The Subtle Art of the Mixtape According to Rob Gordon

Who is this man?  Hopefully you already know, but if you don’t, just keep in mind that his guidance will save you from a world of financial shame.

It’s about that time, people.  Turn out your pockets and give up all the spare change you’ve got.  What’s that?  You’re a poor college student with a mountain of debt?  Well, too bad, because this is the time of year you show people how much you love them by saying, “Hey man, I love you this many dollars’ worth!”  (I’ll give you a cookie and/or a hug if you can tell me where that quote is from.  You could probably just Google it since you’re online anyway, if you really need a cookie or a hug.)

Hey, it’s okay.  We’re in a recession.  We’re all Tiny Tim this year, so why bother pretending we’ve got the bread when all we’ve got are some crumbs?  Turn that frown upside down, Ebenezer, because I’ve got just the thing for you.  Well, it’s not for you, per se, but it’s an idea you can use to your heart’s content.  A way to get through the holidays without feeling like a poor dick for not getting anyone anything.

This is a better idea to do for people you know well, so scratch those acquaintances off your list and get ready to think about what you love most about your loved ones.  It’s time for the return of the mix…tape?…CD?…playlist?  Whatever device your collection of tunes ends up on, one thing is certain: whoever you give it to will be flattered that you took the time to really think about them and come up with a list of songs that somehow speaks to your special bond with them.  If it’s truly the thought that counts (and I think it should be) then this gift will go a long way.

If you’ve ever seen “High Fidelity” you know that making a mixtape for someone is no laughing matter.  It’s a serious business.  But don’t feel bad if you’re not as enthusiastic about it as Jack Black:

In “High Fidelity,” John Cusack’s character Rob explains that “the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art.  Many do’s and don’ts.  First of all, you’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel.  This is a delicate thing.”

I could tell you myself Rob’s wise rules when it comes to making a mixtape, but I’ll let him tell you himself:

“The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don’t wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules.”

A great movie.  Watch it sometime when you’re not so frazzled by the holidays.  Until then, get to work on that mixtape!  If you need a little jump start, below is the playlist of a mix CD I made for my mom last Christmas.  I made it based on what she would like, so unless you’re making a mixtape for my mom, don’t just steal it song for song.  It’s the thought that counts, remember?  Plus, it would be kind of a dick move to make her the same CD twice.

Christmas 2009 Playlist:

1. “Viva la Vida,” Coldplay
2. “Under the Blacklight,” Rilo Kiley
3. “Satan Is My Motor,” CAKE
4. “Mexico,” CAKE
5. “Sex and Candy,” Marcy Playground
6. “Smiley Faces,” Gnarls Barkley
7. “Where Is My Mind?” Pixies
8. “Suddenly I See,” KT Tunstall
9. “The Seed 2.0,” The Roots
10. “Girl Sailor,” The Shins
11. “Venice Queen,” Red Hot Chili Peppers
12. “The New Year,” Death Cab for Cutie

Photo credit: [x]



This post is a little harder to write than anything else I’ve put up.  Call it procrastination, call it denial, but writing about a loss like the one I’ve experienced isn’t exactly easy to do.  On September 20 of this year, I lost a great friend that I’d gotten to know very well since my senior year of high school.  Trying to describe Gu is like trying to describe a bomb that just went off – there’s not much you can do except experience it for yourself.  He was a rollercoaster to be around.  He was one of the hardest people to get to know, but I was truly happy to have him in my life.  We had our ups and downs, but through it all, he always had a special place in my heart.  It is my deepest regret that I never got to fully express these feelings because he was gone too soon for me to tell him how much he meant to me.  I took him for granted, just as I’ve taken so many people and things, and his death has helped me realize that and make changes accordingly.  But with him gone, there will always be an empty place in my heart that misses him and I wish I could tell him that.

After losing someone you love, it always helps to think about the good times you had with that person.  It hurts like hell too, but somehow it makes you feel better.  After Gu’s death, my memories of him played like a movie reel in my head for weeks on end.  I just couldn’t stop remembering.  I remembered the first time I met him, after a school play during our senior year.  He was in the cast, and I was backstage congratulating other friends I had in the show.  We had mutual friends, so we ended up meeting that night and he randomly gave me the flowers someone had given him as a congratulatory prize.  Since I didn’t know him at all, I was amused by this, and we began a fun, flirtatious friendship right off the bat.  I’ll admit that I was quite taken with him at first, and that probably had a lot to do with the fact that he was wearing eyeliner the night I met him.  Though we had a bit of an “involved” period there at the beginning of our friendship, it eventually morphed into one of the closest – and sometimes scariest – friendships I would have.  The fall after high school, I was working at a restaurant in Silver Spring and hadn’t started school yet.  He was home too, going to MC, and we saw each other almost every day.  He was one of my only friends during that time, when most of my friends had gone off to college in faraway places and we were still stuck at home.

