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Food and wine are priorities No. 1 & 2, but don’t forget about the other pulse of the party; music and media. Check out our tips and tricks to create the best Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving playlists this year. 

You’re hosting Friendsgiving, that sacred millennial ritual for those among us who can’t (or choose not to) travel home for free food and Aunt Janet’s not-so-artful critiques of…everything.

You’re also an adult so you’ve thought of everything. The dry-brined turkey is in the oven and right on track. The sides are prepped, and you even managed to buy and hang a halfway decent wreath from Target, which happens to perfectly compliment the decorative gourds “casually” splayed about. And yet, you’re forgetting one of the most important steps in setting the mood, I just know it. The music and media lineup!

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Having people all up in your space, some of whom may not be well-acquainted is stressful. But the right playlist before, during, and after dinner, Netflix selection can be as much a social lubricant and mood stabilizer as anything else. Below, a few simple rules to adhere to, and totally nail your Friendsgiving music and TV playlists this year.

Keep it fun, always: This doesn’t mean you need R.E.M’s “Shiny Happy People” on loop but do save Elliott Smith for next week when you step on the scale and actually need sad music.

Consider the crowd: Do a mental spot check of who’s coming and any songs, artists, and genres you know they love. Better yet, do some sleuthing on their Spotify or Apple Music accounts to see what they’ve been up to, sonically speaking, and sprinkle it in.

The Only ‘Rumours’ rule: Try not to play entire albums or one artist all night (unless it’s jazz for dinner or Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ which science has proven everyone loves from start to finish).

Rule of three: Try for three consistent yet eclectic playlists each with its own distinct mood that compliments that portion of the evening’s particular energy. 

Playlist #1:  Before Turkey

This is all about setting a friendly tone and bringing people out of their shells as they arrive, take off their coats, and pour that first glass of vino. The key is keeping the music fun, but also familiar because nothing calms the nerves of meeting new people like a beat to latch onto. Remember people are just getting started, so energy is high but nobody’s drunk or dancing yet.


  • “Remind Me” – Emily King
  • Diamonds” – Rihanna
  • “Cruel Summer” – Bananarama
  • “Pretty Babies” – Niki & the Dove
  • “American Boy” – Estelle featuring Kanye West
  • “The Walker” – Christine and the Queens
  • “Pusher Love Girl” – Justin Timberlake
  • “Goodbye” – Who is Fancy
  • “Walking on Broken Glass” – Annie Lennox

Electro, Rock and Hip Hop:

  • “Back in Brazil” – Paul McCartney
  • “Ms. Fat Booty” – Mos Def
  • “The Boy With The Arab Strap” – Belle & Sebastian
  • “Houdini” – Foster the People
  • “Sound & Color” – Alabama Shakes
  • “The Light” – Common
  • “A-Punk” – Vampire Weekend
  • “Youth” – Glass Animals
  • “Ready or Not” – The Fugees
  • “Lonely Boy” – The Black Keys


  • “Upside Down” – Diana Ross
  • “Get Back” – The Beatles
  • “Black Cow” – Steely Dan
  • “The Weight” – Aretha Franklin
  • “Rosanna” – Toto
  • “Brown Eyed Women” – Grateful Dead
  • “Rapture” – Blondie
  • “Love My Way” – The Psychedelic Furs
  • “Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves” – Cher
  • “Lovely Day” – Bill Withers

Playlist #2: During Turkey

As things quiet down the energetic din that accompanied cheese plates and cocktails settles to more measured conversation. Try for music with richer, ambient sound and not as much bass or overbearing vocals. This is a good time to bust out some irreverent deep cuts you’ve been wanting to share with friends. You don’t want the music dominating dinner but the occasional “Ooooh, what is this?!” is the goal.


  • “Stay Flo” – Solange
  • Got ‘Til It’s Gone” – Janet Jackson Feat. Q Tip
  • “Don’t Stop The Music” – Jamie Cullum
  • “Play It On My Radio” – Niki and the Dove
  • “You’re Makin Me High” – Toni Braxton
  • “Desperado” – Rihanna
  • “All the Good Girls Go to Hell” – Billie Eilish
  • “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk” – Rufus Wainwright
  • “Daniel” – Bat For Lashes

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Electro, Rock n’ Hip Hop :

