A walk through my newest playlist: an exercise in intentionality.
|Mar 23|| 4|
I have way too many playlists.
I have playlists that augment my feelings … of complete and utter joy, soul-crushing despondency, heartfelt affection, incidental unhappiness, irrational frustration, resolute courage and seething anger.
I have playlists that reanimate my memories … of my adolescence and childhood, and one that captures every epochal milestone in between.
I have playlists that celebrate … different seasons, parties, artists, and genres. And of course, granularities within genres. Jazzy R&B should NOT be compounded with bass blasting, late night drive R&B, and I’m sorry but there are far too many sonic distinctions between Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, and Punjabi to allow the atrocity of a single “Indian song” playlist.
I know, it’s a lot. I can’t help it.
Every one of these 44 playlists, in each its glory, curation and compartmentalization, makes perfect sense to me. And to accompany the ebbs and flows of my usual days, I queue about six or seven.
But in this recent anxiety-filled interval of quarantine, the departure from a work-life routine has pivoted my music consumption habits. My days blend together, and with limited mobility offering little variation in emotion or experience, toggling between intentionally situational playlists has been anything but gratifying.
So, in seeking music for comfort and familiarity in this tide of disorder, I created another playlist. This time though, it made no sense.
Entitled div-ine, this playlist is my answer to the “what 30 songs would you listen to for the rest of your life” thought prompt. It’s a repertoire of my favorite songs, a categorical mess that lacks literally any semblance of a category. And after I extracted the audio features of my favorite songs using the Spotify Developer API, I found little to no statistical significance in my preferences (beyond liking non-acoustic songs that are lyrical (instrumentalness)). Below are snapshots of my plotly graphs, more on what these features represent here.
So, why these 30 songs?
Purity / profound realization about life
Nijanga Nenana means “is it really, me?” Albeit from an amateurish, low-cost production of a movie, it’s the most pure song I’ve ever heard. It circles in awe, realizing the serendipity that created the exquisiteness of the present moment. And Life of Ram is an absolutely gorgeous Tamil song about living and existing beautifully, for you and your depth constitute your reality. Beautiful got me through high-school feelings of purposelessness, inspiring me to complete ad-hoc art projects, and reminding me that life is really simple if I just do what I want, as much as I have the agency to. And Waves is entirely mood-agnostic, reiterating that whatever the emotion, whoever you are with, just feel what you feel and that is all.
Complete lack of relatability that I made relatable
The way Practice samples Back That Azz Up and dresses it all the way down feels so refreshingly different that it inspires me to try what I want to try, even if it’s not noteworthy. And unlike T.I.’s attempts to woo a girl, I’ve always viewed Whatever You Like as a conversation with myself about success. I created an achievement debt to myself as a result, because hell yes Divya, work sincerely and one day, you will have whatever you like. A Google Search discovery during a 2AM study break, 2AM became my study companion and continues to remind me of discipline even when I blast it during leisure drives.
Nearly 0% understanding but sounds nice
Meherbani is the first Hindi song I ever loved, despite not understanding a single word, and JAMBO is the happiest (most perfectly executed African/Italian fusion) melody I’ve ever heard. Feeling the gravity of the words despite absolutely no lingual comprehension makes me think deeply about the world and its’ interconnectedness through music, and emphasizes that understanding and familiarity isn’t requisite for appreciation.
Drank in My Cup is what I played during every solo summer sunset drive in Downtown San Jose. Invincible, for years, was my favorite passenger seat song on the same uphill stretch of a road near my house overlooking the entire city. And Sooraj Dooba Hain is my windy-road-near-home default listen. To this day, playing anything else in these locations doesn’t feel quite right.
Panchirey’s vacillating pace feels so liberating — nonlinearly transporting me from morning to night to afternoon, from August to March to July — that I literally conquer time. And If I Lose Myself evokes the transcendental feeling I experienced during my very first listen, it was the penultimate song that OneRepublic played at their concert (that I won tickets for on the radio!)
Sunidhi Chauhan’s vigor in her interwoven delivery in Halka Halka empowers me like no other song. I live for A Boogie’s falsetto rap in HML, and Finally Found You is far from Enrique’s best, but has an unwavering decisiveness from its first audible second that has extricated me from unproductive ambiguities in my life. For these, it’s not really what they say, but how they say it.
Across the Room reminds me of so many people I love: a friend who used to listen to it every summer night, my old roommate who watched its performance over and over again with me, and my EDM loving friend who I finally established a musical common ground with (now he always plays it in my presence!!). It Won’t Stop makes me recall the moment my high school friend’s mouth dropped when I showed her the song’s bridge, and HeadBand takes me back to the years when I would DJ parties and my friends and I would dance all the troubles away.
Sometimes it’s not even about the song
Reverie is my favorite word, and with every beat drop I visualize every frame of Sam Kolder’s 2016 year recap video. I watch it nearly every day — it inspires me to strive toward perfection in whatever my craft may be and let my work speak for myself. 2 On brings to mind Tinashe’s journey in entertainment, and how talent is a pursued interest, and Matt Steffanina and Dana Alexa’s Show Me was the first choreography video I ever watched. It completely transformed my idea of music from a background aid to a living, breathing art form.
Let’s Get Lost has a lovely naivety about its production, it was spontaneously created after Devon Baldwin started humming the chorus to G-Eazy. And Your Love wasn’t even intended to be released, yet it’s by far my favorite Nicki Minaj song, eliciting the times she played all roles herself instead of diluting her work with incompetent features. Following the compassionate storytelling in Downtown is like watching a movie that leaves you sleepless, contemplating a pre-determined fate. And Bartender is one of the most under-recognized paradigm shifts in hip-hop. At the height of relatability, T-Pain champions the movement toward autotune production, while excitedly singing about how a girl made him drinks (she’s the bartender, so…).
Start of something
Azhagiye is my favorite Tamil word, meaning “beautiful (presumably) woman". The song is utopic and lighthearted, and obsessed with the the z -> r sounds in it, I began listening to so much more Tamil music. And although Nicki, Drake and Lil Wayne diverged in their paths, BedRock commenced my listenership for them as individual artists. Turn All the Lights On is one of the first rap songs I enjoyed with my family friends (who are all much younger than me) — we would physically turn the lights on and off and jump around during the song, it was so great. :)
And in conclusion…
… there are too many threads to conclude anything other than that div-ine is my most unruly playlist. It makes no sense, but it’s 30 parts of me in one, and I absolutely love listening to it. :)
What’s in your top 30? But more importantly, why?