• February 5, 2021 |

    the art of playlist making

    how to curate a playlist that best fits your mood

    article by , illustrated by

    It’s the beginning of the semester. Things are just getting started, but really, they’re not. Things have already started, and they are about to become overwhelming. Now, professors will no longer give you any “shopping period leeway”; you’ll be drowning in essays and problem sets to complete, and the walks to get tested for COVID-19 (while an absolute necessity) will get even tougher as the semester pummels you with more and more work. And the best part? This semester is shorter than most, meaning the usual sense of being overwhelmed will be even greater than usual. But worry not! I’m here to help you get through these awful times by providing you with tips on how to create specific playlists for specific moods you’re feeling. The art of playlist-making is a very COVID-safe activity, and one that will serve you well when you’re up at 2 a.m. writing an essay due at 9 a.m. or when you’re crying your heart out at 2 p.m. By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly what to do next time you want to create a playlist that best fits your current mood!

    Writing an essay

    Writing an essay takes a special kind of music to get you in the right mood, and choosing this special kind of music is really dependent upon what best helps you to focus and to stay focused. If you’re like me, it is incredibly difficult to write an essay with some musician singing in your ears. You try to write, “This theoretical framework is the perfect approach to understanding this problem under study,” but instead write, “This theoretical framework is the perfect way to find love, ooooo, you’ll find love whenever it finds you, oooo. Not gonna get you an A, unfortunately. This means that you should create an essay writing playlist full of instrumentals, like Hiromi’s “Kaleidoscope,” or lofi beats, like neeks’s “Under Cherry Blossom Trees.” The key here is to fill your playlist with wordless songs that aren’t too boring or calm (unless you want to sleep), but instead put you in a complete state of focus so that you don’t take another break from writing your essay. If you are okay with lyrics, I suggest songs in a language you’re unfamiliar with, maybe Ichiko Aoba’s “Mars 2027” or Juliette Gréco’s “Sous le ciel de Paris.” This way you still have the comfort of a voice without that voice making you write love letters instead of argumentative analyses. 

    Solving a problem set

    I’ve never solved a problem set, but I have worked on language homework, and I’m sure the vibe you’re trying to cultivate in your playlist for problem sets is quite similar. You want something that is absolutely motivating, something that gets your adrenaline pumping! Unlike essay-writing, the musician can be singing anything in your ear, and you’ll still stay focused on the task at hand—so long as that music makes the blood in your veins dance. If you want to solve some sort of math problem, code a CS project, or focus on how grammar works in Japanese, I suggest creating a playlist full of songs that have similar vibes to Kendrick’s “DNA,” KAYTRANADA’s “LITE SPOTS,” and Rina Sawayama’s “Dynasty.” 

    Staring at the ceiling and crying

    Maybe you didn’t do so well on that essay or problem set you submitted. Maybe you feel miserable after a rejection by someone you had a crush on. Who knows what exactly happened, but you feel pretty terrible and ready to start bawling your eyes out as you lie on your bed and stare at the vast ceiling above you. These intense crying sessions need music compatible with the sadness inside you, so I recommend any type of music that fills your body with visceral despair. After all, you don’t want to be happy quite yet; you want to remain sad for at least a little bit. What music makes you cry is totally dependent upon you, but songs that I find to be productive in sustaining sadness are any songs by Mitski, like “Last Words of a Shooting Star,” any song with a rhythm and title that matches your melancholy, like Thundercat’s “Existential Dread,” or any dramatically sad movie soundtrack, such as Joe Hisaishi’s “The Legend of Ashitaka.” 

    Walking around Providence

    Walking around Providence might not be an activity that so many people partake in nowadays, but when you do take a nice, COVID-safe walk (perhaps to get a COVID-19 test?), the experience of walking becomes enhanced when you have a beautiful playlist playing in your ears. For this playlist, you want to select songs that make you feel like the main character—like whatever you’re currently doing, whether that be walking to CVS or walking back to where you live, is the most important thing happening in the world. What this means in terms of music really varies depending on who you are as a person. Maybe your sense of being a main character is dramatized by loud songs like Mother Mother’s “Angry Sea,” or maybe you feel more like a main character when you listen to very soft-spoken songs like Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” or Vashti Bunyan’s “I’d Like to Walk Around in Your Mind.” What’s essential here is choosing songs that make you feel like the best version of yourself. There’s really no feeling better than that when taking a mundane walk!

    Celebrating the end of one assignment before the next

    You just finished your test, and you’re exuberant! Yes, you have another test next week, but for now, it’s time to celebrate with a little music-listening session. For this type of celebratory playlist, there are two ways that you could go about making it: 1) select any music that makes you want to dance, or 2) select any music that makes you relaxed. For the dancing type, it’s best to choose music that always makes you tap your foot and bob your head. Two songs in this category (at least for me) are Michael Kiwanuka’s “You Ain’t The Problem” and Smino’s “L.M.F.” For the relaxation type, however, you want quite the opposite for your celebratory playlist. Any music that makes you zone out, become one with yourself, feel a spiritual awakening, etc., is perfect for this playlist. Soft acoustic songs like Bruno Major’s “Wouldn’t Mean A Thing” and almost anything by Frank Ocean is great for relaxation (although Frank Ocean might also fit into the “staring at the ceiling and crying” playlist, so I suggest only including him in your celebratory-relaxation playlist if you are truly in the right mindset).