Opinion

Creating the Ultimate Playlist

Zack Miller | The PhoenixCreating a fantastic playlist can be challenging, but there are a few things to keep in mind to do it successfully.

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Artists do most of the work by creating phenomenal, memorable music. They match the right instrumentals with the right vocals and lyrics to change our lives in a span of usually three minutes. The only remaining responsibility is for DJs, party enthusiasts and those holding the auxiliary cord to choose how these songs all fit together in order to create the ultimate playlist. 

Here are six ways to do that in a way that promotes good vibes.

  1. First step: Choose a theme.

This is crucial because different songs fit with different moods. These themes could equate to a breakup playlist, a driving playlist, a shower playlist, a worship playlist or a workout playlist — which just so you know, is different from a running playlist. There also needs to be a unifying genre (because Linkin Park and Beyonce just don’t mix.)

  1. The exception to rule number 1: throwback playlists

Long road trips are the perfect time for throwback playlists, which is a theme in and of itself. In these cases, it’s okay to bounce around through all your throwback faves. Yep, there’s no harm in going from TLC’s “No Scrubs” to Gwen’s Stefani’s “Sweet Escape.” Throwback hits evoke nostalgia of simpler times. These classic tracks usually unite everyone in the car because good music is good music, no matter the year it was released.

  1. The first track has to come in at 100

The first track is the most important because it sets the mood for the rest of the playlist. For this reason, it has to be the strongest track — meaning the most energetic, upbeat, catchy and representative of the sound you’re going for. So if you’re creating your exercise playlist, this can be Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love.” Or if you’re working through a breakup, T-Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” works well. 

  1. Keep up the vibes

Your second track should maintain the energy of the first. It doesn’t have to be as popular as the first track, but it should definitely match the energy. It should complement the first track the way iDKHOW’s “Lights Go Down” pairs with Jesse’s “Like It” because they’re both dance bops. Be that music connoisseur. With the first two tracks setting the tone, the subsequent songs can feature a little more variation while still fitting the theme and genre. 

  1. Don’t repeat artists

Because there are some artists like Allen Stone and Bartees Strange that refuse to release a bad song, it’s tempting to repeat some artists. This can be tacky on short playlists. However, if the compilation is over an hour-long, then go for it. But definitely spread out that artist over those few hours. Perhaps, play them in the first few minutes and again as one of the final songs.

  1. Slow down the rhythm

If your first few tracks are upbeat, the final two or three songs should have a much slower tempo. It’s kind of like being at a high school dance. The slow dances are always after everyone has worn themselves out headbanging and jumping. The songs should slow down progressively. Think of going from Dansu’s “Say, say, say” to Flowtone’s “Hold.”

  1. The closer should be undoubtedly the closer

The final song must contain a vibe that lets everyone know the playlist is coming to an end. It’s the feeling of being in a movie that just ended. The closer has to be a great one. 

It’s the last thing the listeners will hear. If the music compilation is just for you or a group of friends, it should continue at a relaxed pace. My personal fave is “Two of Us” by Omar Apollo. 

But if the playlist is the soundtrack to an event, it’s best to end on a high note. It has to be a memorable, well-known song that appeals to as many people as possible. The last track is arguably the most important, and choosing it is no easy feat. So take some time experimenting with your options and just have fun with it.

Closers are a whole mood. Here’s an eclectic list of several that work well for individual use or smaller audiences:

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