The Power of the Playlist

April 18, 2011

While I vacuum, I like to listen to music on my iPod—it muffles the noise, and the right songs keep me moving and make me feel cheerful. I usually just put the iPod on “shuffle,” but certain songs slow down my rhythm. I like to vacuum to something a bit more upbeat, so I decided I should make myself a “vacuuming playlist.” The songs on it would be the ones that make me feel like dancing around the vacuum cleaner, like Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music,” or Rob Thomas’ “This is How a Heart Breaks” and MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.”

Wouldn't it be fun to make a playlist for all my activities, like writing or driving, or just sitting and thinking? For writing, I prefer instrumental music, so I can hear my own words without being distracted by others’. My favorite writing songs come from guitarist Billy McLaughlin’s* album, Out of Hand.

When I’m driving, I want words and lots of them, because I like to sing along. Songs like Evanescence’s “My Immortal,”  and show tunes like “Good Morning Baltimore” from Hairspray and “For Good”  from Wicked are fantastic for belting out while driving down the road.

For sitting and thinking, there’s always Carbon Leaf’s “What About Everything?” or classical music, or something by Josh Groban.

You could make playlists for all kinds of experiences and emotions: feel-good songs, I-need-a-good-cry songs, revenge songs… you name it. My friend Marianne just made a playlist of hockey songs in honor of our local professional hockey team’s presence in the Stanley Cup playoffs! (I didn’t know there were that many songs about hockey!)

Does your life have a soundtrack? What’s on your favorite playlist?

*While checking the spelling of Mr. McLaughlin’s name for this blog post, I learned of his remarkable and inspiring comeback story—read about it here.)

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  1. I love the idea of a playlist for every mood! I know I do a lot of walking on a VERY hilly college campus, so it's always nice to have loud, upbeat music to distract me from the feeling that my legs are about to fall off (for this purpose, I prefer the Ramones and Jason Mraz). However, most of my playlists are weather-dictated more than anything else, and nothing says spring to me like putting together a great mix of She and Him, Dolly Parton, The Decemberists, and maybe a little Ella F for good taste. Thanks for the great post!

  2. "Weread"--Great use of playlists! I know lots of people have exercise playlists, and there's nothing like having a little upbeat music in your ear to keep you walking briskly.

  3. My son once laughed at my cd collection that I'd burned from my collection in iTunes. It had titles like:

    - Housecleaning music (peppy to keep my momentum going)
    - Shower music (gotta sing in the shower whilst getting ready to go out!)
    - Cooking music (not too involved... I'm concentrating on a recipe here!)
    - Painting music
    -and so on.

    At first he thought his mother had lost her marbles... then he said, "You know, you might have something here. People would probably buy cd's like that!"

    Great minds think alike ;-)

  4. Teresa--I love your customized CDs/playlists! You've taken it to a new level.

  5. I have an exercise playlist and a studio playlist. Most of the time, I turn it on and then tune it out! I like the idea though—may have to give this some thought!

  6. Laure--I find I tune music out when I'm really focused on writing, but when I come up for air, I like hearing it. I feel like it inspires me, even if I'm not conscious of it.