Last Updated: August 27th
Spotify is filled with users (including Spotify itself) who put in the effort to curate playlists that feature the right songs for the right mood, or perhaps what’s most current so you can be an informed fan. There are thousands and thousands of playlists, though, so let me help you out: Here are some of the best playlists on Spotify that check a variety of boxes, that will keep you in the loop, and that will expose you to some great stuff you may not have discovered otherwise.
Charli XCX’s The Motherf*cking Future Playlist
While she’s on tour with Taylor Swift and Camila Cabello — two of the greatest pop stars of the current era — Charli XCX has had an ear out for the stars that might be coming up behind them. Though she’s certainly busy opening up the all-female arena show, releasing new music, and traveling all around the world, she’s still managed to find time to update this extraordinary playlist, playfully dubbed “the motherf*cking future,” which features mostly women who are currently on top of their game, or artists from the past who were way ahead of their time. If there’s a great new pop song building momentum, it’s probably on here. And Charli doesn’t discriminate between indie, trendy, popular, or commercially successful — if it’s good pop music that sounds like the future, it’s here.
Insecure‘s Soundtrack Playlist
Insecure‘s third season is here, which means there’s never been a better time to get familiar with the show’s picks. Considering Issa and her crew had the help of Solange, it’s no wonder the show quickly became known for breaking out new artists and scooping up exclusives, like “Quicksand” by SZA, which debuted in an episode right when the queen of TDE was blowing up in the mainstream. There’s plenty of soothing R&B, mood-building rap, and more left of center sounds that are perfect for when you’re tired of your old favorites and ready for something new. Plus, the Insecure crew will probably be updating this throughout season three rolls out, even more reason to keep an eye out.
The Longest Mixtape: 1000 Songs For You (Various genres, by Caribou)
If you’re making a mixtape for somebody, it usually only has somewhere between 10-20 songs so as to not overwhelm the recipient. Caribou took a significantly opposite approach: In 2015, he shared “The Longest Mixtape,” which features over 1,000 songs. Caribou (real name Dan Smith) has called it “a musical history of my life,” and since he’s somebody who’s spent a lot of time poring over old vinyl and other musical oddities, there are surely some engaging picks among the thousand songs here.
New Music Friday (Pop/Hip-Hop/Indie, by Spotify)
For the purposes of this guide, I’ll try to stay away from Spotify’s in-house playlists, not because they’re not excellent (they are), but because this is about discovery, and Spotify’s playlists are the most obvious picks that you could easily find on your own without my direction. That said, it’s also a good idea to rely on them to provide a regularly updated playlist of the new stuff that’s hitting their platform on a weekly basis. That means that their New Music Friday playlist is the most essential resource if you want to know what’s new every week.
Pop All Day (Pop, by Spotify)
Same story with this playlist: Spotify knows what their users are listening to, so their Pop All Day mix will always have the biggest hits of the moment conveniently collected in one place. You could listen to pop radio, or you can take control over your pop and just throw this playlist on shuffle. Your call.
KEXP’s Song Of The Day 2018 (Indie, by KEXP)
Tastemaking is a big part of indie music fandom, and Seattle radio station KEXP has long been a leader on that front. So, naturally, their Song Of The Day playlist tends to be a strong mix of modern indie hits along with some new stuff in the same realm that might not have been brought to your attention. Once you’ve played your way through this one, you can also check out their Song Of The Day playlist from last year and fall in love with some gems that you may have missed out on in 2017.
BIRP! April 2018 (Indie, by BIRP!)
BIRP!’s goal is simple and noble: Every month, the site compiles a playlist that features over a hundred songs, mostly indie rock and indie pop, and although there are some familiar anchors, I can virtually guarantee that you haven’t heard most of what’s going on in these seven-or-so hours. It’s a wonderful opportunity for discovery, and one that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Dreampop/Shoegaze/Lo-Fi Buffet (Indie, by Chris Chan)
Some playlists are meant to be carefully curated experiences that have a narrative or aesthetic flow… and then there’s this behemoth. This 600-plus-song, 42-hour playlist was created in 2011, and although it was last updated in 2017, there’s still more than enough meat here to sink your teeth into, especially for fans of dreamy indie music like Beach House and that sort of thing. As Chan notes in his description, this playlist is best experienced on shuffle mode, so consider it a stocked pond where you can throw your line anywhere and come up with a big ol’ fish.
