The Importance of a Good Playlist
A playlist is more than an organizational tool. It’s a form of self-expression and a way of personalizing how you experience music. When it’s your turn to grab the aux, you want to be armed with the right song for any situation. So no matter what kind of playlist you’re trying to put together, you should find something in this article that’ll help take it to the next level.
Organizing a Playlist
Playlists can be based on any number of themes, from a particular era of music, genre, or something more personal to you (high school jams, personal favorites, and of course, the infamous mixtape for someone special). Most people tend to create playlists based on either moods or activities. Below you’ll find 10 examples of common playlist themes you might want to consider and a perfect track to get it started.
1. The Pump-Up Playlist: “Show Me How To Live” - Audioslave
Supergroup Audioslave achieved something truly special in marrying Chris Cornell’s incomparable vocals with the rhythm section of Rage Against the Machine. Show Me How To Live begins with a heavy groove, but truly erupts in a chorus that will have you instantly hooked and looking forward to the next one. It makes this song the perfect opener for any pump-up playlist, whether it’s for pre-show, exercising, or just getting the blood pumping.
2. The Sing-Along Playlist: “Livin’ on a Prayer” - Bon Jovi
No sing-along playlist would be complete without Bon Jovi’s mega-hit, “Livin’ on a Prayer.” This triple-platinum track has charted all over the world and is approaching a billion views on YouTube alone. Whether you can hit that high note or not (before or after the key change!), the iconic “Woah-oh!” is a mandatory sing-along moment for anyone within hearing distance.
3. The Feel-Good Playlist: “Last Nite” - The Strokes
Back in 2001, The Strokes, almost overnight, ushered in a new era of rock and roll that pushed back on the dominant grunge sound of the 90s and made it ok to have fun again. Their album, Is This It, took the world by storm with a sound that was familiar and unassuming, yet bucked so many common conventions in a way that was entirely new. With a bouncy, upbeat swing and catchy, recognizable hooks, “Last Nite” is an effortlessly cool and easy addition to any feel-good playlist.
4. The Chill Playlist: “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” - Radiohead
Radiohead is one of the few bands to successfully reinvent themselves on each album, and although OK Computer and Kid A garner the most critical attention, the band’s 2007 release In Rainbows remains a fan favorite. “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” blends a hypnotic groove and guitar line with Thom Yorke’s characteristically smooth vocals to create the perfect track for any playlist looking to bring the energy down.
5. The Classic Rock Playlist: “Don’t Stop Me Now” - Queen
Let’s be honest - “Don’t Stop Me Now” would be right at home on many of the playlists in this article. This pump-up, feel-good, sing-along classic rock song may not be as iconic as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but it is still a fan favorite that captures everything that makes Queen great. It has steadily gained popularity over time due to its endless use in commercials and films, and for good reason. No other song quite captures the feeling of a roller coaster like “Don’t Stop Me Now,” gearing you up in the intro before plunging you through 3 minutes of twists and turns in a way that only Queen can.
6. The Dance Party Playlist: “Let’s Dance” - David Bowie
Too on the nose? That may be part of the charm of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” David Bowie’s incredibly prolific musical output could occupy a variety of different playlists, but this Bowie classic is the de facto choice for any dance playlist. “Let’s Dance” was also Bowie’s only single to top both US and UK charts, and remains one of the 300 best-selling UK singles of all time. With an undeniable groove, Nile Rodgers production, and a Stevie Ray Vaughan solo, what more could you ask for?
7. The Guilty Pleasures Playlist: “Toxic” - Britney Spears
Although “Toxic” resembles so many other smash hits, it stands as an archetypal example of perfect pop writing. The eerie Bollywood strings hook, tight composition, and Spears’ delivery combine to make a record worthy of praise from the general public and music snobs alike. It has been covered ad nauseam by high-profile musicians and enthusiasts alike, and is ranked at 115 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. Maybe it should really be in the Not-So-Guilty Pleasures playlist!
8. The Road Trip Playlist: “Highway Star” - Deep Purple
Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” is, in many ways, the quintessential driving song. More than just a love letter to the open road, this song checks all the boxes for a perfect road trip track. Upbeat? Yep. Singable chorus? Definitely. Run time over six minutes? Indeed. Deep Purple’s incredible musicianship is, as usual, on full display guaranteeing there will always be something new to discover with repeated listens as you approach hour twelve in your cross-country journey.
9. THE STUDY PLAYLIST: “CISSY STRUT” - THE METERS
Instrumental music is essential for some when studying, and “Cissy Strut” by The Meters is a funk classic that fits the bill and then some. The Meters never quite garnered the same mainstream success as other funk originators like James Brown, but have significant acclaim within the music industry. “Cissy Strut” is one of just a few instrumentals to make Rolling Stones’ 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. With a run time of just under 3 minutes, it’s perfect for setting on repeat or letting the entire album roll. Ziggaboo Modeliste’s inimitable groove is sure to clear your mind and get you in the rhythm of your next big project.
The Angsty Playlist: “That’s What You Get” - Paramore
The mid-2007s brought angst to the mainstream from bands like My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and, of course, Paramore. Deceptively complex musicality from the Farro brothers attached to Hayley Williams’ undeniable vocal talents was bound to make the band’s breakout album Riot! an instant alternative classic. “That’s What You Get” is perfect for anyone that needs a shot of angst at any stage of life.
Ready to Learn to Make Your Own Music?
If you’re looking to expand your playlists further, it’s always a good idea to start exploring outwards from a song you know you like. For example, if you love “Show Me How To Live,” you might listen to the rest of Audioslave’s self-titled album, then more from both Soundgarden and Rage Against The Machine, and then check out the artists that influenced those bands.
The beauty of making a playlist is there’s no wrong way to do it. Your playlist is a creative expression. Nobody but you can decide what gets you energized or helps you relax. If you’re stuck, hopefully this article will help get the ball rolling.
If you want to experience these songs on an even deeper level, consider signing up for music lessons at School of Rock, where you can learn all of your favorite songs on vocals, keys, guitar, bass, or drums.
About the Author
Cole Paramore is a drum instructor at School of Rock Issaquah, and has been playing and teaching drums for over a decade. He has developed a proficiency in a number of styles including rock, pop, funk, R&B, blues, and jazz.