Music is my first love. Our relationship began in third grade, when a classmate gave me a taped recording (as in, actual cassette tape) of songs by Yolanda Adams that he liked. Listening to Through the Storm, The Battle is the Lord’s, and What About the Children for the first time, I was overwhelmed. Her voice grabbed hold of my entire body; each song carried me away and returned me home gently as it faded into the next.
From there, the love deepened. CeCe Winans, Daryl Coley, Christina Aguilera, and Stacie Orrico were the musical cornerstones of my childhood, but supporting and surrounding them were acts from nearly every genre I encountered: P.O.D., Charlotte Church, Ella Fitzgerald, Brandy, Toni Braxton, Mariah Carey—the list feels endless.
A great tune helps me create my best work; some sounds aid better than others. I categorize my work music based on the type of tasks I do: subdued instrumentals for focused writing and beat-driven, vocal-centered songs for photography, editing, and other visual to-dos.
Enjoy my handpicked favorites within these categories below, then tell me: Are there others that should be added to the list? Leave a comment or contact me with your own personal picks.
Work Music When Writing
Though I consider myself a capable writer, the actual process of writing is labor-intensive. I’m not one to word vomit. Instead, I like to pluck and prune as I go along, carefully looking over and under each phrase for intent. It’s a constant dialogue between fast-moving fingers and illuminated screen; the only human voice that I need to hear in my head is my own.
Instrumental jazz diminishes outside distraction while providing a motivating, reassuring backdrop for the ideas being sussed out. The dark, brooding, and introspective sounds of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Jaco Pastorius, and Wayne Shorter are my favorites. In between their brilliance, I also sprinkle in Santana’s energetic Latin fusion, the electronic soul of Flying Lotus and Badbadnotgood, plus a few others. If on Tidal, enjoy my When Writing playlist. If not, here are some of the 50+ magical songs currently on it:
Work Music When Not Writing
While writing, slow and dark sounds cushion the words forming on paper. But for photography, photo editing, and other creative pursuits, uplifting and empowering rhythms, complemented by a strong voice, drive the work along.
Though there are a few rock and funk tunes in its periphery, most of my When Not Writing picks center around pop and r&b. I gravitate toward songs that make me feel happy without requiring a lot of work to emotionally unpack. Though the best gems in the genre are often nuanced, most pop and r&b masterworks are as face-value as it gets.
Try *NSYNC’s Do Your Thing or Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ for guaranteed work motivation. And if Wouldn’t Change a Thing About You by Earth, Wind & Fire doesn’t put you in a cheerful mood, it may be time to check your pulse.
I scour through music's wisdom daily for answers. In addition to my tried-and-true favorites, I make it a point to listen to one song I’ve never heard before nearly every day. It's a way of staying connected to the love that captivated me so many years ago.
Tell me: What songs give rhythm to your day?