We've all done it at some embarrassing point in our past. Dreamily ensconced in the rapture of a new romance, we set about crafting the perfect mix tape (or CD or playlist) to let our new love know not only how we feel, but, more importantly, how great our taste in music is. Yet we've all managed to include that one song that, upon midrelationship reflection, was a little (or maybe more than a little) inappropriate.
Perhaps the song was too obscure or not even close to the style of music our beloved was into. (A mix never listened to is a mix unworthy of creation, yes?) More likely, though, the lyrics expressed sentiments that were, at best, mortifyingly immature or, at worst, sending the wrong message. Just because a song by a super-cool band has a title that nails your sentiments and evokes the proper cuddling-on-the-couch vibe, the lyrics won't necessarily hold up their end of the deal. In fact, the better the band, the more likely you are to be treading on ironic territory when it comes to slow jams.
Some mistakes can be horrifyingly egregious. In high school, my on-and-off girlfriend was named Michelle, and I thought it would be totally awesome to lead off a "I'm so glad we're back together" tape with Guns N' Roses' "My Michelle." Well, it turns out that from the first line — "Your daddy works in porno" — all the way through references to smack addictions, whorin' around and, my favorite verse, "But school starts much too early, and this hotel wasn't free," it became abundantly clear that I had neglected to pick up any poetry-analysis skills from my 10th-grade literature class. "On-and-off" became "unlisted number" before that C-90 had run its course.
But just because I'm presumptuously stupid enough to open a "I'm sorry Saturday night ended so awkwardly, but boy didn't we have fun?" tape with "Sex Party" by the London Quireboys and close it with the Dead Kennedys' "Too Drunk to Fuck" doesn't mean you should make similar blunders. What follows is the recipe for the worst mix tape ever: an alphabetical list of 11 songs, any of which you'd be ill-advised to use as a love letter. I've compiled the list from actual mix tapes — some mine, some found on the Internet. I've also assumed that there's no need to state songs that obviously shouldn't be on any mix ever. Readers of this publication are smart enough to understand that songs like "Melt With You" are neither nostalgic, ironic nor romantic and that every song by Billie Holiday is essentially an overplayed suicide note. Furthermore, it goes without saying that there's no excuse to include any '80s power ballad, anything ever recorded by Sarah McLachlan and never, ever "Wind Beneath My Wings" or "Baby I'm-a Want You."
"Big Time Sensuality" — Björk: You may think that you're the one who can tame that wild-eyed club kid you got busy with last night, but you're not. So even though this song celebrates those unhinged and fun erotic romps we all enjoy, the person to whom you hand this mix tape will simply laugh as they listen to you trying to seem like you're a player who can hang with those "hard-core and gentle" types who "don't know their future after this weekend."
"Crazy Little Thing Called Love" — Queen: Not unless you're gay … and haven't been outside since 1982.
"First Day of My Life" — Bright Eyes: Indie-rock love songs are so cynical they hurt. Not because songsmiths like Conor Oberst are the world-beaten lovers they want you to think they are, but because there's such an immature sense of pragmatic malaise to lyrics like "I'd rather be working for a paycheck than waiting to win the lottery." When you ask a girl back because you can't be bothered to look for anything better, you're not in love — you're an asshole.
"Hello It's Me" — Todd Rund-gren: It sure does sound romantic, doesn't it? But do you really want to tell your sweetheart "Maybe I shouldn't think of you as mine" or "I'll come around to see you once in a while … and spend the night if you think I should"?
"(Sex) Love Is What We Makin'" — R. Kelly: Unless your beloved enjoys really dirty and potentially illegal sex, it's generally a very bad idea to include any R. Kelly in your mix. This song takes the proverbial cake with verses like "I want sex in the morning/Sex in the evening/Sex in the noonday" that are followed up with empty notions along the lines of "Baby girl, it's OK because love is what we makin'."
"My Baby Daddy" — B Rock and the Bizz: Seriously, if you're dumb enough to put this in a mix, you deserve to be single.
"My Wandering Days Are Over" — Belle & Sebastian: After years in the rat race of being single, this song's protagonist finally gives up and decides to start fucking a friend … strictly because it's convenient. "Convenient" is never "romantic."
"New Slang" — The Shins: Because you're not Zach Braff (for which you should be thankful), but the main reason you should avoid this one is that its semi-romantic vibe is shattered by "smart" lyrics like "Hope it's right when you die, old and bony."
"Red Hot Mama" — Funkadelic: Seem like a good idea to stick a little raunch in the mix? See "My Michelle" for why it's not. You'd be better served by including the lyrically unintelligible "Alice in My Fantasies" from the same album, as it has the most romantic line ever in a song: "Hey baby, I can be your dog and you can be my tree and you can pee on me."
"Take My Breath Away" — Berlin: This lush, sappy ballad is a song about how Teri Nunn, now that her world's fallen apart and she's lonely, finally deigns to give the guy who's been lusting after her for years a chance to win her over. Wow, that's sweet.
"Wish You Were Here" — Pink Floyd: What could be a better valentine than a song written about a friend who was so mentally unstable he had to be kicked out of your band? Anything.firstname.lastname@example.org
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