The Art of Quarantine Playlists: Notes from the Desk(top) of a Spotify Connoisseur

Maevis Fahey '21, Editor-in-Chief

Generation-Z has held onto music for dear life during the past year. As we approach the one-year mark since the start of quarantine, I would like to share some of the best ways to kickstart or step up your game for building your quarantine music library.

First, I should give you some context: I generally have the attention span of a goldfish and get sick of songs incredibly quickly. My personalities tend to bounce around throughout the day from my extremely extroverted high-fiving self, to my deeply philosophical taking-myself-too-seriously self, to my calm and focused cabin-in-the-woods self, and many (many, many, many) more selves. On the way to school, I could be jamming along to Taylor Swift’s biggest hits, and end up listening to The 1975’s boringest ballads on the way home…  or vice versa. I really never know. Hence, I constantly harvest new tunes and return to old favorites in order to satisfy my ever-present feeling that I am “in the mood for music.”

I should also reveal the fact that I currently have 173 playlists sitting in my Spotify library. I’m still rather unsure if I should feel proud or appalled by this fact, but it probably won’t stop that number from ticking upwards today or tomorrow or the next day. Over the course of the past six years, building playlists and collecting new songs to experience and share has become second nature for me. Some of the playlists are deliberate, many are absentminded, but each of them include a specific mood or era of my music taste. It might sound like an obsession to some, but for me, it’s been an ongoing project that has become one of the important aspects of this strange coming-of-age year.

So, without further adieu, I’d like to offer six blueprints for building your music library. Good luck 🙂

  • The Essentials

Let’s start with building the backbone of your music library. This calls for all of the basics: coalescing your favorite songs from certain genres and artists into playlists. It’s an easy and fun process, and it will pin all of your preferences into one place.

Personally, I’ve never really been able to define my music taste. In a given day, I tend to dip into a strange mix of pretty much every genre from throwbacks, to alternative, to acoustic, and whatever else comes to mind. So, it can be helpful to have some playlists dedicated to your music taste moods — even if they’re not very conventional.

  • The Monthlies

The idea is simple: at the start of each month, create a new Spotify playlist where you can gather all of your favorite songs and most-listened tracks. If this seems a bit excessive, go for seasonal playlists (I do both at this point). Especially during quarantine, it can feel like all of the weeks and months and seasons smoosh together into perpetual Groundhog’s Day. It’s important to recognize what you’ve experienced throughout these strange times, and a perfect way to do that is by collecting your favorite songs during different quarantine “eras.”

I’ve been creating monthly playlists since seventh grade, so I currently have the ability to return to the songs I listened to during some specific periods of time. Do I feel like returning to my short-lived heavy metal phase amidst NHD 2019? Perhaps. Or maybe I feel like revisiting the summer my sister and I spent listening to Rachel Platten everyday? It’s possible. The fact is, it’s pretty cool and important to document your life — and maybe playlists are a form of journaling or scrapbooking your experiences.

  • The Remind-Me-of-Yous

The forgotten sixth love language is a Spotify playlist. Especially during quarantine, it’s easy to grow tired of texting, FaceTiming, social media messaging, and other new normals of social life. Making a playlist for someone is a forgotten art that can really make someone’s day.

Maybe you know that a friend has been feeling really stressed, or you haven’t been able to see them in a long time. Or, maybe, you just feel like making a playlist for fun. Gather some songs that remind you of them, and send it their way.

Another alternative: take advantage of the “collaborative playlist” feature on Spotify and build a playlist with a friend over FaceTime.

  • The Memory Box

You know when you hear a song on the radio or in the grocery store, and it takes you back to a specific memory, person, or place in your mind? Whenever that happens, add it to this playlist. Listen to it whenever you want, and it can bring back a mix of really cool nostalgia. Especially while we spend lots of time at home, this can be a fun and unique experience. 

  • The Study Atmospheres

Back in middle school, my super cool science teacher once told us that listening to a video game or movie soundtrack while doing homework can trick your brain into getting energized and focused. No distracting lyrics — just some crescendoing and exhilarating tracks that were created to keep the listener engaged. Build playlists with soundtracks from your favorite movies and shows, and you’ll create some unique study atmospheres accessible with the click of a button.

  • The Creative Collections

Everyone knows the most basic titles for Spotify playlists: “happy songs” and “chill beats” and “vibes” and “favs.” I challenge you to find some creative ways to collect your favorite songs into much cooler and more personal moods and atmospheres.

One of my favorites methods is gathering songs that remind you of a favorite movie, book or show. Or, a countdown playlist — songs to listen to as the year comes to a close or an exciting event grows nearer. There’s lots of other playlists to make: driving playlists, running playlists, cooking playlists, imaginary road trip playlists, and whatever else comes to mind. Creativity is key.

And at the end of the day, it’s about sinking into the beauty of music during a really strange time of our lives. Even if you don’t find yourself with 173 Spotify playlists by this time next year, I hope you keep discovering and rediscovering songs to collect and cherish during your quarantine experience.

Maevis Fahey ‘21, Editor-in-Chief