From Our Teen Readers
Updated Mar 12, 2015 @ 3:21 pm

We all love music. Whether it’s Bon Iver’s crooning melancholy melodies, Vampire Weekend’s upbeat “dance around in your underwear” sound, or Kid Cudi’s poetic rapping, music fits into our lives anytime, anywhere. The personal connections created by songs is a kind a magic that does exist. It’s almost like the tunnel scene in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, because one song can connect with you and your friends in such a way it’s truly indescribable.

One day you’ll be twenty and you’ll find the songs that made you feel infinite in your teen years, and you feel that familiar wave of magic. So, what’s the best way to share this magic with everyone? Make a playlist. The trick is creating the perfect blend of songs that complement each other. Just like you wouldn’t serve steak with chicken, you wouldn’t put songs on the same playlist that just don’t belong together.

Step 1: Choose a theme.

This feat is absolutely crucial in creating your playlist. Slower songs with a nostalgic sad feel might be grouped together for those moments when you feel like curling up in ball. For when you want to cheer up, make a playlist full of self-loving anthems and heart warming tunes like Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros’ “Home.”

You can create a theme based on anything you want; let your creativity flow! Want one for when you ski? Put in your earbuds, pull down your hat, and hit the slopes. Sick of long boring car rides? Fill up your playlist with thought-provoking lyrics and dreamy drumlines perfect to stare out the window to. One thing I find helpful is having one for every mood I’m in at a certain time since for myself, music is the best relief. My personal favorite to listen to is my friend’s stargazing playlist on Spotify. Most of the time I’m not stargazing when I listen, but its compatible collection of slow mellow songs is essential to my nightly ritual of calming down and relaxing.

Step 2: Select your songs.

When creating your playlist, it is important to keep in mind exactly who you are making it for. If it’s private all the better, but playlists also make for very personal and thoughtful gifts. Selecting the songs on your playlist shouldn’t be a brutal painstaking task: It should be something you put your heart into, but still be fun. Most importantly, be sure to mix it up! Put on a few old favorites you haven’t played in a while, a few tunes that you’re obsessing over now, or a few new songs you just discovered by listening to Pandora or Spotify.

If the playlist is for someone else, base the song selections on what they would like. My brother, for example, loves songs that rock, and gets down to The Fratellis or The White Stripes but wouldn’t be caught dead listening to the electric vibe of MGMT. On the flip side, my best friend prefers the moody sound created by bands such as alt-J and The 1975. It all depends on the receivers’ personal preferences. Playlists can reveal anything from “I’ve been in love with you since middle school” to “Thanks for being such a great friend.”

Step 3: Establish an order.

An ideal playlist should be a lot like having a conversation with a friend; you start with a topic you’re both interested in and go from there. Playlists should start with a tune that will really capture your mood and pull you into the music, otherwise, listening to the rest of the playlist is pointless if the first song isn’t fantastic. Around three-fourths through the playlist is where your explosive throw your head back and scream along climax should be. This is the song that brings tears to your eyes, the song that makes you break out and dance in spasmodic movements, this is the song that makes the playlist.

Afterward, remember to follow up with two or three more songs to recover from the intense emotions you just experienced. Take a breather; you’ll need it. Some songs cannot be followed by any others, and then you’ll have found your end song. Ideally, the finale should satisfy your musical appetite. If you happen to be hungry for more, keep searching for similar songs and keep on listening.

Whether you’re six or 86, a playlist is bond to satisfy, reveal, or create countless ideas full of thoughtful emotions. So now that you’re ready, go and make that playlist for your mom so she actually can listen to good music, or one for your best friend thanking her for all that she has done for you, or make one for that boy saying all the things you can’t put into words, or just one for you and you only. But most importantly, have fun with it. Music is an incredible thing and should be celebrated in every way possible, so happy listening!

Elliot Van Noy is a 15-year-old high schooler living in Southwest Virginia. She’s a feminist, a green tea enthusiast, and is only slightly obsessed with classic rock. When she isn’t running on her school’s cross country team, she’s on Tumblr. She loves books and her favorite is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, the Harry Potter series coming in a close second. Listen to her Time to Dance playlist here.

(Images via here, here, here, and here.)