Very Specific Playlists is a weekly feature in which Jezebel staffers make very specific Spotify playlists based on their weird proclivities.
I still have nightmares about my first apartment, in Astoria, Queens. It was infested with roaches to the point that I’d find them crawling in my bed. Inch-long water bugs routinely chilled out near the fridge. Disgusting, I know. I had to live there.
Unfortunately, this was a symptom of: 1) dying to live on my own 2) failing to thoroughly inspect the place before signing a lease 3) having an apartment unit right next to the garbage disposal, which was basically a closet in a hallway where people dumped trash. I told my landlord Gus this wasn't a great idea.
I ended up doing obsessively deep research on roach control and found out what doesn’t work: screaming tantrums, speaking to them gently, spraying Windex and running away, crying in a fetal position on the bed, staring at a wall while regretting life, hurling a shoe at the wall hoping it hits one. What does work: Combat gel, boric acid, exterminators.
The upside was that this forced me to keep my apartment spotless. Even after the situation improved (they stopped using that closet as a garbage haven), I remained paranoid. I barely cooked and there was never a dirty dish in the sink. Decent logic says that since there’s no roach problem in my Brooklyn spot, there’s no reason to do dishes regularly. These days, I begrudgingly get to them after a week or so. I may or may not occasionally, instead of just washing one butter knife, use a carving knife to butter my morning bagels.
That's a long explanation to get to this playlist, so clearly it was traumatizing. Anyway, when it’s about time to deep clean and wash dishes, if you’re like me, you start by throwing on a slobcore outfit (sweats and an ex's soccer tee) and a pair of cool purple latex gloves. For cleaning session playlists (there are many options), I generally stay away from somber, depressing music. Motivational dance, reggae and feel-good oldies get me in a better mood to scrub germs, ingest mold and stop being an all-around slob. Here's a playlist for cleaning your dirty ass spot.
1. Chaka Khan, "I Feel For You"
This song instantly gets me in the cleaning spirit and makes me feel like Mr. Clean died and left me his Magic Eraser kingdom. Chaka's power yelps are like a motivational mantra, as I imagine she's telling me "I feel for you" because she feels my pain right now and "I think I love you" because she genuinely loves me. (Sidebar: the Chaka Khan and Cheryl Lynn stations on Pandora are top-notch cleaning soundtracks.)
2. Cheryl Lynn, "Encore"
Of all the many amazingly cliché songs that use fame/celebrity as a metaphor for love, this is one of the best. The perfect compliment is: Your love is so good I want an encore. It keeps the disco vibe going and fuels dance breaks while I wonder why I didn't notice all the dried up toothpaste on the bathroom mirror before.
3. Tuxedo, "Do It"
Mayer Hawthorne and Jake One released a dope modern disco album as the duo Tuxedo in March and it kind of flew under the radar. "Do It" is one of the standouts, an easy roller rink groove made for mindless bodily motion. My rationale is that if I keep moving, then hopefully I won't feel like giving up on this wonderful journey to cleanliness midway through.
4. Justin Timberlake, "Let the Groove Get In"
This is a track from Justin's mildly received comeback album with Timbaland (The 20/20 Experience, Pt. 1) that I wish got more love, especially the second half. The first part is a clattering salsa jam that mellows out into sexy falsetto fire around the 5:14 mark. The second half is magic. If I actually had a duster, I'd pretend to salsa with it to this record.
5. Jamiroquai, "Cosmic Girl"
Jamiroquai's voice sounds like a falsetto alien on this song, which I refer to as a galactic groove. It's my go-to from Traveling Without Moving, but you can really just let that entire album rock and be good.
6. Whitney Houston, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody"
Part of the forced joy of a deep cleaning session is using the opportunity to sing your pain away, so I need a good ballad that's not too downbeat. This is my favorite Whitney song ever and a staple in my karaoke catalog. It's sad ("Still enough time to figure out how to chase my blues away") and wishful at the same time, the ultimate expression of pure want, and the ideal singing-into-a-broom anthem.
7. Jennifer Lopez, "Feeling So Good (Remix)" feat. Big Pun & Fat Joe
Does anyone but me play this at least 100 times a year? It might be J. Lo's most under-appreciated gem. I listen to it before going out, while cleaning or when I just need an uplift. I love it because of, and in spite of, the naïve simplicity of its lyrics: "Like the stars above I'm gonna shine/ Anything I want will be mine." It's up there with "I'm Real" (the remix) and "Get Right" as far as Best of J. Lo.
8. Bob Marley and the Wailers, "Buffalo Soldier"
I was reintroduced to this record by an unnamed person when I was fresh from the haze of Kendrick Lamar's heavy album and it felt new and important again. The soul and depth of it might get lost in the easy listening: "Buffalo soldier in the heart of America/ Stolen from Africa, brought to America/ Fighting on arrival/ Fighting for survival."
9. The Emotions, "So I Can Love You"
I heard this in the supermarket last year and remembered how much I loved it. It's trying to take charge of a relationship and hang onto a few more seconds of love ("Stay right here baby, so I can love you a little bit more")—something we all know is futile. It's also one of those songs made for whistling while you work.
10. Little Beaver, "Get Into the Party Life"
Certain records have that nostalgic hum that reminds me of my dad's "oldies but goodies" vinyl collection, so I save them for cleaning days. I discovered this after hearing it as a sample on Jay Z's "Party Life," which is how I end up finding a lot of old school jams. It's smooth, soulful as hell, and I love that it's celebrating the escapism of a night out and the act of partying down.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby