Photo by Izzy Zanone
As I sat down to listen to President Barack Obama’s two summer playlists on Spotify, one playlist made for day time and one made for night, I was worried that it would be exactly as I expected to be; some sort of mix of classical music and jazz. One thing I thought I knew for sure: it wouldn’t be the type of music I typically like to listen to. I was in for a pleasant surprise.
Obama concocts a clever blend of many types of music including rap, pop, singer-songwriter and jazz. His choices range from popular songs like “Superpower” by Beyonce to classic jazz picks like “My Favorite Things” by John Coltrane to singer-songwriter indie picks like “Elevator Operator” by Courtney Barnett.
If this wide range of music makes you skeptical at first look, let me reassure you. It is perfect. I never wanted to skip a song, because as I listened, I became more excited about hearing what song would come next. The songs flow perfectly in the order they were added to the playlist. The more I listen to it, the more I find myself impressed with its complexity. I appreciate the diversity in the music everytime I listen to it. It’s calming, but not dull; upbeat, but not exhausting; classics, but not out of date.
One of my favorite songs on the playlist was the first one called “Love Hate Thing” by Wale. It was a perfect start. Then you’re immediately thrown into another one of my favorites, “Smooth Sailing” by Leon Bridges. Obama tossed in some surprises throughout the playlists, one of the best of those being “Me Gustas Tu” by Manu Chao. The song is upbeat and sang all in Spanish, but I still found myself trying to sing along. Obama perfectly pairs two songs, “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone and “Stubborn Love” by the Lumineers on his night playlist.
In all honesty, I preferred the day playlist to the night playlist, but maybe that’s just my youth. The songs are a bit newer, i.e. “Classic Man” by Jidenna and “Tightrope” by Janelle Monae, in the day playlist, and as I listened to them I imagined sitting in the sun on a warm day with some friends – just what I needed as we entered the second week back to school. The night playlist was still entertaining, but it should be played at night, like it was intended. A night time boat ride would be ideal with this playlist because the songs are just a tad bit slower, for example, “Red & White & Blue & Gold” by Aoife O’Donovan and “The Best is Yet to Come” by Frank Sinatra.
As a bonus, Vice President Joe Biden also made a summer playlist on the White House’s Spotify account. Biden’s playlist consisted of more songs from the Beatles and Frank Sinatra era. The flow and diversity that was incorporated into Obama’s playlist just wasn’t there with Biden’s, but the individual songs were classic picks, which kept me listening.
This is the second year in a row that Obama has shared his summer playlist, and I, for one, hope that he doesn’t stop.