Crafting the perfect workout playlist is an art—a very time-consuming art that, frankly, requires more brainpower than it has any right to. Music streaming services have tried to offset that burden with pre-made general workout playlists to get your heart rate up. Now, Spotify is taking that a step further with its new Soundtrack Your Workout playlist generator.
I’m not saying I fell to my knees, weeping in supplication, but since the start of the global pandemic, my go-to running and strength training playlists have gotten stale. More frustrating, I do not have the Time or Energy required for a thorough reworking to fit my activity, session length, or the Emotion of the Week. Soundtrack Your Workout attempts to ease that strain by doing the customization of a playlist specifically for you.
The tool works by asking you a series of questions to determine what kind of playlist you might need. How long are you planning to work out? What genres do you want the playlist to cover? What type of workout are you doing? (The generator lets you choose between popular activities like running, cycling, and yoga, but also more general categories like lifting and cardio.) You can also note whether you’re exercising solo, with a partner either in-person or virtually, or with your kids. There’s an option to filter out explicit music, and you can toggle whether you want a playlist to include music, podcasts, or a blend of both.
Once you finish the quiz, Spotify will cross-reference the answers against your listening habits, and voilà, a minimal-effort playlist. It’s kind of like mixing a BuzzFeed personality quiz with the Discover Weekly playlist. At least, that’s what it sounds like.
The reality is this: I made four playlists and my results were... mixed. Some of that was probably because algorithms and I may not agree as to what fits in a genre—I may listen to some show tunes and Sad Lady Ballads for shower karaoke, but I have zero interest in hefting a kettlebell to “A Night to Remember - Original Version” from High School Musical 3: Senior Year or Adele’s “Someone Like You.” (Also, I have never knowingly listened to any songs from the High School Musicals.) These were baffling additions for a 15-minute lifting session where I set the vibe to the “Ready to Move” option. Don’t get me wrong, Adele’s music is very moving and she features in many of my playlists—but mostly the ones reserved for crying in a bathtub over mediocre flings who did not deserve my tears.
Meanwhile, for an experimental playlist for a 60-minute long run, I selected K-pop and hip-hop, along with the “Pumped Up” mood. One, because a long, slow run requires some upbeat tunes to keep you going, and two, because I keep seeing BTS and Blackpink pop up everywhere and I’m curious. I got one K-pop song, from Girls’ Generation, and the majority of the hip-hop artists it picked, I’m not terribly fond of and don’t really listen to.
Of the four mixes I made, my 30-minute rock-and-indie walking playlist was probably the best. But it also was almost exclusively Billie Eilish and Solange songs from two albums, neither of which I would categorize as rock or indie music. I could just as easily listen to the entirety of Solange’s When I Get Home without going through the rigamarole of a quiz.
It’s possible my experience was a bit borked; maybe this tool will work better for you. I will likely try it again a few more times, because I still do not have the Time or Energy to craft a better playlist—and the tool itself is pretty fast and convenient. As for today’s strength training session, I will probably just loop this YouTube remix of Apple’s Craig Federighi at WWDC 2020 saying, “I Just Go Into Jiggle Mode.”