What emojis have to say about music

The most popular emojis that listeners associate with musicians, according to a new analysis of user-generated Spotify playlists


David Bowie. Photo: AFP
David Bowie. Photo: AFP

A purple heart for Justin Bieber, a crystal ball for Fleetwood Mac and a top hat for Frank Sinatra. These are some of the more popular emojis that listeners associate with these musicians, according to a new analysis of user-generated Spotify playlists.  

Tableau Public, a free platform run by Seattle-based Tableau Software, lets users create, publish, and share interactive visualizations online. “Our mission is to help people see and understand data,” says Ben Jones, Director of Outreach Programme, Tableau, in an email interview. 

Spotify, the digital music streaming website, is one of the latest companies to use it. In February 2017, they published a list of the most distinctive emojis associated with 5,000 musicians. These are based on 35 million playlists that their users have created which had at least one emoji in their title. 

The interface on Public.tablueau.com displays “the most Emoji’d artists” on the list by default. Topped by Drake, Justin Bieber and One Direction, the emojis that dominate descriptions of popular musicians include smileys, hearts in various colours and Christmas trees. Curious associations: the emoji that most users associate with Leonard Cohen is that of a man. Later in Cohen’s list is a fallen leaf, a glass of wine and a sheaf of rice. 

The interactive infographic allows users to filter by musician, genre or emoji using a dropdown menu. For instance, if a user clicks on the Christmas tree emoji, it throws up a list of musicians most distinctly associated with it. A comparative study is possible. Selecting the alien emoji, which ranks #6 as the most distinctive emoji for David Bowie (known for his songs about space), will lead you to other artists or bands associated with it and see them according to the ranking. It is #1 for the American musical duo Twenty-One Pilots. 

The results give an insight into how fans perceive musicians today, and could be an indicator of how it may have changed with time. Lady Ga Ga is higher than Madonna on the Rainbow emoji list, suggesting that the older singer may have lost some of her LGBT appeal to the former. 

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