Sometimes I think it would be cool for my computer to know me better—not quite Her level, but just a bit more intuitive, you know? "Hey, dude, looking great; I bet you'd like a pizza." That kind of thing. But I know we're still a ways off from that, because the other day, when I opened up Spotify, it suggested a playlist called "Cardio." HA HA HA HA HA. Who does that app think I am?
After I wiped the laugh-juice away from my eyes, I became curious about the playlist. Would it actually put me in the mood for "cardio"? And what other playlists was it offering? One was called "Pre-Party"; another was called "Smooth Morning." Cardio, Party, Smooth Morning: This musical narrative is super-aspirational and not at all an accurate picture of my life. Maybe other Spotify users are hitting the gym after work, then socializing, then waking up feeling "smooth," but that schedule involves leaving the house at least two more times per day than I generally do. Spotify thinks I am a real go-getter, a real partaker in this feast of life. Which is wrong, but, wow, I appreciate the gesture, you know? Spotify's preset playlists are like a magic mirror replacing my face with Ilana Glazer's every time I stop to check me out.
Given that my streaming service of choice was treating me like such a functional human being, I thought I would give these playlists a crack. Would they comprise songs that might truly work for a person doing exercise? Would they make me actually feel like I was ready to "Party"?
Oh my god. Maybe people do actually work out: This playlist has almost 475,000 followers. It is illustrated by a soft-focus picture of a very pretty brunette (deep-set eyes, gigantic lips) laying her hand against her bangs, like, "Man, I love to be cardiovascular." (Does that make sense? I don't know.) Already, I feel a little stressed: I have never felt as good or beautiful as this girl about having purposely raised my heart rate for 45 minutes.
The first song is the cheery though generic "All Night Longer REMIX" by Sammy Adams. I have never heard this song before, and I don't particularly enjoy it, so it seems probable that this playlist is not for me (same with most popular music). But then it hops into Ariana Grande's "Break Free." I'm converted! I will do anything for Ariana Grande. I might even get on a rowing machine for three minutes and 35 seconds. There's something about her elastic voice sliding around the soprano zone that makes me wanna do body stuff. Yeah!
Yet now, no: The next song is Tiësto and Matthew Koma's "Wasted," which sucks, both musically and lyrically. The robotic production just makes me imagine coins pouring into Tiësto's bank vault, DuckTales-style, and the "I like us better when we're wasted" tagline just brings up every anti-drinking sentiment my judge-y 15-year-old self ever expressed. ("Um, if you like her better when you're wasted, then that's probably not a good sign.") Also, I stayed at a hotel in Vegas once, and Tiësto's face was on my keycard, and none of my friends knew who he was, so we had a joke about the fact that some not-famous guy was on our keys, and now I can't like him on principle.
Katy Perry's "Birthday" is fine, but Rihanna's "Drunk on Love"? This is what they would have called a B-side back in my day. This is the kind of song RiRi records while stopped for gas on her way to doing real work. Plus, this is one slow jam. Unless "spreading mayonnaise slowly onto white bread" counts as cardio, this song is not going to put anyone in that zone.
Jesus, Coldplay is on this playlist? OK, I'm done. I give this playlist a three out of 10. I would never feel like exercising to soft jams. If I really need to move, I need to listen to something with so much energy that I can conceivably forget I'm moving at all.
Puzzlement fills me as I contemplate being a) about to go to a party, and b) not asleep immediately before I go to said party. I don't think this one was designed for me, either. But I am a cultural warrior, the Werner Herzog of internet media. Forge we on!
Let me say: Just one glance at this playlist and I know I'm in unfamiliar territory, apart from the Calvin Harris and David Guetta inclusions. What a bounty of novelty! I'm excited—I think. Who are gLAdiator? Will I be gLAd to have heard their song "Weekend"? At first, I think, yes, I can vibe with this tune—until I realize it's kind of a treble-heavy instrumental version of "Turn Down for What." But it's certainly the kind of song that can happily accompany the applying of makeup and drinking of champagne. That's what people do before a party, isn't it? I'm so alone.
