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When Spotify told users their sound town, Provo, Utah, was a surprise destination

Courtesy Spotify

The end of the year is when music fans on Spotify learn all the little details about the soundtracks of their lives. This year, Spotify Wrapped let them know their “sound town.” When Morgan Simpkins was assigned Provo, Utah, she was confused.

“I had no idea where it was,” she said.

Simpkins lives in Canal Fulton, Ohio, and listens to a lot of pop and indie music. Her top artists included Noah Kahan, Rainbow Kitten Surprise and Taylor Swift. According to Spotify, this means her tastes align with people in Provo. A surprisingly high number of people across the country got that same result.

In the days after sound towns were revealed, social media was littered with people perplexed or even embarrassed to be associated with the religious college town.

@mariwat_ so random but good taste ig😚 SORRY FOR BUTCHER THE LAST BIT LDS MEMBERS #provoutah #provosfinest #byucougars #soundtown #spotifywrapped ♬ original sound - mari watkins

When Simpkins realized Provo is home to Brigham Young University, a private university owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she said she was surprised that some of her top artists are popular here.

“I know Noah Kahan’s music discusses a lot of alcoholism and mental health and stuff like that, which is not really something that goes hand in hand with the Mormons,” she said.

Emma Hardyman is the lead singer of Little Moon, a band from the Provo area that gained prominence after winning this year’s NPR Tiny Desk concert.

It might not fit the conservative religious stereotype, but she said there’s a thriving music scene in Provo. Music is strongly encouraged among LDS kids, and when they get older, Hardyman said the Provo music scene has “created a space for a lot of unique experimentation.”

Whether it's because of the large student population or the large religious population, Hardyman said Provo residents aren’t shy about getting existential.

“Questions of where you came from, why you’re here and where you’re going are just so familiar to everybody. Regardless of belief, that conversation is common here,” she said.

So, perhaps it makes sense that thoughtful lyricists like Phoebe Bridgers and Mitski were linked to Provo listeners, profanity and all.

Tilda is KUER’s growth, wealth and poverty reporter in the Central Utah bureau based out of Provo.
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