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Encore: NPR shares its favorite musical moments from 2022

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

This week, we're revisiting some of the fun, creative distractions from the news that we featured on the show over the last year.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

And today we're going to listen back to some of the more musical moments. First, our co-host, Juana Summers, and I learned about a kitchen playlist that kind of blew our minds.

JUANA SUMMERS, BYLINE: Noah Conk is a designer based in San Francisco. And to share his recipe for kimchi fried rice, he put together a three-hour long, 51-song playlist, with each song titled describing a specific ingredient, measurement or instruction.

NOAH CONK: I basically went through the search function of searching for the word that I needed or a combination of words.

CHANG: The first word he needed and the place most recipes start was a song called "Ingredients."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INGREDIENTS")

YNW MELLY: (Rapping) I just found out a new ingredient.

SUMMERS: Then there's a song called "3."

(SOUNDBITE OF FLUME SONG, "3")

CHANG: Next, a tune called "Tablespoons."

(SOUNDBITE OF MARTIN LANDSTROM'S "TABLESPOONS")

SUMMERS: And then "Unsalted Butter."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNSALTED BUTTER")

THE LONG WINTERS: (Singing) Unsalted butter is...

CHANG: Three tablespoons of unsalted butter - you get, or maybe you taste, the idea now?

(LAUGHTER)

SUMMERS: Conk says he picked kimchi fried rice because it is a favorite comfort food of his.

CONK: Growing up, I never really eat too much Korean food because I'm an adoptee.

SUMMERS: But that changed in college.

CONK: That was my opportunity of meeting other Korean - what we call Korean-Korean people.

SUMMERS: Now, the original playlist did not include the song "Butter" by South Korean boyband BTS.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BUTTER")

BTS: (Singing) Smooth like butter, like a criminal undercover.

CONK: I realized - I was like, how could I forget the "Butter" song, like, in a kimchi fried rice recipe playlist?

SUMMERS: He's since updated that playlist to correct that oversight.

CHANG: After the songs top off...

SUMMERS: ...With...

CHANG: ..."Sesame Seeds," the playlist ends with the song "Winners Circle" by Anderson .Paak.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WINNERS CIRCLE")

ANDERSON PAAK: (Singing) Somebody go. Somebody go. Somebody go. Somebody go.

CONK: You made it to the end, and you're in the winner's circle. You're part of this collective of people who can make kimchi fried rice from a playlist. And it's also, like, a subtle nod to Anderson .Paak being Korean.

SUMMERS: So if you're looking for a kitchen project this weekend, maybe ditch those cookbooks and just turn up the music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WINNERS CIRCLE")

PAAK: (Rapping) Came out my comfort zone to be amidst your company, something about the way you never gave it up to me.

SHAPIRO: For decades, companies have also made playlists for shopping. Guest host Adrian Florido and I went through one man's quest to fill a gap in retail playlist history.

It was the blistering summer of 1992 in Dallas, Texas. Michael Bise had just graduated from college, and he needed a job. He saw an ad in the paper for his local Gap store.

MICHAEL BISE: You know, it was just seasonal sales. I needed something.

SHAPIRO: Bise got the job, but he found something unexpected when he started.

BISE: That very first day, immediately, I was hit with the music.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROZALLA SONG, "LOVE BREAKDOWN")

BISE: Rozalla, "Love Breakdown" - that was the one that got me.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROZALLA SONG, "LOVE BREAKDOWN")

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Bise is talking about the music that was playing over the speakers of that Dallas Gap store as the customers shopped. He had an ear for music. He was a DJ in college. But this carefully crafted mix of music was like nothing he'd heard before.

BISE: You know, classic R&B and then it's followed by modern pop song and then followed by acid jazz and then trip hop or something.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAMB SONG, "COTTONWOOL")

FLORIDO: That music opened up Bise's world, and that first job turned into 15 years at Gap.

BISE: And so it's like, I found a career, but I probably wouldn't have stayed if it hadn't been as fun being there and listening. It was just drudgery. It would not have worked. I still have some of the best memories being in that store and learning how to do it all on my own. I'm serious. Those memories - the music brings all of it over.

SHAPIRO: Bise would collect the paper playlists that were posted in his break room each month and in Gap break rooms all across the country. The mixes were curated by an outside company Gap had hired.

