How to Mix Tape Your Life

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on February 8, 2008
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mix cd.

I recently finished reading Love Is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield. Not a self-help book, but rather a moving memoir written by a contributing editor to Rolling Stone, who strings together moments in his life using the various mix tapes he has created as jumping-off points. At the center of this musical-memory storm: an ex-wife, who died young in his arms from a pulmonary embolism.

Not an incredibly uplifting topic, but Sheffield manages to make the reader smile. And the conceit — which could seem forced in anyone else’s hands — comes off well.

Which reminds me…

  • of the boyfriend who once marveled at my ability to find the connections between moments or phrases and corresponding songs…
  • of all the mix cds I received every birthday and holiday from my now-husband in his attempts to educate me in the ways of decent music…
  • of my enduring wish that I was living in a song & dance film, where people would break into, well, choreographed song & dance at odd moments.

Music obviously has the power to lift up moods, or even indulge them. This is nothing new. A sweet and low Norah Jones song can rock you to sleep, and a rousing rendition of Toni Basil’s “Hey Mickey” or or Hannah Montana’s (yes, this is embarrassing) “See You Again” can have you bopping around and pretending to be a rock star. Or at least a backup dancer.

Sheffield wrote about the many types of mixes that exist, from the party tape to the “I want you” tape, from the sexy-time tape to the heartache tape, from road trippin’ to rambling, and on and on.

If you had to create a soundtrack to life right now, what would be on it?

mix tape.

I imagine that mine would include Ben Folds’s “The Luckiest,” mine and Michael’s wedding song and a testament to how well we’re doing together. Cake’s “Short Skirt, Long Jacket” would be a good strut song, something to remind me of the fierce woman I want to project. Franz Ferdinand’s “This Fire” illustrates the exhilaration and determination that his been getting me through these past six months or so, with the words “I’m going to burn this city” revealing the take-over-the-world feelings I’ve been feeling. And though I’m from good ol’ suburban northern New Jersey, Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman” makes me proud of how grounded I am.

Oh, but there’s more. Jewel singing “Have a Little Faith In Me” in that raspy, sweet voice of hers reminds me of the time I asked Michael to take that leap of faith and support me in my plans to leave the comfort and security of my full-time job. And Kate Nash’s “Foundations” makes me think of the ways in which we’ve antagonized each other when the tension and fear were high.

Throw in with all of this Kt Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See,” Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly,” and Tris McCall’s “Commuter’s Prayer” and you have a somewhat dorky, guilty-pleasure mix that defines my life as it stands right now.

What are the songs embodying your life at the moment? How would that soundtrack alter if you burned a new CD for every year? Could it possibly create an extremely insightful soundtrack of your life…a map of the years in music?