Friday, July 18, 2008

Mixtape vs Playlists: Triumph of the Old

Recently, I made a playlist for a friend and then burned it to CD. The playlist was too long for one CD, so it ended up being 3 CD's long. The CDs, when played in his computer, did not have the song titles, artists, or albums encoded, so I had to go back and match up all the songs to the now numerically titled songs (which hadn't burned in any particular order) and manually type them back in. This was annoying, frustrating, and tedious. More annoying was that making a CD had become as easy as organizing my iPod into highest rated songs so that 5-starred songs appeared at the top, and scrolling through them and dragging the songs that I thought my friend would like and might sound OK together into a playlist and then pressing "burn CD." There was no fun in this process.

I used to LOVE making tapes. I use the past tense not because I don't like to make them anymore but because I don't do it anymore. I made tapes all the time, starting at about age 11 or 12. There are different kinds of tapes, and my first ones were the basic- tape-your-favorite-songs-off-the-radio-so-you-can-listen-to-them-over-and-over- kind. I listened to cheesy, awful, really, hip hop and r&b music then, and I just loved the ballady music of Mariah Carey, TLC, Toni Tone Tony, etc. I loved to sit in front of the radio on my little black boom box hoping that one of the Top 40 songs that were played at least once an hour would come on and I'd rush to push the play and record buttons simultaneously in time to get the first notes on the tape, and sit there anxiously so I didn't miss hitting stop before the obnoxious DJ's came on, or a commercial interrupted the music. There was lots of rewinding and fastforwarding and rerecording in this kind of taping.

Then, there were the pre-planned tapes, calculated down to the second to fit just right on a 60 or 90 minute tape. It was no good to have to flip the tape in the middle of a song, so 30 and 45 minute sides (or mini playlists, if you will) had to be constructed in advance, or if I really felt like living on the wild side, on the fly. I carried around a few short songs in my head that could be used in a pinch to fill dead space at the end of sides. (I remember using Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecilia" quite frequently- 2'14" if I remember right?) I made lots of these tapes, in mood themes, mostly. There were sad tapes, angry tapes, friendship tapes, etc.

Then came the later years of mixtapes, and the REAL theme tapes. I have a couple "road trip" tapes, designed for cross country trips. I have tapes about houses, tapes about animals, etc. They're great. I remember entertaining two kids I was babysitting playing "find the animal" in my animal-themed take. They would scream with glee on hearing "crow" or "horse" or "dog" in the same way my heart would jump hearing an animal themed song and writing it down for inclusion on the tape later. This is a tape I recently rediscovered in the car (I downsized my tape collection as the computer can't play tapes, obviously, but kept some of the best ones), from 2000.

I don't remember making the tape, but I do remember listening to it. It's called "Crowd Pleasers," and it's intended to make people cheerful while listening to it. The tape works, at least for me. It also demonstrates some of the flaws and good things about my tape making skills. Complete playlist (some of the songs are on the backside of the tape cover, which is not pictured):

Video Killed the Radio Star: Presidents of the USA
Money (That's What I Want): Flying Lizards
YMCA: Village People
I Get Knocked Down: Chumbawumba
Holiday: Madonna
Closer to Fine: Indigo Girls
I'm a Disco Dancer: Fatboy Slim
We're Going to Ibiza: Venga Boys
Life During Wartime: Talking Heads
Shiny Happy People: REM
Body Rock: Moby

Joy: Simon and Garfunkel
Baby, I'm in the Mood: Bob Dylan
Date Rape: Sublime
Wowie Zowie: Frank Zappa
I Kissed a Girl: Jill Sobule
The Sweetest Thing: U2
At My Most Beautiful: REM
I Wish You Wouldn't Say That- Talking Heads
All I Wanna Do- Sheryl Crow
Beautiful Stranger- Madonna
Lovely Day: Bill Withers
Shame on You: Indigo Girls

Pluses: This is generally a very good tape. It's cheery, which means it achieved it's crowd pleasing goal (if the crowd is me) and most of the songs are known to other people which means the crowd isn't just me. The mood of the tape makes you want to roll down the windows, if you're driving, and sing aloud at the top of your lungs. On the other hand, it has multiple songs by the same artist too many times (something I try to avoid) and in the middle of the sing-along mood comes the "I'm a Disco Dancer" song, a great song, in theory but totally mood spoiling for this tape. These are things that you have to think about when you are making a tape, as fast forward and rewinding is a lot more complicated than hitting "next" on iTunes, or even on a CD player. I miss tapes. I miss making tapes. More nostalgia coming soon.