Spotify Fact-Checked 2017’s Hit Songs, Looking for Fake News

Fun partnership with The New York Times

The club isn't the best place to find a lover. But is a bar any better? Photo: Adam Berry/Getty Images
Headshot of Tim Nudd

Spotify is all about crunching data for ads lately. For a recent paid post in The New York Times, it went beyond listener data—and used other research to “fact check,” in a fun way, the biggest hit songs of 2017, to see how much fake news was in them.

The tongue-in-cheek post, created in partnership with The New York Times’s T Brand Studio, looked at the lyrics from songs by Ed Sheeran, Miley Cyrus, Sam Hunt and Bruno Mars. And it tried to verify whether those artists’ statements were true—or not quite so true.

For example, Sheeran’s track “The Shape of You” (which is the most-streamed song of all time on Spotify, by the way) includes the line “The club isn’t the best place to find a lover/So the bar is where I go.” So, is the bar really a good place to find a lover? Spotify looked back at a 2014 report from Psychology Today:

Here are some examples of other fact-checked lyrics from the story:

Miley Cyrus’ “Malibu” (streamed over 250 million times this year)
Lyric: “And it’ll be us, just for a while/Do we even exist?”
Verdict: Who knows?
With technology leaders suggesting that we’re constructs created by a future A.I., one could argue that our existence isn’t “real” per se. For example: If one concedes that humans will someday create simulations of the world as realistic as this one, and those simulations can create other simulations, then the chance that our own reality is the original reality becomes infinitesimally small. Ms. Cyrus, it seems, is right to question the nature of our reality.

Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like” (streamed over 575 million times this year)
Lyric: “Sex by the fire at night/Silk sheet and diamonds all white”
Verdict: Thumbs up.
If you’re going to make love by a fire, sheets made from pure silk—not a polyester-based satin “silk”—are a safe bet. Most fabrics are flammable, but some are more combustible than others. Natural, untreated cotton and silk may ignite from a stray spark, but they would likely burn more slowly than, say, a natural-synthetic blend. Either way, keeping a safe distance from a fireplace or wood stove is wise.

Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Backroad” (the most-streamed country song of 2017)
Lyric: “Ain’t no curves like hers on them downtown streets”
Verdict: True.
Many towns in the U.S. were built on a rectilinear grid plan. In fact, Mr. Hunt’s home of Cedartown, Ga.–his possible point of reference–has few curved roads in its historic district. Back roads, by contrast, exist in rural areas and are known for their winding quality and scenic views. Unlike the national and state highways, which require construction, back roads tend to follow natural footpaths, riverbeds and the like.

The story was featured in print on Dec. 11 and is available online, too. For more of Spotify’s end-of-2017 advertising, check out its out-of-home work and our Q&A with CMO Seth Farbman.

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.