Given my heightened sense of isolation, I zone in on a song called " Solo Dancing" by Indiana, but I can't relate to the lyrics ("I go dancing / It's so intense"). When I dance, the only thing that is intense is the constant cracking of my hip bones (this isn't even a joke about "being old"; my hips really do click whenever I move, and my physical therapist doesn't know what is up). I'm into the low-energy beat, though. Continuing with the self-proppin' is the will.i.am and Miley Cyrus jam "Feelin' Myself," which I've never heard, either; Is it too reductive to say this sounds like a less-good version of "Fancy"? Probably. But I like the idea that before a party, you are all thinking about your fine self and how good it is to be you. That's nice.
There are some traditional favorites on here: some Kanye, and Icona Pop's "I Love It," and a Soulwax remix of MGMT's "Kids" that tone-shifts the vocal into a kind of Sunday School hymn. I can't believe it: The songs actually suit the playlist idea! Does anyone want to invite me to a party? I won't come; I'll just stay home and listen to this playlist.
Who requires a "smooth morning"? People who live in penthouses and sleep in beds with white sheets, that's who. Or people who listen to "Pre-Party" playlists. Positive adjectives are just too much to hope for in relation to the ante meridiem, don't you think? If Spotify really wanted to make their playlists relatable, they'd call this "Morning Again, Try Not to Die."
The first song is "2 Years On (Shame Dream)" by How to Dress Well. God, this song is such a downer. Some news for Spotify: "Smooth" is not a synonym for "miserable." I would be fine with, like, Lionel Richie's "Easy (Like Sunday Morning)" being on this list. But not "You There" by Aquilo, which seems to have the aim of pushing me onto the ground and crying tears from my eyes. Um, there's a Jeff Buckley song on here. Guys, this is not safe to listen to in the morning or any time.
OK, there is one very confusing song on this playlist: "Into You" by Private Pleasure, a spacey electro-acoustic noodling thing that gives me creepy vibes, like a Peeping Tom is piping this tune through his earbuds while looking through my window as I sexily boil eggs in the a.m. And help, there's a cover of "Across the Universe" here by a vocoder-led band called ST*RMAN. I am scrolling through to try to find a song I don't mind on here. Thank God: Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down.)" It says a lot that I'm relieved to hear a murder anthem on this purportedly chill mix. Let's move on.
"Dinner With Friends"
I can hang with this one. I LOVE dinner. And I have at least TWO friends. This is basically me!
Before I listen to this one, let's talk about my expectations. Am I wrong in thinking that a perfect dinner playlist would be not very intrusive, pretty upbeat, and only include very cool tunes that have an impressive edge (include a slightly obscure but awesome song every now and then)? I don't think Spotify got that memo. WTF, it starts with a RICHARD MARX SONG. There goes "impressing your friends." I love "Right Here Waiting" as much as anyone, but late Richard Marx—"Turn Off the Night"—is a true friendship-boner-killer. Um, this playlist also has John Mayer's cover of Beyoncé's "XO" on it. WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO US, JOHN? Did you think Beyoncé's version just WASN'T GOOD ENOUGH? "Regina Spektor … second-rate Rihanna again ... this playlist is also making me feel very, very sad. I'm going to let George Michael's "Jesus to a Child" pass without comment, whereas the inclusion of Adele's "Make You Feel My Love" is a little Single White Female for my taste: "Hey, guys, I hope you enjoy these chermoula shrimp I made for you, IT'S BECAUSE I LOVE YOU."
Oh, thank god! It's Elton John's "Tiny Dancer." Please put this on repeat, and let's not speak of tonight again. Is that clafoutis? I'd love some, thanks.
"Your Favorite Coffeehouse"
Could this playlist be any better?
"Welcome to the soothing hum of 20+ hours of continuous white, pink, red, and blue noise." OK, phew. That's more like it.
Estelle Tang is a staff writer at Rookie. She's on Twitter.
Image by Jim Cooke.
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