The Six Playlists Every Creative Needs
All kinds of music are good if you enjoy them; it's just a question of whether you inhabit the right time, place, and personality to enjoy them. We listen to different stations on different occasions; you wouldn't choose Gregorian chants to stay awake on a moonlit Kansas highway, and you wouldn't choose death metal to woo a girl into bed. (Or maybe you would. Maybe she's into that. We don't know.)
Different playlists, in turn, serve different creative functions. This week, we're covering the short list: do you have these playlists ready to go in your music library?
The Background Playlist
Music is a wonderful thing, but that's what can make it distracting if you're trying to work or split your focus. To get the pleasant background sensation of music without the sensational distraction, pick something you like but that doesn't usually grab your attention. That usually means avoiding lots of lyrics or jarring transitions, which means instrumental albums make good candidates. Go find some favorite classical composers and good movie scores and you could generate days' worth of background music.
C&Q Staff Picks: scores from Lord of the Rings, The Social Network, 25th Hour; Beethoven's piano sonatas; The Weeknd
The Rainy Playlist
Everyone needs a rainy day now and again. For the days when it's wet and thundering outside—or at least gray enough to pretend it's raining—a lower-key, more somber playlist can prove especially meditative and pleasant. It's worth noting that this playlist, unsurprisingly, pairs really well with white noise like RainyMood, which in turn has a daily music selection you can include with the rain noise. This is the kind of playlist you keep to rinse your soul off every so often when the time is right.
C&Q Staff Picks: Madeleine Peyroux, Chopin's preludes and nocturnes, Enya (on occasion)
The Party Playlist
Maybe it's true that, to play the blues, you only need three chords and the truth—but you need a LOT more than that for a good party. Leave out the somber stuff, even the mellow stuff (unless you're going for a loungey feel)—it's gotta be higher beats per minute, major-key, inspires-irrational-confidence kind of music. If you're having fun, have fun; not all creativity has to be so serious.
C&Q Staff Picks: most likely Top 40, almost certain to include Drake, at least something upbeat and halfway danceable
The Roadtrip Playlist
The road is all about freedom: you can roll your windows down, you can sing loudly and horribly—hell, you can even drive with your shoes off if you want to. This playlist should reflect that spirit: what you'd want blasting as you roll down the road to someplace you'd want to go. In our case, we tend to believe engines and rock 'n roll go together like peas and carrots—so bring on the electric guitar, and turn it as loud as you can tolerate. If you need a free spirit or rebellious attitude, choose this playlist.
C&Q Staff Picks: Queens of the Stone Age (esp. Songs for the Deaf), three-name blues guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Kenny Wayne Shepherd and The Black Keys
The Nostalgia Playlist
Even though songs might get stuck in our heads all the time, that's still an honor for those songs, and some indication for you. More powerfully, there's the way certain songs, artists, or albums can "hold the scent" of specific times in our lives, both good and bad. It's useful, as a creative person, to be able to tap those memories quickly and vividly. Put this one together so you can remember, at a moment's notice, the sounds and details of the times you'll never fully forget.
C&Q Staff Picks: This one's personal, so you'll have to buy us dinner first. Just know that it may involve an embarrassing amount of both show tunes and prog rock.
The Oddball Playlist
The entire point of this playlist should be making yourself laugh, or at least keeping the spirits light and rambunctious in your ear. Plus, it's fun to have something utterly ridiculous like "Bananaphone" or "Semicolon" or "Wonderboy" stuck in your head, especially if you have license to sing along. If you need to think outside the box—or if you're just in a strange mood and you feel like riding it out—blast this one, and don't think too hard about how other people judge your taste in music.
C&Q Staff Picks: The Lonely Island, Primus, Tenacious D, Flight of the Conchords
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