The annual Barack Obama Summer Playlist is a tradition we’re on board with. Not only does it always have a collection of stone-cold classics from decades past, it usually features some lesser-known acts that should be on your radar.
Obama’s Summer 2022 playlist, which dropped on Tuesday, is no exception. The eclectic tracklist spans Afrobeat, British rock, 60s R&B, a 90s electronic staple, and even brings things up to date with Beyoncé’s house-inspired ‘Break My Soul’. It could be his mic-drop playlist moment.
But what patterns can we see when we look at the 44 tracks with our tagging AI? And how does Barack’s taste differ from what’s on the Billboard Hot 100? Moreover, what could we do with this data?
Even with catalogue works making up 66 per cent of listening time in the US, as reported in Music Business Worldwide, older tracks don’t tend to get as much of a look-in on the Billboard chart (Kate Bush and Metallica notwithstanding). So, knowing there’s such a wide variety of music from different eras in Obama’s summer playlist, we can expect a different genre mix.
So what does the AI hear?
The playlist has soul (a lot of it)
When we look at the broad genre strokes, pop and hip hop genres dominate the Billboard Hot 100, but Obama’s summer playlist is all about soul and hip hop.
That’s partly because legacy artists like Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin make the cut. But he also leans into neo soul with acts such as D’Angelo and The Internet.
Hip hop is second place for genres, thanks to records from Rakim, Vince Staples and lesser-known alternative hip-hop artist Dijon.
Relaxed moods are key
By far, the most common mood in the playlist is ‘Relaxed’, which should come as no surprise with its preponderance of R&B, easy listening, jazz and soul.
This is in sharp contrast to the Billboard Hot 100, which has 'Powerful' moods out in front.
Gender balance, energy and mood valence
As you'd expect from Obama, there's strong female representation on the playlist. The AI can certainly hear the hallmarks of a well-balanced playlist.
With its Vocal Gender classifier, the AI hears far more female-sounding artists and tracks with a mix of genders than we see in the regular Billboard chart. Among those are British female rock band Wet Leg, who make a surprise appearance alongside Nina Simone and Rosalía.
There’s also a good spread of track energies, which, when applied to a playlist, can indicate a curated journey through the songs rather than simple sound-alike programming.
Finally, we can discern with the AI that Barack Obama’s playlist is overwhelmingly positive.
The Mood Valence classifier predicts whether a listener will feel better or worse after hearing a track. And the data says the playlist is 81 per cent positive, versus 63 for the Billboard chart.
But what can you do with this data?
Simply, personalisation. With a playlist of 44 tracks, DSPs and music catalogues can better understand users’ music tastes and present more accurate recommendations. And who doesn't want to get better music recommendations?