The Right Next Song

It’s not the songs that take you back nearly as much as it’s those songs in that order. To me, that’s kind of the most important bit: the narrative and meaning constructed through the selection and the arrangement of the tunes, even more than the songs themselves. ‘Why this song?’ is not as interesting a question to me as ‘why that song after this one?’ or ‘why is that song track one?’
— Andrew Dubber

As someone who makes a lot of mix tapes (i.e. obsesses over song order way too much), I really enjoyed Andrew Dubber's post about “the right next song”, as it perfectly captures the often overlooked thought that goes in to making a ‘proper’ mix tape (he also mentions how he's been playing around with creating a virtual DJ that automagically does this… and I really hope he shares that technology, as I'd love to set it loose on my iTunes library).

Sometimes you just need someone else to articulate something that rents out a large portion of your head to make you feel a little less alone. Because sometimes when I listen to other people's mix tapes / playlists (whether that be on 8tracks or actual mix cds I've been given), I can't help but notice that they've clearly just took a bunch of songs that they like and threw them together. The lack of song order thought is palpable. And that sort of thing feels so foreign to me —especially when the same artist is featured on the mix more than once!— and it often makes me question whether I am wasting huge chunks of my life stressing out about ‘the right next song’. Does it really matter?

The reality is that 'the perfect song order' probably doesn't matter much to a very large percentage of people (of course, they are wrong). When you're just passively listening to a mix tape, the perfectness of a transition can be easily missed, and the difference between the ‘right next song’ and the ‘good enough next song’ can be hard to catch if you're not paying attention (or even worse, if you're pushing the 'skip track' button searching for the obvious 'hits' and missing out on the in-between tracks that provide a hidden narrative). Unfortunately, I'm usually paying way too much attention to that sort of thing (often more than I am paying attention to whoever or whatever is talking at me while the music is meant to just be providing the background noise).

So hat tip to Andrew Dubber for confirming that I am not the only crazy one wasting time and brain cells on over analyzing what song should come next and why. At the very least, there is at least one more crazy one out there.