Sunday, February 13, 2011


Three years ago, I was writing for the Daily Utah Chronicle on a regular weekly basis. We had a lot of space to fill, so they started letting me write opinion pieces from time to time (it didn't hurt that Dan Fletcher was my editor and said yes to pretty much anything I wanted to do).

I started my Tumblr account in 2007 and was going through it earlier. There were some things on there that I'd forgotten about and this piece was one of them. I wrote it for our Valentine's Day issue in 2008 and while it still (kind of) holds up, I feel I'd write it much differently now. And hopefully I'd write it a lot better. But anyway...


February 2008 -- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — computers killed the mix tape.

It’s true, and it’s a shame. I remember those nights sitting at home, timing the cassette player just right so that I could fit more songs on a tape. I spent hours searching through my CD collection, wondering if the object of my desire was going to read too much — or almost worse, not enough — into what the songs were about. It was hard work, but it was all worth it.

Then came the technological revolution, with CD burning abilities, iPods, playlists and everything else that, in the mid-’90s, seemed so far away. The mix tape was the first and most heartbreaking casualty, because a burned CD just wasn’t the same. With the ability to skip over tracks and stick it in your computer to pull up the song titles from the Internet, a mix CD just didn’t seem as personal or fun to listen to. It required no real effort, because anyone can make a playlist on iTunes. You can even steal one from a celebrity, and that’s just sad.

So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, it’s time to make a good, old fashioned mix tape for the one you like/love/care for/whatever. Just remember, there are rules to follow and songs to avoid, but that’s the purpose of this column: to help you make that perfect mix tape. Try not to screw it up.

Rule One: Start off with a kicker! Grab your sweetheart’s attention. I’ve always thought that The Bouncing Souls’ “Hopeless Romantic” did a great job at it. It’s full of energy, and people who claim they don’t like the Bouncing Souls are probably liars or have poor taste in music. Either way, this song works.

After that, you have to take it up a notch, but then the third track needs to cool things down. You don’t want to use up all the fast stuff too early. Huey Lewis and the News playing “The Power of Love” will keep things moving, and the fade-out at the end leaves the perfect place for you to cool things down with something like Paul McCartney and Wings’ “Maybe I’m Amazed.” But of course, you don’t want to give off the impression that you’re too soft, so after that you’ll need to take it back up and give the tape some life. Aside from his personal problems and general strangeness, Michael Jackson knew how to write a damn good song back in the day. “The Way You Make Me Feel” will give it a jolt of energy, and hopefully no one will take too much time to think about whether or not he’s talking about Macaulay Culkin.

And of course, what mix tape would be complete without an ’80s metal power ballad? With so many to choose from, it would almost seem easier to make an entire mix of them. Unless you’re in love with Tawny Kitaen (and who wasn’t, honestly), it’s probably better to stick to just one. With so many options, it’s hard to choose, but Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” usually does the trick, or maybe she’d be more into “Love of a Lifetime” by Firehouse or Foreigner’s “Waiting For A Girl Like You.” It’s a tough call, so maybe sticking with “Bad Medicine” by everyone’s favorite Jersey Boys, Bon Jovi, is the way to go.

Speaking of Bon Jovi and Guns N’ Roses, there are a number of songs to avoid also. Channeling your love through Axl Rose singing lines like “I used to love her/but I had to kill her” is probably not a good idea. Neither is “You Give Love a Bad Name.” It’s a safe bet that although both of those are excellent songs, you’ll make the wrong impression, and the night will be over quicker than Firehouse’s career.

Of course, these are merely suggestions, and in no way are you expected to use these songs on your own tape. The purpose of this list was merely to provide last minute gift ideas, and something like this will work beautifully. Especially considering that you’ll be able to find every song you want on the Internet, blank CDs at the bookstore and CD burners on just about every computer.

Oh God, the irony.

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