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Playlisting 101

Crafting the perfect playlist to start the school year off right

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I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again — nothing feels better than walking to class with your headphones in, blasting your favorite bangers, and feeling like the main character. 

And, with a campus as vast as UW’s, there’s plenty of opportunity to take advantage of this sacred daily ritual. 

As the new school year rapidly approaches, it’s the perfect time to refresh your playlists with some classics, new releases, and even some guilty pleasures (if you’re brave enough).

If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry. With nearly 21 years of musical knowledge under my belt, I’ve heard a song or two. And, as a world-renowned fraternity and one-time middle school dance DJ, who else is more qualified to provide you with the ideal playlist to start the new year?

First — and this is a non-negotiable — you have to start your playlist with an album or EP intro. It should set your playlist off right. No upbeat, hype song leading into an acoustic track, and definitely not anything that’ll kickstart your daily routine with a side of depression. 

This is your literal and metaphorical beginning, and we are not setting ourselves up for failure this 2022-23 school year.

While there are many, many options, some of my favorites include Yves Tumor’s “Gospel For A New Century,” The Velvet Underground and Nico’s “Sunday Morning,” and LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean.”

After that, it’s all about keeping up the tempo and theme of the playlist. If you prefer a more melancholy walk to Fisheries at 8 a.m. — I'm worried about your mental health — but maybe mix in some Sampha, Big Thief, or 070 Shake with your normal dose of Phoebe Bridgers.

Alternatively, if you’re hitting the IMA as soon as it opens, and need something to keep you awake, try Slipknot’s “Unsainted,” IDLES’ “Mr. Motivator,” or M.O.P.’s “Ante Up - Remix.”

Personally, I’m going to go with a more electronic and rap focused playlist for my walk to and from campus, so after the aforementioned Yves Tumor track, I’m going to add Beyoncé’s “AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM,” Baby Keem’s “vent,” and JID’s “Dance Now.”

These are all incredible tracks, with catchy lyrical phrases and unbelievable beats, but when crafting your perfect playlist, it should be emphasized that you shouldn’t feel compelled to conform to what people tell you to like. 

Not to mention that you shouldn’t add any songs that you feel like you absolutely have to listen to in order to impress new friends, colleagues, or the person you’re stuck in the talking stage with, because odds are, you’ll skip them every time.

Listen to what you want to listen to, but that doesn’t mean you should be close-minded to all recommendations. Trust me, always be open to hearing something new, and sure enough, you’ll have a new favorite in no time.

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To continue my playlist, I’m attempting to create natural transitions between each track to create a tonal consistency. This is super intricate and, to be honest, a bit unnecessary, but have fun with it. 

For example, one time, I mixed Dr. Dre’s “Still D.R.E.” with Childish Gambino’s “Telegraph Ave,” because the two, when paired together, create a seamless, cinematic transition of a helicopter flying over a person entering a car. Cheesy, I know, but when you have three back-to-back, two hour classes at every end of campus, it’s the little things that keep you going. 

I’m not going as hard this time around, so following JID, I’m tossing in Danger Mouse & Black Thought’s “The Darkest Part,” Funkadelic’s “Hit It and Quit It,” Genesis Owusu’s “The Other Black Dog,” JPEGMAFIA’s “OG!,” Leikeli47’s “Secret Service,” and Jai Paul’s “jasmine - Demo.”

This process goes on and on and truly depends on how many tracks you want to add to your playlist. As an avid music listener, I, oddly, tend to keep my playlists relatively short, in order to make room for new tracks that I discover over the course of the month or quarter.

That being said, I’m closing this back to school themed playlist with The Avalanches’ “We Go On,” HAIM and Thundercat’s “3 AM,” and JAY-Z’s “Legacy.”

I often close out my playlists with the closing track of an album or project and adding a sleek new playlist cover. But hey, you do you. 

This brings us to an important closing note. Playlists require time and effort, and frankly, should be considered an act of love. How you devise your playlist often resembles who you are and what you value, because they serve, essentially, as an extension of you.

Yes, you can be like me and spend hours anally compiling music to craft an unique auditory experience, or you can simply create a compilation of your favorite nostalgic bangers. Hell, we all need a little Sean Kingston in our lives sometimes.

Don’t feel ashamed about the music you enjoy. Taste is, and always will be, subjective.

So, as we return to campus — some of us for the first time — prepare accordingly. Creating your fall quarter playlist is just as important as getting your textbooks, so get on it early, and set yourself up for success with whatever genre suits you best. 

Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be prepared to answer a wannabe influencer’s “What are you listening to?” question with a proud, heart-felt, non-cringeworthy answer.

Reach Editor-in-Chief Jacob Renn at Twitter: @jakemrenn

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Jacob Renn serves as Engagement Editor, and often writes about his passion for film, television, music, and other forms of media.

(1) comment


Seeing as music is insanely subjective, why not instead/also recommend that people up their listening game? For starters, Tidal has higher quality song files than Spotify and offers students a pretty large discount.

Second, some good headphones will make the biggest difference in listening. An apple or usb-c dongle to give you back a 3.5mm Jack unlocks a huge range of potential.

For ~$20, a pair of 7hz zero in-ear monitors will absolutely thrash a $300 pair of airpods pro's, with a wide soundstage and fantastic instrument separation.

For $40, some koss kph40i headphones have retro appeal and seriously impressive sound detail with punchy bass

For around $100, some grado sr60x's have sparkle and dazzling detail. Alternatively, some 7hz dioko's are in-ears with the dramatic, clean slam and punch of planar magnetic drivers.

And if you've got $200-300 to spend, Meze 99 classic and neos have gorgeous looks and warm, laid back sound.

A good pair of headphones will practically never wear out and make the biggest difference in your listening game. It'll show you details in music you'd never heard before. Even open up genres you might not have enjoyed before. It doesn't need to be expensive either!

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