Playlists are the newest version of a mix tape. Where as once, teenagers and young adults of the 80’s expressed their desires and emotions via laboring over a cassette tape, transferring one song to another, conscientiously performing time-based math to make certain the length was appropriate to the amount of recording time available, now all we have to do is pull songs from our iTunes library into a new playlist and bam! Easy cheesy. It hardly seems fair.
While chatting with Cyndy today, she asked me how I came up with my playlists. I have to admit, my first thought was,someone actually reads the playlists page — happypants! But then, after sifting through thoughts such as, Do they make vegan pizza in Orange County? and Why is cleaning my lint trap so darn boring yet imperative? I gave Cyndy’s question further thought, and I realized that my running playlists have evolved since I got an iPod and began creating lists.
Initially, I ran in silence. I did not have an iPod for the first year that I ran — this includes my first 5k, half marathon, marathon, and 10k (in that order). I only had my thoughts for company, and occasionally a running buddy, though this was pre-Kristin, so often I was solo on my journeys. Then, my “doctor” (aka, father), performed a very wonderful and life-changing task: he bought me an iPod. Always healing me, that guy.
My first playlist concoctions were built daily, with only briskly tempo-ed songs. A lot of punk rock, irish rock, pop-rock, and synth-rock (basically all the music you’d find in a geologist’s boom box). I favored “All the Small Things” from Blink 182, “The Adventure” by Angels and Airwaves, anything from Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies or Jimmy Eat World. I was convinced it would be impossible to run to a slower beat.
When making a good mix-tape, one was always careful about flow from one song to the next — what mood are you trying to create? What is the meaning of one song, and how does it play against the one coming after, and two after that? Is each song memorable, or do some fade while others shine? Mix-taping is an art, weaving together old songs for familiarity and new songs for building up ones repertoire. I playlisted in the same way for a long time, trying to make a piece of art for each day. It became exhausting, and eventually, I settled for selecting the songs I wanted, and letting iTunes shuffle the list for me.
Eventually, I grew tired of this method, and just made a playlist that was about four hours long, incorporating slower songs into the mix. A lot of Bright Eyes, Eisley, and John Williams entered my lists. I would play that same list each time I ran, starting from where I left off the run before. Still though, I became a little bored and distracted from the music.
This led to me craving new music. My brother once told me that the only burden of having an iPod was never being able to have enough music, and he was right. I needed new bands. New sounds. The likes of Lydia, Gregor Samsa, Bayside, Kanye West, Magnetic Fields, Pedro the Lion, Cute is What We Aim For, and Tristin Prettyman were introduced to me (and I continue to wait for friends to give me new albums to listen to). Running is a great time to learn if you love or hate a particular album because you can listen to the album as a whole, instead of in pieces. So suddenly, I was an album hound, hunting out full albums instead of my usual singles.
And then, there was the podcast. I discovered podcasts a bit after they were initially hyped, so I had a lot of catching up to do. The only problem with podcasting while running is I am more likely to stop paying attention to either the road ahead of me (which is dangerous and means I should probably wear a helmet when I run and podcast) or the words that are being spoken (which is annoying, because it is next to impossible to rewind the iPod).
Eventually, this all morphed into a feature I did not know my iPod had: shuffle. I have lately become a shuffle fiend. I crave having no idea what is coming next into my ears. I love guessing which band is playing, and being completely wrong. I love hearing songs I did not know I owned. There is something thrilling about the mystery of what you will hear. It keeps me interested, and entertained, without being too distracting. And since I can run to any sort of tune (fast, slow, vocals or not, etc), it does not matter what comes on. I’ll keep running.
With all this in mind, I’m about to create a playlist for today. Mostly because I bought “Sex is on Fire” by Kings of Leon last week, and shuffle hasn’t played it for me, and I really want to be sure I hear it. I’ll probably use the hand-select songs method. but let iTunes shuffle it up for me. They use algorithms for that sort of thing, which is pretty fancy.