The age of the playlist is upon us. Even as she gears up for next month’s release of her new album All For You, singer-songwriter Emily West knows that curated song sets featuring multiple artists are becoming more and more important, especially on streaming services like Spotify. So the America’s Got Talent finalist, whose performance of Sia’s “Chandelier” went viral last year, is out with a new “Breakup Songs” playlist debuting today exclusively here at Blogcritics.
It’s “back to the future” in a way, reminiscent of the days of free-form radio DJs who cultivated followings by putting together their own shows to set a mood or establish their aesthetic temperament. Except that today, artists themselves are designing some of the creative, meaningful playlists you can find on streaming sites. Emily West’s new Spotify playlist is a prime example.
We had a chance to ask the sultry chanteuse about how she came up with the set, which includes songs by artists ranging from Barbra Streisand and Nina Simone to Bruce Springsteen and Antony & the Johnsons.
More songs are about love, relationships, and breakups than probably anything else. Most of the songs on your “Breakup Songs” playlist are classics of one kind or another. Are they mostly old favorites of yours? Are any of them new discoveries?
I usually tend to go towards the old familiar if I’m going through a breakup. It’s comforting to hear something familiar when you’re heartsick.
You lead off with your own “Bitter.” What’s behind that song?
I was listening to a lot of Celtic music when I wrote “Bitter.” I took excerpts from an old journal entry and it became a song I guess. The lyrics are pretty sad when you break it down. But there’s an empowering chant behind it as well.
Music is healing when you’re in pain and a part of me tends to go towards the unmercifully sad and beautiful truth. For instance, I can’t listen to Tom Waits’s “If I Have to Go” without crying. It’s the absolute best. Truth hurts – and it’s so good.
There are a few tracks from artists who aren’t quite household names. I was happy to see Griffin House’s “Tell Me a Lie,” which is still in one of my own iTunes playlists from when I reviewed the album 10 years ago, but which a lot of listeners won’t know. Are playlists a good way to introduce fans to artists you think should get more “airplay?”
I think it’s a brilliant way to find new music and discover new artists. I’ve been a huge fan of Griffin House ever since I moved to Nashville. His voice and his stories have complete heart. I love underground artists. They tend to stick to their guns and leave the glitter at home.
You’ve also picked relatively little-known songs by famous artists, like Tom Petty’s “A Face in the Crowd.” Have Tom Petty’s songs inspired you over the years?
Tom’s the king. His songs are so simple and so a part of America. Every song of his has affected some part of my life. The Heartbreakers have been a big part of the reason why Nashville has so many starving musicians. Everyone wants to be Tom and a Heartbreaker.
“A Face in the Crowd” is just a song I lean towards when I wanna feel sorry for myself and pretend I’m the “girl in the video.”
It’s great to hear Harry Nilsson’s “Without You.” I’m happy you included his version and not Mariah Carey’s! What does this song mean to you?
No one can touch Harry Nilsson’s version. Richard Perry said he sang it in one take.
That song is a song you sing alone to in your home with the shades down and hope that no one sees you. I’m sure everyone’s done it.