What is it about playlists?

Today I put together a playlist for the current WIP.

Understand that the only time I listen to the radio are those few morning seconds before I turn off the alarm. I do own a goodly amount of music, but I can go weeks without hitting ‘play.’ Even at the gym, I’m more likely to watch (sort of) the TV. When I take a long walk, I do find songs popping into my head; but there’s generally a connection between the lyrics and some phrase cropping up in my interior monologue, so that’s more like word association than musical craving.

So no, I’m not someone who lives with a constant soundtrack. And yet, whenever I work on a story that has a contemporary setting, I find myself compelled to craft—and I do mean craft—a complementary playlist.

“What kind of playlist?”, you might ask. Is it about the characters, favorite music that might give them more dimension in my mind? Or are these maybe songs associated with the time and place of the story, the music that might be playing in the background while the characters live out their lives? To a small extent, both of these. But mostly the collection is a kind of emotional synopsis of the undercurrents in the story. Just being able to put together a list means that, albeit subconsciously, the shreds and patches I’ve been toying with have settled into the shape of a story. It’s an actual milestone in the writing process! And once it’s done, I know that regardless of the bit I’m working on—or trying to—at any given moment, that playlist is there to call on whenever the overall shape and texture of the story need some help seeping into the cells and dendrites that push the writing out.

Not that it’s more than a tease at this point but, since you’re probably curious right now, here’s the playlist for the current WIP (and yes, sequence counts!):

  • Flaming Lips:  Fight Test
  • Feist:  1234
  • Adele: Chasing Pavements
  • Jay-Z: Empire State of Mind
  • White Stripes: We are Going to be Friends
  • The Ting Tings: Great DJ
  • Gogol Bordello: 60 Revolutions
  • Marina and the Diamonds: I am Not a Robot
  • Scissor Sisters: Night Work
  • Lady Gaga: Born This Way
  • Original Broadway Cast of “How to Succeed in Business…,” featuring Robert Morse: I Believe in You
  • Vampire Weekend: The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance
  • Coldplay: Viva la Vida
  • Amy Winehouse: Tears Dry on Their Own
  • Fatty Gets a Stylist:  Are You Ready?
  • Lily Allen: F**k You
  • Florence and the Machine: The Dog Days Are Over
  • Regina Spektor: Us