In theory, making a mixtape requires nothing more than the motor skills necessary to press the play and record buttons simultaneously. In actuality, it is an art form. One that requires devilishly handsome good looks, a willingness to break someone’s heart without looking them in the eye, and the motor skills necessary to press the play and record buttons simultaneously. (Or, thanks in large part to today’s advanced technology, nothing more than the ability to drag and drop songs into a playlist then burn a CD.) On top of these attributes, there are also a number of intangible elements to consider when the time comes to compose a truly timeless mixtape.
Mixtapes are a conceptual art form. They tell a story. Therefore, they must have a subject. In this case: It’s not me, it’s you. So when painting a musical picture of the relationship you’re about to terminate, you need to select songs that help outline how the other person screwed it up.
Once you’ve selected your theme, you’ll need a title. The theme itself provides a good starting point and, on occasion, can serve as the title. Sometimes – as long as it relates back to a shared experience – you can deviate from the theme and give your mixtape an abstract title. For example, titles for my “It’s not me, it’s you” tape could include: Rearview Mirror, My Last Rolo, Hasta La Vista Baby, Told You So, or Don’t Cry. (The last title is also the name of a Guns N’ Roses song and outlines another effective, yet less popular, technique one can use when titling a mixtape.)
Remember, you’re telling a story. As such, your mixtape requires a narrative arc. It must have a beginning, middle, and end – just like your relationship. On top of that, it also needs to flow from song to song; each should be linked by mood and theme. Which brings us to our final, and most important, element.
Everything I’ve said up to this point is worthless if you don’t chose the right soundtrack. And when composing an “It’s not me, it’s you” mixtape, the first thing you need is a keen ear for emotionally ravaging music. (Consider using songs that are emotional triggers from your relationship; that encompass the journey you took together.) You are, after all, breaking up with someone through the magic of song.
Another thing to take note of is the difference between a party mixtape and a private mixtape. For a party, you need nothing more than a collection of up-tempo songs that will get the crow excited. (If they have the aforementioned flow, great, though it’s not a requirement.) On the other hand, a private mixtape is not just a bunch of singles you throw together. It is an artistic statement that is greater than the sum of its songs; it paints a musical picture while telling a story of what once was (see Narrative Arc).
Also, don’t be afraid to mix genres. As long as the songs fit the theme, helps tell the story and works with the flow, any genre goes. (Hint: Country, though not a widely popular genre, provides plenty of music about breaking or losing a loved to your brother/sister/uncle, etc.)
So, in summary, pick your theme, title your work, plot your story, and then rip someone’s heart all while moving on to your next conquest.
Here is a small of sample of songs I’ve used in the past, in no particular order:
White Snake – Here I Go Again
The Cure – Pictures of You
Fleetwood Mac – Go Your Own Way
Paul Simon – 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Don’t Come Around Here No More
Jimmy Cliff – I Can See Clearly
Coldplay – The Scientist
Greenday – Good Riddance
Pat Benatar – Love is a Battlefield
Bob Dylan – Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
George Harrison – All Things Must Pass