I’ve always loved making playlists on Spotify for different moods or situations: party playlists, sleeping playlists, middle-school-reminiscent guilty pleasure playlists; playlists for sad days, happy days; for cloudy, sunny, or stormy weather … the list goes on.
It wasn’t until recently that I started making them with specific people in mind. It started as a matter of convenience: my friends and I were constantly sending each other links to different songs that we wanted to share, and, at some point, I figured I just needed one place to put them all. I’d stick in a few tunes that I thought were catchy and similar to their tastes. But as I kept adding to each collection, the playlists began to reflect the friendships they were based on in ways that I hadn’t anticipated.
When I listen to the collections I make for specific people, each song tends to conjure a memory in a certain place: the song that came on the first time we got coffee together, shrugging our shoulders to the beat before using the Shazam app to find out what it was, the theme song to a movie we both know the entire script for, or songs that simply fit the other person’s personality so well that you’d think they were written for them.
For me, my Spotify account has become a cute little scrapbook of melodies that echo the exciting developments of a relationship by tying music to memory. The playlists, on a very subtle level, help me explore my care for a person when I ponder the reasons why I feel certain songs or genres pertain to the relationships I’m trying to paint in my curation.
Music has helped me through the most boring, the most difficult, the happiest and the worst parts of my life. I probably spend 50% of my day with my headphones on. My most poignant experiences of music, however, have always been while in the presence of another person I care about, sharing the space of the sound — bobbing our heads at an intimate concert in an underground bar, sitting on the floor of a living room telling one another about our days, parading around the kitchen in our pajamas to the rhythm of a 2009 top hit at 2 a.m.
I consider these playlists as the modern, simpler versions of personalized mixtapes — I even design and upload picture collages as kinds of “album” covers. I hope that when my friends listen to them, the playlists are able to evoke a little bit of that feeling of shared space, that they are able to carry our memories and the feelings that accompanied them around as they walk down the street, as they go for a run, as they travel abroad or sit at home, whether we’re together in the same room or a couple thousand miles apart.
Contact Clara Spars at cspars ‘at’ stanford.edu.