Hi. My name is Keesup, and I’m addicted to making playlists.
I wasn’t always like this. I mean, I’ve always loved music, probably more than I should, but then iTunes came out for PC. It just made organizing my music so much easier, and then you could create new mixes in such a short time. Sometimes I even burn them onto CD’s and give them to people.
There are far smarter people on the Internet and in literature who have expounded on the fine art of the mix. I just thought I would share the thought process that went into a mix I recently made for a (female) friend. I might share more in the future. Maybe it can be our thing.
Recently, I’ve been into the idea of creating a loose narrative with a set of songs. It adds a wrinkle because, in addition to the expected perfect flow of a mix, now you also have to work in a subtle natural progression – audible without being obvious.
Given the myriad songs about love (agape and eros), the project lends itself to some kind of romantic story. If anyone can come up with a narrative not using a single love song, let me know so I can steal your brain and absorb your power a la Sylar.
So here it is – rise and fall, just like Scorsese.
1. “Change Your Mind” by The Killers: A crisp overture that sets the tone for the disc. So catchy it’s sick. I have an idea for a TV show, and I totally want this to be the theme song.
2. “Police On My Back” by The Clash: The Beatles of the initial punk explosion. This one actually has nothing to do with the story, it’s just a kick-ass song that ups the ante of the first track via the accepted “High Fidelity” rules of mix-making.
3. “Maybe Katie” by Barenaked Ladies: An underrated song by an underrated band. BNL have always been trapped as a cult item – they are in the dangerous territory of simultaneously being a guilty pleasure and an acquired taste. I really dig the crunchy middle eight sections sung by Ed (the one who isn’t fat). Also, works like gangbusters if the recipient of the mix is named Katie.
4. “Summer, Highland Falls” by Billy Joel: Recorded at the crucial moment right after he got famous but right before he hooked up with Christie Brinkley and stopped trying. Did I mention the whole “narrative” idea was really loose?
5. “Automatic Stop” by The Strokes
6. “Annie’s Song” by Me First and The Gimme Gimmes: Say you want to include a gorgeous but incredibly cheesy song, like this classic piece of tripe by John Denver, but you just don’t have the nerve. Well, what if I told you there was a version that discarded the gently strummed acoustic for thrashing downstrokes and clocked in at only 102 seconds? That’s pretty much the whole basis of existence for Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, a underground pop-punk side-project cover band supergroup. ‘Cause even the headbangers get butterflies sometimes. (Couldn’t find a video on YouTube, so here’s another by the group. You quickly get the idea.)
7. “She’s A Rebel” by Green Day: Clearly we’ve entered the meet-cute/head-over-heels part of the story now, what with two hooky, boppy valentines back-to-back. This might be my favorite song from Green Day’s monumental album – a love letter to an adorable terrorist.
8. “Some Mistakes” by Brad Paisley: This pick will get snickered at in some circles (looking at you, Scribblerist), but I have to cater to a country-loving demo here. I will expound more on this song’s and artist’s great worth in a future discussion.
9. “Sugar Sugar” by The Archies: Historians say this is the apotheosis of bubblegum pop, and who am I to argue with the validity of a cartoon band based on a soapy teen comic book sold for ten cents at the checkout of the grocery store? Scorsese would probably score this to a scene of his main characters doing coke, the sick bastard.
10. “Move Your Feet” by JUNIOR SENIOR: Man, is that capitalization pretentious or what? This group is from Sweden or Iceland or something weird like that. It’s rather uncanny – if not for the white-as-all-fuck rapping, this could be a great, long-lost Michael Jackson outtake circa 1981ish. I guess this is the crazy fun dance party – the climax of a couple’s experience together. Interestingly, I could see coke getting snorted to this song also.
11. “Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard: Dirty, dirty sex.
12. “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James & The Shondells: More dirty sex (and possibly more coke). But all slow and intense and stuff. Is it obvious yet that I’ve never had sex?
13. “All I Need” by Radiohead: The wheels start to come off. It starts out pretty, but something is clearly wrong – it’s just barely simmering under the surface until it just gets kind of creepy and scary at the end. Try that with your giant bank of supercomputers, Greenwood!
14. “Beyond Belief” by Elvis Costello and The Attractions: Density is one of EC’s calling cards, and there aren’t many denser songs than this wordy mother. Melancholy introspection at its finest.
15. “Silver Lining” by Rilo Kiley: This is the chick coming to terms with the break-up. “I never felt so wicked as when I willed our love to die.” Notice that I used the term “chick” because I’m a misogynist asshole.
16. “Gone” by Ben Folds: Ditto for the guy.
17. “Wendy Clear” by blink-182: The closing trilogy is the most important aspect of a mix for me. Hopeful and wistful at the same time is what I’m going for, so I started with the pop-punk version of that.
18. “Wheel” by John Mayer: The road-tested pap in which Mayer specializes can be quite effective in the proper context; but really, can’t any cheesy song seem perfect if the moment is right? This to me is the moment that he stepped out of his preppy shell and realized, “Hey, I don’t need to write songs whose express purpose is to get me laid! I can just let it flow and women will slobber on my cock anyway!”
19. “All These Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers: Yeah, I broke the rule of only one song per artist. But I couldn’t end the CD any other way. Actually, I would have used “Backstreets” by Springsteen until I just expanded a whole Bruce best-of for the same person. And, in fairness, this might be the coolest song of the decade (non-rap division). “Don’t you put me on the backburner . . .”