How to curate the perfect playlist

Illustration of a girl listening to music
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Creating a playlist can sound easy when we have Apple Music and Spotify at our disposal. However, a playlist is more than just a random compilation of music. It can convey the unspeakable, as it weaves together different songs to create a harmonious message, feeling or story. This is why playlists are one of the best things you can make for yourself or others without spending money. If you’re looking to become a master of playlist curation, you’re in the right place!

Step One: Figure out your theme

It’s quite difficult to put songs together when you don’t know the vibe you’re going for. If the songs don’t contribute to a particular feeling, then it’s no different from shuffling your songs on Spotify, defeating the whole purpose of a playlist. Here at the Clog, we have a wide array of themed playlists to get you inspired. However, your choices are endless when it comes to choosing your own theme. It can be about self-love, nostalgia or even your pet. There are no restrictions when it comes to your theme, so get creative!

Step Two: Find a song that sets the mood

Just like any form of storytelling, a proper introduction is essential. I learned this lesson from John Cusack in “High Fidelity” when he was going over the basics of a mixtape: “You got to kick it off with a killer to grab attention.” The first song on a playlist is one of the most important parts because it establishes the theme you want to convey. When it comes to deciding which song best does this, I like to think about the songs you’d hear in a movie’s opening. For example, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” opens with a melancholic piano instrumental that perfectly introduces the love and heartbreak we’re about to witness. You want your first song to do the exact same thing, giving a small glimpse into the rest of the playlist.

Step Three: Pick meaningful songs

There’s no better feeling than hearing a song that you love. Whether it reminds you of a good memory or is from your favorite artist, it’s important to include it in your playlist. Chances are you’re more likely to listen to a playlist that’s filled with songs you actually enjoy. Also, if you plan to make a playlist for your friend or significant other, then choose songs that are meaningful to them as well. They will definitely appreciate that you took the time to think about their music taste and enjoy your playlist even more. Nobody wants a playlist that will have them skipping certain songs.

Step Four: Get music from a variety of genres

While we may have our favorite genre or music style, it’s good to change up the tempo in your playlist. It might get boring if you have a bunch of songs that sound the same. It’s crucial to not mistake cohesiveness with monotonous. So, instead, find songs with similar meanings but different styles. This will allow your playlist to follow your theme while still keeping the listener on their feet. 

Step Five: Incorporate the five elements of plot structure

We don’t only have to follow the plot structure when writing a book or script. It can easily work with the creation of a playlist too. The five elements include exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. We’ve already covered how to make a proper exposition, otherwise known as an introduction. But don’t worry — the next four elements are much easier! The rising action and falling action are all about getting your listener lost in the music. Your climax will be the one song that blatantly expresses what you’re trying to say with your playlist. The resolution, my personal favorite, is the song that is supposed to linger in your heart. With these elements in mind, your theme will surely come to life when organizing your playlist.

There you have it! Hopefully, these five steps are the key to your perfect playlist. Just remember to be creative with it!

Contact Zara Koroma at [email protected].