In the 80s and 90s the romantic tool of choice was the mix tape. It let you (hopefully) seduce with song and make someone fall in love with your brilliant musical choices, subliminal messages, and amazing cover art.
#1 The Rules
Playing a record store obsessive in High Fidelity, John Cusack detailed the rules of an effective romantic mix tape.
As you can’t skip from song to song, the mix had to be considered in its entirety. It had to fit on each 45 minute side. You had to know when to raise and lower the mood, and never, ever use two tracks by the same artist on one tape.
#2 The Theme
Songs had to be linked by a theme and it took time to select and ordering the tracks in a convincing way.
#3 Title, Tracklist & Cover Art
Next you needed cool titles for each side of the cassette, cover art and customized liner notes. This made sure you conveyed your message as well as the musical theme and your underlying message of love.
#4 Critical Response
But success all depended on how well you understood the feelings and musical tastes of the recipient. It could go very wrong, as in High Fidelity, where his girlfriend complains that his mix tapes are too didactic!
#5 The Break-Up Tape
The opposite of the romance tape was of course the break up tape. Made and played to console yourself or to send to your ex in the hope of changing their mind with some well chosen song picks. A multimedia project on just this subject have collected real mix tapes and their corresponding stories and turned them into a book titled: Cassette From My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves.
#6 The Modern Version
So is it over? Happily not. Those nostalgic for the mix tape can simply go to Spotify, compile a playlist and generate a URL. Your own Valentine mix-tape, and a lot quicker to produce!