Mixtapes in the modern age

Back in the 90’s I was the queen of mixtapes*. If you were someone I cared about, you had a personalized mixtape, complete with decorated cover. I had have a notebook where I kept track of the songs on each tape. Yes, I still have the notebook. And a box full of mixes I made for myself. Just in case, ya know, tapes make a comeback. Or I figure out how to time travel.


file under: stuff I should get rid of but can’t seem to bear the thought of never seeing again

Life is different now. You want to hear a particular song? No problem. Exercise while listening to a specific style of music? No problem. Make your own virtual playlist? No problem. Gone are the days of hours spent waiting to hit record when your favorite song plays on the radio and getting stuck with the DJ’s voice on the opening chords. Not that I don’t love my mixtape titled, ALTERNATIVE ’92, which contains authentic Toronto DJ intros from the era.

There are endless playlists out there and I can listen to any song I want whenever I want (except of course when I’m stuck at soccer practice with no signal and forced to play only what is downloaded onto my laptop or listen to whatever ear worm lodged itself in my brain during the car ride). BUT. There are also endless choices. And that makes me feel a bit like when you stand in the grocery store aisle and have to decide between eight different kinds of coconut oil.

Back in the day of my mixtape notebook, I had a limited collection of CDs. I knew all of the songs — knew their lyrics, knew roughly how long they were (as one was limited to 60, 90, or 100 minutes per tape). I knew artists names. My CD’s were alphabetized, and still are, because of course I also have two giant binders full of CD’s I never listen to. I’ll spare you the photo evidence.

Now? I google the lyric to a song that’s stuck in my head and think, that’s who sings it? Or I see band names on the library playlist site and have no idea who they are or what they sing, but then I click on them and oh yeah, I actually do recognize their songs. Normally, this is no big deal. Listen to what makes you happy, I say. Pick the playlist to fit your mood.

Except. The marketing team who will help promote my book asked the authors to create a playlist. Songs that inspired us while we wrote or that might fit the mood of the story/character. Cool, I think. I definitely use music to help me write. It keeps me focused. It drowns out the noise of hockey pucks slamming into the board mere feet from my head (no one said writing at a sports arena would be easy). It helps me write emotional scenes. When I wrote the climax of my first novel, I played “Say Something” on repeat. The Smith’s “Asleep” provided the perfect mood while delivering devastating news to one of my characters in book two. So what did I listen to when I wrote Second in Command? Would it be worthy of a publicized playlist?

Let’s search the downloads from my laptop, which looped continuously as I wrote during soccer practices last year. A few Calvin Harris songs and various other electronica faves. Some Lord Huron. A whole lot of Sia. (Her lyrics are highly motivating. I love “The Greatest”.) Random stuff. Music I knew I could play in the background that had enough beat and rhythm to keep my fingers moving. Did it fit the mood of my story? Not usually. Would it be the same thing my main character would listen to? Doubtful. I asked my 12-year-old son to help make the playlist, and his suggestions did not exactly align with my taste. Hubs said, No 80’s music. Sad face. I know, I know. Surprisingly, there isn’t much of that on my computer. That’s what time traveling mixtapes are for, people.

So I turn to the Internet of Endless Choices. And I’m overwhelmed. My list, started on a small scrap of paper, has scribbles and rewrites. I decide, then un-decide. I text my sister, the person responsible for first introducing me to music and the joy of collecting one’s favorite songs. I visit the library music page. Who are these artists? I feel old.

There are some blank pages at the end of my mixes notebook; perhaps I should try that. Maybe I can unlock the hidden playlist muse or something. Or I could stop procrastinating with this blog post, and as my husband said yesterday, “Just pick the songs and be done with it.”

Stay tuned. I’ll link the playlist on my website once it’s live.

*the blog keeps telling me I’ve spelled “mixtape” incorrectly, but I googled it, and its’ a legitimate word that originated in the 70’s.

2 thoughts on “Mixtapes in the modern age

  1. You’ve forgotten how old your sister is. The 80s are me! I asked Alexa. She’s as unhelpful as she airways is. Although she did throw some Imagine Dragons ironically.

    Liked by 1 person

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