Music is magic. It transforms rush hour traffic into a sing along dance party. It takes you back in time to your first slow dance. It banishes worries at the end of a hard day, and it summons energy before a night on the town. Most importantly, though, music can make even a total stranger feel seen, understood, and loved like nothing else.
The summer after I turned 17 I had two close friends who were a year ahead of me and preparing to graduate. It was a precarious time for all of us. We were braced on the edge of some big changes, excited and a little scared. I knew I wanted to do something special for them, so I called up all the memories that made up our friendship: Sitting on the front steps of my parent’s house telling stories. Or the time we came up with a sword fighting skit for drama class that combined all of our favorite nerdy references. Celebrity crushes, real life crushes, secrets and stories. I mulled over and steeped myself in the essence of who we were, trying to find the right words said in the right way to communicate how happy I was for them and how much I would miss them. I wrote and re-wrote and re-wrote and when I was finally satisfied with the end result, I performed it at the end of the year talent show. It’s one of those special memories that sticks.
If you’re not a songwriter, it doesn’t mean you are cut off from the magic of music. Services like Spotify make sharing playlists super easy, and when they are crafted with care, they can be equally powerful. The key is to collect as much detailed inspiration as possible, kind of like I did when I wrote my song for my friends and like I do now whenever I write a song for one of my commissioned song clients. Write down your memories, draw up your feelings, look at photographs and journal entries. Get really clear on how you want the mix to feel and what you’re trying to say with it, and how best to say that for the person you’re creating it for.
Start with songs that have significant value to you and the person in question. Did you go to any concerts together? Was there a song that was really popular when you first met? Is there anything that you both feel is a good representation of your relationship?
It can also help to be intentional about the feel of the songs. If you’re trying to cheer someone up, it helps to put songs that reflect their current feelings at the beginning, with more hopeful tracks later.
Feel can also relate to the seasons and imagery that songs bring up. If you met in the summer and you’re making something for your anniversary for example, you might pick songs that have a fun upbeat sound, that use lots of bright melodies along with any songs that remind you of that time.
Sometimes you don’t even have to make a playlist; instead use music that correlates to what is on your friend’s mind. If someone is dealing with a lot of stress at work, a gift of soothing instrumentals might be just the thing or an album of kid’s songs for the expectant mother, even study music before the SATS or GREs.
When you put some thought into it, music becomes the ultimate gift. Have fun making your playlists and the smiles they bring to all your favorite faces.
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