NPR's "All Songs Considered" blog has yet again inspired me. Stephen Thompson recently answered a note from a reader asking if mix tapes and CDs are still relevant as an acceptable Valentine's Day gift. Thompson crafted a thoughtful response. The basic gist is yes; mixes are the perfect present because they require so much time and meditation. A mix tape or CD is a great way to let someone know that you care.
I grew up taping songs that I liked off of the radio. I suppose to some this was seen as the earliest form of music piracy. Those were my earliest mixes courtesy of Nashville's top 40 station. It was the late '90s, so I favored Sugar Ray and Christina Aguilera (don't be harsh -- I was still in elementary school!).
The new millennium hit and suddenly we had this great new technology that allowed us to burn our own mix CDs. My first CD-R drive was a Christmas gift that my mother then had to manually install into the computer tower in my bedroom. It took about an hour to burn a CD in those days, but I loved every second of it. Like Rob in High Fidelity, there was a method to my madness. I had a strict set of rules that I followed when compiling playlists both for friends and myself. People received mix CDs from me whether they wanted them or not. Just like I still do today, I simply loved sharing the music that I adore with those that I care about.
Though I acquired my first iPod somewhere around age 16, I still preferred to put my driving mixes on CDs. I went to college in Boston while my trusty steed, an old Toyota Camry, stayed in my parents' driveway. I looked forward to trips back to Tennessee during the holidays so that I could drive around listening to a mix of the music that I was digging back in Boston.
I still love receiving new mix CDs or 8tracks playlists from friends. One of the best things about music is getting to share it with others. Many of my friends are on the pulse of all sorts of cool new music that you won't hear elsewhere in the U.S., from French indie pop to Swedish electro. I love listening to the mixes that they create on Spotify or even just getting an email containing a list of links to songs on YouTube.
Continuing with the Valentine's Day theme from "All Songs Considered," I agree with Stephen Thompson. The boys that have lovingly crafted mix CDs for me over the years continue to hold a special place in my heart. They introduced me to bands that I may never have discovered otherwise while also making me feel warm and fuzzy. I'd like to think these same guys still appreciate the effort I put into the lovestruck mixes that I made for them.
Whatever you do, don't stop making mix tapes and CDs. Continue to share the music that you love with your friends and encourage them to do the same with you.