By: Maxine Musto || Contributing Writer
“Now, the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many do’s and don’ts. First of all, you’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing.”
– Rob Gordon in the 2000 film “High Fidelity,” based on the novel by Nick Hornby.
Contrary to popular belief, mixtapes are not dead. In fact, I would argue that in times of need such as these, mixtapes are more alive than ever. Since actual CDs and cassette tapes are hard to come by in this day and age, playlists are the next best thing. Whether you use Spotify, Apple Music, or an off-the-beaten-path streaming service that asserts your hipster position of superiority, playlists reign as the most effective way to congregate all of your music into one compilation. The thing about playlists is that there are many brands: the chill playlist, the hype playlist, the one for the girls, the one for when you’re feeling spicy, the one for when you’re feeling sad, and the one with all of the music you’ve been listening to lately that you name “february 7” in an attempt to remain artful yet mysterious. But those are merely playlists, compiled for the purpose of organizing a music library. There is a stark difference between a mixtape and a playlist; while a mixtape can be a playlist, a playlist cannot be a mixtape.
A mixtape is a letter, an ode, a tone poem, a love note, a short story, a dedication, an acknowledgement. Above all else, a mixtape tells a story, about a person, a relationship, and the feelings that go along with it. It can be a declaration of love, or the closure of a loss. Either way, it is the most personal compilation, carefully curated and unique for both creator and recipient.
Similarly to the rules of jinx, the rules of making a mixtape are unflinchingly rigid. It must begin with attention-grabbing excitement, then a harder bop, then go back down a notch to something cooler. It requires the ebb and flow, give and take of a great love or any good chick-lit story. You must keep the listener guessing, and bring them on the ride with you as you tell your story. It is of the utmost importance that a playlist be listened to in order and straight through from beginning to end without pause. That is the only way to capture the full story. Additionally, the creator cannot edit the mixtape once it has been distributed. Alterations disrupt the feeling and the energy that mark the specific moment in time when the mixtape was created; with edits, the mixtape would be null.
During this very uncertain time, music seems to act as our last hope. With social media challenges such as thirty days of songs, “pass the aux,” and daily quaran-tunes, music is everywhere, and it is almost as inescapable as the other late 2000s Tumblr-esque challenges circulating the internet. But unlike those challenges that remind me of cringe-worthy awkward stages and emo days I would rather forget, music challenges somehow transcend the trope in my memory and bring hope. There is something comforting about the novel feeling of listening to a new-to-you song, something comforting about knowing that all of the music you find can be organized into playlists despite every other part of your life being swarmed in chaos. And during this odd, unknown, and sometimes infuriating time, I have realized the importance of the mixtape. It acts as a tool of love, and a dedication of gratitude. It reminds us of the feelings and stories we lived B.C. (before corona), and reconnects us with the humanness we desire as we reflect upon that time. So I’ll say it again: mixtapes are alive and well. During a break from the daily combination of homework, self-pity, close and unwanted parental supervision, and the truly dreadful TV show you continue to watch because you have literally nothing else to do, try to make a mixtape. Only then will you experience its true magic, and I hope it brings you some healing during this time.
Junior Maxine Musto is a Contributing Writer. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.