Sunday, November 18, 2012

The only way I can make a playlist without trying to look as if I've got "taste"

Every few days I post something on This Is My Jam. It's usually because I've found myself thinking of an old favourite. I don't actually listen to the tracks all the way through at the time I post them but every few weeks I export the accumulated jams to Spotify (there's a button on This Is My Jam that makes it easy) where I find they make the very best kind of playlist.

Playlist-making the conventional way too often succumbs to fatigue or snobbery. After the first ten songs you can't be bothered. And those who have the stamina to compile playlists are usually too keen to use them as a way to position themselves and show off their taste as if it was something you can be good at.

I hate "taste", particularly when applied to pop music. It's just snobbery. When people try to show off their taste on Spotify they quickly resort to fly-tipping a load of tracks by acceptable-sounding names into a list in the hope this will make them look good. On the whole I'm against trying to say anything meaningful about music by just listing the names of perfomers rather than performances. I heard someone talking about "passionate specificness". I like that.

It's only after listening back to a load of songs that you have picked one by one over a matter of weeks that you begin to get a picture of what your taste is. It's only when you stop trying to flex your taste you can get a picture of it. It's like being able to read your own palm.

Here's the most recent export of my "jams" on Spotify.

My "1971 was the annus mirabilis of the rock album" playlist has over 400 subscribers.

Of all the playlists I've found on Spotify, the one I like best is Vanessa Pelz-Sharpe's unfolding list of all the music used on Mad Men.


  1. Enjoying both of your playlists immensely. Hats off.

  2. Interesting as ever, David. Yes, there is so much *snobbery* among pop music experts. Comments that often make me want to strangle the reviewer/writer:

    "Of course, their first album was the best" (even if their first album was a stinker)

    "Of course, they went downhill when [insert name] left" (often they went uphill)

    "Of course, they'll never improve on [insert title of artist's worst effort]"