7 Rules for a Perfect Date

5. January 2011

“I’ll have to say I love you in a song,” is a quote from a Jim Croce song (“Bad Bad Leroy Brown”). While Jim Croce could say it in one song, the rest of us may need a few more. Making a playlist for a date is a high risk, high reward situation. If you make a mistake with it, you could end up eating left over chicken and combing through the “missed connections” section of Craigslist. If you nail it, it could be the first of many things to be nailed that night. The following are a few rules to help get you through the creation of the perfect playlist.

1. Catch Their Vibe

Everyone has a type of music they like. Getting to know your date’s type of music will be essential in creating the right playlist.

Hopefully you’ve been out with them a few times, and you picked up on what they like. This could be as simple as the CD’s in their dash, or the songs on the radio they tend to sing out loud. If you haven’t picked up on anything, feel free to go information fishing. Ask leading questions like, “did you see Dave Matthews is coming into town,” or “Hey, did you know John Lennon is still dead?” By opening up a conversation about music, you can easily get a feel for what they like to hear.

2. Make the First Song Count

You never get a second chance to make a first impression with your playlist. That’s why the first song has to be just right.

Starting off your play list with something like “Welcome To The Jungle” says, “I don’t care what we do, as long as we’re high while doing it,” which is why picking the right song is everything. The introductory track should be your all-star. If there is a song or band the other person has confessed to loving, or a song that was playing at a significant moment for the two of you, this is your number one track. All others can fall in line from here.

3. Keep It Clean

There is nothing wrong with putting a little bit of personality into your playlist, but there is a fine line between personality and what you might hear blasting out of a prison cell.

Anything dropping F-bombs, or talking about doing the deed, may give the wrong impression to your date. The goal of the playlist is to show them that they are worth your time, not that you think they’ll get naked because R Kelly said so. Unless your date has specifically expressed a burning love of gangster rap, keep all songs radio appropriate. If they do love hip-hop, keep it to one or two tracks.

4. Don’t Get Too Gushy

A good playlist suggests romance. A bad playlist beats the listener over the head with it. Be more suggestive than blatant, as everyone loves leaving something to the imagination.

There are certain “playlist staples” that are over the top and overdone. Skip the Beach Boys “God Only Knows,” or Elvis’s “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You.” Pass on anything from Michael Bolton (mostly because it’s Michael Bolton). While you may think the key to romance is to add romantic songs, the real key is to add songs that show you know the person, have been listening, and that you aren’t taking them for a sucker.

5. Give Them Something They Can Ignore

Ultimately, if the playlist is the main focus of the night, then the date is going the wrong way. The perfect playlist should be the backdrop to the perfect evening, not the centerpiece.

When you are choosing artists, pick artists that are good enough to ignore. You want something easy and not overbearing. While Black Sabbath is great for working out, they are less great for mellow conversation. If you need help filling the list, more subdued artists like Jack Johnson, John Mayer, and the Dave Matthews Band work perfectly. They have just the right kind of tempo, and the right kind of groove to fade into the fabric of the evening.

6. Mix it Up

Don’t be afraid to mix up the genres and time periods that your music is from. Most people don’t just listen to music from one decade, and if they do, they probably aren’t going on many dates. Don’t be afraid to give your playlist the variety it deserves.

Oftentimes it can create a pleasant composition. “The Rain Song” by Led Zeppelin followed by “Wordplay” by Jason Mraz could be a great way to show that you are not only current in your appreciation for music, but that you also appreciate your musical roots. Finding the songs are half the battle. Placing them in an interesting and dynamic order is the second half.

7. Let Your Playlist Be Selfless

Your playlist should be about the music that your date enjoys, not your own personal tastes. While you may be the one person in the world who loves the extensive catalog of Burl Ives, that doesn’t mean you should litter the playlist with it.

There’s a good chance that your date doesn’t want to hear the live version of “Holly Jolly Christmas” recorded at the Hollywood Bowl in 1975. Think about what appeals to your date specifically. If you are having a difficult time deciding, think about what appeals to a basic audience, and assemble your playlist that way. They will, at the very least, appreciate your effort, and know what the general masses tend to enjoy.


If you create the right playlist, there is a good chance you will end up with an evening to remember. If you decide to stray from these rules, you’ll end up having a night you would much rather forget. Music ties people together, but it can also drive them apart. Be sure that you are focusing on the music that brings you and your date closer, instead of the songs that would make them run for the door.


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