I could go on and on and on about all my memories of Gu, but what I really wanted to talk about was my connection to him through music.  Music can often take us places we don’t want to go, but perhaps need to for some reason.  That is what I’ve experienced when listening to music that reminds me of him.  I experienced the initial panic of not wanting to deal with it, not wanting to admit to himself that he really is gone, so I just didn’t want to listen to these songs.  But when I finally made myself listen to them, the floodgates were open and I experienced the pain and happiness all at once.  Gu is gone, but one way I can always keep him is through my endless memories of him.  Music helps me remember.  These songs are some of the few that make me think of him.

Hotel California” by the Eagles.  Partially because of how many times we played this on Guitar Hero, and partially because of the lyrics.  The last lyrics of the song are particularly haunting to me because they make me think of the pain Gu was in, and how trapped he felt by it.  “Last thing I remember, I was running for the door.  I had to find the passage back to the place I was before.  ‘Relax,’ said the night man, ‘we are programmed to receive.  You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.'”

Lua” by Bright Eyes.  One night when Gu was feeling particularly down in the dumps, we sat quietly in my room and listened to this song.  The lyrics have always been heartbreaking to me, and even more so now in the aftermath of Gu’s death.  Again, the most potent of lyrics come at the end of this beautiful acoustic piece.  “I’ve got a flask inside my pocket, we can share it on the train.  If you promise to stay conscious, I will try and do the same.  We might die from medication, but we sure killed all the pain.  But what is normal in the evening, by the morning seems insane.  And I’m not sure what the trouble was that started all of this.  The reasons all have run away, but the feeling never did.  It’s not something I would recommend, but it is one way to live.  ‘Cause what is simple in the moonlight, by the morning never is.”

Signs” by Bloc Party.  Unlike the first two songs, this one only began to remind me of Gu after his passing.  At first I loved this song for the plethora of musical aspects, but when I listened to the lyrics there was only one person I could think of.  “I could sleep forever these days because in my dreams I see you again… it was so like you to visit me to let me know you were okay, it was so like you to visit me, always worrying about someone else.  At your funeral, I was so upset, so upset.  In life you were larger than this; statuesque.  I see signs now all the time that you’re not dead, you’re sleeping.  I believe in anything that brings you back home to me.”

In the pictures above, Gu is singing Frank Sinatra at a karaoke bar for our friend Lisa’s 21st birthday.  I can’t hear Frank Sinatra without thinking of him either, not that Frank’s at the top of my playlist or anything.  Almost three months after his death, I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I won’t ever get to hear his spot-on renditions of Frank Sinatra or anything on Guitar Hero (which he often played for hours on end).  I miss him more than I can say, and I think about him every day.  The empty space in my heart is slowly being filled back up with all our never-ending memories, starting with the music that reminds me of him.  I don’t know what happens after you die, but hearing music that makes me think of him or that we listened to together makes me feel close to him in a way that hints that somehow, he could still be here.  While my mind is still trying to wrap around the earth-shattering finality of death, and his in particular, I still have these songs to make me feel close to him.  I love you my friend, and I will always, always miss you.

Rest in Peace, Guru Meher Singh Khalsa; March 16, 1988 – September 20, 2010.

Photo credit: (1) Me. Taken March 31, 2009 at Cafe Japone in Dupont Circle. (2) Me. Taken October 2008 in New Leonardtown, UMD.

South Africa’s Answer

“I’m all up in the club in my underpants.”

I was first exposed to the sick genius that is Die Antwoord (“The Answer” in Afrikaans) a few weeks ago by a good friend from high school.  All I could really do was stare at my computer screen while being visually assaulted by hundreds of phallic symbols in Die Antwoord’s music video for their single “Evil Boy” (NSFW depending on where you W).  After watching “Evil Boy” and “Enter the Ninja,” (also probably NSFW) I had no idea whether I actually liked the music or not because I had been so distracted by all the …interesting… visuals.

Once you get past the shocking video – including a few seconds of a half-naked Yolandi Visser with eyes as nipples – I guarantee you won’t be able to get these songs out of your head.  The group is made up of the platinum-haired, white mascara-wearing Yo-Landi Vi$$er, her babydaddy Ninja (real name Watkin Tudor Jones), and DJ Hi-Tek, all from Cape Town, South Africa.  The group is part of a South African counter-culture movement called Zef, which seems fitting – their music definitely isn’t what I would call mainstream.  But you can’t help but move to the electric beats of “Evil Boy,” even if the lyrics are completely ridiculous and sometimes hilarious.  Example: “I’m a Ninja, yo, my life is like a video game.”  And, as above the picture, “I’m all up in the club in my underpants.”

