It is a truth universally acknowledged that freelancers in pursuit of a project will need some jams to match the highs and lows that can be experienced at a moment’s notice. It’s also true that sometimes you don’t feel like making your own musical decisions. We’ve got you covered; throw on one of these playlists that fits the situation at hand.
For Your Lack of Energy
Maybe you got a little too hype at your favorite dive last night or ate several racks of ribs for lunch. You feel sluggish, like the Dorne plotline in Game of Thrones. The best way to shake that grogginess is to get some rest, but not all of us have that luxury. That’s where these songs come in. Pairs well with 4 cups of favorite coffee.
- “Take Me Out” (Franz Ferdinand): Who doesn’t remember belting out the lyrics to this punk-inspired hit from 2004? The energy is at a constant high and the lyrics aren’t that complicated, so you can chant along with minimal effort.
- “Shabba (Remix)” (A$AP Ferg): BWAH! The original is pretty great, but the remix introduces Shabba Ranks himself, Migos at their most playful, and a Busta Rhymes whose lyrics careen around the track. Oh, and then there’s the fact that you can shout out your own ad-libs and it sounds just as good.
- “Dazz” (Brick): Ice Cube sampled it when he dissed the entirety of N.W.A. The most underrated character of 10 Things I Hate About You was the guy who chose this track to kick off a house party. Talk about versatility. It’s a disco-funk song that lays down an irresistible and catchy riff over an energetic bass line. Sax and flute solos take you off of the expected path, and just as you start to crave a return to the familiar bump, the riff comes back to hit you like, well, a brick.
- “Tamacun” (Rodrigo y Gabriela): After you see Walter White and Jesse Pinkman burn down their superlab and erase the evidence of their “special project”, everything becomes more dramatic and badass with this song playing in the background. Like the fight to keep your head from nodding off.
- “B.O.B.” (OutKast): Come on, you can’t have an energizing playlist without Outkast’s genre-bending single. Pitchfork named it as the top song of the decade for a reason. You’ve rapping at breakneck speeds, some D&B, a guitar solo, and full gospel choir for the more pious among us. All that is crammed into five minutes— just enough time for a quick listen before blasting off into Stankonia. Or back to your desk.
For Chiseling that Writer’s Block into a Masterpiece
So now you’re finally ready to go, only to realize that you have no idea what you’re going to write about. It’s one of the worst feelings, second only to having friends over for brunch, then promptly ruining the pancakes. Overcoming writer’s block takes time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t encourage movement in the right direction. Free your mind.
- “Violin Concerto” (Philip Glass): This work by Philip Glass (yes, relation to Ira of This American Life) is as simple or complex as the listener wants it to be. Even though the individual elements are defined by repetition, they work together to give the piece a sense of urgency and movement. It’s kind of like a blocked brain: you’re turning the same things over and over but know that you have to keep on chugging anyway.
- “Zodiac Shit” (Flying Lotus): When you’re struggling to find inspiration, sometimes the best thing to do is step way back and just surround yourself with the unfamiliar. This beat from FlyLo is a collage of sounds that manages to still surprise on the twentieth listen. The highlight? Midway, it sounds like it’s finally coming to a close, then turns you around back into the electronic unknown.
- “Unsquare Dance” (Dave Brubeck Quartet): Sounds cooler than Sidney Poitier in a gray flannel suit while listening to some jazz group you’ve never heard of in a West Village apartment. It encourages your imagination to run wild when you listen to it; a solid activity for when you’re stuck on ideas. Also, it has a really unique rhythm that defies pop expectations. It’s like giving your mind a massage from a bunch of really weird angles.
- “Denim” (Boeboe): Nothing about this song feels real. Somehow, the first thing you hear sounds like Prince emerging from the fog to embarrass you in pick-up ball. Then you hear a snare that you expect to be joined with some sick rhymes. But nah, you’re instead gifted with some sunny, luxe synths. The patterns are constant, but the sound fades in and out. Dreams sound like “Denim”. Turn it on and then float away.
