I’ll have to say I love you in a mixtape

Love is in the air and what better way to tell someone how you feel than to make them a collection of songs? Here’s how to recapture the possibly lost art.

Well, it’s happened.

You’ve fallen for someone. Hard.

That person is all you think about, yet you can’t figure out how to tell them how you feel. You’re not a poet and you definitely know it. So what do you do?

Well, in the immortal words of Jim Croce: “I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song.” Or in this case, multiple songs strung together in a collection.

Yes, the illustrious mixtape (for all intents and purposes, I’m using the word “mixtape” to include actual tapes, CDs, and streaming playlists just to make things easier)–it’s quite possibly the best way to share your feelings for someone. Whether it’s “I like you and want to be more than friends,” “I hate you, please die,” or “these songs will tell you everything you want to know about me and more,” the mixtape can easily put feelings into a tangible form. Plus, there’s nothing like the butterflies you get in your stomach when you give a mixtape to a crush.

Now comes the hard part–making the mix. Oh, you think it’s easy? Just slap together a bunch of songs and it’s all done? Hardly. There’s a lot of thought and preparation into making a good mixtape. Purists will tell you that each song has to be carefully selected. Others say to just put what you think they want to hear. Most people don’t know what to do.

Here are some tips on making the perfect mixtape for that special someone:


This seems like a no-brainer, but it gets overlooked so often. You’re not making a mixtape for yourself. Stop thinking about what you like and focus on what your crush likes musically. Putting songs on a playlist that the person doesn’t care to listen to only results in 1) the mixtape collecting dust (physical or virtual) and 2) you looking like an insensitive moron and ruining your chances with said person. Keep in mind songs that holds some type of significance. Maybe it’s a song that you danced to or a song from your favorite TV show or something that you butchered at karaoke while at the same time managing to make an impression. Make this a mixtape the other person wants to listen to.


Keep their music interests on the mixtape but tweak it. If your crush has really awful taste in music, then consider this your chance to educate them. Don’t make the collection of songs too extreme from what they listen to but push the envelope enough to expose them to greatness. So if they’re in love with Taylor Swift’s new album, then introduce them to the Pierces. If they are a huge Mumford & Sons fan, put some Drew Holcomb on there. See? Easy.


You can’t just make a mixtape called “I Like You, Here Are Some Songs.” Well, you can, but let’s try and be a little more creative than that. Your theme can be love or something sappy, or you can branch out and focus on something more imaginative. Some ideas from previous mixtapes I’ve made or received: “A Cup of Coffee and a Slice of Time,” “That Time We Almost Died at a Punk Show,” “Covers That Are Better than the Original,” “Car Ride to South Side (Because You Live So Far Away).” Feel free to use those if you like.


When you make someone a mixtape, you’re giving them a piece of yourself–your musical tastes, expressions, and creative ideas are all in this one item. Make it special. Make it uniquely you. A mixtape not only has music on it, but it also holds memories from its creator, memories that can, with the help of this group of songs, be called to mind instantly even years down the road.


The more fun you have with it, the better the end-product will be. It’s as much about your enjoyment of the process as it is what the other person gets out of it. Some of the best mixtapes I’ve made are the ones that were the most fun to make.

Now that you know how to make the perfect mixtape, go on and get started. Like any relationship, a good mixtape takes work. But done well, it can be the start of something wonderful.

NOTE: In writing this piece, I pulled out a number of mixtapes from old friends, exes, and random blogger friends and spent more time listening to those than I had planned. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

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Andrew Cothern

Andrew Cothern is the founder and editor of RVA Playlist, a music site that showcases events, concerts, album, show reviews, and opinion pieces that focus on the vibrant local music scene in Richmond.

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