The Art of the Impulse Spotify Playlist
My dad once told me and my sisters a tale of him as a 20-something year-old sitting down in front of his radio and trying to record live songs onto cassette tapes. “It was all about the timing,” he laughed. “If you started recording too late or missed the whole song, that was it!” The mental labor of that Herculean task alone would be enough to bring on an emotional breakdown. Every day I am grateful for being born in ‘98.
But things have evolved when it comes to collecting music and making personalized mixtapes. Now my generation has SoundCloud, Apple Music, or my personal favorite, Spotify. Saving the songs you like has never been easier. And making playlists can become a fun pastime rather than a Friday night plan.
I appreciate this convenience because I’m a Pisces, meaning I cycle through moods like a pop radio DJ replays the same ten songs every hour. And for every mood, I need a playlist. Maybe it’s a desire for control over something in my life, I don’t know, let’s not get into it.
Some moods (and their consequent playlists) are pretty niche or pretty standard. But no matter how you’re feeling, here’s how you can have more fun with your music experience. And look out for the list of some of my own favorite playlists since I can’t stop talking about them.
Creating little worlds
A good start to making a gold standard playlist is tapping into any fantasy or aesthetic that’s got your obsession at that moment. Sometimes a wave of nostalgia is just the thing to do the trick. Imagine the kind of music that surrounds like that fantasy — what world would a listener be falling into if they pressed play?
What’s the soundtrack to your perfect summer? How do you capture the distinct melancholy of staring out a city bus window? What are you and your best friends singing at the top of your lungs at a rooftop party? Literally anything has potential to be captured in a playlist.
If you’re looking for some inspiration (and proof that every situation in the world can be turned into a playlist), I’d check out a user by the name of jupiter on Spotify. Some of her niche playlists include, “crushed by a giant piano”, “order a single black coffee and leave”, and “I need to start a garden.” This is just a microscopic fraction of their collection, so I’d highly recommend scrolling through this account to find more gems.
Form a narrative
Sometimes it’s not enough to just throw a bunch of songs together and call it a playlist — they have to be arranged. The artistry of this practice can come through creating a narrative arc within the playlist itself. You can base your narrative off of the tempo and feeling of each track, making sure that the pacing is just right. It’s a lot like the process that real signed artists undergo when organizing the tracklist of their albums.
Having a beginning, middle, and end makes the playlist feel like a complete, intentional body of work. Yes, believe me, it can be work, especially when it comes to finding the perfect songs to bring together. You are an artist, a poet, and a fantastic playlist should reflect that. Now, it doesn’t have to be a 3 hour-long mix. I personally aim for at least 8 songs to start out with (8tracks, my beloved old friend, you’ve prepared me well) — this sets up a solid foundation in case you ever add more songs later.
It’s fun to see your fantasy unfold before you just by listening to certain songs in a certain order. A playlist can be its own movie adaptation or short story if you have The Vision for it. Music has this magical ability to transport us to all kinds of different realities, so why not play around with that and see what you can conjure up?
A case for making as many playlists as possible
Aside from expressing your creativity via a digital medium, impulsively creating Spotify playlists is just a good ol’ time. The possibilities are endless because music itself is endless. And you have no idea what new artists or genres will spark something in you later on down the line.
You now essentially have all kinds of different music sitting in their respective folders for you to rediscover when you decide to listen to that old playlist that’s been collecting dust. Suddenly you’re transported back in time and space, vibing to a song from like, 2010 (aka the height of music).
As long as you have Spotify Premium, there’s literally nothing stopping you from making an infinite number of playlists (seriously, no law, you can look it up). If you couldn’t already tell, it’s all very exciting to me, arranging music in ways that are tailored to you and a specific mood you may be in. The way I see it, impulsively made music playlists are just another a point of reference for the kind of person you are at any point in time, and it speaks to your relationship with music.
My precious Spotify playlists
You’ve made it to the end of this post so now I can share with you some of my favorite playlists, which can be found on my Spotify account, ajhutson98. This is 100% like the moment when your mom forces you to flip through the family photo album, and like her, I’m just so proud of my babies. The following are some of my own creations:
my mp3 player from middle school — As the title suggests, these are the bangers from my childhood. I was a tween with immaculate taste.
heist of the century — I’ve always liked heist movies, and the idea of stealing priceless objects with a badass crew while serving looks in Paris has been a long-standing fantasy of mine.
seven past lives — Not sure how to put the cosmic feminine energy of this playlist into words, but the ethereal FKA Twigs and seductive BANKS are heavy features so that should tell you a lot.
a city romance — This is one of those playlists that need to be played in order, since there is a definite storyline going on here. I describe it as that montage of two lovers running around the city, completely smitten and unknowingly on the verge of a dramatic beakup.
pisces — Everyone who saw this one coming, raise your hands.
state fair queer cowboy blues — This is my latest creation and arguably the most impulsive, as I was going off the vibes I felt from looking at this image of Yeonjun, a member of the Kpop group, TXT. *Yeehaws while crying*
So, as you’ve discovered today, there is an art to creating mood playlists. Perhaps this craft really is as meticulous and daunting as my dad recording fleeting radio hits on his cassette tapes. But it’s also just as fun. Follow your impulses when it comes to making a new playlist — no mood, aesthetic, or niche life moment is off limits. Music is already put into so many different categories and boxes, so get creative and make something fresh out of all those great songs out there.
Not only do you get the satisfaction of completing a mini-project, but also a pretty satisfying jam session afterwards. Dance party anyone?