Anatomy of a Playlist (Noteworthy 2-27-2017)
Ivan here from Noteworthy (Mondays, 6PM-8PM). I’m back again to give you some insight into how the show gets made and what goes into some of the decision making.
Juggling multiple genres is an essential part of Noteworthy, but in order to make the leap from one sound to the next, I try to make sure that it feels seamless when you’re listening. Think of it in the same way you would a mix CD from back in the day. It’s a key part of what makes the show fun to do and a challenge every week. This dissection will show you how my brain works.
I wanted to start the show off talking about the BRITs and how it’s always more fun than the Grammys. Skepta’s performance of “Shutdown” gave me the perfect excuse to play a track from one of my favorite 2016 albums and provided plenty for me talk about at the top of the show. The Grammys are afraid of any kind of aggression in hip hop and here is Skepta, lording over England’s biggest music stage in a hoodie with a song that partially mocks those uncomfortable with seeing aggression from hip hop (re: Kanye’s 2015 BRIT performance). Score one for the BRITs. From there, I went to another grime song in the Lady Leshurr track and an old Neptunes track, which has sort of bouncy grime feel if you pair it with the right song.
I knew at this point I wanted to make the transition to mellowing things down (you’ll see why soon enough), so the new Jidenna single was a way to make that bridge since it has enough bottom to it to not be too jarring of a switch-up. Honestly, my main priority was to finally play Gallant’s “Skipping Stones.” Adrian Younge, Jhene Aiko and a falsetto with classic flair? I do this for the people.
Every week, I have anywhere from three to seven of what I like to call priority tracks. These are the songs that are currently in heavy rotation for me and take up most of my day, meaning I must play them on Noteworthy at any cost. Leapling’s “Alabaster Snow” was one of those and after about a month or two of false starts, I was now determined to construct most of this week’s show around playing it. Starting with grime and then finding yourself in indie pop land one hour later gave my brain and my ears quite the work out. That Dirty Projectors track played a key role in making “Alabaster Snow” happen.
I had to to mellow things down eventually because Randy Newman’s “Political Science” was another priority track. The original recording on Sail Away is pretty sparse, so I couldn’t get too crazy with shifting tones. From that point, it was easy to make a leap to paying tribute to Leon Ware by way of Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You.” And why was “Political Science” a priority track? It reminds me of a certain country’s efforts to become great again…
Matt Martians’ “Dent Jusay” was another priority track and I had been sitting on this combination of following it up with Sa-Ra Creative Partners and Thundercat for a few weeks. I’ll listen to a song and almost immediately, I can think of a record or two to pair it with it. Over time, I build up a lot of these combos. Some I get to fairly quickly and others usually wait awhile before I can surround them with the right circumstances. All three of those songs had a slick synth sound that connected them, so it wasn’t hard to find a spot for them. After that, since things were in a soulful mood, I decided to end with an epic live version of Jill Scott’s “He Loves Me (Lyzel In E Flat),” which clocked in at over eleven minutes. I love long tracks that hold my attention and I reserve those for the last song on the show.
Sidenote: now that I see what members of The Internet can do by themselves, their next album has to be mind-blowing from beginning to end, right?
Don’t forget to check Noteworthy out live every Monday from 6PM-8PM CT at uicradio.org.