Barack Obama knows the trick of making best-of-the-year lists

This former president knows how to make a playlist.
This former president knows how to make a playlist.
Image: Reuters/Yuri Gripas
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Barack Obama very clearly understands the art of the year-end list.

Every year in December, the former president releases a list of his favorite songs of the past 12 months. For about a decade, my friends and I have done the same, and we’ve realized that a great year-end list celebrates both the popular and the obscure. Obama has learned this too.

Obama’s list of songs for 2018 runs the gamut from Cardi B’s “I Like It“—one of the most popular songs of the year—to “Ekombe” by Congolese band Jupiter & Okwess. At the time he released his list, “Ekombe” had received less than 20,000 streams on Spotify.

By putting putting “I Like It” on the list, Obama demonstrates that he is not some sort of snooty hipster, and gains the reader’s trust. Just because it was a hit does not mean it is not still a great song—and “I Like It” is a great song (try reading the lyrics without laughing).

But if Obama’s list featured only popular songs, it would be pretty boring. By sprinkling in less known songs like “Ekombe” and “Historia De Un Amor” by the bassist Tonina, he demonstrates his sophistication and offers the listener something new.

The following chart shows the number of Spotify streams each of Obama’s recommended songs had received as of the evening of Dec. 28. It’s a great list of songs, and you can listen to it on this Spotify playlist made by Quartz.