Sheeran topped the list, does this mean he’s boring?

Spotify has recently released a top 20 list of the ‘most streamed sleep-songs’. The list is a compilation of the most searched for songs used for sleep-aides or the songs that appear in the most sleep-themed playlists. The twenty are as follows:

1. Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
2. Stay With Me – Sam Smith
3. Love Me Like You Do (from Fifty Shades of Grey) – Ellie Goulding
4. I See Fire – Ed Sheeran
5. I’m Not the Only One – Sam Smith
6. Rain for Sleep – Rain Sounds
7. All of Me – John Legend
8. Earned It (from Fifty Shades of Grey) – The Weeknd
9. Let Her Go – Passenger
10. Skinny Love – Birdy
11. Say Something – A Great Big World, Christina Aguilera
12. FourFiveSeconds – Rihanna, Paul McCartney, Kanye West
13. The A Team – Ed Sheeran
14. Tenerife Sea – Ed Sheeran
15. Give Me Love – Ed Sheeran
16. Lay Me Down – Sam Smith
17. Fix You – Coldplay
18. Photograph – Ed Sheeran
19. Kiss Me – Ed Sheeran
20. Latch (Acoustic) – Sam Smith

Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith top the list, with a whopping 11 out of 20 songs being theirs, with two entries each ranking in the top 5.

What does this say about the artists though? Whilst being the most streamed of any category can arguably be an accomplishment, what does being labelled ‘a sleepy artist’ say about your music?

It can very easily be argued that this implies your music is boring; it puts people to sleep. For an artist like Sheeran or Coldplay, this isn’t an unheard of criticism. Sheeran was famously called boring by festival boss John Giddings last year, and Coldplay have been labelled boring by many since they started making music. To many, their placement on this list will act as a validation of these claims, particularly for Sheeran, who claimed 7 spots on this list. Interestingly, two of Sheeran’s more popular and stylistically unique (at least by his standards) songs, Sing and Don’t, aren’t featured.

This seems to imply a generic correlation in the songs that make appearances. The slow, singer/songwriter pseudo-ballad style of music (beige-pop as described by The Guardian) that is extremely popular today account for nearly ¾ of the songs on the list if you don’t count FourFive Seconds. This genre garners a lot of criticism for lacking any sort of edge, with artists actively trying to distance themselves from it. Coldplay have moved on from the slow tempo ballads that made them famous, moving to the dance floor with Sky Full of Stars, and even Sheeran, the global poster boy for this genre has lightened up and started producing more upbeat music.

Boring? Or Over-saturated? Photo Credit: John McCullough

The other side of this argument is personified by Sam Smith. The singer/songwriter has had a meteoric rise in the last two years, with the critically acclaimed In the Lonely Hour producing a slew of singles and scoring the 22 year old(!) several awards, including 4 Grammys. Unlike many of his contemporaries in this list, Smith’s music hasn’t received any major criticism for being boring (although the term ‘one-dimensional’ has been thrown around), rather it has been compared to pop icon Adele, citing the raw emotion Smith tries to convey as his main selling point. To many, his music is emotional, minimalist and stripped back, perhaps providing the perfect setting to slip into a peaceful slumber.

When looking at this list, it’s clear that the current popularity of those who rank are one of the main reasons they have charted. It would be interesting to see how Sheeran and others would chart if this was released a year or two ago, before he reached the heights he has. However, it’s impossible to ignore the stigma that attaches itself to the artists who featured numerous times. Sheeran has claimed he doesn’t care if people find him boring, and to be honest, with the amount of plays he gets on Spotify (2.8 million solely through sleep-related playlists), it’s probably true.

Feature Image Credit: Danny Bruce

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