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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Queen's U chapter.

Whether you’re an Apple Music advocate or a spokesperson for Spotify, the act of listening to music and curating playlists should be an artistic process. Music has a talent for revealing truths, allowing for self-discovery and the connection of people. It provides a soundtrack to your life, even when you don’t feel like the main character. The right song has the capacity to cheer you up or enable emotional catharsis. It draws on your thoughts and feelings, and anchors you to your truest self. I, for one, can’t go a day without listening to music. 

The art of playlist-making confirms this, serving as both a vessel for anthems to bring communities together, and a creative outlet for the self. Playlists are not only a way to organize said songs, but also a way to catalog your thoughts, emotions and feelings, all through music. Personally, I’ve always seen playlist-making as a form of therapy, in the same way journaling and meditation can be. The creation of a playlist falls into the noble pursuit of expression, rooted in how you feel in that moment of time. Just as a journal uses a collection of words and syllables spread out on a page, playlists make use of notes and chords, fashioned with intent. A chance to discover more about the art created by other individuals, as well as about yourself. Point blank, it’s an effective and fulfilling way to get the most out of music.

When getting started, creating and personalizing your library of tracks may seem challenging. There’s so much diversity, from genre to sub-genre. Not to mention the overwhelming amount of artists, albums and songs that exist. I’m aware it seems daunting, but I can assure you it’s worth the trouble. I believe a great place to start is by listening to a song and checking in on how it makes you feel. I often like to do this mindfully, or almost as a meditative practice. Closing my eyes and sensing the music, letting the feelings flow. From there, I naturally associate a vibe with the track I’m hearing. Some examples of these vibes may be cooking dinner with my roommates, or having a slow Sunday morning. Sometimes the envisioned scene gets so specific, down to the colour or object it makes me think of. It’s all about exploring what thoughts and emotions a song evokes and the imagery seen upon listening. The beauty of this creative endeavour is that there is no correct way to go about it. Focus on feeling the groove in every corner of your mind.

From there, you craft the playlist title. My advice is to not overthink it. I usually just jot down the first thing that comes to mind. The amazing part is that no one else needs to understand it, since it only applies to you. I’ve always loved this part of making a playlist. The title of what you create often acts as an inside joke, between you and yourself, transporting you back to the moment you first discovered that perfect song.

Last but not least comes the image to choose for your playlist cover. As it stands, people fall into two camps: upload a picture of your own, or something of the aesthetic Pinterest variety. Either works. Of course, you can also leave it as is, with the top four songs displayed for all to see. Once again, there is no special formula, be as imaginative as you wish. Never forget, you are the visionary of your own musical life.

I hope you appreciate the artistry that goes into making a playlist. It takes awareness and imagination, yet there is no method to its madness, as it’s completely catered to you. I encourage all those reading to start consciously listening to music today. Take it as an opportunity to learn more about yourself, from the genre you experiment with to the specific thoughts a song may unlock. You never know what you’ll discover.

P.S. For some inspiration, feel free to check out my Spotify (Natalie Braverman). Yes, I totally did just plug myself.

Natalie is a fourth year student in the Life Sciences Program. She is originally from Toronto, Ontario, and recently studied in Utrecht in the Netherlands.