If you grew up in the 90s (or, I guess, in the early 2000s), High Fidelity might have had an impact on you. In many ways, it was the perfect story for over-the-top music fans with its lists, over-thinking of relationships, deep knowledge of music and finally, the glorification of Mixtapes as the be-all-end-all of emotional connection.
With tapes gone from the mainstream, only exisiting in very select quarters, I wonder what "the kids these days" do to win someone's heart in over-the-top ways? Sharing playlists in iTunes doesn't quite have the same substance and emotion to me.
To me, a mixtape was an emotional journey that was so much more than the piece of plastic. It was like an heirloom to carry with you on your ride to work or something. An "I wanted you to know how far you and I came together through it." Or "This is how much I enjoyed talking to you that night over drinks at Johnny Brenda's." A good Mixtape could describe the entire evening:
The heartbeat racing when we first talked; the way your eyes darted to and fro when you were unsure of an answer; fiddling with your clothes as if to say, "Do I look nice?"
We would slowly sip our drinks to prolong a good conversation, only biding our time so you can use the excuse to get another drink during an awkard moment in conversation.
Do I want another? Sure I do! Let me buy. No, no, I got this round. You sure? Well, all right then. Now I'm waiting to see if you look back and you do. A smile. Perfect!
I would hem and haw over these mixtapes for hours and hours. I would ask myself what songs should be on there. I couldn't use songs I had given to others because those were for them. Hopefully you did some groundwork beforehand in conversation.
You had to be careful not to put too much "I love you" in there, or to go beyond their tastes. No Dave Matthews when she's a prog-rock fan; no Celine Dion if she's from Canada. A Maple Leafs fan? Flyers fight songs are O-U-T.
You would have to make sure there wasn't too much of a gap in between songs either. Too much of that analog hiss could be almost as bad as the silence in a conversation.
You couldn't put on songs she knew too much because that's boring. What if some other guy had given her these same songs? Some terrible ex gave her "You Really Got Me" by The Kinks? You had to keep that out!
Maybe you put a little artwork or craft in the liner notes to show creativity. But don't make a mistake, or else it looks sloppy! To me, all that meant something.
The actual time it took to record a mixtape—remember, dubbing was a one-minute-to-one-minute (unless you had a high-speed system) ratio—to go through your cd book, to think about the playlist—by today's standards of music sharing, it was a lifetime.
You invested a piece of yourself in this gesture to show someone what you wanted to invest in them.
Now how do we share? Spotify playlists? We can just skip ahead past that song we know, or the intial 15 seconds of which we don't like. Even though it was the 90s for me (or 80s or 70s for you), I kind of miss some things we've technologically advanced beyond.
I guess looking back, mixtapes were utterly ridiciulous love-letter drivel, but they were cute. Making one meant something for those moments of a courtship, but they could have been for any situation.
Maybe today it's just an iTunes gift card that says as much. "Hey I went to target and spent 15 minutes in line this month. Be happy with what you've got."
Now excuse me; I need to go change albums on Spotify.