Play Some Happy Music, Sad Man

I had an awakening yesterday (a week and a day before this goes up), while I was preparing to run a Dungeons and Dragons game. I’d spent the day in what I like to refer to as “low energy mode” since I’m struggling to find even keel after a few tumulutuous weeks (relatively to the past few tulmultuous years) and was looking for a way to get amped up for my D&D session. I was genuinely excited to run it, but most of the day had slipped by in a fugue as I went about my work tasks and final prep. So I turned to music to shake me from my stupor and get my brain moving.

I used to keep playlists like this on my old ipod, but years of heavy use had rendered it mostly non-functional, so I turned to spotify for my fix. Which is when I realized that I didn’t have any suitable playlists ready to go. Even the playlist I call “The Slap” after a bit from Rachel and Griffin McElroy’s podcast Wonderful failed me. There were a lot of songs I love on that playlist, songs I always sing or bop along to, but only one was high-energy.

I figured the mass “save for later” playlist where I dump all the songs from my Discover Weekly that I enjoy but don’t “like” would have something, but ten minutes of searching through it gave me only a singly, solitary song. I quickly skimmed through old playlists, confident at least one of them would have a collection of songs I could add, but only found two more songs throughout the entire thing. All this searching and thinking prompted me to add another couple songs I knew by name, but then I was stumped. What kind of power-up playlist only has half a dozen songs? How can I get energized to deliver a storytelling experience with a playlist that won’t even last for the full length of my drive home from work?

It was a sobering moment. I’ve always used music to reflect and modify my mood. Sad songs for days I need to sit in my feelings, gentle songs for days when I need to be calm, and high energy songs for when I need to get pumped up or working. If I’m feeling sort of “meh” or just not strongly in any particular way, I will use music to shape my mood in order to find a frame of mind I’d prefer. So when I realized that past two years of playlists, song collection, and integration into Spotify had nothing but generally gentle songs, sad songs, and alright bops, I realized that I’ve subconsciously been altering my mood.

It is a minor thing, to be sure, compared to the stress, trauma, and pain of the past few years, but I can say definitely say that the alogorithm feeding me more chill, jaded, and sad songs became a self-fulfilling prophesy. Especially over the last year. I can listen to song reccommendations from before the pandemic and notice a marked difference in the general tone. While my current set isn’t strictly sad, it does lean in that direction more than any other. And while there can be a lot of joy and happiness found in listening to the sweet tones of a violin played by itself, it definitely isn’t going to give me the mood boost I need these days as the weather turns grey and the sun spends days hidden behind the clouds.

Over the weekend, I’ll be trying to move my playlists from my computer and ipod to my spotify account (or maybe try to fix my ipod) so I can inject more energy and positive mood music into my recommendations. After all, I still know how to tweak my spotify recommendations and, while it takes longer than ever to see my tweaks take hold, I should have plenty of data to add if I pull from the two decades of music collection and collation that went into my ipod playlists.

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