Check out these videos below, but probably not at work or school, and see if you don’t find yourself putting a bit of Die Antwoord on your iPod.

Photo credit: [x]

Girl Talk. All Day.

Girl Talk.  What comes to mind?  Probably nothing like this picture, right?  Me neither.  I think of girly girls giggling about girly things, not a dude rocking out shirtless on a turntable.  But the world is full of surprises, and this guy is one of them.  Girl Talk is Gregg Gillis, a DJ from Pittsburgh who specializes in rocking your world with the most ingenious mash-ups you’ve ever heard.  If you watch Glee, or you listen to Flounder’s Mash-ups on DC101, or if you live in the world at all, you’ve probably heard of mash-ups.  I like to describe them as musical fusion, kind of like a Chinese food-Italian food hybrid of the music world… except not gross.

If you’re anything like me, you might get a little ADD when listening to music.  Can you not rarely make it all the way through a song before thinking of another you want to hear?  Do you sometimes just wanna hear a song to hear a certain line or riff?  Girl Talk is the answer, as the music is constantly changing and blending into each other seamlessly in a way that will blow your mind.  It will also blow your mind that it’s all created on a laptop, just like yours.  I’m a Mac person, and I never feel like I use my laptop to its full potential.  The same cannot be said for Mr. Gillis.  I don’t think anyone else could blend Metallica’s “One” with Lil Mama’s “Lip Gloss” without it sounding completely ridiculous.

The best part?  Gillis puts all of his musical blends online for… wait for it… free.  Free.  Free.  Free.  FREE.  Have you ever heard of such a wonderful thing?  It’s perfect to work out to, drive to, or just listen to, if, like I said before, you’re like me and have no attention span whatsoever.  He just released his fifth album of mash-ups, “All Day,” which you can download for free HERE.  Previous albums are Secret Diary (2002), Unstoppable (2004), Night Ripper (2006) and Feed the Animals (2008), my personal favorite.

Now here’s my assignment for you: download all of Girl Talk’s albums.  Listen to them.  Love them.  Then, when you hear the full length songs the mash-ups feature, see if you can keep from breaking out into singing the mash-up version.  It happens to me every time I hear Nirvana’s “Lithium” and Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It” unfailingly pops into my head.

Photo credit: [x] (P.S. the link also contains a pretty great interview with Girl Talk himself.)

Merry Thanksgiving!

It’s almost Thanksgiving! So why am I sad? I’ll tell you why. Listening to my car radio on Sunday afternoon, I scanned past 97.1 WASH-FM and heard none other than Michael Bolton singing “White Christmas.”  Just to be sure I wasn’t losing my mind, I checked the date on my phone.  How did I notice that it’s December, and therefore time for Christmas music?  Oh yeah, because it’s not December.  We haven’t even made it to Thanksgiving yet, so why are my ears being assaulted by Michael Bolton right now?  I’m offended, 97.1.

Of course this isn’t the worst incident of premature Christmas assault I’ve ever experienced.  True story: I once went to Wheaton Mall in August to go back-t0-school shopping only to find a Christmas tree display in Macy’s.  All I could say was, really?!?!  There are just too many things between August and December 25 to justify a Christmas tree display.  It was still pushing 100 degrees outside, and they were pushing Christmas trees?  Lamesauce.  I’d like to see the person who buys a Christmas tree in August.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, happy Thanksgiving to all.  Let’s take joy in the overindulgence of this American holiday before moving on to Black Friday and the excruciating headaches you’ll get from listening to Christmas music all the time.  Enjoy your turkey, your tofurkey, and your cranberry sauce… and your TSA patdowns if you’re traveling.  But whatever you do, don’t tune into 97.1, because you’ll get all confused and think it’s Christmas time.  It’s not.  You still have a good five weeks before Christmas to get all your shopping done and [sarcasm] listen to Michael Bolton’s Christmas album [/sarcasm].  But until then, since they won’t let us just have this holiday before bombarding us with Christmas, Merry Thanksgiving!

Photo credit: [x]

Singin’ in the Rain

Who saw Tuesday night’s episode of Glee?  …Don’t worry, this isn’t becoming a Glee blog.  But after Tuesday’s episode I can’t help but post another entry about it.  There were surprisingly few cringe-worthy moments, and plenty of Sue – so it’s safe to say I was pretty entertained.

