Gone are the days of the 8-tracks and cassette tapes, but while CDs may be losing their competitive advantage, they still hold a place in many of our hearts. For me, the trek from home to college requires about three hours alone in my little blue car (Carlos), and if there’s anything that keeps me going, it’s music. So far, in the last year, I have created ten mix CDs (aptly named Carlos Mixes), each of which represent different aspects of my first year of college. Making a mix CD has become almost an exact science for me, and so for all of you who would like a musical release for all of your long car rides (or even the short ones, too!), I would like to share my rules of making a mix CD or playlist. (And yes, I know today is a Saturday, but when life gets busy, you do what you must!)
The Friday Five: Rules of Making a Mix CD
1. Start strong and end strong.
Before you start rearranging files in your iTunes library, you should have a general idea of some of the songs that you’ll want to feature on your CD, but after you’ve figured some of that out, make sure you start the CD out strong. By that, I mean that the first track on your CD should be one of your favorites from that particular playlist, something fun and exciting that gets you pumped for the drive ahead of you. It may sound silly, but it really works! Carlos Mix #10, my latest creation, opens with Goldspot’s cover of Float On, and honestly, how can you not be instantly happy when you hear it? The same thing goes for the way you end the CD — try to pick a song that has some kind of impact for you. For example, Carlos Mix #2 comes to a close with Geto Boys’ Damn, It Feels Good to be a Gangsta, and I don’t think I’d have it any other way! If anything, we tend to remember the first and last songs we’ve heard — something psychology refers to as the serial position effect. And if psychology says it’s true, then of course it has to be!
2. Avoid too much of “the same.”
When I was in eighth grade, my favorite band was Something Corporate. After catching their concert one night on Fuse, I immediately borrowed the CDs from friends and listened to their music (especially the stuff from their North album) as much as I could. Then came the day that I was mildly sick of what was once the music that kept me going. Moral of the story? Don’t get caught up in one band or one genre of music like I did. While I have gradually fallen back in love with the sweet voice of Andrew McMahon, who now fronts the band Jack’s Mannequin, I will no longer be able to listen to his music for any prolonged period of time. In order to avoid a fate like mine, it’s good to follow this rule of thumb: if the artist has already appeared once on your mix CD, he or she should not appear again. Let’s face it, if your favorite band has monopolized the CD, then you cannot in good conscience refer to it as a mix CD anymore. It’s good to switch up artists and genres so that you never get sick of one thing, and so that your CD is more listener-friendly when you do have guests in the car. You can always create another CD later, with more from those artists you can’t get enough of.
3. Don’t make it too much about one person.
Let me be the first to admit that crushes and significant others have a huge impact on what we listen to and how those songs impact us. Looking back through my middle and high school years, I can easily remember which songs I associated with the boys I liked at the time — If You’re Not the One by Daniel Bedingfield for my first real crush, Burn by Usher for the boy who was my best friend and never more, and If I Were a Boy by Beyonce for the boy who broke my heart on Spirit Week (just to name a few). We relate to the lyrics of these songs in some way, and then we play them nonstop just for that effect they have on us. For that very reason, I can listen to Carlos Mix #5 and immediately be reminded of the boy I was talking to when I made it. Now that I’m in a relationship with someone else, it’s always a little awkward to play that CD because of its connotations. The point is, it’s okay to put in a few songs here and there that relate specifically to the apple of your eye, but don’t go too crazy with it, because if things end poorly, you may not want to be reminded of that every time you play that CD.
Your CD does not have to stick to one time period — it can include anything! While most of your music will probably be more recent (unless you’re strictly a fan of a certain era), it’s okay to include some slightly dated songs from your childhood. For example, my CDs have been known to feature lots of 90’s alternative bands (think Buzz Ballads, only better), a little bit of 80’s, some genuine oldies, and yes — The Spice Girls. Can I honestly say I regret any of those choices? No, I do not. 🙂 Embrace your nostalgia. Choose anything that brings back happy memories, and don’t be afraid of embarrassing yourself. As long as you’re enjoying the music, no one else can take that away from you!
5. Keep it upbeat.
If it’s something you’re potentially going to play in a moving vehicle, then make sure it doesn’t put you to sleep! One of my friends can’t listen to Enya while driving, and Viva La Vida by Coldplay makes me want to veer off the road. Even though The Smiths’ music makes me feel as infinite as it does the characters in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I will choose their song There is a Light that Never Goes Out over their song Asleep for a CD mix any day of the week. Not only will an upbeat song keep you safe on the road, but it will also boost your mood and make your journey all the more worth it! 🙂