14 February 2012

What Happened To The Valentine's Day Mixtape?

The image above is so true that it makes me want to cry. I know there is an ever-expanding list of other throwback items that the next generation will never know the joys of. Ghetto blasters. Video stores. Maddeningly difficult 8-bit videogames. But none of those things will approach the joy and frustration of dealing with cassette tapes.

Vinyl records sound better. CDs are more durable. MP3s can be carried around in everything from tablets to smartphones. Cassette tapes sound worse than all those other formats. They can easily be crushed. If you leave one in your car during the summer, it can melt. The tape can break. Dogs can eat them.

In other words, cassettes are never making a comeback. Which is a shame, because cassette tapes are goddamn awesome.

The thing that sets cassettes apart is the effort and time and craft that goes into making one. Not to sound to much like Rob Gordon, but there are many different factors that go into making a great mixtape that cannot be ignored, and they have nothing to do with the actual songs. You have to plan the songs on each side well enough that they come in under 45 minutes per side so the end song doesn't get cut off. But at the same time, you can't leave a ton of dead air at the end of either side.

And this is before iTunes but after the popularity of the "cassingle" had passed. So if you wanted to listen to Tubthumping, but didn't want to shell out $15 for the CD, you had to sit by your radio and wait for the song to come on, hitting 'record' as soon as the song started. And god help you if the DJ decided they wanted to talk over the first few bars. And songs you taped off the radio are fine for your own personal listening, but definitely no good to put on a mixtape for someone else.

(SIDE NOTE: As fun as it is to say "cassingle", can we all just admit that they're crap? They still cost about $6. The B-Side was always a shitty song. And the timing was always terrible. I had a cassingle of Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and not only was the B-Side the shitty 'The Show Must Go On', but because of the difference in length of the two songs, there was about 5 minutes of silence after it was over. Apparently the show didn't go on for long enough, AMIRITE???)

But man, when you put together a perfect mixtape, that's really something to behold. Not only are you working with a medium that is prone to magnifying even the smallest mistakes and imperfections, but you've only got a library of songs to work with as big as the CDs you and your friends/parents own.

This is part of the reason mixtapes were THE ITEM to give the person you totally have a crush on. It's the perfect gift. Tons of work goes into it, so it really means something. And as an awkward teenager, why say what you actually feel when you can get John Popper and Billy Joe Armstrong to do it for you? And where the mixtape will always be superior to the mix CD is that there is no skipping tracks. You can put your collection of obscure Joy Division live rarities wherever you want in your mix because there's no skip button. Every song will be listened to and appreciated. Your painstaking hours of not only picking songs, but putting them in the right order will always pay off.

Making mix CDs and iTunes playlists can still be thoughtful, but it's just not the same. Mixtapes are the perfect combination of hard work, craftmanship, thoughtfulness and teen angst. I wish I had stocked up on Maxell cassettes and kept my childhood boombox in peak working condition so I cold still make them. Alas, their time has passed.

Ladies, today being Valentine's Day, if you get a mixtape, you're pretty much the luckiest girl on the planet. Nothing beats the mixtape. You may not think it's better than jewelry and chocolates and cars with giant ribbons, but it is. Trust me. I'm a mixtape authority.

Sometimes I wish I had a stack of the old mixtapes I used to make. But maybe it's a good thing that they're lost forever. I assume the amount of Weird Al that I would find on them would be embarrassing for both me and my family.

(SIDE NOTE 2: It's Valentine's Day, so I already know I'm going to run into a bunch of comments on Facebook and Twitter with people saying "VALENTINE'S DAY SUCKS BECAUSE I'M ON MY OWN AND I WANT TO SHIT ON EVERYTHING!!!" If some kind of terrible tragedy happened to you on Valentine's Day one year, then fine, you get a pass. But for everyone else, I'll leave you with this: Stop it. It might be your fault that you're single. It might not be. I don't know. But regardless of why you're on your own today, don't hate today because you may not be able to celebrate it in the way you want. Yeah, it's a corporate holiday, but so what? It's fun. Some people are romantic 365 days a year and some only go above and beyond today. In both cases, it's still a nice day for everyone involved, so don't hate it just because you're not participating. I don't complain during Black History Month just because it's not something that is specifically for me. If you're alone today, get some other single friends together. Or fire up some porn. Or get your comforting speech ready to give to the hot girl you know that will be disappointed in her shitty boyfriend. The possibilities are endless!)

Even Homeschool Harold is getting in on the Valentine's Day fun!


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