I am compact disc kid.
I’ve long heard my parents’ generation regale us children about the music they grew up with. My baby-boomer parents navigated their way through vinyl, LPs, 8-track tapes and mixtapes. “Here Comes the Sun” was released on “Abbey Road” while my dad was stationed at the army base in Fort Lewis, Wash. Its lyrics are as appropriate for dreary England as they are for the Pacific Northwest. Halfway across the country my mom performed a dance routine for her six roommates to Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.” My parents are vinyl people.
By rights I was not always a CD kid. My earliest memories of recorded music consist of the Raffi tapes my mom and I used to bounce along to in her white ’85 Saab (better known as Betsy). Cassette tapes are a novelty item now, nestled on the fringes of modernity along with VHS movies.
But what I miss most is CDs.
CDs were like a currency when I was growing up. Kids who boasted large CD collections were automatically culturally savvy, and well, cool. My sister used to carry around a huge CD collection when we were on family vacations. I remember carefully cultivating my own CD collection — my first purchase was Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time” album. I painstakingly placed each album cover into the same pouch as the actual CD — to better scrutinize lyrics and cover art, naturally. When I was 11 I forgot my CD case on a plane. I was devastated. I felt like a part of me was missing. How would I define myself if not by my bright yellow CD case? I’d never find another to so beautifully match my bright yellow Walkman.
My own nostalgia aside, tangible CDs were a reminder that albums are a package deal: that these songs are arranged intentionally, that ideally you’re supposed to listen to them in that order and then make an assessment on the whole. To be fair, I am hard pressed to come up with an album where I enjoyed every single song — except maybe the “Garden State” soundtrack. But that’s unfair for two reasons: One, it is a soundtrack ergo a grab bag of artists and two, my judgment is probably significantly impaired because that movie and soundtrack hit our generation in the sweet spot where collective teen angst meets brooding ennui.
As I got older it was mixed CDs that I coveted. Making someone a mix became a very personal business. The right mix was a careful work of art. It was thoughtful, with songs hand-picked for a specific listener in mind, it scaled just the right range of emotional frequencies and — if you wanted it to — it was the perfect way to showcase soulfulness and sophisticated music taste. Mix CDs were the perfect answer to so many adolescent dilemmas. What to get for a friend’s birthday? Bath and Body Works products with potentially fatal amounts of glitter and a mixed CD. You and your boyfriend are celebrating your one-week anniversary? Better make him a mixed CD.
In high school, mixed CDs became situational. I made a new mix for my carpool almost every week. I made CDs scrawled with “Study Jams,” “Anny’s Sweet 16!,” “Good Luck on the Chem Test!” et cetera. Mixed CDs provided me a way to compartmentalize areas of my life: to give them a genre, a tempo and lyrics chock-full of the words I couldn’t come up with on my own.
It recently dawned on me that it has been years since I made a mixed CD. Sharing music in college (with the help of the ubiquity of social media) is done in huge quantities and through various mediums: find the file online, email it to one another, send it over iChat, upload it off a friend’s iPod using Senuti, snatch it through the program Mojo or convert it off of a YouTube video. But make a CD? Too much effort. I’d only load it into iTunes and then toss it anyway.
I make iTunes playlists frequently, but they lack a destination. That and the “Genius” feature on iTunes are slowly draining the creativity and fun out of it. The playlists I make nowadays might end up blaring over the speakers in my house or playing in the background as my roommate and I get ready for class, but it is not the same. I miss the act of gifting music. I know this much is true: Even the most well-crafted playlist will never boast the same kind of sentimentality and personalized touch that a mixed CD did.
In my room I have a stack of blank CDs that have sat untouched all year. I’ve decided that if for no other reason than for the fun of it I am going to make mixed CDs for my friends for the rest of the semester. They can serve as de-stressers during midterms, an excuse to visit a friend stuck in the library on a Friday night, even a last minute birthday gift. Because my friends and I, we are all compact disc kids.
If you’d like one of your own, all you have to do is ask. Glittery hand soap from Bath and Body Works not included.
Margaret Delaney is a junior in the College and a community member on The Hoya’s board of directors. She can be reached at [email protected] I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE appears every other Tuesday.
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