Playlists are not the new mix tape.
Perhaps that dates me, but I'm just being honest.
As much as I fret, fuss and finesse over songs and the order they appear on a Spotify playlist, they do not extract the same emotional toll upon me that putting together a mix tape used to. Mix tapes were usually gifts meant specifically for one person, or to be shared with friends. And they required more than access to the Internet to hear.
A mix tape, on the other hand, requires a tape deck, Walkman or cassette player in your car to listen. And making a mix tape? That involved listening to dozens of LPs – you needed physical access to a record or CD collection to make one after all – taking detailed notes on which side and track number off the album you wanted, and then the order in which you wanted to lay them down to tape. I always wanted to do it right the first time too, not have to overdub anything if I changed my mind because in my mind that would degrade the sonics of the mix. Then there were the pens, pencils, magazines, scissors, glue, tape and paint I’d gather to craft the inserts accompanying each curated cassette. It was an involving process.
These were objects that literally sprung from laughter, sweat and tears. Perhaps that is more a recognition of the times. It was my teens and early 20s after all, and like most people of that age I was emotional, carefree, inexperienced in the complexities of love and always looking for adventure. Crafting a mix tape was more music as metaphor or cathartic rite of passage for a new love – “it’s serious, he made a me mix tape” – or more often, for breaking up. They were also the soundtracks for weekend getaways, road trips, summer vacations, dance parties or chilling out. There was a mix tape for everything – playlists are no different in that respect.
Do playlists carry the same emotional weight and innate connotation of time and effort that mix tapes did? I don’t think so, but I guess for many that remains to be seen. I love a great playlist, but because of how easy they are to put together, how non-corporeal they are, and how one is no longer tethered to physical media in their creation, they just aren’t the same thing to me. I don’t see myself digging through a shoebox in 20 years, finding a thumb drive and getting that same pang of melancholy or grunt of laughter that coming across an old mix tape has brought me.
So, while the playlists we will be making for Resistor Mag don’t come with hand-drawn artwork like the mix tapes of old, they are created with the idea of using music to connect with someone – this time it’s you, the listener. And while they don’t take me days to make, lack physicality – you can’t slip them in a pocket or car glovebox to play later – and don't produce the same cathartic euphoria I used to achieve finishing a mix tape for someone, I'm coming around to a fuzzy feeling when they are done.
Judy is a Punk – Resistor Mag playlist. Listen to all Resistor Mag Playlists HERE.