Usually I make playlists based on what I’m listening to most at the moment or on a very niche vibe, trying my hardest to define a specific mood or moment through music. I tend to get tired of whatever playlist I have on repeat, and move on to something new. But my “magic” playlist is one of the few that I haven’t gotten tired of and actually have continued to add to over the years. It’s a compilation of songs that I think have a little bit of magic in them. I decided to order this playlist from least to most upbeat so that if you’re in a bad mood, you can wallow in your sadness for a little bit, and then with each next song you’re lifted out of it.
The playlist starts off with one of the saddest songs I know: “anything” by Adrienne Lenker. This song comes from Lenker’s devastating breakup album “Songs” and gets me every time, enveloping me in melancholy as it recounts the complicated feelings surrounding the end of a relationship. Although I promised myself that I wouldn’t put any songs on here that I’ve liked for less than a year to make sure that this playlist would never get old, I had to make an exception for “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” by Taylor Swift. This song felt like it was everywhere as soon as it came out and for good reason—the extra content that Swift gifted us with in the longer version of this song makes it that much more powerful. The updated version includes lyrics like “I was never good at telling jokes/but the punchline goes/I’ll get older, but your lovers stay my age.’” It gets me every time.
There are 33 songs on this playlist, so skipping ahead a bit, we have “What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes. For some reason, this song is mentioned on the Wikipedia page “List of Music Considered the Worst,” but, quite frankly, I think that is a travesty. This is the perfect song to sing along to when you’re on a road trip that you got up early for, and it finally reaches mid-morning.
One of my best friends sent me “Lilacs” by Waxahatchee early in the pandemic, and it quickly became one of my favorite songs ever. Katie Crutchfield’s lilting voice is gorgeous on this song, and its meditative lyrics feel timeless. A song with a similar vibe and next up on the playlist is “Spring Street” by Dar Williams, which I think is about the realization that you don’t always have to go somewhere new to become someone new. To me, this song feels like poetry.
Veering into the solidly cheerful portion of this playlist, we have “Clearest Blue” by CHVRCHES. This song came out in 2015, but recently rose in popularity due to its part in “Heartstopper,” the feel-good Netflix show that came out earlier this year. “Clearest Blue” is electropop gloriousness and the perfect song to dance to in your room. “Super Trouper” by ABBA is next, and I don’t think I need to say anything about why this is on here—it just is. Everything by ABBA is magic. If singing along to this song doesn’t instantly cure you of whatever ails you, I don’t know what will.
“Origin of Love” by Mika is next on the list. This song is about a lot of things, but the strongest theme, in my opinion, is a celebration of queer love that rejects religious hatred. It’s beautiful. The last magical song on the playlist is “Cut to the Feeling” by Carly Rae Jepsen, which might be the happiest song I know. It’s pure pop, which is Jepsen’s specialty, and it captures the essence of jubilance.
I don’t expect music magic to be the same for everyone, but these songs are definitely special to me. My more niche playlists for quiet studying, experiencing a July heatwave, driving on the highway or capturing the vibe of a waterfall might come and go, but “magic” will stick around for a long time.