In the spirit of self-mythology, I can trace the trajectory of my life back to the moment I got my first mixtape. I didn’t ask for it, it appeared because someone had something they wanted to share. The only thing that beats someone giving you a mixtape is someone else asking you to make one for them. I used to love doing this in high school, but somehow between then and now, I lost the spirit. One of the fortunate byproducts of this quarantine was a friend reaching out and asking me for some music. Like I said, it’s a great feeling.
The mixtape feels like an ancient, lost nerdy art. It’s one of the many fads that saw its prime before the digital age,and lost something in translation. I treasured my $49.99 Discman and the terrible headband earbuds that came with them, and every 80 minutes I didn’t really mind the effort it took to find the next disc. A finite amount of time on a CD-R meant you had to get down to business.
What separates a playlist from a mixtape is intention. The classic homemade mixtapes are well-planned procedures, like surgery. Think of the cliche of making a mixtape to confess your feelings to someone. You got to strategize and really plan that biz out! I feel like the whole point of mixtapes are to use songs as shortcuts to the feelings and deep thoughts seeded in our mind-hearts, and summarize them in four minutes or less, preferably with a Sam Cooke-type, or maybe Brittany Howard (exceptions notwithstanding).
A playlist is like a collection. I am one of many people I know that uses a playlist to just collect new songs that I like. This is a great feature, and one of the many boons to come from the digital age. I love my Spotify! But, having a bucket of songs to shuffle through is not the same as hearing a mixtape organized with intention, a crafted message from one person to whoever is listening. So, in the wake of the coronavirus and the potential onslaught of monster killer wasps threatening Washington, I’m searching for shortcuts to mind-hearts. Make me a fuckin’ mixtape!