Why the **** do people listen to the top 2000?

A holiday tradition on the radio

The days are getting shorter and the weather is getting colder: it’s December. We are approaching the holiday season with Sint Nicholas celebrations already past us and Christmas and New Years Eve coming up. For Dutchies this also means one more thing: the Top 2000 is coming. The votes are coming in and the radio broadcasts will start on Christmas’ Eve. The Top 2000 is a yearly event from Radio 2, where there is a non-stop radio broadcast from the night of the 23rd of December until exactly 12pm on New Year’s. They broadcast a list with supposedly the 2000 best songs of all time, on which the people can vote.

Why I find the Top 2000 a bit weird

This sounds like a great idea of course, and it is very popular, but in my opinion, there are some weird things about the Top 2000. I personally think it is weird that, with whatever changes happen in the quickly changing music word, the list is more or less the same year after year. It is commonly known that mostly older people vote for the Top 2000, but also the younger people that I know that vote, vote for the exact same songs. This happen even if they normally do not even listen to these songs. I came across a great example of this lately. I saw the Instagram story of the Spotify Wrapped of a girl, of which I believe among her most common artist were Broederliefde, Goldband, Drake and Taylor Swift, all currently very popular and well known artists in the pop-culture. However, a few days later, she posted a playlist with the songs she had voted for in the Top 2000. This were all old rock songs, very often high in the Top 2000, like Bohemian Rhapsody, Stairway to Heaven, and Avond from Boudewijn de Groot. I found myself a little bit annoyed by this, and I started looking a bit into why people keep on doing this.

Why always the same songs?

When I started reading about the Top 2000, I found a few interesting things. First of all, I read about a professor talking about nostalgia. (1). Nostalgia is one of the most important emotions in the cold and dark days of December. Nostalgia helps us to deal with feelings of loneliness, and it is even proven that people experiencing feelings of nostalgia can deal better in the cold. It also helps us mentally: “People become more optimistic, social, feel more united and loved.” People can recall these nostalgic feelings by themselves, and the Top 2000 is an example of that. In the Top 2000 people can vote on songs that gives them strong feelings or recall memories. Hearing those songs can give them good feelings and memories. It is also proven that people have those feelings the most from songs from their youth, so this is where people vote for the most. This explains why a lot of old songs are in the Top 2000.

But why do the young people vote for the same songs? I read that people tend to have a established idea of what “good music is (2). Old rock songs might fit this idea better then the more popular pop music. This would explain why people do not vote for these songs. There also sometimes is the view that pop music is for the less educated, and that music should mean more then just “nice to listen to”. This might also causes people to vote for the more commonly known songs instead of what they listen to in their everyday lives. Next to that, there is also some form of a competitive element to the Top 2000. It feels good to see your songs “win”, so this maybe also makes people vote for songs that are more likely to do so.

This years’ top 10 of the Top 2000. In brackets is last years position. The top 10 is exactly the same as last year. (Source nporadio2.nl)

What makes it special?

Okay, but why do people not just go to Spotify and put on the song that gives them all these good feelings of nostalgia in just 3 clicks? I tried to find explanation to this online, but did not really manage to do so. I did think of some possible reasons.

First of all, I think that there is an extra feeling of nostalgia and coziness to hearing your songs on the radio than just on your regular streaming service. Just because this is more old-school, just like in the days these songs origin from, but also because songs on the radio are more “tangible” then on streaming services. I think this can be compared to why some people like to listen to music on records or CD’s. It helps with this that in the Top 2000, the radio-DJ’s play the full versions of the songs, which normally doesn’t happy on the radio. Those versions sometimes aren’t even on Spotify but only on the original album.

Then also the Top 2000 is more then just a list of 2000 songs being played. There is this competitive element I talked about, and there also are a lot of things around it. There is a Top 2000 café, a live video stream, and a television broadcast talking about stories behind the songs. You can listen to it online anytime and everywhere. The Top 2000 isn’t just a list, but a whole experience.

The Top 2000 café. (Source: radiofreak.nl)

In conclusion, I think the Top 2000 is here to stay. It makes a lot of people happy to listen to almost the same songs year after year, and to be honest I also have some nostalgic memories around it. It feels almost as a essential part of the holidays to listen to the Top 2000 with my family. So don’t forget to tune into Radio 2 when the holidays start! Happy Holidays!