As much as I love music, and devoted a significant amount of my life to it, I can still be pretty closed minded. I like what I like and over the last few years I’ve lived deeply in that bubble. Why listen to the radio when I’ve got 20k+ songs in iTunes? I also no longer care about being cool—I’m over having to be the first to hear a new rock band or searching for the meaning of life within lyrics. I think there’s two reasons for this:
One, I’m getting older. Not all music, or even the music I used to like, resonates with me like it used to. There’s nostalgia attached, but I certainly can’t get excited about the new pop punk band singing about getting kicked out of high school—nor should I. I never thought I’d see the day when I didn’t have much of an interest in Warped Tour or picking up an issue of AP—but those days are over, and I’m okay with that.
Secondly, my time at Sony forced me to listen to a lot of music I’d otherwise have no interest in. Leaving that world was like a spiritual backlash to anything Top 40—I could refocus on the music that moved me, rather than it’s commercial viability. New music doesn’t mean good music, and now being a private citizen, I only have to worry about good music.
With that said, Taylor Swift’s 1989 is good music.
I don’t know much about hip hop, except I know when I like it. And I like Broken Ankles by Girl Talk and Philadelphia Freeway.
The combination of Girl Talk and Freeway is unlike anything you’ll hear in Top 40 radio—mostly because the music industry is way behind modern art. Record labels can’t, or won’t, touch Girl Talk because of copyright laws, but I challenge you to argue that Broken Ankles isn’t original work. When does a sample no longer become a sample? You can’t copyright a drum beat or a guitar note, so it must be the arrangement of the music that holds value. What happens when you deconstruct the original arrangement of a song, then combine it with 5 or 6 other deconstructed songs, and create something entirely new? Well, awesome is what happens, but just as the music industry fought the internet, they’re also trying to silence this new emerging genre.
It’s often hard to articulate the thoughts and emotions that consumed me the first time I listened to Bikini Kill. Awestruck. Captivated. Confused. Moved. Inferior. To me, the band was the beginning of an awakening or rather a tangible example of something I already knew to be true- they just personified it.
I wasn’t aware of sexism until later in childhood, roughly when girls started to develop and I didn’t. Even then, I didn’t really understand it. I understood that men were physically stronger than women, but I kind of thought that’s were the conversation ended. I figured my natural weaknesses were women’s natural strengths and vice versa, the whole thing ultimately balancing out. I honestly lived my childhood believing that because nature made me stronger that meant that women were naturally smarter. My mom is smarter than my dad, girls in my classes always seemed to get better grades than the boys. I was the one with the inferiority complex because I had little use for physical strength- I never wanted to beat anyone up. As a little boy, I didn’t consume myself with sociology or world history, all I knew was what I saw. Girls were beautiful and tender while boys were rough and mischievous.
The mixed tape; the most powerful device of the squared glasses hipster. His version of the Sistine Chapel or that crazy sex wall in the Middle East. His contribution to the uneducated music masses and his chance to tell the greatest untold story of them all- his own. Within an hour and twenty minutes, this inept jerk can create the greatest love story of all time, free Tibet, mock emo, or simply turn a friend on to new music. The tape’s power is limitless and timeless. If played by someone truly willing to listen, it could change their life. I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes…
When I started writing the “mixed tape” series I had this grand idea of what I wanted it to be. There were going to be several installments and I was really going to dive in to the theology of making a tape. Explore the psychology and every implication from the marker used to scribble the title to the meaning of the songs and why they appeared in their certain spot on the tape. I’ve discovered that no one cares about these things except me. If you do care about them, you already know what I’m going to say. If you don’t care, you could care even less about reading my thoughts on it. I’m not educating anyone or spewing revelations. Eddie from Empire Records did that, so did Rob Gordon from High Fidelity. The last thing I want to do is be lumped into the same category as them…
So, why do it? Why continue with all the mixed tape talk? Well, it’s all Chuck Klosterman’s fault. Those of you who have read his Sex, Drugs, and Coco Puffs will know exactly what I’m talking about. Those of you who haven’t, I’m glad you don’t. I’m guilty of committing the same “mixed tape crime” though I’m a less offender. My tapes weren’t identical, but the meanings were. Some of the- most of the songs were the same. Why? Is it that I’m so uncreative and musically shallow that I can’t find different ways of expressing myself? Or is it because those particular songs truly mean something to me? The melody and lyrics hit home so hard that I couldn’t have written them better myself, assuming I could write music. I’d like to think that I’m none of the first things and everything of the second, but Chuck made me reevaluate myself. Good for him, he engaged the reader.
The truth of the mixed tape is undoubtedly going to get me in trouble. At least talking about the ones that meant something to me are. As with Chuck, I can relate about sixty percent of all the sex I’ve had to mixed tapes. Also, just about every female I ever really wanted to have sex with has gotten one from me at some point. If you look at it the other way, I think there might only be one person in my life that I’ve slept with that I didn’t give a mixed tape to (a ONS). I pat myself on the back for this, read on:
It’s not that mixed tapes somehow equal sex or there’s some perverse motivation behind them. Generally the two are completely removed from one another. When I’m thinking about making a mixed tape, I’m either really focused on what I think the listener will like or I’m trying to fit all the things that explain who I am into 120 minutes. It’s the ultimate tangible object into someone’s soul and thought process. It’s not a mystery that if I allow someone to explore me that deeply, to see that side of me, they’re someone I have a true connection with. Not just a sexual connection, but I genuinely adore their existence.
Does this make me a bad guy? The reason I ask is because I feel guilty. I mean, I shouldn’t feel guilty about only having sex with people I truly care about, but I’ve given these tapes to people I probably shouldn’t have- even though I meant every bit of it. Is it my loophole? Should I ever be questioned about my motivations I can pass it off as nothing more then good music. Maybe I’m a coward? I can’t find the balls to say what I have to say to her face, so I create this subliminal mind fuck to resonate in her brain. Maybe this is my way of opening up to her, to see if she understands who I am and how I feel? Maybe this is my test to her, to see if she understands the complexity and beauty of “my” music and to see how she reacts when the disk stops spinning and she’s left to deal with nothing but silence? I mean, let’s face it- no one really uses tapes anymore.
So which one are you? Are you a true friend or are you truly desired? Does it honestly matter? You can’t live your life by lyrics, lyrics are created out of life. So keep living and see where life takes you. Create your own soundtrack and share it with someone who deserves to hear it. I felt you deserved to hear it….