- “Is this It?” (The Strokes) Writer’s block is natural, but eventually you’re going to have to get over it. When all else fails, just pick anything and run with it. See where it leads you. You have deadlines and plans to get a burrito as soon as you’re done with this one last thing. When Julian Casablancas is going on about asking “is this it?”, there’s no doubt your response will be anything shy of “No, it’s not. I got this. I need this burrito.”
For When You’re Feelin’ Frustrated
Hooray! You finally write something awesome. But then the unexpected happens: a client throws it right back in your face. Everyone catches an L on occasion: The ‘07 Patriots. Batman when he tried to fight Bane. Pixar’s box office total for The Good Dinosaur. When you get yours, don’t share an ill-thought-out tweet or get nasty with a client. Be cool, and let these songs do the talking.
- “Bulls on Parade” (Rage Against the Machine): “Bulls” is obviously an anti-war protest song, but substituting thoughts of kings and presidents for a tough client/situation still does the trick. You may look pinned down, but you’re ready to roar back with a plan. COME WIT IT NOW!
- “F***** in the Bushes” (Oasis): This song is an anthem. When you’re listening to it, you feel impervious to any petty criticism. You wrote a great article with a lot of love? And they’re trying tear you down? To destroy it? Well, they can go to hell. Just uh, don’t tell them that to the face.
- “Gone” (Kanye West): A frustration playlist doesn’t need to sound angry all the time. A cheery Otis Redding sample and expert string arrangements from Jon Brion give Yeezy, Killa Cam, and Consequence the perfect backdrop for a breakup song with the world. It’s song about the best kind of revenge: the kind that comes from your own hustle and success.
- “The Way I Am” (Eminem): With an angst that will make any teenager look like the most caring person on the planet, the rapper airs his frustration with the media, the industry, and the public. While your issues are probably a little bit different (unless you’re an embattled MC mired in controversy), there’s still a lesson to be learned here: vent, but turn that anger into something constructive. Em puts it best: “But I’m glad, ‘cause they feed me the fuel that I need for the fire to burn and it’s burning, and I have returned.”
- “Hate on Me” (Jill Scott): You gave the best thing a client could have wanted, and they couldn’t appreciate that. You gave them peaches out of your garden and made them a peach cobbler. You gave a dozen roses, and they were still miserable. At a certain point, you aren’t to blame. Just let go, and let ‘em hate.
Back in the Black
You went back to the drawing board and followed up disappointment with success. Which means your checking account is getting some love. And that you’ll gladly pick up the first round of Mac n’ Cheetos at Burger King. Go celebrate.
- “Just Got Paid” (Johnny Kemp): You could listen to the N*SYNC cover but 1) you won’t get that eighty-licious synth solo (or sick breakdown, if you’re watching the music video) and 2) you have to listen to Chris Kirkpatrick rap.
- “This Is How We Do It” (Montell Jordan): It feels weird not following up Just Got Paid with this 90s classic. Whether you’re in a company lounge or your mother’s living room, queuing this up will turn wherever you are into a party space.
- “The World is Yours” (NaS): This entry was almost “Poison”, but we had to stop before we just made this a New Jack Swing playlist. “The World is Yours” just might be the greatest song to wake up to, and the only thing that makes it better is checking your bank balance when you fall out of bed and seeing that sweet compensation.
- “Zillionaire” (Nao): Your hard work paid off and now you can (temporarily) withdraw greenbacks at will. You deserve to get a bit weird. This quirky song from Nao is kinda about how love is better than riches. Maybe it is, but what do we know? Enjoy the dead presidents first. Baby steps.
- “I Know (There’s Gonna Be Good Times)” (Jamie XX): It’s got something for everybody. Young Thug’s ululations slurp up Jamie’s beat, while Popcaan contributes to a Persuasions-sampled hook. And it sounds like you feel on payday: bright, silly, and (hopefully) nothing short of soulful.