Rap Caviar (Hip-Hop, by Spotify)
This playlist is so famous that it’s been called “the most influential playlist in music,” and for good reason: It always has a pulse on what the rap hits of the moment are, and what songs are poised to break out real soon. If somebody in rap is doing something that matters right now, you’ll find it on Rap Caviar.
WHO’S NEXT (Hip-Hop, by Hot 97)
Rap Caviar knows what’s what in big-time hip-hop, but if you want to hear what rap is still bubbling under the surface, New York’s Hot 97 is a trusted name that has you covered. It’s one of the most important hip-hop radio stations in the world, so if they suggest that you should listen to something, but you haven’t heard of it, it’s probably a good idea to ignore your inhibitions and trust them.
lofi hip hop beats (Instrumental, by Chillhop Music)
You know those YouTube live streams that play chilled out, instrumental hip-hop around the clock, the ones that usually have screenshots of an anime character studying as the thumbnail? This is basically one of those in Spotify playlist form. It’s updated pretty regularly, so feel free to rely on this if you’re trying to concentrate on something, or even if you’re just trying to bob your head to some beats and don’t want lyrics getting in the way.
Soundtracks For Studying (Instrumental, by Katie O’Brien)
This is another studying playlist, although it’s much different than the previous one: It’s not updated as often (although it does seem to get some additions every few months), but it doesn’t need to be, considering it already has over 64 hours of film scores for you to throw on shuffle and let blur everything that’s going on in the background while you zero in on the task at hand. Sometimes songs with a beat can be too much, and in those cases, welcome home.
Hot Country (Country, by Spotify)
There’s always a bevy of songs trying to snag a piece of the feel-good country music pie, but Spotify has a solid feel over which of those many songs matter the most. The biggest blue-jean, dirt-road hits of today can all be found right here, so crack open a cold one, take off your boots, and relax (or put them boots back on and party on a Friday night).
Alt Country (Country, by Spotify)
Country, like all genres, is multifaceted, so while there’s the mainstream radio pop country, there are also artists pushing the genre in a different direction, downplaying and emphasizing different parts of the organic sound to create something different. Spotify keeps a solid mix of these adventurers up to date, so give it a whirl when your country craving is feeling a bit left of pop.
EDM Room (Electronic, by Spotify)
Electronic music and EDM has its own vibrant and specialized community that’s uber active, and for a newbie trying to get into it, it can be intimidating. Thankfully, Spotify sorts through it all and crafts this playlist of crossover hits and the less familiar that’s not quite suited for pop radio but can still get you moving.
2000s, 90s, 80s, 70s, and 60s Smash Hits (by Filtr US)
Sometimes you just want to relive the music that was blowing up at a certain time, and these playlists, which run about 150 songs each, will scratch that nostalgia itch for you, from the ’60s to the ’00s.
[Emoji-filled title] (Electronic, by Four Tet)
Four Tet’s primary Spotify playlist (the name of which is an unpronounceable string of emojis) is famous for sometimes debuting new Four Tet songs, but it’s much more than that: He adds to it all the time, and since he’s one of the most interesting thinkers in music, his ever-expanding mix (which is currently 73 hours long) is a fascinating and entertaining insight into his curious brain.
Danger Mouse Jukebox (Various genres, by Danger Mouse)
Danger Mouse, aka a Gnarls Barkley member and producer extraordinaire, is dedicated to his playlist craft, so every week, he updates his 50-song mix with different songs drawing from psychedelic, soul, indie rock, new wave, post-punk, and more. He’s worked with some great people and has done some fantastic work himself, so his recommendations are worth heeding.
Played by Jamie xx (Electronic/Dance, by Jamie xx)
The xx’s Jamie xx doesn’t update his playlist as often as he used to, but as it stands now, there’s still over 18 hours of music here. It consists of songs that he’s played during DJ gigs or on the radio, and since he’s established himself as a fine curator and remixer, this should be considered a hand-picked gift from one of today’s best electronic producers.