The best thing about it, in my opinion, was Gwyneth Paltrow‘s guest spot as Holly Holliday, the substitute teacher who takes over the Glee club while Mr. Shu is sick.  Who knew she could sing?  I mean, I knew she was married to Chris Martin from Coldplay, but I’d never heard her sing before Tuesday night, but boy does she have the pipes.  It’s no wonder that Rachel was jealous.  She was able to impress the Glee clubbers with her rendition of Cee Lo Green‘s “F*ck You,” but since this is a show on FOX, it was of course edited to “Forget You.”  I’m not sure how I feel about this, readers.  The song in itself is epic – and I don’t use that word lightly.  To watch the amazing original video by Cee Lo himself, go here, I promise you won’t be disappointed.  On the other hand, you might be disappointed with Glee‘s version of the song, as it lacks that visceral satisfaction one gets from saying the words “fuck you.”  This is starting to sound like a negative review, but I promise it’s not.  Unfortunately, we still live in a day and age when people can’t handle hearing curse words on television.  Is it really that big of a deal?  We’ve all heard this word, we know what it means.  So can we just move on?  But I digress.

The main thing I wanted to praise about the episode was the final song, a mash-up of Rihanna‘s “Umbrella” and “Singin’ in the Rain,” from the film of the same title.  You can find a YouTube video of the song here.  I hope it stays up because there’s no clip of it on Hulu.  Anyway, I thought these two songs went very well together – not only the shared theme of rain, but I loved when the cast started singing “Singin’ in the Rain” just when you think the chorus of “Umbrella” was coming.  Mash-ups are a part of what makes Glee so unique, and this one hit it out the park.

Photo credit: [x]

The Power of Glee!

“So you like show tunes.  It doesn’t mean you’re gay.  It just means you’re awful.” (Season 1, episode 16: “Home”)

Let’s be honest.  The best part of the hit musical dramedy Glee is Jane Lynch as the conniving cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester.  Her biting, sarcastic, and usually mean wit is what, in my humble opinion, keeps the show from being just too cheesy.  Last year, when the show was first on the air, I had absolutely no interest in watching because I had a similar attitude to show tunes that Sue expresses in the comment above.  I have a general distaste for musicals unless they come in animated Disney form.  I mean, doesn’t it always just feel awkward when people randomly break out into song for no apparent reason?  I’m talking RENT.  I’m talking High School Musical (which I admit I’ve never seen, but for that reason exactly – I would probably throw up in my mouth a little).

For whatever reason, I’ve found myself completely in love with Glee, even if it is a bit painfully awkward sometimes.  But isn’t that high school in a nutshell?  Don’t you think it would have been more bearable, even more fun, with a little music?  And wouldn’t it have been great if everyone was as attractive as they are on Glee?  I can admit my girl-crush on Santana as easily as I can admit my douchebag-crush on Puck.  I can also admit that I love the music on Glee, even the cheesy remakes of the Rolling Stones and Journey.  So without further adieu, here are my top ten favorite Glee-makes (…Glee remakes? I’m just trying to be clever here).


Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” by Beyoncé, performed by Kurt, Mercedes and Brittany (actors Chris Colfer, Jenna Ushkowitz and Heather Morris).  Also performed by the McKinley High School football team to win their first game of the season.  Season 1, episode 4: “Preggers.”

And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” by Jennifer Hudson in the movie Dreamgirls, performed by Mercedes (Amber Riley).  Season 1, episode 13, “Sectionals.”

Listen,” also from Dreamgirls, performed by Sunshine Corazon (Charice Pempengco), an exchange student from the Philippines who is immediately snatched up by rival Glee club Vocal Adrenaline.  Season 2, episode 1, “Audition.”

The mash-up of The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” and Bon Jovi‘s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” performed by Brittany, Tina, Mercedes, Santana (Naya Rivera), Rachel (Lea Michele) and Quinn (Dianna Agron).  Season 2, episode 8, “Never Been Kissed.”

Dream On” by Aerosmith, performed by Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison) and Bryan Ryan (guest star Neil Patrick Harris).  Season 1, episode 19, “Dream On.”

Don’t Rain On My Parade” by Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl,” performed by Rachel.  Season 1, episode 13, “Sectionals.”

Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond, performed by Puck (Mark Salling).  Season 1, episode 8, “Mash-Up.”

River Deep – Mountain High” by Ike & Tina Turner, performed by Mercedes and Santana.  Season 2, episode 4, “Duets.”  They SO should have won that free dinner at Breadsticks.

Don’t Stop Believin‘” by Journey, performed by New Directions (the name of the glee club).  Season 1, episode 22, “Journey.”

Like A Prayer” by Madonna, performed by New Directions.  Season 1, episode 15, “The Power of Madonna.”  I can’t really explain why I loved this one so much, but I really do.  As my iTunes will tell you, it’s climbing up my “most played” list, probably because I listened to it about 10 times in a row.  Am I embarrassed?  Yes, but it’s okay because this is a blog and you can’t see me blush.

Photo credit: [x]