Behind the Music

Within the depths of the Pleasant Pops office, behind the stacks of Hot Pops, through the simultaneous smells of pumpkin seeds roasting and Peppermint-Green Tea steeping, even beyond the magical Pop freezing machine, lies a giant wall calendar. As the head of events at Pleasant Pops, I’m in charge of updating the calendar each month with all kinds of relevant dates. November, for instance, includes one staff birthday, the dates we’re closed for Thanksgiving (Thursday and Friday), Small Business Saturday (the 29th), each blog topic for the month and when the monthly newsletter is slated to go out. There is a neighboring column where you can add notes for the next month’s events, to give yourself a head start. December, being as busy as it is, has many notes already included (a few more birthdays, our special Christmas hours, and our annual Holiday Bazaar). However, the most important date, as far as I’m concerned, is December 1st, which I believe is the day when we can finally start playing the Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack. Finally. 

It’s almost impossible to predict what kind of music will be playing in the cafe on any given day. Since we have complete control over the store soundtrack, it certainly varies barista to barista. Within the guidelines of “appropriate” language at an “appropriate” volume, we use a few different programs to play music. Songza is an amazing app with playlists to fit any mood, activity or genre you could think of. If you’re feeling “Introspective”  or “Hypnotic” it’s got you covered; if you’re “Lounging at a Cool Hotel” or “Barbecuing”, it has numerous playlists on hand. To give you a feeling for what you can find on Songza, here are some of my personal favorite playlists (often playing in the cafe during one of my shifts): 

At a ’90’s Frat BBQ: think Sublime, Cake and G Love & Special Sauce

Songs to Raise your Kids To: think Joni Mitchell, Simon & Garfunkel and Bob Marley

Parked at The Point: Oldies Love Ballads: think Etta James, Sam Cooke and The Supremes

Hip Hop for Polite Company: think Jay Z, Nicki Minaj and Drake (but the clean versions)

R&B Diva Sing-Alongs: think Whitney, Mariah and Beyonce


The other program we often use is Rdio, where you can play complete albums from your favorite artist and build personal playlists. It’s a fantastic program for when you’ve got that one song in your head and just have to hear it, or when you are going to a concert that night and want to get prepared by listening to the band all day. If you spend enough time in the cafe you may start to pick up on the various musical tastes of our baristas depending on what is playing. For instance, if you hear some Bruce Springsteen followed by Frank Sinatra followed by Jon Bon Jovi, it’s probably Vickie paying homage to her New Jersey roots. If there’s upbeat country tunes playing, Hannah is likely the DJ. When you think you’ve been hearing the same jam band playing a song for 15 minutes it’s probably Roger listening to his favorite “Handclapping and Footstomping” playlist. Aaron is usually grooving to some chill-wave artists like Tori y Moi or some surfer rock like Real Estate. My playlists range far and wide, where one morning could be all Elvis, another mostly Lauryn Hill and another The Avett Brothers. 

Though I’m analyzing our musical taste from behind the counter and rarely as a patron, I think it’s pretty awesome we’re encouraged to play whatever music we like. When the cafe is full of laptops on a Tuesday morning, it’s interesting the fill the silence with some laid back indie tunes or relaxing reggae beats. On a busy Saturday it’s fun to put on some Motown hits or Justin Timberlake to reflect the energetic vibe. And if it’s a chilly December morning and I’m working, you can be sure some Charlie Brown Christmas will be in the mix.