I recently saw an internet post claiming to know how to make the best playlist ever. Science said so. I don’t know if they were joking, as it was only 7 tracks long and pretty out there and I’m not her to argue the finer points of that playlist. But it got me thinking about how playlists work. I make them all the time. Some I slap together in no time. Others I take great care. Trying to find that exact sweet spot to hit a mood. So I can soundtrack my Wednesday afternoon, match the mood of a bike ride, or give someone else the optimum listen. It is its own art.
On the back of this I decided I wanted to try and figure out what makes a special playlist. So I turned to Google. I wanted to actually find if there was some science behind it (NERD ALERT). And what I found was Wikihow has a guide for making playlists!
I use WikiHow all the time. Normally when something breaks in my apartment, and I don’t know how to fix it. But what universal truths will they have for the esoteric playlist?
So in this ramble I’m going to use the WikiHow and try and make the perfect playlist for this summer. The WIkihow describes 4 different ways of making a playlist. They seem non-exclusive and at points a bit silly, but I am going to try and hit as many of these points as possible.
Pick a theme: WikiHow gives this sage advice: ‘Angry playlists might have a lot of heavy metal, content playlists might play smooth jazz, and sad playlists might have classical or slow songs.’ Lets aim high and go for something more nuanced: Lockdown Summer. I would describe this vibe as melancholic and full of anxiety, but in a light and bright way. You know what I mean. Pretty much everything by Alt-J. Something peppy enough to soundtrack the optimism of the summer months, but also acknowledge that we’re mostly looking at that sun through the window. From the inside. As we hide from the world that is collapsing around us. Are you having fun yet?!
Start with a hook: I want to ease people in, with something catchy and addictive, but also reinforce our Lockdown Summer tone. I went with some big old indie-pop in the form of the new music from Glass Animals.
Include some highs and lows: We got to take you on a journey, not just reiterate how much I like post-punk for 90 minutes. We have some cerebral hip-hop with Loyle Carner, big brash guitars with Sports Team and some chilled out José González.
It has to reach a climax in the middle: Something big to build towards. As tempting as it is to just fill it full of bangers, I guess we don’t want it to get samey (see point 3). And I guess putting it in the centre of everything, means it’ll hold everything together. Got to be Little Simz for this one. Her new EP destroys!
Songs must transition into each other: I want everything to be cohesive and not too jarring. But then again that has to be a balance as we got to go on that journey (see point 3 again).
The result is this masterpiece obviously:
I can tell that you all love it. But that is not enough. I want a way of proving how good it is. Luckily in my endeavours I did not just stumble upon a wonderful WikiHow article. I also found an app (called Perfect Playlist) that promises to reorder your playlists in the best order (so it will take care of point number 5 for me). As I know this playlist is perfect already, I fully expect it to just give me back my original list. No edits.
And the results are in:
So not too good. We both agree with starting with Glass Animals. But after that only one transition matches. Free Nationals to Rex Orange County. Everything else was apparently not ‘perfect’. I’m pretty skeptical, and after giving this a few listens and I definitely prefer mine. Maybe I didn’t make the perfect playlist. But I enjoy it. And I guess that is all that matters.
Words by Matt Paul