I’ve become one of those people who has a music playlist for every part of my daily routine. A morning playlist, a motivational playlist, a late-night playlist, more than one writing playlist, a collection of love songs and a playlist for bad moods. I hoard playlists people have shared with me, seek out collections of artists’ greatest hits, save algorithm-generated playlists based on my listening history, build playlists inspired by one catchy tune, find songs to dance to and covet my playlist of playlists.
My playlist obsession started innocently enough. I wanted songs to get me out of bed in the morning. I am not a morning person. My energy seems to peak at two in the afternoon and again at 11 p.m. It used to take 10 alarms to get me out of bed (I’ve cut it down to three, so growth?).
So I set out to make my morning easier. I embarked on a quest for songs that would ease me into the waking world. I started, like any writer would, with a rough draft. I gathered a set of 30 songs in no particular order that were danceable but not too energetic, joyful or easy to sing along with, and nothing too melancholy allowed. I weeded out the songs that were too high energy or the wrong attitude for starting a day. Songs that were too sad, too angry or too bitter got cut.
Then, of course, I had to put them in an order that made musical sense. Tempos needed to glide into each other. I wanted an ebb and flow of higher energy to lower energy. I tried to meld themes. I was so pleased with my first playlist I listened to it every morning for two weeks. Then, I thought, why not make another?
After all, not every morning is energetic and joyful. Some mornings are relaxed, so I labeled my playlist with the entirely original title “Relaxed Morning” and got to work. Songs that were too melancholy for the original morning playlist got a second shot as songs for a relaxed morning.
This began my playlist craze. Every time I sat down to write, I sought out a new writing playlist. When I wanted to wind down at the end of the day, I put on a late-night playlist. Many a lo-fi hip hop station was found, listened to and sometimes abandoned.
I discovered the world of monthly indie music artist playlists and hours-long lo-fi remixes with ambient noise added to make the music sound like it’s coming from another room.
Building a playlist is an art I think, akin to making a friend a mixtape. Unlike the careful structure of an album with an artistic or musical message, playlists are so often for completing tasks. An album gives you something. It is a whole experience unto itself. A playlist helps you do something: study, write, dance, work out, relax, wake up. I think this is why I’ve become obsessed. I used to think only boring grownups had routines. Now daily routine grounds me. The structure of a routine has helped me function and sometimes flourish.
Brewing coffee is one of my favorite parts of the day. Scoop the grounds. Heat the pot on the stove. Listen to it bubble while the smell of coffee fills my kitchen. I pour a cup and press start on the day. Having familiar songs to listen to as I repeat these motions morning after morning has become part of that routine. It gives me structure and comfort. The familiarity of the moment, just like the morning before and the morning before that, centers me. Besides, if I get bored, there’s always another playlist to choose from.