  • “Doo Wop (That Thing),” Lauryn Hill
  • “Paper Bag” – Fiona Apple
  • “Charlie Don’t Surf” – The Clash
  • “Gone Till’ November” – Wyclef Jean
  • “Feel Good, Inc.” – The Gorillaz
  • “Electric Blue” – Arcade Fire
  • “Gooey” – Glass Animals
  • “Eple” – Röyksopp
  • “On & On” – Erykah Badu
  • “Autumn Sweater” – Yo La Tengo
  • “Weird Fishes” – Radiohead


  • “54-46 (was my number)” – Ernest Ranglin
  • “The Boss” – James Brown
  • “Summer in the City” – Quincy Jones
  • “Caravan” – Van Morrison
  • “Family Affair” – Sly & The Family Stone
  • “This Must Be The Place” – Talking Heads
  • “Ashes to Ashes” – David Bowie
  • “Head Over Heels” – Tears For Fears
  • “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’” – The Velvet Underground
  • “Sinnerman” – Nina Simone

Playlist #3: After Turkey

With any of these playlists, but especially this one, it’s about reading the room and knowing your audience. The post-meal playlist should kick up a few BPMs as alcohol has likely caused inhibitions to vanish along with the dark meat. Make it dancy, jazzy, silly and throwback-heavy. Even the scattered Disney sing-a-long or Broadway tune works here!


  • “Higher Love” – Whitney Houston and Kygo
  • “Stayaway” – Muna
  • “Babooshka” – Kate Bush
  • “Lay All Your Love On Me” – Abba
  • “How Will I Know” – Whitney Houston
  • “Green Light, Chromeo Remix” – Lorde & Chromeo
  • “Bye Bye Bye” – N’Sync
  • “All Night Long” – Lionel Richie
  • “Cut to the Feeling” – Carly Rae Jepsen
  • “Dance Apocalyptic” – Janelle Monae

Electro, Rock & Hip Hop 3:

  • “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” – Jack White
  • “Straighten it Out” – Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth
  • “Gone Daddy Gone” – Gnarles Barkley
  • “Get By” – Talib Kweli
  • “Oino” – LA Priest
  • “Take Me Over” – Cut Copy
  • “Because the Night” – Patti Smith
  • “Three Women” – Jack White
  • “Be Thankful for What You Got” – Massive Attack
  • “Hotline Bling” – Drake


  • “Doctor my Eyes” – Jackson 5
  • “Lay All Your Love on Me” – ABBA
  • “Kodachrome / Maybellene (Live in Central Park)” – Simon & Garfunkel
  • “Stare” – Prince
  • “Under Pressure” – Queen and David Bowie
  • “Sir Duke” – Stevie Wonder
  • “Heart of Glass” – Blondie
  • “Bad Girls” – Donna Summer

TV Playlists

NBC / Will & Grace

If you’ve done your job with the music, your crew has been on their feet for a while and are ready to sit down and watch some tube as the food comas set in. Movies tend to be a little long and could suck the energy out of the room but a few well-placed 20-30 minute tv shows can provide a welcome escape from all the chit-chat.

Here are some classic, on-theme shows to add to the TV cue:

“Friends” (any of the 10 Thanksgiving episodes)

This crew may very well have invented Friendsgiving as we know it. Be sure to pay homage with at least one of the 10 turkey day episodes. A few years ago Variety ranked them.

“Seinfeld” (season 6, episode 8)

Who can forget the Woody Woodpecker deflating over the streets of Manhattan as the gang botches yet another social scenario?

“Will & Grace” (Season 3, Episodes 8 and 9)

This two-part throwback episode brought us back to the fateful and folly-filled meeting of Will & Grace. Let’s just say it could have gone a little smoother for then in-the-closet Will.

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (season 9, episode 10)

“IASIP” makes Friends look like “The Brady Bunch.” “The Gang Squashes Their Beefs” encapsulates a decidedly dysfunctional brand of laugh out loud hijinx.

“The Office”  (Season 7, Episode 9)

There are many, many re-watchable episodes of NBC’s The Office but this one from season7 which finds the Dwight Schrute in operation of a hay-themed amusement park to fatten his wallet and incidentally terrify children, is definitely one of them.

“A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” (the one movie exception)

Just like in real life, Peanuts proves you can’t escape drama, yelling, conflict and confusion on Thanksgiving. Ultimately Charlie and Snoop make it to grandma’s and it ends with smiles and pie in this classic.

Whether you’re a first-timer or old pro, remember arranging your playlists beforehand means more time to spend with your pals. And don’t forget if things start to fall apart, there’s always Adele.

For more great tips, tricks, and hacks see our Ultimate Guide to Thanksgiving.

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