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Playlists: The Modern Mixtape

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Written by Joyelle Ronan

There is something so incredibly intimate about listening to music with another person. Sure, concerts are fun but sharing your favorite songs with someone and just listening together is an idyllic phenomenon. It takes you back to a particular moment in time like sitting in your friend’s car or cooking in your parent’s kitchen. Mixtapes and playlists have made it so we can combine all of our music memories and songs into unique listening experiences.  

Our society has a fondness for the 1980s, even those of us born much later feel the sense of nostalgia. This feeling is likely influenced by some of the amazing artists that emerged from the decade like Queen, Michael Jackson, and Madonna. With the birth of MTV songs were being revolutionized by the mainstream success of music videos. However, it was the invention of the mixtape that made music a more personalized practice.

Depending on when you were born, your idea of a mixtape might look a little different. Mixtapes became popular on cassette tapes back in the 80s. But if you grew up in the 90s or earlier 2000’s then you’re probably familiar with burning tracks onto a CD. If a physical copy of music is before your time, your mixtape may come in the form of a playlist. There is some debate on if mixtapes and playlists are considered synonyms, but ultimately they both accomplish the same job of compiling music of a certain theme or idea.

For some, the mixtape is an artform. It is tracks arranged in a specific order meant to tell a poignant musical story. It can also be a shuffled collection of upbeat pop tunes that make you slightly more likely to exercise. The beauty of the mixtape is in its ability to be customized. It isn’t fixed the way an album is. We control the structure or lack thereof. This makes it the perfect way to share our musical tastes with others. 

There is definitely a charm to a cassette tape or CD with “romance music” or “awesome mix vol. 2” written across the top with black sharpie. But, you can be just as creative with a Spotify or Apple Music playlist by creating a cover image and giving someone a QR code. Spending the time to pick out songs you love or that make you think of a person you care about is so romantic, even if it is purely platonic. Make someone’s day by giving them a playlist and listening to it together.