Heavy Rotation: What Tops Your Play Count?

A few weeks ago, I sent a call-out for readers' most-played songs — a request for each person reading to go to iTunes (or Last.fm, or Pandora), organize their catalog by play count, and let us know which song had the most plays. For me, that song was and is Bon Iver's "Skinny Love" at 98 plays, which is saying nothing of all the times I've heard it in the car, on CD or performed live on Jools Holland's show (another 41 times). And, of course, the number only dates back a few years, to when I started listening to songs on this particular laptop. (It should also be noted that I asked before the existence of Cee-Lo's "F— You," which would have no doubt skewed the sample.)

Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds

On The Mynabirds' recent debut, Laura Burhenn sings a song called "Numbers Don't Lie." So there you go: Check the play count on your computer to answer the question, "What's your most played song?" Lisa Boggs hide caption

itoggle caption Lisa Boggs

We received hundreds of replies — and explanations — in the comments section, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Naturally, given the nature of how recently most people started playing music on their computers (and given said computers' sad tendency to self-immolate, thus resetting folks' play counts), people's picks often tilt newer; the most heavily represented include the aforementioned Bon Iver, plus Andrew Bird, The Avett Brothers, Kanye West, The National, Neko Case, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Lady Gaga, Radiohead and Muse, as well as the occasional old standby (Tom Waits, The Beatles, et al). Bob Boilen wound up with Wilco and Billy Bragg's "California Stars," because he'd been trying to learn how to play it.

Others offered explanations for obsessively replayed outliers, from falling asleep with a song on repeat (Roy Chacko attributes his astonishing 1,815 plays of My Morning Jacket's "At Dawn" to this phenomenon, while John Taylor's wife has fallen asleep to that Sigur Ros album with the parentheses 350 times) to surrendering the family iPod to the kids. Some use a very particular playlist when they go running — which in my case would not affect the play count a whole lot, though my Music For Editing playlist has boosted the frequency with which I listen to Stars of the Lid's album And Their Refinement of the Decline. Meanwhile, a song's placement in the alphabet can have an impact: Bucky Cash's second most-played song, A.C. Newman's "Miracle Drug," benefits from being the first song to pop up on his iTunes when the songs aren't on shuffle. (By a similar token, if iTunes credited a song for the user accidentally playing its first three seconds, my most-played song would be a-ha's "The Sun Always Shines on TV.")

Looking at Last.fm, former All Songs Considered intern Tamara Vallejos counts an astonishing 843 plays of Azure Ray's "Displaced," writing, "In my defense, this is over the past seven years. Also in my defense, most of those plays probably come from 2003 and 2004, when I was still in high school and incredibly mopey and sat in my room listening to the same Sad Songs playlist over and over again. And I think I was also coming off a breakup, which upped the number of times I went through that playlist. Still, 843 times is embarrassing to admit, even if it is a fine song! My high-school years really skewed my Last.fm/iTunes play count, definitely."

Other notable responses, among many:

* Dean Hillis has played The Mynabirds' "Numbers Don't Lie" 341 times — which is remarkable, both for how new the song is and for the fact that "Numbers Don't Lie" was the headline for the blog post asking people for their most-played song. Mind: BLOWN. (See also: Ana Voci playing Lower Dens' "I Get Nervous" 212 times — "that's thanks to you guys." How long has that song been out, three months?)

* Rock Cutter: "I figured it would be either a Wilco tune or maybe The Shins on my iPod, and it was indeed Wilco — the live version of 'Misunderstood.' My 3-year-old learned the part where Jeff Tweedy screams 'Nothing!' 37 timesĀ  when he was barely 1 1/2 (though he shouted 'Muffin!' instead). Since then, he continually asks to hear it so he can jam out. It is one of the most awesome things ever."

* Joey Kaufmann: "1. 'ABC' by The Jackson 5 (103); 2. 'I'll Believe in Anything' by Wolf Parade (27). I have no idea how there is that big of a difference in the Top 2. Oh, wait, dance parties."

* Sam Rosener: "The winner is Ernie from Sesame Street with 'Rubber Duckie.' No. 2 is Cookie Monster's 'C Is for Cookie.' The kids have taken over the iPod."

* Wayne Anderson: "Band of Horses' 'Plans' (the Grizzly Bear cover) at 28 is No. 1 for me on Last.fm — this stat is off because I experienced an iTunes database crash in November 2009. Nine years of nerd bliss down the pipes."

* Lily Jewel: "My most played is Rilo Kiley's 'American Wife' at 102 plays since I got my new laptop in December. Hollllaaa if you're depressed and anxious about post-college life."

* Earbox via Twitter: "Pretty sure it's 'I Want You' by Savage Garden. There goes all of my indie cred. (They're not ironically awesome yet, are they?)"

And, of course, I have to give bonus points to those who picked The Frames, Jonsi, Wye Oak, Clem Snide, The Avett Brothers or The National. If my iTunes gave those bands a point for every time they were played in my car while I speed and/or idle mournfully, all six would rocket up the charts like gangbusters. Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful answers — and, if you haven't yet chipped in a response, please do so in the comments section below.

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