I think for any great playlist, you need these three things: nostalgia, pop favorites, and some surprise. This has held true for every mix I’ve ever made for myself and others and the playlist for Ella’s first birthday party was no exception.
For Ella’s party (and for kid’s parties in general), I wanted the tone to be generally upbeat but there are some sad love songs that were too pretty to not include. I stuck with ones that are more sweet and wistful than depressing or angry. Think “Someone Like You,” not “Rolling in the Deep.”
For the nostalgic picks, I like to use Disney, 80s classics, 90s favorites, and sweet oldies.
Examples: James Taylor, Destiny’s Child, Ella Fitzgerald, Van Morrison, Backstreet Boys, Weezer, Hall & Oates, Sam Cooke, Michael Jackson, Louis Armstrong, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, and The Beatles.
Pop favorites are pretty straightforward: well known artists and songs that get plenty of radio time so they should be recognizable to most of your guests.
Examples: Adele, Taylor Swift, A Great Big World, Bruno Mars, B.O.B., Sam Smith, Lorde, MKTO, John Mayer, Neon Trees, The Fray, Ben Folds, Michael Buble, Maroon 5, and Fun.
One of my favorite activities used to be making mix CDs for people. I would follow pretty much this same formula, mixing The Little Mermaid with Backstreet Boys and Taylor Swift. But I would always add something I didn’t think the recipient had heard before. Whether it was an Adele song that hadn’t been an official single, or a cool acoustic cover of a well known song or an artist they’d never heard of before– I’ve always loved sharing music.
Examples: Motion City Soundtrack, Eric Hutchinson, James Morrison, McFly, Vance Joy, Chairlift, Marina & the Diamonds, Sleeping at Last, and The Format.
Specifically for this kid party, I wanted to have a lot of sweet and quirky songs playing. They would set a fun, upbeat atmosphere that was appropriate for kids but that adults could enjoy.
Examples: Kate Nash, Corinne Bailey Rae, Regina Spektor, Ingrid Michaelson, Amos Lee, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, Landon Pigg, Tim Myers, The Beatles, Joshua Radin, and Owl City.
I had a lot of fun planning Ella’s party and making the playlist. Music is so tied up in my emotions that it was another way for me to personalize the day, creating an atmosphere and attitude people could feel on their way into the party. But most importantly for me, making playlists has been a way to use the superior talent and touching creativity of people I admire to express myself. After all, The Curated Life is about putting things together to create beauty and music is no different.