September 20, 2007

These Things Matter: The Art of Making The Perfect Mix

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DISCLAIMER: None of the songs mentioned in this column are used purely for comedic effect. Rather, they are all actually awesome songs, and I am unashamed, better yet, proud to like and sing along to them.
The way I see it, there are two strategies you can employ to make a great driving mix. You can go the Wayne’s World route or the Tommy Boy route. Both options can get the job done in their own way. Although I respect those of you who’d prefer to bang your head to “Bang Your Head,” for me nothing makes the time fly by on a long car ride quite like singing along to ridiculous and cheesy songs from my youth, just like Chris Farley and David Spade belting out The Carpenters.
This is especially true when the ride is shared with a buddy. That’s why my roommate and I endeavored to create the perfect driving mix for the many times we are stuck in the car for a few hours.
There were no specific criteria, but some factors would help more than others. For starters, the more dated the song is, the better. If the song has ever been performed by The Dan Band, it’s probably a good choice. When in doubt, choose a catchy rap song.
I highly recommend turning mix-making into a team experience. A second opinion (and passenger) is necessary because it will give you more of a perspective on your song selection. The veto-power that each mix creator has will make for a more exclusive mix of higher quality. Sometimes however, a veto will be unacceptable, and trades will have to be made. For example, if I simply cannot go on without including “Summergirls,” I might have to let my roommate include “Rollin’.”
A second passenger also adds the bonus of the ability to harmonize to some of the better songs. With some songs it is even possible to trade-off parts, as if the two of you were actually the performers.
Through this arduous experience, I’ve learned just what is “mix-worthy” and what isn’t. So to help you out for those upcoming Fall Break drives, here are the top seven songs necessary for the most incredible, ludicrous, Harold-and-Kumar worthy driving mix ever.

7. “This is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan: A solid player that fits most of the criteria from above. It’s dated as hell, back from the hit-filled glory days of the early ’90s. It’s also just as catchy, and combines rap and R&B in such a way that there’s something for everyone.

6. “California Love” by 2Pac and Dr. Dre: This one has a lot of duet potential. You can have the driver take the first verse and the passenger take the second. Or you could have the driver sing the electro-chorus and have the passenger rock both verses. And if you don’t know the words at all, you can just sing the South Park version about the homeless.

5. “Ride wit ME” by Nelly: This one works particularly well for a driving mix. Not only is it about driving, but when all the St. Lunatics scream “HEEEY MUST BE THE MON-AY!” you can yell it out your car window to other drivers.

4. Any song by Will Smith: Whether it’s “Men in Black,” “Wild Wild West,” “Gettin’ Jiggy With It,” or the wildly underrated “Will2K,” the Will Smith oeuvre provides three to four minutes of fun, laughs and processed rap-like substance. An entire driving mix could probably be made of Will Smith songs, but I recommend keeping it to about two or three, tops.

3. “Blurry” by Puddle of Mudd: I acknowledge both that this is a very questionable choice and that it might belong on the Wayne’s World type of mix. But while it technically is “hard rock,” it is also patently absurd. I just find something about this song to be irresistible. Perhaps it is the chance to sing (loudly) “Everything is so messed up.” Now that’s true poetry.

2. “All My Life” by K-Ci and JoJo: My roommate once said that it is quite possible that K-Ci and JoJo are the greatest recording artists in music history. This song is the hard evidence showing that he is right.

1. “Kiss From a Rose” by Seal: The big one; a contemporary classic. This one has it all: a great intro, easy-to-remember lyrics, and some major crescendos, which are perfect for car-singing.
I have never met anyone who does not like this song. I am willing to wager my entire bank account on the fact that nobody can refrain from singing along when this song comes on in the car. Go ahead, try me.