EDGARTOWN, Mass. — Some full-time music critics spend their lives curating playlists they hope become popular. President Obama outdid them all last week in between briefings by senior aides and rounds of golf with friends on vacation here.
For the second year in a row, Mr. Obama released his summer vacationmusic and reading lists. And within a day, Mr. Obama’s playlist was the most listened-to on Spotify, other than those organized by the global music streaming service itself. That level of popularity occurs only when listeners do more than sample the songs, but actually enjoy the set, said Jonathan Prince, a Spotify spokesman.
“For a playlist to hit No. 1 globally on its own out of nowhere is just bananas,” Mr. Prince said. “If he wants a job curating music when this presidential gig is over, we’d take him in a second. That’s very impressive.”
While Mr. Prince said that Spotify could not yet measure how Mr. Obama’s selections this year had influenced the popularity of particular artists, his picks last year led streams of the band Low Cut Connie to increase 2,906 percent overnight and those of the hip-hop duo Reflection Eternal to jump 798 percent.
Mr. Obama is in the final months of his presidency, aware of the expiration date for his hold over the national conversation — especially during a fiery presidential election season. Perhaps because of the widespread disquiet over both major parties’ nominees, Mr. Obama’s own popularity has been steadily rising and is now above 50 percent. Admiration for Mr. Obama is particularly high among young adults, or those 18 to 29 who are so coveted by TV and radio advertisers.
That popularity has made him unusually influential culturally, a power he and Michelle Obama, the first lady, take seriously. She was an early champion of “Hamilton,” the Broadway musical that has since become a cultural phenomenon. He interviewed Marilynne Robinson for an article in The New York Review of Books, an unusual presidential effort to bolster the career of a literary novelist.
Mr. Obama got high marks from several music critics for his summer playlist choices, in part because he mostly avoided politically expedient selections. There were no songs, for instance, from wildly popular artists like Adele, Ariana Grande, Justin Timberlake or Rihanna.
The president’s musical taste — which includes surf rock, soul, blues and hip-hop — is open-minded, even eclectic. However, there is one notable exception: Missing for the second year in a row was even a nod to country music, widely played in Southern states where Mr. Obama could benefit from more people relating to him.
“This is not a politician’s playlist,” said Rob Sheffield, a music columnist for Rolling Stone Magazine. “It’s a list of someone who, if they were a full-time music lover or a full-time music archivist, would be an extremely good playlist.” White House officials insisted that the picks were made solely by the president.
Among TV shows, Mr. Obama is known as a fan of “Entourage,” “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones.” His favorite books tend toward elegiac literary fiction, and Stevie Wonder is often listed as the family’s favorite performer and is often invited to entertain at private family parties.
Before playing on Aug. 5 at Mr. Obama’s 55th birthday party, the singer Leon Bridges said Mr. Obama excitedly told him that he had “gotten ready” that morning by listening to Mr. Bridges’s tune “Smooth Sailin’.”
“I didn’t believe him,” Mr. Bridges said in a telephone interview. “I mean, he’s the president, you know?” But after “Smooth Sailin’” was listed second on Mr. Obama’s playlist, Mr. Bridges changed his mind.
“He told me he loved how I was able to recreate the sound of soul music but do it in a raw way,” Mr. Bridges said.
Brian Wilson, a founder of the Beach Boys and one of the most venerated American rock composers, said in an interview that he, too, was honored to have his song “Good Vibrations” among the president’s favorites.
“I think it’s a good tune, and it’s a good record,” Mr. Wilson said of the song, which hit No. 1 on the charts after it was released in 1966 and set a new standard for studio-recorded music.
Mr. Obama grew up in Honolulu, and Mr. Wilson said that experience most likely had led the president to Mr. Wilson’s vibe. “I think it’s all about picking up vibrations from people,” Mr. Wilson said.
Another song on the list indicated the president’s continued attachment to his adopted hometown and life there, as he picked one by Chance the Rapper, a hip-hop star from Chicago with a commitment to social issues, especially ending gun violence.
In 2005, President George W. Bush released an iPod playlist and officials said the process was done largely by aides.
Mr. Obama’s ability to find and enjoy obscure artists is helped by events at the White House, where many are invited to perform. But Corinne Bailey Rae, one invitee, said she probably made the list because she fits his personal taste.
“The list seems consistent and coherent with a particular style, which has that influence of late ’70s soul music,” Ms. Rae said.
The president’s reading list has received a different reception. Several literary critics suggested that Mr. Obama’s decision to include “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead on his reading list may have had more political overtones than his musical selections.
“He’s signaling that it’s an important book in the day of Black Lives Matter,” said Michael Schaub, a literary critic based in Austin, Tex.
In a phone interview, Mr. Whitehead said that he and Mr. Obama both struggle to account for, and explain, the legacies of slavery and racism.
“When he does these big addresses on race, I see him engaged in the kind of work I hope I’m doing,” Mr. Whitehead said.
Both musical and literary critics described Mr. Obama’s selections as “emotional,” a description rarely applied to the man himself. A beach theme also ran through them. In addition to the Beach Boys on his playlist, Mr. Obama’s reading list included “Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life,” a memoir by William Finnegan, an avid surfer.
Critics say the lists reflect Mr. Obama’s self-assurance. “This playlist is confident and way cool, and it is decidedly not dictated by what the radio or the media is force-feeding him,” said Dan McCarroll, the president of Warner Bros. Records.
Mr. Bridges said he saw that side of the president during Mr. Obama’s recent birthday celebration, attended by filmmakers, musicians, actors and corporate executives — who were all forced to surrender their smartphones and cameras to prevent photographs of the private event.
“I thought it would be this really stiff kind of thing,” Mr. Bridges said. “But it was a total party. The president and Michelle were on the dance floor the whole night.”