Illustration by Taman Temirgaliyeva

Through the Ears to the Heart

The Subtle Art of Gifting Playlists

Feb 13, 2022

Playlists can serve multiple purposes, from making songs across a range of genres accessible in one place, to being used by DJs and radio stations thanks to their convenient list format. Creating a playlist is an experience, one that often requires some sifting and sorting through a few songs until you get the right one that “fits”. We don’t really listen to individual songs, but we also rarely listen to a full album in one sitting. Having control over what specific songs you can listen to in one go is an underrated luxury, which the days of mix-tapes and vinyl records could not accomplish.
Spotify and Apple Music can actually go a long way when it comes to showing someone what they mean to you. I often ponder what the perfect gift would be, for a friend, a partner or a sibling. My love language is gift giving, but I struggle to think of gifts that are the perfect balance between thoughtful-creative and sentimental-original. If your love language is either gift giving or acts of service, or even if all you want to do is make someone happy, creating a playlist especially for them is a fool-proof recommendation. Curating the perfect playlist for someone is not novel art, but it is certainly an idea that will never get old (so start working those brains. It’s ingenious, I promise you).
How do you tackle the looming questions of “what songs do I add?”, “how many?”, “how could I possibly know which one fits the occasion?” and lastly “how on earth do I symbolize a relationship through a few songs?”
Fear not, because I’ve got you covered. All it takes is five easy steps:
  1. Know the person you want to make the playlist for. Get to know them well enough to understand what genres they like, or what sort of songs they jam to. This is naturally easier for best friends of ten years than it is for budding relationships, but it is also a great way to get to know someone.
  2. Add a sprinkle of personal flavor to your playlist. This involves adding songs that may not necessarily be their taste, but which remind you of them, or give them some insight into what you think of them. For instance, there are countless songs about friends out there, but which lyrics are exclusive to your own relationship? Do The White Stripes or Randy Newman speak to you more?
  3. It doesn’t all have to be a trip down memory lane. Some songs can make zero sense but still get you grooving, which applies to this task as well. Are there any specific songs you jam to often with your friend/partner/sibling etc., or any beats you know they’ll love? You could add that one TikTok tune you danced to together, or a hit from the 2010s that was played at every party but somehow never became overrated (Dynamite I’m looking at you).
  4. Throw in a couple of songs that you enjoy. That’s all there is to it. No hidden meanings, no symbolism, no fuss. It just sounds good and you like it. This could be a window into your own taste, and if they are close enough they would already know. If they’re not, now they know.
  5. The more variety, the better. Contrary to popular opinion, a playlist for someone does not have to fit one specific genre, mood or occasion. This is not your typical workout or dance playlist, it can be a mix of all things fun and unique to your relationship (from soul to rock to country). I mean really, you are the master of your own craft.
It is pretty self-explanatory, but the overarching tip to remember is that effort shows. As long as you add songs that mean something, whether they are more sentimental or groovy, the effect will be favorable. For questions of “how many?” and “how long should the playlist be?”, the answer depends on the context. It can range from ten songs to a hundred, but every song has to serve a purpose (even if you just like it). While this list is not exhaustive and is certainly not written by any expert, I hope it is helpful enough.
Morgane S. Motlik is Senior Columns Editor. Email her at
gazelle logo