I definitely appreciate them. I’ve discovered a lot of great music from mix CDs or playlists girlfriends have given me, and I like making them as well. It’s always nice to get something that someone took the time to make for you, be it a playlist or a mix CD with a fancy cover and a title like “Beth’s Awesometastic Rockin’ Goodtime Mix.”
That said, there is definitely an etiquette for mix-making that will ensure he actually listens to them and/or doesn’t run away in fear.
1. Be mindful of song titles. If you’re deep into the relationship, and have already expressed your undying love for each other, then feel free to ignore this one. But if it’s early in the relationship, you might not want to load it with songs with “love” in the title. One or two is fine, but if you’ve got “I Just Called to Say I Love You” segueing into “I Honestly Love You” on a mix called “The Love Album” that you’re giving him a couple weeks into the relationship, he might get a tad freaked out. (Also, avoid potentially stalker-ish songs like “Every Breath You Take.”) Conversely, try not to make every song about failed relationships (don’t go from “Bad Romance” to Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats”), unless you’re trying to subtly break up with him. However, dirty songs are fine at any stage of the relationship. (Particularly if they are hilarious and catchy, like anything by Peaches or Ol’ Dirty Bastard.)
2. Don’t overload on your favorite artists. Let’s say you’re a big fan of, oh, Jack Johnson. So you include your favorite Jack Johnson song in the hopes that he’ll like it. But how can you choose just one Jack Johnson song when they’re all such precious sound diamonds? So you put another one on the mix, and then a third. And of course he has to have the live version of “Taylor” with the audience singing along and special guest appearances by Dave Matthews, Bela Fleck and some dude from Phish. And pretty soon, you’ve given him half of a Jack Johnson album. Ease him into your favorite artists with a choice track and he might just surprise you and become a crazy Jack Johnson fan. (Or at least a mild Jack Johnson fan.)
3. Pay attention to what he likes. Ideally, your mix will express your feelings and expose him to your favorite music. But remember you’re also making it for him, so keep his taste in mind. If he’s a hip hop fan, throw in a hip hop track or at least some R&B. Take note of artists he does like, and try to chose similar artists for a track or two. (For instance, if he likes Radiohead, he might dig Muse or Sigur Ros.) Also, if he’s mentioned that he actively hates, say, country music, maybe leave the Tim McGraw and Rascal Flatts off entirely. (Or opt for accessible artists like Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson as a gateway.)
4. Variety, variety, variety. I’ll make a confession here: When I was in college, I was into music that could generously be defined as “mopey.” (Another way to describe it might be “whiny.”) This led to a lot of mixes heavy on the Tori Amos and The Cure that probably made the recipients more than a little concerned about my mental health. That’s not to say you shouldn’t include the occasional heartbreaking love song or moving piano-driven ballad. Just mix it up with a little Bell Biv Devoe or Journey or Outkast– anything upbeat.
5. Don’t forget the cover. I’m a sucker for a nice handmade cover; something fun that makes the mix stand out on my shelf. Even if you make him a playlist on iTunes or online, include a personalized song list or email him a snazzy cover design that he can print out when he burns the mix to CD. And don’t rule out good old-fashioned markers, stickers, glue, glitter, whatever. Nothing beats an actual physical object made with love.
Do you have any tips for making the perfect mix CD or playlist? Any memories of favorite/least favorite mixes you’ve received?