Intern playlist: What Kelly is listening to

-Kelly Bielfeldt, Roots N Blues Intern

This is the second in a series of blog posts highlighting what each of the RNB interns are listening to. Check out the first in the series here. 

The Art of Making Playlists

I’m a man of many interests. Most are pretty standard to the typical millennial, college student. I like to draw, play the occasional video game, and socialize with friends, all when I’m not studying for my classes of course! – LOL

One of my favorite hobbies is making elaborate Spotify playlists. I will legitimately spend hours on end working on a playlist that nobody will probably ever listen to besides me. I’ll add songs only to delete them; I’ll move songs up only to move them back down again. So, you could imagine I was super jazzed up when I was told to make a “What we’re listening to” playlist for our blog.

I thought rather than taking this blog post to talk about how great each song on my playlist is — which they are — or talk about how crazy talented all of the artists featured on the playlist are — which again, they are — I thought: Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to create an incredibly way too in-depth, step-for-step guide on how to make the ultimate playlist? The answer to that question is yes, so let’s dive in!

After much pondering on how to start this guide, I thought of three unique pillars to help us judge the greatness of a playlist: Length, Flow, and Arc. Let’s take a deeper look at how each pillar can be used to judge our personal compilations of music.

1. LENGTH

A good starting point for making a playlist is deciding how many songs it is going to contain. That way you’ll have a cap on the number of songs on your playlist. However, we are going to immediately disregard this ceiling and just start throwing any and every song that feels right on there. If you’re wondering why even make the ceiling if we’re just going to disregard it? Well it will be important later on.

Think of your playlist like an NFL team going through preseason training camp. For anybody who doesn’t follow the NFL, it’s important to note that a preseason NFL roster can have up to 90 players. These 90 players go through training camp together, play 4 preseason games together… and then there are some extremely tough decisions to be made as the team slims down to 53 players before the start of the regular season. Think of your playlist like an NFL team; but, instead of players, you’re compiling songs and then slimming it down. Eventually, you’ll be leaving only the best of the best.

2. FLOW

When most people make a playlist, they usually just compile a vast collection of songs they like and then throw that bad boy on shuffle and jam out. There’s nothing wrong with this, I’ve made many playlists just like this myself. But I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of trying to create this cohesive body of music where you could start from the first song and let it play all the way through. This idea is what makes it so crucial that every song is an absolute heater. You need to make it next to impossible to skip any song. Ever.

Songs should be grouped together based on a few factors: tempo, genre, mood, and content. For example, the two songs Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry and Cousins by Vampire Weekend may not talk about the same things lyrically. But both of these songs feature a high-tempo guitar riff. Because of this, I decided to group them together in my playlist. If you group multiple songs together based on one factor – in this case tempo – it’ll help breakdown your playlist into multiple sections. Then you can use the other factors – like genre, mood, or content – to bridge the sections to one another. A good playlist uses these four criteria to bridge one song to another. Each song should be connected to the one before it and the one after it. If you do this right it will help you immensely with the next step.

3. ARC

This step of playlist conception is my personal favorite. This is where the creative juices can really start to flow. A truly epic playlist can take a variety of songs from a range of artists and genres and find some common themes to create an overarching plot. Think back to when you were in school, specifically to when you were in grade school, specifically to when you we’re learning about reading and writing in grade school. Your teacher probably introduced you to something called a plot line. A plot line is that funny looking squiggly line made up of several components including exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. The reason I’m bringing up the course material of a 3rd grade student is because a great playlist should follow a similar plot line. Think of your playlist like a short story, and you’re the author. The great part is that you can control where to put the rising action, you can start off with it, or maybe you’ll have the playlist dip in the middle then rise again. Like I said earlier, this is where you can get creative and really have fun with it!

I do believe that one element of the plot line that should always, always, always be incorporated is the finale. It should be around anywhere from 4-6 songs of up-tempo epics that are guaranteed to melt your face right the heck off. Think about it, what would fireworks be without that finale? They’d be pretty darn boring, that’s what they would be. Well, the same goes for a playlist. One last thing to think about incorporating to your playlists is some sort of signature touch, even if you’re the only one who’ll appreciate it. For example, I always try to leave the listeners with a feeling of closure after my playlists are over. I don’t want the music to just stop, I want the listener to hear a song and fully understand that the playlist is over. Whether it’s a song meant to wind down after an epic finale like Johnny’s Odyssey by Mac Demarco, or an emotional ballad to leave the listener with some profound thoughts like Hurt by Johnny Cash. I have a lot of fun finding a new closing song for each playlist.

Anyways, that’s the end of my spiel. I hope it was as fun for y’all to read as it was for me to write. Now it’s time for some shameless plugging… Go follow me on Spotify for some gnarly tunes! You can find all of my hit mixes like “The Ultimate Party Playlist” or “Boner Jams ’03” just by searching my name. My last name is a bit of a doozy to spell so I’ll plug it once more: B-I-E-L-F-E-L-D-T. And be sure to check out my other fellow intern’s playlists as well!

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