Mitski Crafts a Playlist Fit for a Jazz Snob

The singer-songwriter shares an energetic playlist featuring Duke Ellington, Santana, and more.

Photo Credit: Ebru Yildiz

Mitski Miyawaki (aka Mitski) started her career while attending SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music, where she self-released her first two albums. Her fourth album, “Puberty 2,” was named Pitchfork’s Best New Music and earned her the title of Best Songwriter of 2016 by the Village Voice, and she is currently on tour. Here she is with a playlist even the biggest jazz snob can enjoy.


Duke Ellington – “Caravan”

Mitski: So for college, I went to a music conservatory that has a jazz department, and I hated everyone in the jazz department. It wasn’t that I hated the people, it’s just I didn’t like the bro-y culture where like everyone was trying to one-up each other on their jazz knowledge. So I associated that with jazz itself and I stopped listening to it. But then, after college, I actually realized that’s just conservatory culture. It’s not necessarily jazz itself. 

I like this at the beginning of playlists, usually, because it helps start things off. It sets a mood, which I think is important during a dinner party. It’s important to get everyone kind of feeling lively and talkative. And I think I chose music that encourages that.

Santana feat. Rob Thomas – “Smooth”

Mitski: Everyone knows it and, really, everyone loves it. I think it’s kind of an icebreaker, where someone hears it playing and they go, “Oh! Smooth!” And then people sing along or just start talking about it. I don’t know, I think it’s a good song. Also, my name in Japanese means “ocean moon” and there’s a line in that song that says, “Just like the ocean under the moon.” So I was like, “Oh my God, that’s me! That’s me!”

Sara Montiel – “Quizas Quizas Quizas”

Mitski: This song was sung by Sara Montiel in the movie “Noches de Casablanca” from 1963. Because it’s a movie version, there is kind of a lot of dramatic pauses in it. It is a little risky to choose as a dinner party soundtrack because of those pauses. I would hate to be playing it and then there’s that split moment of weird silence in the air. But it’s sort of melodramatic and I’m all for melodrama. I love that shit.

In heightened moments of emotion, I think a lot of things reveal themselves that you don’t really see or feel during normal life. You see more color, you hear more, you taste more. I think you just feel more alive.

Mitski – “Fireworks”

Mitski: I would never play my own music at my own dinner party. I have not reached that level of self-confidence and self-love yet. I would like to think that one of my friends at the party was trying to be funny and played my music. So that’s when “Fireworks” is playing, and I rush to the iPod to try to stop it ASAP.