Welcome to the next installment of Mixtape Breakdown. If you missed Volume I, check it out here.
Recently, I enlisted the help of a few good people in my life who were willing to let me borrow some of their old CDs – mixes they created and haven’t listened to in over a decade. What better way to get to know a person than to spend some time listening to the music they thought was good ten years ago and then judging them ruthlessly for it?
Next up is Adam. That’s not his real name, in the interest of anonymity. His real name is also the name of a staple of Polish cuisine, but we won’t go into that. Adam is likely the most cultured man I’ve ever been acquainted with. If fact, he probably hates the fact that I ended that last sentence with a preposition. Actually, probably not, because he’s also one of the most chill people I’ve ever met. Needless to say, when he offered up a couple mix CDs for this little project of mine, I was shaking with anticipation.
Without further ado, I present to you “Mix for Jen”.
Title/Label: Well, I guess I sort of gave it away. This one is called Mix for Jen. That’s pretty solid. It tells me a couple things. First, Adam put this mix together for a very specific audience – Jen. Second, based on the music on this mix, I will likely learn a couple things about this “Jen” character as well as the mix master who constructed this playlist. There are questions, though. Like, did Jen request this mix? Or did Adam put this together, maybe taking a risk that she wouldn’t like it? What was Adam and Jen’s relationship at the time? We may or may not find the answers. But there’s only one way to find out.
Song: “Only Time”
Commentary: One of the subtly great parts of doing these write-ups is the anticipation you feel the three seconds before the first track starts. The possibilities are endless. Is this going to be a CD I want a copy of? Or maybe this thing is all country music and I’ll be forced to destroy it.
But when Enya started pouring through my speakers, well, I gotta be honest, I was a bit worried about what I was getting myself into. This could be a loooong night.
And for those of you thinking that I can just skip to the next track, that’s not how this works. I’m actually listening to this right now as I type. You know, for inspiration. I’m listening to it the way it was intended to be listened to. I’m an artist, after all.
Artist: Rupert Holmes
Commentary: Whoa! Big plot twist right off the bat! Going from the lullaby-like cadence of Enya to the heavy-handed piano chords of Rupert Holmes is quite the juxtaposition. Oh, what’s that? You don’t know this song? And you don’t know who Rupert Holmes is? Yeah, you do. It’s just that you always thought it was a Billy Joel song. You know, the one about piña coladas and getting caught in the rain and trying to cheat on your spouse. Yeah, that song.
But…why? These songs back-to-back have definitely thrown me for a loop.
Artist: Michael Jackson
Commentary: The addition of this track makes starting the CD with Enya all the more confusing. Like…why? Still.
Song: “Blow Your Mind”
Artist: Missy Elliot
Commentary: … I’m just so confused right now.
Artist: Britney Spears
Commentary: Wait. WHAT?!?! Britney makes an appearance on consecutive posts? That’s incredible! You’ll remember from Volume I, Britney made it on the CD as a girlfriend’s pick (maybe?), so at this point in the CD, I’m starting to think these are all of Jen’s favorites.
Okay, let’s skip around a little bit. Otherwise this post is going to get way too long.
Song: “It Wasn’t Me”
Commentary: This song is basically trash. But that’s not the point of this commentary. Instead, this song represents something that happens quite often on mixtapes. Especially your favorite ones.
The song plays for 44 seconds. Then, it skips to track 8. Why? The actual length of the song is three minutes and 47 seconds (per Wikipedia, so you know it’s right). Well, it skipped because, like any good mix CD, this one is well worn. It has its fair share of scratches.
Personally, I’m the type of guy who stacks all my CDs in a pile inside the center console of the car. Adam strikes me as the type who has one of those CD organizers that attaches to the visor. But what about Jen? Well, based on the number of scratches I would say she leans more toward my storage method than Adam’s.
Song: “Whenever, Wherever”
Commentary: I have no comment on the song itself, but again, this one represents something that happens quite often on mixtapes. Although, this time I don’t know why.
For whatever reason, this one track – this unique and very singular track – plays at about a third of the volume of the rest of the CD. It’s absolutely bananas and it drives me nuts. Why does that happen?!?
The real problem occurs when this song ends and the next one begins. Because I cranked the volume to hear Shakira and then the next song begins and bursts both of my eardrums.
Song: “Let’s Get It On”
Artist: Marvin Gaye
Commentary: Why? Because it’s a mix, daggonnit. And Marvin Gaye is welcome on any and every mixtape for the rest of eternity.
Commentary: Alright, the preceding eight tracks are songs by Alicia Keys, Shaggy, Shakira, Ja Rule, Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Ja Rule (again), and finally, Aaliyah.
So when a Live song started playing, I just wasn’t ready for it. For those of you not familiar with Live, they are, um, unique. You know what, I don’t think I have the energy to try to explain Live to you. You’ll just have to take my word for it. Or google them.
The next four tracks go Mary J. Blige, Nelly, Alien Ant Farm, and Shaggy (again – I wish I was kidding)
Artist: Enrique Iglesias
Commentary: Track 19. The final track of the mix. As important as the first song is to the overall strength of the mix, the last track is by far the most important to get right. Some mixmasters fail to recognize the impact of nailing the last track. You’ve heard it before – “It’s not how you start – it’s how you finish”. Well, Adam crushed it.
No. I’m not a fan of Enrique Iglesias. But that doesn’t matter. Do you know who is a fan of Enrique Iglesias? It’s Jen. And this song represents everything Adam wants Jen to know about him. I guess. I don’t know, I’m just making stuff up at this point.
This is a good mix, objectively speaking. I can’t speak for the music itself, but the construction of the mix was done well. There are a few repeated artists, but the repeats are never back-to-back. The total length of this mix is 77 minutes and 58 seconds, meaning there is a little over two minutes of unused capacity left over. That’s not ideal, but there’s not much you can do with two minutes of free space, so no points are docked. The theme of the mix was fairly consistent, but the additions of Enya and Alien Ant Farm sort of go against the pop/hip hop theme running throughout the mix. But mercifully, Enrique saved the day and closed the mix out strong.
Dare I say, he was this mixtape’s…hero.
Total Time: 77:58
Number of tracks: 19
Number of artists: 17
Number of sentences ended with prepositions: At least six.