Spotify is innovative. If I were to think to myself, “What could possibly be done with music that hasn’t been done already?” I wouldn’t be able to come up with anything. Apple asked itself that same question and vomited out Apple Music, a giant yawn — Beats 1 included. When Spotify asked itself that question it produced, among other things, Spotify Running Originals — something completely new, useful and awesome.
With Spotify Running Originals the world is witnessing the dawn of “smart” music. One of the main features of Spotify Running Originals is that it learns how you run (how fast, more specifically) and adapts to your pace. The effect is incredible: instead of exercising to random songs or even songs that you really like, your body and your music are actually in sync. When your foot hits the pavement the rhythm hits your ears. Buts thats only part of what makes Spotify Running Originals uniquely great.
Spotify Running Originals are something like musical audiobooks. They are long — think 30 minutes or so — and are broken up into chapters. This is music meant for running. Normal music isn’t. Other apps, like FIT Radio, try to pretend like it is, but it isn’t.
Each Spotify Running Original (there are currently 6) is tailor-made to fit your run. This is evident in the way tracks begin and end and throughout the middle: there are more energetic sections, sections that are more laid back, sections that make you push harder and sections that make you feel like you’re floating along. Everything feels very deliberate and dynamic. The way in which chapters blend together, the timing, the emotion — it all adds up to an incredible experience for people who run.
I’ve spent the past couple of weeks doing a deep dive into Spotify’s new running feature and I’ve come away wanting more. More! If you’re curious what each of the 6 Spotify Running Originals is like to run with, I’ve broken each one down below.
For a few thoughts on why I’m sticking with Spotify over Apple Music, stick around until the end of the article.
Burn by Tiesto
Burn is an energetic running track consisting of nine chapters. I genuinely enjoy about half of them — but the other half is not bad. Burn is like the quintessential running track; it’s aggressive and lively and will definitely be a favorite of EDM fans.
Burn is obviously well thought out; the craftsmanship is impressive. There’s nothing random about how the chapters are arranged; they always seem to match the headspace a runner would be in when the begin playing (getting started, getting tired, getting close to finishing).
The first chapter eases you into a steady liveliness that makes you want to move a little bit faster. Chapter two has a bit of a retro video game undertone at times, has some epic moments at others and is easy to start humming along to.
Right around the time I start begrudging waking up so early, before I’ve really landed in a groove, the third chapter hits and thank goodness. It’s an uplifting, happy tune that builds on the ideas planted in chapter two.
Chapter four is just pure cruising music. It builds a bit and gives you a bit of a breather. Something about it seems to put me in a good mood.
Chapter five is like an eighties feel good tune. Maybe my favorite of the bunch.
Later on, around chapter 7, when you know your run is going to be winding down, Tiesto throws in a grittier, grindier motivational theme that seems to say, “Push harder. Don’t even think about touching the brakes. It’s record setting time.” The timing is excellent.
There’s enough variety that the chapters don’t get old or monotonous and each chapter seamlessly melds into the next; unless you’re really paying attention, it’s hard to tell when one actually ends and another begins. After awhile you have an epiphany that you’re listening to a different chapter.
That’s basically what it’s like on each of Spotify’s original running tracks.
Epic is a cinematic track and when I first read the description I wasn’t sure I’d like it for running. Sometimes while I work I like to listen to soundtracks from blockbuster movies; mainly because they tend to be dramatic and imaginative and give the feeling that something big is happening. But also because they are kind of mellow — there isn’t a thumping beat or interesting lyrics to distract me.
So before I hit play I didn’t know whether cinematic meant music that sounded like it came from Titanic (talk about hitting an iceberg) or something from Gladiator or or Driving Miss Daisy or what. After hitting play and listening a bit, I was like, “Okay, that’s not at all what I was expecting. Cool.”
But before I began warming up to Epic I did catch myself thinking, “Hmm. This is going to be a slow run,” during the first minute of the first chapter. But it didn’t take long for me to start liking what I was hearing.
The thing was, Epic was just vastly different than anything I’d ever considered jogging to before, so it took some getting used to.
Stylistically Epic’s chapters tend to sound more like music from a video game which I quite like. One chapter in particular (five) came close to sounding like something from a Halo soundtrack which is epic indeed. Run spartan, run!
Chapter three is quite interesting. It’s got a Chariots of Fire vibe to it which, as we all know, makes it easy to envision crossing the finish line in slow motion, arms raised, smile beaming and hands in the air. Like a hero.
As a whole I’d say Epic’s chapters get better as they go along. Chapter six’s grimy guitar riffs sound like something out of The Matrix and chapter seven surprised me with an awesome piano-solo ending that was almost magical.
Basically Epic sort of makes it seem as if you’re starring in your own exciting movie or video game and that’s pretty awesome.
Somebody call Dre — the beats have gone missing! Well, actually a jogging track without a beat of any kind is welcome. At first, my brain didn’t know what to think about a purely orchestral track for running. But within the first few seconds of pressing play, I was thinking, “Oh ya, I like this.”
So there’s a big difference between modern orchestral music and classical music. Lots of the same instruments, but Seasons is nothing like Bach or Mozart. It’s more like a feel good piano track laced with uplifting strings, or, at times, a feel good strings track laced with uplifting piano.
For me, this was the most inspirational music out of all of the Spotify running tracks. It made me feel. It wasn’t loud or crazy; instead, it left room in my head to think. So, whereas other running tracks mentioned here make for good background sound or help keep you focused on the task at hand — run, run, run — Seasons offers a chance to get some mental work done.
