Emoji: The New Language of Music? 🤔😹🔥

There’s a famously mis-attributed simile that says,

“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”

No matter who said it first, she had a point: the raw emotion that music evokes is hard to fully capture in words. But what about emoji-ing about music?

According to Emojipedia, there are 2,666 emoji in the Unicode Standard as of June 2017. This is far fewer than words in the English language, but maybe less is more when it comes to describing music. Lest we forget, Ebert and Roeper simplified movie ratings down to two thumbs. 👍👎

As emoji have risen in popularity📈, brands have doubled down and included them in their marketing strategies. After all, there is real science 📊 that shows users are more likely to open an email or push notification if it contains an emoji 📲, and music is no exception.

Music tech giants like Pandora and Spotify are leaning in and creating whole cultures around the emoji fascination.

Pandora recently launched a campaign which encourages listeners to Tweet an emoji with the hashtag #SoundsLike to receive a compatible station tweeted back. (A 🐝 tweet will yield the Beyoncé Pandora station.) They currently have mapped out 1,300 emoji to stations, but don’t expect to find many deep cuts.

Spotify is trying to more deeply understand the correlation of emoji and music. The streaming site says 35 million (of the 2 billion) playlists on their platform contain at least one emoji. So they hired out data analysis company Tableau, presumably to see if “💩” meant Nickelback or Kidz Bop.

Here's what they found.

The top ten most emoji-ed artists and the emoji most associated with their music:

  1. Drake 🔥
  2. Justin Bieber 😍
  3. One Direction 🆔
  4. Rihanna 👑
  5. The Weeknd 💦
  6. Ariana Grande 🎄
  7. Beyonce 🐝
  8. Ed Sheeran 😴
  9. Shawn Mendes 😍
  10. Chris Brown 💦

Other matches include Adele (💔 😭 😔), Miley Cyrus (👅👅👅), and David Bowie (⚡️), who even has an emoji designed after him (👨‍🎤). Prince is synonymous with the purple rain (☔️☔️) emoji, maybe even more so than his previous custom "Love Symbol."

Play with Tableau's chart of the top 5,000 most emoji-ed artists below to see if 🌀 better represents alt-J, Tame Impala, or ZHU.

Apple Music has also jumped on the bandwagon, categorizing all of their Activities & Mood playlists by emoji.

Personally, rainy days don’t me sad. But one man’s rain emoji 🌧 is another man’s sad pensive face 😔.


It's Lit.

The fire emoji (🔥) was introduced in 2010, and quickly became the universal status symbol for something hot, primarily in hip-hop. From Pandora’s “New Hip Hop” station to Spotify’s “Fresh Finds: Fire Emoji” and playlists containing Drake, 🔥 can accurately be identified by search engines to bring rising hip-hop to the forefront. It also represents a “Snapstreak” achievement on Snapchat, furthering its cool factor with the younger demographic.

This isn’t to say the symbolism of the 🔥 emoji has not been deluded by the millions of monthly Twitter mentions from self-promoting rappers trying to capitalize on the flame. Chicago rapper Alex Wiley even named his 2015 release “One Singular Flame Emoji.” Though that one is worth listening, in my opinion.



The most popular emoji on both Twitter and Apple devices — regardless of music — is the “Face with Tears of Joy” symbol, with 14.5 billion symbols tweeted as of March 2016. You might find it accompanying memes like “bruh, who made this” or “this is me, af.”

Fittingly, the 😂 symbol most identifies the bro-pop group The Chainsmokers on Spotify.



I would be remiss not to mention Yung Jake, the rapper/digital artist who “paints” popular musicians and celebrities using only emoji.

His art alone has lead to numerous copycats wishing to express themselves purely with the limited shape and texture of emoji symbols.


The Takeaway?

We may never be able to dance about architecture, but just hear me out. Emoji are here to stay. In fact, more are being designed and released every year. They are an opportunity to communicate in a concise fashion to anyone in the world, assuming they are being interpreted correctly.

Emoji and music are universal languages, so incorporate them in your social media, playlisting, and search engine strategies. For more on branding with emoji, check out these great articles on Buffer.

Also, let’s build 💪 bro, because I’m blessed 🙏 to be grinding 💯.