There have been a lot of biographical dramas releasing recently. WeCrashed dropped on AppleTV earlier this year, Billion Dollar Code released on Netflix during 2021 and in that time between, we’ve had a whole host of different dramas depicting real life events, whether it be serial killers like Dahmer or something Elvis or The Woman King. The latest to try its luck in the streaming game is The Playlist, a six part drama revolving around the inception of Spotify and its widespread impact on the music industry.
The show cleverly switches perspectives every episode, and although Daniel Ek, the Swedish tech entrepreneur and brainchild behind Spotify’s inception, is the main focal point, every episode switches things up to keep that vibrancy going.
Episode 2, for example, looks at the business side of things and, in particular, Sony Music through the eyes of Per Sundin. By comparison, episode 4 follows the journey of Andreas, a talented coder who managed to revolutionize the tech needed to make Spotify the behemoth that it is today.
But of course, there are those who are victims in all this and haven’t come out on top. The final couple of episodes are quite sombre by comparison, with one looking at a pivotal partner in the whole company and the other looking at the artists themselves, including the effect Spotify has had on their livelihood and what it could potentially mean in the future too.
This changing focus allows you to really understand how revolutionary this tech was, and how it basically killed music piracy overnight. In fact, given the first 3 episodes focus a lot on Pirate Bay, it’s telling that the second half does not.
By that same token, this kaleidoscopic viewpoints mean that some characters that show up early on are never seen again. Episode 3 is a great example of this, following the legal side of Spotify through the eyes of talented Petra. Her journey is a fascinating one and it’s her idea that actually gets the ball rolling too, which is really interesting. However, after this chapter she’s barely heard from again.
It’s not a complete deal-breaker bur given the early episodes give the impression that everything is going to be interwoven together and cleverly bridge the gap between different characters, it’s disappointing in some ways to find that approach abandoned midway through.
Despite those gripes though, The Playlist is a really solid watch and shares many of the same hallmarks that German series Billion Dollar Code (also streaming on Netflix) has.
There are parts of this that are visually impressive as well, notably with the use of colour. Some of the muted tones, slowly filtering in more colour over time as the pacing improves, is a subtle but welcome inclusion and adds some visual flair to the series. There is, as one would expect a pretty stacked soundtrack as well, even if it is just using soundbites of different songs. It’s pretty fascinating to see the evolution of music in this manner and it works wonders to add a layer of authenticity to the series.
While The Playlist is unlikely to take the streaming world by storm, it is a solid and well written series, with good acting and a solid premise. For better or worse, streaming music is here to stay and The Playlist weighs up all the pros and cons of this, along with who the victims will be when the dust settles.
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