The Joy of Making Playlists

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Quite often when it comes to music, I can find myself being a bit of a purist; or, in probably more accurate terms, a snob. I like to sit down and listen to an album because that’s how the artist intended for their music to be listened to, right? Maybe it’s because of how I tend to listen to music, which is typically through physical media such as CDs and vinyl, which really doesn’t help with the whole ‘snob’ thing, does it? When listening to music I tend to avoid playlists that others have made, or those Spotify playlists made to fit any ‘vibe’ or ‘feel’. Albums are how music should be listened to, each track is put in context, flowing into the next as intended. Listening to a playlist means you lose some of that, and in a way lose a part of a song. Or at least, that’s the case for a pre-generated playlist, made by some algorithm to fit your mood and taste.

But personal playlists are something different. You can have a huge range of playlists, be them for pre-drinks, an artist you love, made to fit a certain mood or time of year, or just songs that you like. In some ways, a playlist can make your connection to a specific song even stronger. Because you can just stick them on whenever without the feeling that you have to complete them like you do albums, playlists can be soundtracks to moments of your life that would otherwise be silent. Songs you hear at certain times will always be associated with those moments that stick out to you, and the emotions you have tied to those songs will be stronger. Picture this: you’re on a train on the way back from a quite important family event. You’re not feeling the best and to pass the time on a long journey you stick on your playlist of favourite songs. Staring out of the window at the rolling countryside as rain trickles down the window, that song comes on, and it just fits. From now on, for better or worse, that song will always be associated with that moment. Thanks to your playlist, it means something more to you than before.

A favourite of mine is making playlists for specific times of the year. Earlier this year, on maybe one of the sunniest days of the year so far in late February, the uncharacteristically bright weather put me in one of those summery moods. The storms we’d been having all month had relented, just for a day, so I started making a summer playlist. Handpicking favourite songs that you know will fit a certain time of year, especially when it’s nowhere near that time, can help you get through those rough times. Tired of the wet and grey days of the late winter slump? Make a summer playlist for the (hopefully) bright and warm days ahead. Got a long car journey ahead? No road trip is complete without an accompanying soundtrack. Just can’t wait for Christmas? Well, it’s never too early to start preparing your Christmas playlist.

In other ways, playlists can act as a form of catharsis. Who hasn’t made themselves a playlist of sad songs for those times when you’re just feeling a bit rubbish? Sure, there are countless ‘sad’ playlists out there that are just a search away, but having your own songs that make you, and maybe just you, sad makes it hit just that little bit more. These are your songs for you and your time alone, not something for consumption by everyone. A step above the sad playlists are the even more melancholic break-up playlists. Probably the most personal of all, these playlists can be filled with your ex’s favourite songs, the songs you showed them, and the songs you associate with the times you spent. Sometimes you’ve just got to let it all out, and there’s no better way than making a playlist of tracks that you know will just do it for you. But after the inevitable sadness, there’s the acceptance and the time to move on. And the time for the strong, independent, I-can-do-it-myself playlist. You’re over them and you’re over that crappy breakup playlist, and it’s time for you to get your head back in the game. Fill it with the tracks that get you motivated, the ones that you wake up in the morning for. Fill it with those energetic, angry songs that all your friends hate. So what if your housemates can’t stand you blasting Death Grips? You’re stronger now, and this playlist is getting you through those tough times where you could be lying in bed wallowing in your own sadness. Goodbye The Smiths, hello happier times.

And that is why making playlists is such a joy. They’re the soundtrack to the movie of your life, however mundane that movie may be. It doesn’t matter if they’re the soundtrack to a once in a lifetime holiday or just songs that you can stare out of windows to. Playlists are your hand-picked selection of songs that mean something to you. They can be an album-length compilation of exactly your choosing, each song fitting the same mood, or they can be vast, sprawling collections of every song you’ve ever loved, a never-ending mix of everything you love listening to. They’re yours and yours alone. So embrace that. Go ahead and make that playlist, then sit back, relax, and enjoy the tunes.

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