It’s no secret that I am a sucker for a good romantic comedy or teenage coming-of-age movie. Both of these genres tend to operate on themes of innocence and hope, something that the world could use a little bit more of.
I have probably spent too many car rides staring out the window of a car, my forehead pressed up against the cool glass, staring out the window and pretending that I was the protagonist in my own movie. Maybe it was the opening credits of the movie, where the audience meets me for the first time and my future is a whole host of possibilities. Or sometimes it’s the moody montage that takes place halfway through the film after everything falls apart. No matter the scene, a crucial part is the sound. The music lets the audience know how the character is feeling, without them having to verbally say anything. Music sets the tone, the vibes, the ambiance.
Before I leave my apartment every morning, I stand at the top of the stairs scrolling through my playlists on Spotify. I feel like Baby Driver, waiting with his foot hovering slightly above the gas pedal, ready to rev the engine in time with the perfect song. Granted my walk to class is much lower stakes than, say, a high-paced car chase evading the police, but my feet do not budge until I find the right track.
A mixtape is a tiny time capsule, the page of a diary, a token of time and thought given. You are not only sharing your music taste with someone, but giving them a part of you, saying, “Here, take this. Keep this part of me and play it over and over again until it becomes yours.”
My love of mixtapes, like most things, can be traced back to depictions of love in pop culture. In Rainbow Rowell’s YA novel Eleanor & Park, music plays a central role in igniting a relationship between the titular characters. In the first couple mixtapes he makes for her, Park introduces Eleanor to new artists, such as The Smiths and Joy Division. She remarks that she could listen to the first three seconds of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” “over and over.” In response, Park makes her a follow-up mixtape with only that song playing on loop, over and over. The characters in Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower also rely on music to communicate what their words lack. Charlie, the main character, mentions various songs throughout the book to complement his thoughts and feelings. During a Secret Santa exchange with friends, Charlie gifts a mixtape to his friend Patrick. He titles the mixtape “winter kind of songs” and hopes that they will make Patrick “feel like he belongs to something whenever he’s sad.”
Making a good playlist is like telling a story—all the songs have to fit together just right to maintain the narrative. Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” does not follow nicely after listening to Sleeping With Sirens. As John Cusack's character in High Fidelity explains, “the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many dos and don’ts. First of all, you’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing.”
My Dad would like to argue that mixtapes are very different from a Spotify playlist, that there’s something lost without the physical entity of the tape. As much as I love my playlists, the romantic in me has always dreamed about someone making a mixtape for me. Making a mixtape for someone means that you like them enough to create something for them, to spend the time writing the song titles down for them, giving them something tangible to hold. I know some friends with playlists that are over a hundred hours, but a mixtape can only hold so much. It is finite. It is purposeful. A mixtape is a tiny time capsule, the page of a diary, a token of time and thought given. You are not only sharing your music taste with someone, but giving them a part of you, saying, “Here, take this. Keep this part of me and play it over and over again until it becomes yours.”
Unfortunately, I have yet to receive a mixtape from someone. I am not sure if mixtapes have been lost to the digital age, or maybe I am just keeping the wrong company. In an attempt to gain some musical karma, I am sharing some playlists with you in hopes that some new music will find its way back to me. May these songs comfort you, inspire you, and make you feel a part of something.
Autumn leaves and herbal tea
- Picture this: Fall is coming to a close and the trees are losing their leaves. The wind blows a little harder and nips at your cheeks. The ground beneath you crunches with every step on your walk home. Visions of cuddling up with a book and a warm cup of coffee play in your head.
A trip to nowhere
- Picture this: You are driving through the mountains with the windows down. Music is blasting from the speakers coupled with the sound of your friends laughing in the backseat. The sun is shining low in the sky, basking the world in gold. You're far away from all responsibilities and obligations.
Invincible & Infinite
- Picture this: A time when everything is changing. You finally feel you are in the driver's seat and in charge of what happens next. You have the time to explore, the time to make mistakes, and yet you have a premature nostalgia for the moments you are currently living.
Rise and Shine
- Picture this: You are dancing around your room after getting out of the shower. The sun leaks into your room, filtering through the blinds. You feel confident in your own skin. Beautiful. Carefree. Powerful. Don't forget to moisturize.
L'appétit vient en mangeant
- Picture this: You are drinking a latte while sitting at a cafe on the streets of Paris, overlooking the Seine. You lose yourself in watching people pass you by, all consumed in their own lives. Before you know it the sun is setting over the city and another day has come to an end.
Sunflowers in the rain
- Picture this: You are sitting in the middle of a field soaking in the last minutes of summer sun. Everything is still. Everything is at peace. It begins to drizzle and you know you should go home. but you are not ready. Not yet.
- Picture this: It's 4am and you're laying in bed accepting that sleep will not come. There's a weird sort of power knowing that everyone else is asleep and nobody can contact you. It's just you and the company of the stars. You are small compared to the galaxy, but you are home - safe and warm.
Train rides and busy minds
- Picture this: You are sitting at the window seat of a train as it chugs up the coast. You are headed home, but leaving a different home. You are no longer sure where you belong more, but all you can do is press your head against the window and watch the trees whip by you.
It’s our house, we make the rules
- Picture this: You are moving into an apartment with your significant other. Everything is a mess, and there are boxes everywhere. but you are cooking your first meal together in this new city. The future is unknown, but you are not alone. They grab you, pull you close, and you feel safe.