Saturday, August 30, 2008

WILL PLAYLISTS KILL THE MIXTAPE LOVERS?

A friend of mine told me that the guy who directed Raising Victor Vargas was now doing a movie called Nick and Nora's Infinite Mixtape. "Cool", I thought. Seems appropriate, what with all of the Gen-X'rs now having turned into thirtysomethings with baby slings and Baby Einstein DVDs that encroach in on the space laid out for their very carefully crafted Dick Linklater collections. Plus, there was the recent, heartwarming success of Rob Sheffield's Love Is A Mixtape. A kind of The Greatest Generation for the grunge/indie set.

But then I saw the trailer...

After I got over the excitement of seeing a 69 Love Songs poster in Michael Cera's room, the title for the film came up: Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist... er... Playlist?!?... PLAYLIST??? Darn. I instantly turned into one of those finger wagging I-tell-ya-this-generation-sure-doesn't-BLAH-BLAH-BLAH..." boneheads that everyone transforms into once they realize that the remainder of their life is simply a series of falling actions.

Still, I posit that a truly special art form has died if "the playlist" has officially replaced the mixtape or mix CD. I mean, mix CDs were already a step in the wrong direction. There was no demarcation of sides (SIDE A/SIDE B), which created a whole host of problems. Without "SIDES", the last song of SIDE A and the first song of SIDE B lose their punch.

Notice the genius of ending SIDE A with "I Can't Make You Love Me", starting SIDE B with "I'm In Love With A Girl" and ending with "Thirteen".

But playlists?!?!? Is this what (you) kids do now? Do new friends make playlists for each other ?? Do you just e-mail the girl or boy you dream of your butterflied-stomach masterpiece in a stinkin' MP3 file?!? Does High Fidelity read like a Russian novel to 17 year olds today? EEEEEEEE!!!!

This is HERESY! And here is why:

1. Mixtapes are tangible. The tactile experience that is had with picking up a CD or a DVD at the store is a much more valuable cultural experience than people let on. For one, it's part of the hunt. You find what you want, you pick it up, look at it, connect with it. When someone hands you a mixtape (or CD) they are giving you their woodwork, their blood and tears. It's a physical product of something that started in the heart. This is a benefit of materialism that people often dismiss.

2. Artwork. Some of the best mixtapes (and CDs) are often enhanced by the artwork (i.e. "cover art") attached to them. Collages, sketches, ink drawings. Even the attention given to handwriting when a song list is penciled in can carry significant weight. Also, printed initials, dates, and hidden messages can add flair.

3. Using those skinny little stickers to title each SIDE of the tape. This one may not mean as much to those other than mixtape obsessives, but naming a SIDE is key. This was the place where hidden messages could be dropped without the recipient being 100% sure of the meaning behind it. Song lyrics are often a popular choice for SIDE titles. (Ex: SIDE A - "Wise is the tongue, wet of perfect thought" ; SIDE B - "Softest neck, where I lay my clumsy thoughts").

Yeah, that was how we got down. Sitting eye-to-eye with a stereo, pressing PLAY/REC, PAUSE, STOP, and REW like our libidos depended on it. Now it's simply a click and a drag?!? Hmph. A drag, indeed.

18 comments:

Rick Olson said...

Fox: Have you had your medicines yet?

Actually, mix CDs have last songs and first songs, just half as many.

Actually, I am from the time before CDs in cars and Walk-men, from the time when cassettes were cool. I had a whole collection, at one time, of these things called LPs, and you played them on things called turntables.

Yes, I am old.

Fox said...

I know, I know... but dude, the end of SIDE A song and the beginning of SIDE B song are key! And, plus, You get that pause of silence, that needed punctuation, when when the tape flips over, just like when you had to flip that vinyl LP over.

Anonymous said...

The biggest difference is that on a CD you can skip to the next track. allowing someone to fly through a mix cd too quickly.

Pat said...

Ah the mix tape! How many of those have I made in my day? I still laugh a little uncomfortably at the scene in "Booogie Nights" where Alfred Molina has that cassette labeled "My Awesome Mix Tape," because I think I may have made one similarly labeled tape along the way!

Hey,Fox - I've tagged you for the "other" 12-movie meme. See the Details at http://cinemafist.blogspot.com/2008/08/another-12-movies-meme-fest-o-rama.html

elgringo said...

Mixes are life. My life anyway. Now, I'm going to be honest. The first mixes I made for myself were on cassette but by the time I was making mixes for others (females, especially) they were mostly on CDs.

But damnit, those CDs were much better than 'playlists.' These kids need to be aware of that...the same way I was aware that my CDs were infinitely inferior to cassette tapes.

Great post, Fox.
You should make me a mix sometime.
What would you think about that?

Scott
he-shot-cyrus.blogspot.com

Fox said...

Anon-

You bring up a great point I hadn't thought of. The skip-to-the-next-track is a definite bummer about CDs. Especially b/c it ruins the momentum of a tape, as you said. I can't tell you how many songs I've not liked (or, was lukewarm on) until after a 3rd or 4th listen on a tape. If it wasn't for the fact that I had to work through it, I may have never learned to love them. In fact, tapes taught me a lot of the discipline I have now when it comes to music.

Pat-

Awesome! I will check out the meme ASAP. I'm at South Padre Island right now, so the internet access has been very hit and miss. And ... Molina's mixtape goes from "Jesse's Girl" to "Sister Christian", right? I think "Jesse's Girl" is still a pretty good song.

Scott-

Would I have complete creative freedom when it comes to making you a mix? It would be quite interesting to make a mix for someone whose taste in music I don't know too well.

Jason Bellamy said...

Mix tapes were an art form. In my last mix making days – when we were using CDs but recording to cassette – I’d list out the running time of the songs I wanted to include and planned for the 3 second gaps I’d create in the effort to fill each side to the maximum. (The appeal of the Side A to Side B switch was ruined if the tape had to be rewound upon flipping to get it back to the start.) In one case I can remember fouling up my math and having to go back three songs to insert a shorter one before redubbing the two I wanted to finish the side.

If the tape had 90 minutes per side, you had to put in at least that much time. That was part of the gestre of the mix tape. (On a related note: Great call on the mix tape artwork. Also key!) Now it can all be done in 90 seconds, and you’ve got your computer to tell you if you’re over the space limit.

On a related note: Teens trying to connect with the opposite sex have another significant advantage: cell phones. Everyone has one. Everyone texts. Everyone gives away their number like nothing. Back in the day you had to time the call for the moment when you thought the girl would be home, praying all the while that her dad wouldn’t answer the phone. (Nothing was worse that leaving a message with the dad.)

Fox said...

Jason-

Great comment, as always.

I especially like this:

"Back in the day you had to time the call for the moment when you thought the girl would be home, praying all the while that her dad wouldn’t answer the phone. (Nothing was worse that leaving a message with the dad.)"

As much as I hated that at the time, I miss it so now. I still remember - in college! - working myself up to call a girl that I had already kinda been friends with to ask out. I screwed it all up (she was a swimmer too!!), and I thought I would die, but man, did I ever learn from my idiocy.

It will be interesting to see the effect it has on the interpersonal communications of the younger generations. (geez... we really sound like foggies!)

Also... I can't hang with the perfectionism of your tape making. I mean, I am a stickler, but DUDE, you are hardcore with the 180 minute tapes! That's a triple album!

whitney said...

That was a wonderful love post to the mixtape. I might make one right now.

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