Rant: Study Playlists


Recently, I found an interesting YouTube video entitled “playlist to study like kant awakening from the dogmatic slumber in which his philosophy was immersed.” The YouTuber thought he captured Immanuel Kant’s philosophy—specifically the dogmatic slumber in which his philosophy is immersed—in a single playlist. The only problem: everyone knows that Kant is incomprehensible and less interesting than Hegel or Marx, so there is no awakening Kant or his readers from a slumber induced by any of his books, including Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals. Perhaps Cinderella found one of his books! [Ed. Note—Cinderella?] Of course, the YouTuber’s playlist is a collection of classical music, because anyone who thinks Kant is a name to drop is interested solely in classical music. Even so, the list made me think about how music can capture feelings, and historical moments, and also how it affects my studying. Music moves the soul, inspires the heart, and promotes cognitive ability and social harmony. Anyway, enough profoundness for the day, let’s look at some playlists!

Naturally, I clicked on the video, and the algorithm led me down a rabbit hole of clumsily named study playlists. Ironically, I got no homework done that night.

Among the other playlists were: “studying like a scholar in the baroque period (playlist),” “meditating like a philosopher in the baroque period (playlist),” and “when you have to finish your homework in less than 1 hour (a playlist).” The last one is particularly amusing. It begins (which is as far as I’ve listened) with the same classical motif repeated again and again, but slightly faster and in a higher pitch each time, provoking higher states of stress, anxiety, and anguish, all of which would prevent you from completing your homework within an hour.

I also found a “playlist to study like a medieval philosopher having the truth revealed by divine grace,” which is unlikely to happen if you’re doing math homework. (You need more than grace to get through calculus.) And then I found the inspiring “A playlist for a 19th century villain rejoicing in his fallen enemies,” which I consider to be absolutely appropriate and relevant for any homework assignment. You can consider the homework your enemy, or you can consider procrastination the enemy, but either way, this playlist should (theoretically) help you vanquish your assignments. Although the 19th-century villain playlist does seem to promote the kind of dead-souled brooding that is present in many 19th-century paintings, so I’m not sure it will get you in the mood for homework.

Think of all the time we have wasted trying to find a good study playlist. We could have used that time to actually study, right? Procrastination (and lack of motivation) aside, it’s interesting that we prioritize having a good study playlist over actually getting work done. Therefore, I present to you the definitive list of music to study to:

  • For theology homework, The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” on continuous loop should be inspirational.
  • For students of economics trying desperately to balance budgets and live up to The Wolf of Wall Street, see my article on Barrett Strong’s “Money, That’s What I Want.”
  • For English students, I don’t think “Paperback Writer” quite cuts it, but if you really need to get your work done, I recommend The Ramones and other punk rock bands, such as the Dammed, the Clash, the Pogues, and Black Flag.
  • For geography students, no music by bands named after cities, countries or states, such as Chicago, America, Boston, or Kansas. That’s cheating! Why not try the Proclaimers and their hit “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).
  • For science homework, there is only one answer: Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science.” In a pinch, the theme song from The Big Bang Theory might do.
  • For music students, I recommend putting a metronome at 100 beats per minute and blasting it through the loudest speaker you own. Perhaps that will fix your problems with keeping in time.
  • History students should of course utilize Schoolhouse Rock, but also listen to period-appropriate music. For example, when studying the Renaissance, one should listen to 2Cellos’ “Thunderstruck.” That should be baroque enough for any history assignment!
  • Math students (particularly calculus students) are in luck, because there are massive amounts of math parodies on the internet. Take this playlist, for example, of 40 Calculus Parodies. And that’s not even all of them. When doing calculus homework, you have to derive joy from someplace.

There is a playlist for almost every possible contingency. Even “when you wake up late and have to get to school in less than 30 minutes.” Most of us will not wake up from dogmatic slumbers, but this one is quite likely to happen to us all.

Perhaps more likely is when “you’re in a russian novel.” Most of us have also been in that position. By the way, is there such a thing as Russian comedy?

Deadlines, reading, walking, sleeping, writing poetry, cooking, and running are just a tiny sample of the YouTube library. But with so many choices, it can be hard to actually make a commitment to listen to one playlist. Often, we keep searching for the “perfect playlist.” We spend more time worrying about the music in the background of our activities than the activities themselves. Perhaps that is the goal of YouTube, to keep us just wanting a little bit more every time so that we constantly have to interact with its algorithm and suffer through its ads. Perhaps one day they will make a playlist entitled, “A playlist to help you forget the last playlist you endured doing homework.”