Top Ten Mixtape Killers
here are things you shouldn’t say in a mix tape. “I wanna fuck you like an animal,” for instance, is a fairly big no-no; The Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is only for the boldest and bravest of mix tape compilers. It’s understood that mix tapes are all about saying what you want to say without really saying it directly, but let’s face it: Some songs just say it far, far too well.
10. Fall In Love With Me – Iggy Pop
Though Iggy makes saying, “I wish you would fall in love with me” so much hipper than it really is, there’s no way I’d say it so unequivocally. Even via Iggy.
9. We’re Just Friends – Wilco
To me, at least, Summerteeth comes off as emotionally overloaded in the best of ways, and “We’re Just Friends” always manages to make me inexplicably sad (though I have no idea who says that they’re just friends—Tweedy or his addressee?). But whatever. That voice is enough to make grown men cry, and make a mix tape recipient question if “we’re just friends” is what you really mean to say.
8. The Way – Bonnie “Prince” Billy
From the oft-underrated Master and Everyone, Will Oldham’s “The Way” is probably far too personal for any beardless nineteen-year-old to stake a claim on, but I’m doing it anyway. Few can say “love me the way I love you” the way Oldham does it—slow and ineluctably gripping. And when he entreats, “Let your unloved parts get loved,” well, that’s the best pick up line if I ever heard one.
7. El Scorcho – Weezer
I know, I know—decidedly uncool middle school mix tape carryover makes it to current top ten list, rendering any of the author’s presupposed coolness bunk. (Don’t worry, the list gets better. See #1.) And from Pinkerton, no less! Couldn’t I have picked something from the Blue album, you ask? I realize that if any one song could be held responsible for the birth of emo, it would probably be this one, and frankly, I don’t care. The chorus says it all. When it comes to Rivers Cuomo, I’m jello, baby.
6. Unsatisfied – The Replacements
It’s anyone’s guess as to what Paul Westerberg’s “unsatisfied” about (An unconsummated relationship? Waiters has his order wrong? The state of the union?). In the context of a mix, though, you can be pretty sure it isn’t politics.
5. Size Too Small – Sufjan Stevens
Any Sufjan Stevens’ mix tape appearance is a good appearance, in my book. That said, there’s something particularly heartbreaking about “Size Too Small,” which transcends the standard Michigan and Jesus categories of Stevens’ repertoire. At the most literal level it’s about wearing a tight tux—or maybe tight underpants—to your best friend’s wedding. But in the vein of “Dumb I Sound” from his debut, A Sun Came, “Size Too Small” is frail and amazing—about inadequacy, and unreciprocated feelings, and loving your best friend who’s in love with someone else.
4. Creep – Radiohead
If you’re sensing a theme here—oops. I’m starting to get the feeling this top-ten could pass as “top ten songs that say I’m a loser.” Were this actually the case, “Creep” would be a strong contender for number one.
3. Ten Story Love Song – Stone Roses
One day you’ll wake up and see the light: ten story mix tape—I built this thing for you.
2. Mama You Been On My Mind – Bob Dylan
Maybe it’s just me, but live renditions of this song only manage to come off as sped up and ingratiating. Stripped down, as it appears on Volume II of the Bootleg Series, there’s no better instance of Dylan singing “I want you” without singing it explicitly (and even then, “I want you so bad” doesn’t sound nearly as convincing as “Mama you’re just on my mind.”) Sure, it’s Dylan as usual—no promises, no commitments, no “asking you to say words like ‘yes’ or ‘no.’” Bob Dylan gets worked up over plenty of things, to be sure, but when it comes to girls his lyrics are always permutations of “You sure are fascinating, but I’ll be gone tomorrow morning, thanks.” And while the case is the same with “Mama You Been On My Mind,” has it ever sounded this good? Dylan puts on his best indifferent mask, and instead come across as surprisingly—and beautifully—vulnerable, giving it all away with the lines: “I'm just breathin' to myself, pretendin' not that I don't know.”
1. I Want You To Want Me – Cheap Trick
A mix tape offender on two counts. Most glaringly and/or gloriously, it gives away the fact that you like Cheap Trick (no, love Cheap Trick). And offense number two is obvious: This is longing, desire, and explicit neediness—all encapsulated in a debatably perfect three and a half minute catchy-as-all-hell pop song—and if this isn’t the most pathetic list you’ve ever seen, I don’t know what is.
By: Rachel Khong
Published on: 2004-07-30