Picking the Party Playlist

Am I the only person who feels an insane amount of pressure every time I have to pick the music for any type of social situation?

Ever since high school, it has always seemed like your taste in music is a key factor in determining your cool points. Different social circles and subcultures have different ideas of what “cool music” is, and I never quite know what other people will think if I put Beyonce on at a party. What about the Rolling Stones? Or The Decemerists, Beirut, Neil Young, Eminem, Taylor Swift, or the soundtrack to Les Miserables? I like all kinds of music. I even like Gaelic folk music if I’m in the right mood. My iTunes is schizophrenic.

picking the playlist

The upside is that I’m pretty much guaranteed to like whatever music anyone else picks. But the downside is that I feel weirdly strong anxiety any time my music tastes are exposed to the world.

I think it started when a girl in my high school wore a Killers t-shirt. This was in the mid-2000s at the height of the Killers’ mainstream popularity. I happened to like Mr. Brightside and enough of their other songs to own the CD. In fact, it was probably one of the last CDs I owned before the mp3 age took over.

“I’m only wearing this shirt ironically,” the girl in my class said.

“What’s ironic about the Killers?” I asked.

“Well ‘cause I don’t actually like them. Like, everyone knows they’re not a good band so I’m obviously wearing this shirt ironically.”

I think this was around the same time that I learned what a hipster is.

I suppose I internalized the lesson then that our taste in music can effect how we are perceived socially.

I’m twenty-five years old. I have a grown-up job, a university degree (and a half), and a retirement savings plan. I was sure I’d stopped caring about being cool a really long time ago.

Until I somehow got put in charge of picking the music at work.

Luckily, I have no control over the music that plays when the restaurant is actually open, but I get to pick a YouTube playlist that we listen to as we set up the patio, fold napkins, and generally prepare ourselves for brunch. Suddenly I felt that sixteen-year-old music anxiety all over again. Will people think I’m too immature and girly if I want to play Taylor Swift? Will they think I’m a boring old hippie if I admit I love Neil Young? Do cool people still listen to The Arcade Fire?

My friends and I nearly started a riot at the last house party we went to because we switched the music from rap to classic rock.

“Turn off that garbage!” Someone said in response to the opening verse of an AC/DC classic.

My mind was blown. I thought classic rock was a safe bet.

So what’s the conclusion here? Am I too sensitive? Probably. Does society in general need to be less snobby about their music tastes? Probably.

What do you think? Am I over-thinking my work playlists or are there other people out there who feel a similar pressure? Please tell me I’m not alone!