FLORIDO: But to Bise, they were special - not only because the music was good, they also represented what was happening beyond the doors of Gap stores.

BISE: As the years went by, the tapes did seem to reflect what was going on in the country. There was a lot of experimentation at the beginning of the '90s. Then, you could, I mean, literally feel the change. And September 11, 2001, it was very, very somber. And, you know, that's how the country was. We felt it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BELIEVE")

LENNY KRAVITZ: (Singing) I am you, and you are me.

FLORIDO: A career change and a move meant he lost that stash of lists until 2010, when he found...

BISE: In the flap of a folder, there are about 24 Gap playlists.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEROES")

RONI SIZE AND REPRAZENT: (Singing) I don't know no heroes.

SHAPIRO: The hunt was on. Bise wanted to find every playlist from his years at Gap - 1992 to 2006. He started a blog where he posted the playlists he found and some that he simply remembered.

BISE: In January of 2017, I had an email from a guy in California, and he said, I think I have what you need.

(SOUNDBITE OF RONI SIZE AND REPRAZENT SONG, "HEROES")

FLORIDO: That former employee had playlists from 1993 through 2000. And the responses are still rolling in. Bise only has a few incomplete years of music left to find.

BISE: It's almost like doing a service because I have so many people tell me how much they enjoy it. And so, you know, even if I find 100% of everything I want, I'm always going to continue doing this.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEROES")

RONI SIZE AND REPRAZENT: (Singing) They can get the glory, yeah, yeah.

SHAPIRO: All right. Finally, let's revisit another memorable music moment. And anyone who has spent time with Ailsa will understand why this was one of your favorites, Ailsa. You just love to talk about - well, you know what? Let's just listen.

You can say basically anything to a smart speaker. You can tell it to set an alarm.

AUTOMATED VOICE: Alarm set for 8:30 a.m. tomorrow.

SHAPIRO: You can ask her what the weather will be.

AUTOMATED VOICE: You can expect a high of 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

CHANG: Or you can even ask it something, you know, really, really silly.

KATIE NOTOPOULOS: Alexa, play poop.

CHANG: That is BuzzFeed reporter Katie Notopoulos. Her 5-year-old son recently discovered that if you tell the smart speaker to play "Poopy Diaper," it will do just that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "POOPY DIAPER")

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: (Singing) I got a poopy diaper, poopy diaper, that...

NOTOPOULOS: I mean, I laughed hysterically. That song is called "Poopy Diaper." It's really, like, serious, musically.

SHAPIRO: Notopoulos found that there are actually a whole bunch of musicians making poop-themed songs. And although there's no way to prove it, she's pretty sure she knows who their most avid listeners are - children yelling potty words at smart speakers.

MATT FARLEY: Everyone loves poop, whether they admit it or not. Luckily, young people are young enough to not be ashamed to admit it.

CHANG: Well, Matt Farley is one of those musicians who loves poop. He learned that making songs with nonsensical lyrics about bodily functions was a recipe for success - the more ridiculous the song, the more streams.

FARLEY: "The Poop Song" was literally me on the piano singing the word poop for a minute-and-a-half.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE POOP SONG")

FARLEY: (Singing) Oh, poop, poop, poop, poop, poop, poop, poop, poop, poop, poop, poop.

CHANG: (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: Notopoulos says musicians making poop songs got a big boost in streams once more people started buying Amazon's Alexa smart speaker.

NOTOPOULOS: Ninety percent of their plays was coming from Amazon Music. That's the clear link that this is being driven by Alexa, rather than someone going into Spotify and typing in the words poop.

CHANG: Musician Matt Farley says, in at least one case, families even want to hear poop songs live - like, one couple who brought their 3-year-old son to a recent show.

FARLEY: Specifically, because he's a fan of my song "Poop Into A Wormhole," everyone's having a grand old time singing, poop, poop, poop into a wormhole.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "POOP INTO A WORMHOLE")

FARLEY: (Singing) Poop into a wormhole. Poop...

SHAPIRO: If you want to find more of Matt Farley's music, just ask Alexa.

CHANG: Hey. Let's turn it up.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "POOP INTO A WORMHOLE")

FARLEY: (Singing) Oh, yeah. Could I please get everybody's attention? I've discovered a wormhole to another dimension. No man alive would dare go inside... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Elena Burnett
Ashley Brown is a senior editor for All Things Considered.
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.