it.

Shared accounts, hacked accounts, the radio, the record player – all mean Spotify Unwrapped is a funhouse mirror, not quite what it says it is.

And I am convinced, convinced, that it invents genres in order to encourage people to post “wtf is chamber psych lol random”. Or maybe the only thing that needs unwrapping is my tinfoil hat.

Bryan Adams: snapping pit stops for Pirelli

Bryan Adams
Bryan Adams: calendar king. Photograph: Mark Blinch/Reuters

Rock star/photographer Bryan Adams has shot this year’s Pirelli calendar. Since 1964, the tyre company has been recruiting star photographers and famous people, usually women, to what has become a prestigious project. The theme of this year’s instalment is On the Road and it features a number of musicians, from Cher to St Vincent to Rita Ora, posed as if to “capture the life of an artist on tour”.

The calendar used to be notoriously nudity-heavy, but the only topless shot I could see this year was Iggy Pop’s.

In my days as a music journalist, I spent plenty of time “on the road” and was excited to see it reflected in Adams’s pictures.

Perhaps Cher would be captured turning up at a remote services at midnight, only to find that everything except a lone WHSmith was closed and that it would be Monster Munch for dinner, again.

Perhaps Rita Ora might be seen wondering if that sticky feeling on her skin, a mix of cheap, warm beer and drummer’s sweat, would ever go away?

It’s not a spoiler to say that if this calendar were a road, it would be the M6 toll: clean, elite and full of rich people.

Ellen White: joy all round, but the score’s not the goal

As a relative newcomer to being a football fan, I was shocked to discover that winning 20-0 did not feel as good as I might have anticipated it would a few years ago. The statistics involved in England’s drubbing of Latvia in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifying match are, to use the technical term, a bit silly: four hat tricks, 85.6% possession for England, 31 shots on target and seven more goals than England’s previous best score of 13-0. Even the manager, Sarina Wiegman, suggested this might be an indication of the need for pre-qualifiers. “In every country you want to develop the women’s game but I don’t think it’s good that the scores now are so high,” she said.

Amid all that, though, it was deservedly Ellen White’s evening. The Manchester City forward equalled Kelly Smith’s record of 46 goals for England in the sixth minute and had bettered it in the ninth. (Smith sent her a congratulatory message on Twitter: “So many nations now across the world fear playing against you,” she said.)

White ended the match with a new record of 48 goals, putting her on a level with Gary Lineker and Harry Kane[Correct according to https://www.englandstats.com/player.php?pid=1207], behind only Bobby Charlton and Wayne Rooney. Cause for celebration, obviously, and on the pitch the joy was there for all to see, though off the pitch White’s humility was profound. “We move on and don’t mention it again,” she said.

It’s clear now that smashing Rooney’s record is a possibility: at 32, you sense there are many more goals left in her yet, though don’t expect her to be shouting about it.

• This article was amended on 4 December 2021. A picture captioned “Ellen White” was actually of Lauren Hemp. This has been replaced with a picture of White.

• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist

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