An Ode to the Mixtape


Copy of An Ode to the MixtapeWell I’m dating myself here, but I grew up listening to music on my parents’ record player or on cassettes heard through spongy headphones plugged into my Walkman. At a young age, I mastered the art of sticking my finger in tape holes to rewind loose tape when the spools of shiny brown stuff got jammed or came spilling out of the case.

In high school I received my first mixtape and my concept of music changed forever. Songs transformed from being vessels of personal entertainment to potential messages meant just for me, vows of friendship, or inspiring anthems to live by. One of my high school friends, who is still one of my best friends, was a master at creating mixtapes. She would select the perfect balance of vintage folk, quirky pop, interesting instrumental, and new indie releases to create mixes that could be pored over from beginning to end, the songs and lyrics flowing like chapters in a favorite book. She also meticulously decorated each tape case with various stickers, holographic paper, or collages, and the song list written with sparkly gel pens in her whimsical script. Receiving one of her tapes was always a treat and I still own several of them.

Later, crushes or boyfriends would gift me mix tapes that would be devoured for hidden meanings, secret vows of love, or hints at the compatibility of our budding relationships. I remember one in particular containing various Prince (he was still known as Prince then) and Dee-Lite tunes. I was smitten.

As time rolled on and technology advanced, my friends and loved ones continued to make and receive mixes but now they were in CD form. Maybe I’m just a nostalgic dinosaur, but something has always felt lacking since the transition from tape to CD. The sound quality is probably better and it’s convenient to pop a CD into your computer and have it downloaded forever. However, I’m also a bull in a china shop and have irreparably scratched or cracked most of my favorite CDs.

Now we can download our favorite MP3s or create playlists online with a few clicks. And there’s something to be said for the convenience of that too. It’s also easier for artists to distribute their music online to potentially reach wider audiences (although fair pay for artists has also declined since the creation of streaming sites and the ease of pirating music). But there’s just something to be said for the tangible. To me, mixtapes are to handwritten letters, CDs are to emails, and MP3s are to Facebook messages. I doubt we’ll see those analogies on the SAT anytime soon though.

My husband and I own a decent sized record collection and I enjoy the unique perks of records too —the teeny crackles and pops as the needle grazes over dusts and scratches and the large album art and inserts. But, for all my appreciation of records and tapes, I do my fair share of listening on Spotify lately. I especially enjoy using it to create and share themed playlists, including my recently created labor lists (link coming soon) for the birth of our youngest daughter, Doe.

Since it’s not practical to create and mail out sparkly mixtapes to all of my fellow music nerds, I’ve created a public FOTB Spotify page (link coming soon) and I’ll add themed playlists to it throughout the year. I’m by no means a mixmaster like my mix-gifted high school friend but I enjoy geeking out on themes. I use some of these lists in my work as a music therapist, some for my family during different special occasions, and some are just for kicks. Stay tuned and if you have theme ideas for future playlists, please share them in the comments! 🎧

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