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Perfect playlists: How to match music with activity, mood

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Whether you’re sitting on a crowded LX bus or relishing a slice of pizza alone at Brower Commons on the College Avenue campus, a playlist that caters to your personality and quotidian activities can help you tune out the world and experience things more fully. Music that aligns with your thoughts, feelings and energies can alter and improve your focus as you go about life. Your mood — good or bad — can be changed or enriched by a well-curated playlist. Some quality Taylor Swift can get you through a breakup, and Broadway musical hits can lift your spirits while you walk to class.

Accessible streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music actively craft hundreds of playlists that are organized on the basis of popularity, genre, artist, era and activity. There truly is something for everyone: insomniacs have sleep playlists, aspiring pop stars have throwback songs to sing in the car and shower and amazing parties no longer warrant active DJs. In accordance with your taste, streaming services’ algorithms customize and update playlists of songs for you to discover, thereby expanding your musical palate.

Myah Rios, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences first-year, likes exploring new music on Spotify and revising her playlists. “The way I make my playlists is, I find all the songs that I really like and group them together based on genre. So, all my chill songs are together in one playlist. However, I do have one huge playlist of every song I like, regardless of genre, compiled in one place,” she said.

Recently, research has suggested that instrumental and classical music helps deepen students’ concentration and betters their work ethic. Now, Spotify and Apple Music have a variety of study playlists consisting of calming sounds. They range from lo-fi and chill tracks, acoustic piano pieces, variations of white noise and nature sounds. Alternative, pop and soft rock songs — think Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, Lorde and Khalid — that are familiar to the ear and not distracting can also be great accompaniments to a productive day.

The phenomenal thing about making your own playlists is that you have the creative freedom to be as random and spontaneous, or as planned and meticulous, as possible. Factoring in the sequence of songs when creating your perfect playlist matters, depending on your personal preferences and the different activities you engage in. While the slow and gentle sounds of an archetypal study playlist can be played on shuffle and not affect your performance, the pace and order of songs on a workout playlist often directly sync with your motivation and strength.

Workout playlists are extremely popular on streaming services, with pop, rock, EDM and hip-hop being the go-to genres to get one’s heart rate up. Currently, Spotify’s most popular workout playlist — appropriately titled "Beast Mode" — has more than 5.4 million followers and features fierce hits by Cardi B, Imagine Dragons and Diplo. 

James Ariemma, a School of Engineering first-year, enjoys metal as a unique and neglected genre for the gym. “My favorite song to workout currently is from the year 1999: ‘Hail to the King’ by Avenged Sevenfold. It’s a really high-energy song,” he said.

Deepti Rao, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year, has a favorites playlist frequented by artists like Troye Sivan, Lauv and Travis Scott. Rao believes playlists are a wonderful way to diversify and expand one’s artistic horizons. 

“I feel obligated to add the songs I loved as a kid to my current playlist because of nostalgia, but I also think it’s important to branch out and explore new kinds of music. After all, music is a form of growth not only for the artist, but also for the listener,” she said.

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