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The Art of Playlist Making

The Art of Playlist Making

December 12, 2022

“Create Playlist.” The button is tempting, sitting at the top of my already packed Spotify library including over 50 public playlists, but, yet again, I decide to click on it. As I get started compiling songs together in order to emulate the emotion I’m experiencing at that moment, I begin to consider the significance this process holds for myself and so many others. Playlist making has evolved into a means of expressing emotion and creativity in a highly acute manner.

Growing up, I listened to my parents and older relatives tell stories of making cassette tapes for themselves and their friends. I have a fond memory of sitting next to my sister at our shared family computer as she was burning a CD with a curated list of songs she put together to give to her crush. Although these memories of mixtapes and CDs may seem like distant concepts, creating a playlist for one reason or another is the same process, but instead of sitting at a Windows desktop trying to illegally download music on Limewire, we turn to apps like Spotify and Apple Music. The ability to have a vast variety of music easily accessible at our fingertips has allowed for anyone to compile these playlists in not only a short amount of time, but for any given hyper-specific situation. It’s truly comical to search Spotify and see the situations that playlists are curated for, ranging from “Harry Styles Hands You The Aux” to “Laying Face Down In a Puddle.” I must admit, my library is full of playlists I created for an exact emotion I was feeling in the moment, however, they are all very carefully put together in a way that reflects my emotional expression to a tee. 

That being said, playlist making really is an art. It’s a beautiful audio-collage, a love letter that lets artists speak for us when we can’t find the words to express how we’re feeling. It may not seem that deep, and I don’t think it’s something that should be taken that seriously. However, it is rarely acknowledged how our minds work in such a way to put together diverse pieces of media in a way that is one of a kind. It should be considered a modern love language. Playlists and the collective vibe they produce are able to do the talking when we cannot. Think of the times in which you felt heartbroken and sat down to put together a collection of Phoebe Bridgers, Bon Iver, and other indie, melancholy artists. Or maybe you planned a midsummer roadtrip with friends and you put together a soundtrack to the fondest memories of your youth that included Vampire Weekend, Cage The Elephant, and COIN. Regardless of the vibe that one is hoping to achieve, there is something so intentional and artful about creating a playlist, as it is demonstrative of a true encapsulation of one’s character.

In order to create the perfect playlist, I personally believe that there is protocol which should be followed in order to obtain the best results for an optimal listening experience. Let’s begin with, arguably the most important part, the title of the playlist. It must reflect the theme, and, the more specific, the better. Furthermore, the theme of the playlist must be reflected in the auditory vibes of the songs, as well as the names. It doesn’t necessarily have to be cohesive, but there should be an underlying, yet not super obvious, message. Not every playlist has to be a dissertation, but aspiring to achieve a certain message or theme will create the best playlist, whether it’s for your commute to work or your significant other. The first song is the most important. It’s the hook, it’s the opener, its purpose is to enthrall the listener and keep them wanting more. That being said, it should be the song that delicately introduces the message of the playlist. Another suggestion is to not include too many songs from the same artist. This will ensure that listeners don’t get bored too quickly. The variety will keep them going and make things more interesting. Regardless, the most important part of making the perfect playlist is just letting your artistic mind takeover. It’s entirely yours, and it can mean whatever you want it to.

Although it requires much less creative stamina, the creation of a playlist is much like a creation of an album. Songs on an album are arranged in such a way for a reason, and a playlist can be crafted to tell stories, just as albums do. This is a practice that can be cathartic, or even therapeutic, and it’s simply very entertaining. The next time you’re looking for a means of expression, I suggest opening up your favorite music streaming app, clicking that “Create Playlist” button and letting your creativity take the reigns.


Caroline’s Favorite Playlists:

for anything fall 22 put on your red shoes and dance with me

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