I’m glad that there’s a track in the first batch of Spotify running tracks like this. It’s nice to have some variety, obviously, but a thinking track is important. It’s not one you’d use every run, but there are some days when you do just want to think.
Running, in a way, is a bit like taking a shower in that it’s a solitary place where you’re by yourself where you don’t have a lot of demands on you and where you can just think. And Seasons makes a great thinking companion.
Actually, I like this track so much that I’ve reserved a special day of the week for listening to it; one day a week set apart from the rest to think about important things as I run.
Lock the Flow
Everything in this review is obviously pure opinion, but for me, Lock the Flow didn’t really make me feel anything. So it was fine, but I’m not sure if I’ll return to it often (if ever).
It’s not quite as layered or entertaining or interesting sonically as Tiesto’s Burn which has a similar, but deeper and complex sound.
To me, Lock the Flow feels like it’s lacking personality. It’s too monotonous for my liking. I suppose I could see how some people might really like that, but it’s not for me.
Blissed Out has some really awesome moments; I just wish the whole thing was that good (it starts out a bit blah for me but there are some really bright spots later on). There definitely are times when this song has a feel good vibe to it, but there are also times when this track seems more serious than happy.
Chapter one I could take or leave. It’s not particularly awesome, but neither is it particularly bad. It’s just kind of there.
The 1:42 mark of chapter two, however, is like a jolt of audio caffeine that hits unexpectedly — but one that I was happy to have.
The first half of chapter three feels like it drags quite a bit… like it’s just filler or fluff, but it does pick back up at the end.
I particularly like the acoustic layering on chapters four, five and six. Five’s got some voices in the background saying, “Let’s go.” It’s kinda fun. I think that chapter six is probably the most inspiring with it piano driven into that gives way to a fun acoustic beat followed by some strings. Chapter six is probably my favorite on this track.
Blissed Out feels a bit shorter than other Spotify Running tracks (it only has seven chapters), but the last chapter blends seamlessly into the first meaning you could listen to the entire production on repeat for as long as your run lasts without even noticing.
Hmm. I thought I was going to like The Chase more than I did. In the end, I was kind of unimpressed. It’s not that it sounds bad — not by any means — it’s just too background music-y for me. My brain almost ignored it. It was sort of like white noise in a way.
That said, it does indeed sound like music from an action movie (as advertised). But the thing about music from a movie is that it isn’t the main focus. During a chase scene or when the Transformers are blowing each other up the music is on the back burner of your mind. It’s just there to add a sense of urgency or make the scene feel a bit more exciting.
But strangely I just didn’t get that out of The Chase. It’s probably just me — and perhaps just the mood I was in this morning — but The Chase just wasn’t for me. I’m sure other people will enjoy it more (but I have a feeling Spotify knew it was going to be the least popular as it is listed last among the running tracks in the app).
So I really have nothing against The Chase, but I doubt I’ll be returning to it unless I get mega-bored with the other Spotify Running tracks.
Run This Way
At the moment, I can’t imagine running without Spotify’s new running tracks. This is a new category of music. It’s a new invention. It’s real innovation. It’s not treading and retreading the same old thing or trying to put a new spin on the same old offering yet again. It’s not, as other apps have done, putting a group of pre-existing songs that were made for entertainment purposes or artistic expression into a playlist and declaring it fit for runners. It’s a genuine new creation that combines technology and an original format (and talented musicians, obviously) into a new type of audio fuel for runners.
I’m excited to see Spotify continue to flesh this out. I would love it if the music could continuously adjust to my pace — as it is now, it can only detect your tempo at the get go. But looking at my Runtastic running map, it’s obvious that my speed fluctuates quite a bit during each outing, so it would be great if the app was smart enough to know that.
I really hope that the word spreads about Spotify Running Originals and that runners everywhere give it a try and support the company and this feature. Why? Because I want more. I hope that Spotify will continue to grow their library of running original running tracks so that there is more variety over time. It would be great if there were 30 tracks to choose from and explore.
That said, I can’t imagine what it would take to create a song that’s 30 minutes long and has several different sounds and personalities. That’s a lot of creativity. It’s like jamming the effort that normally goes into an entire album into a single song. I’m sure it’s not cheap either — and that’s exactly why I want the world to support Spotify so my new favorite running companion can grow.
How Do You Like Them Apples?
Apple Music is a big yawn at the moment. It offers nothing new. Global radio? Radio is radio and it’s been around forever; so the concept of Beats 1 bores me endlessly. Plus my music taste is too eclectic to enjoy the mainstream garbage the big music machines want to feed me. Until and unless Apple Music becomes truly innovative — like Spotify — it simply doesn’t interest me.
Apple Music copied the Spotify of 2008 and added one different feature — global radio that billions of people could theoretically tune into. I don’t have to explain to you what radio is because you know what it is. Your grandparent’s grandparents knew what radio was. In the beginning of this article I did have to explain what Spotify’s new original running feature was because it is unlike anything you’ve ever heard before.
If you were to ask me again, “What could possibly be done with music that hasn’t been done already?” I still wouldn’t be able to come up with anything. But I’m guessing Spotify has something up their sleeves. If the company keeps up this level of innovation — and Apple keeps ripping it off several years later — the clear choice for enjoying music will continue to be Spotify.