As I write this, I’m in between apartments and living at home for the time being, so I’ve taken this moment of desperate, post-collegiate aimlessness solitude to clean out my childhood bedroom. The small pile of sweat-stained band t-shirts, folders of AP History notes my high school teachers insisted I’d need in college, and Mad Magazine issues are worth some nostalgic currency, but I had no idea I was stocked in pitiful high school mix CDs.
Whether they were cherished tokens of affection by past girlfriends/friends or copies made under the assumption that my mix work would be highly praised for years to come, I was wrong. So very, very wrong. Other than being rife with too many pseudo-depressing acoustic jams and terrible song choices, there’s a select handful of songs in these CDs that, in the context of a high school relationship, must be avoided at all costs. I know “banning” something just makes teens want it more, but the years of suppressed memories, regrettable actions/relationships, and awkwardness I could’ve avoided by not putting these songs on CD are worth a shot. High school couples: I’m not trying to stop your love or your individuality; I’m just trying to do you a favor:
Number Five: Bright Eyes – First Day of My Life. Look, I understand if this is the deepest love song your ears have heard. Conor Oberst, like, gets that true love is like seeing with a brand new pair of eyes, but also being accepting of, y’know, people’s past problems and flaws. And, like, ever since you fell for your Winter Ball date a couple weeks ago, this song has been screaming from every open locker vent and car radio. It’s like being a kid again, but also, like, becoming an adult too.
Do you really want a small taste of adulthood, though? Go to any liberal arts college with a large sized quad on a warm autumn day. Target the frat boy wearing socks with sandals and carrying an acoustic guitar. Join the slowly forming circle of kids with no coordination trying to bob along and listen closely. Yes, between covers of “Wagon Wheel,” any John Mayer single, and “Santeria,” this young troubadour’s secret weapon is “First Day of My Life.” This song has played the “our song” role to so many past, doomed relationships, and now, it has jumped into the lexicon of alpha bros’ five songs they know on guitar that’ll get them laid. Conor Oberst would weep over the fate of his song, but wiping his tears with all the hundred dollar bills he’s made from it give him papercuts.
Number Four: Band of Horses – No One’s Gonna Love You. For those looking for that “cute, slow folk song about love” to fill the void after “First Day of My Life” tires a bit, the next logical step would be “No One’s Gonna Love You.” It sounds like a rather damning title, but wait, the full lyric is “no one is ever gonna love you more than I do,” making it surprisingly uber-cute, right?
No. Stop it. Read all of the lyrics before you send a song to a significant other. I stocked every vaguely romantic mix I made during high school with this song and realized only recently how important that rule is. I mean, let’s forget about the fact that the song opens with the line, “it’s looking like a limb torn off or all together just taken apart.” A bit of an awkward start, but hey, at least that “love you more than I do” line’s still romantic. That is, until you recognize the fact that he keeps referring to a relationship as a falling, “ever-living ghost” and that this is a total breakup jam, not an anthem to woo your partner into some incredibly awkward oral behind the gym. In fact, reading the rest of the lyrics, one could easily picture the singer muttering the song’s title outside his ex’s house in the rain, a pickax under the arm that isn’t severed. Which is probably the effect Band of Horses was going for, seeing as they all kind of look like Duck Dynasty’s forgotten sons that wandered away from murder and into a music career. Pretty good songs though!
Number Three: Bon Iver – Skinny Love. For Emma, Forever Ago dominated my Freshman year of college, so I say this with the utmost respect to the music that got me out of a year-long depressive state…but this song needs to be hidden from all bloggers forever. Why? This image encapsulates it for me:
To the hundreds of thousands of people that reblogged this image on Tumblr, I ask a simple question: have you ever heard “Skinny Love?” You’re exempt if you haven’t, but seriously, listen to one second of Justin Vernon’s trembling falsetto. Is that the sound of a man in love, but “too shy to admit it?” Justin Vernon was one broken dude with a cabin in Wisconsin and nine songs full of feelings. At its peak, he howls, “And now all your love is wasted / and who the hell was I? / And I’m breaking at the britches / and at the end of all your lines.” Try cooing that in the ear of your lover. Unless it’s followed by, “Don’t text me anymore, keep my sweatshirt, but I want all of my records back,” it has no place inside a relationship.
Number Two: The Killers – Mr. Brightside (Jacques Lu Cont Mix). This was more of a college experience for me, but I feel I wasn’t very social in high school, so this may be a pertinent situation to this list. Often, the setting of a remix like this is at a friend of a friend’s basement party or a grimy club. You’ve downed a six pack and a few shots that tasted like watermelon-flavored regrets. You’re dancing with your girlfriend or someone new, everyone’s incredibly attractive, and an endless stream of remixes are on. Except this one’s worlds apart from all the others…it’s a remix of that song. You heard it on the radio all the time when you were a kid. It spoke about difficult love in an easy-to-digest way, but was still kind of cool. You swore on your little eleven year old heart that you’d woo a girl while this song was playing one day.
And then you’re back in the moment. She’s looking at you in that way – the “go ahead” look with her eyes. You surrender your fears. You must kiss her now. The watermelon shots are helping this. You’re in a corner, kissing her neck. Things progress consensually. The night is infinite.
And then it’s the morning. Infinity is overrated. Your body is a Russian nesting doll of headaches and impending vomit. Your eleven-year-old self is looking over you in the deepest of shame. And that song you once loved, the song you had the sloppiest of times with last night, causes you to wince when it comes on the radio from now on. Keep sentimental songs out of lust and romance, kids.
Number One: Louis Armstrong – When You’re Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You). Before I launch into why you should avoid this song as a high school lover, I should commend you. You’re a cut above everyone else in terms of maturity. I’m betting it’s because you’re a drama or band kid, huh? No, seriously, own that. The arts won’t get you a steady career in life, but at least you have somewhat of an idea what deep emotions should look like. And if you’re spinning ol’ Louie, you know you’ve got some very deep feelings for that special someone. You’re already envisioning how it’ll sound on your record player as you grab them into your arms and slow dance with them as meaningfully as one can.
Out of all the songs I’ve mentioned here, this song definitely seems like the least worrisome of the bunch, but I definitely feel it’s earned its place. After years of making mixes, I’ve found the token “old jazz/swing standard” song seems to inspire the same feeling as when someone meets a friendly old person: they’re charming, they definitely know/have seen romance in the past, and hopefully, they’ll stick around for many more years. If the relationship’s meant to be, that’s a pretty awesome kind of feeling to attach to a mix. But if you’re gearing up to go to college, get a job, meet new people, expand your worldview a bit, gain new ideas on your moral/emotional/religious/ethical beliefs, study abroad, take a position in a new city far from your hometown, or make similarly big life decisions, it might be best to avoid this grand gesture. When people start to believe a person is dependable or in it for the long term, it’s just about the worst feeling of all time to have that proven wrong. I know you feel very deeply for this person, but I plea that you give it some time outside of your hometown. Know that I hope for the best outcome here, but I also hope you don’t limit your possibilities of becoming a better human being.