I Made This For You is a mixtape exchange series in which you’re dropped into email correspondence between members of the MV staff. Today’s entry is the second in this series, featuring Managing Editor James Cassar and interviewer Meghin Moore. The theme has a central focus around Valentine’s Day, with an overly saccharine grouping of songs, and a look back into the nostalgia behind others.
Date: Mon, January 25, 2016 12:42 am
It looks like we’re going to be doing “I Made This For You #2.” This should be a lot of fun, given the fact that we both like making assorted mixes. Like we discussed via iMessage on Tuesday, I’ve got the silliest idea for my mix for you. Sometimes being on a highway sparks great ideas! So I guess this post is going up for Valentine’s Day, which is such a dumb holiday. Usually around that time, I’d make a general “Valentine’s Day sucks blahblahblah WHAT A TERRIBLE HOLIDAY HERE HAVE SAD SONGS” type mix, while plotting out how to scope out the best candy at Target the day after Valentine’s Day. And with that said, the cheesiest, most cringe-worthy pop playlist idea for a dumb holiday was born.
When people aren’t out sending flowers, chocolates and stuffed animals to their loved ones, they’re out getting cavity-inducing bags of conversation hearts with ridiculous sayings on them. Or scooping up bags of Reese’s hearts…or whatever sweets their little heart desires. Super saccharine songs about love. It’s enough to give anybody a cavity without actually eating any candy. You’re basically going to hate me after this, because I’m going to dig deep into my pop archives for this one. But the thought of you listening to a playlist and trying to hold back the urge to projectile vomit everywhere while it’s on in the background is pretty entertaining, no? I’ll be making you a Spotify playlist. There’s no point in burning you a mix CD with songs like this, because it will inevitably end up as a frisbee for your pups. I’ve already got some ideas churning in my head for what to put on this one. TL;DR? LOVE SUCKS AS MUCH AS GETTING A CAVITY.
Date: Mon, February 1, 2016 10:34 pm
Answering this from my phone. Sorry.
Valentine’s Day isn’t a stupid holiday! You’re just seeing it as one. See it as this: February 15th-16th is Half-Price Candy Day. February 13th is the day Ryan hooked up with Kelly Kapoor in The Office. What’s February 14th? Just a day in between those occurrences. You’re fine.
Let’s do this.
Date: Mon, February 1, 2016 11:03 pm
GASP. No Say Anything? Not even a touch of Modern Baseball? Who are you, and where has the real James Cassar™ gone? If we’re going by that, then you’ll have my word that there will be no Jack’s Mannequin or Something Corporate songs thrown into the mix. After all, I’m focusing on (mostly) pop artists for this one. Like I said, I’m going deep into my pop archives for this. The ’90s were a prime decade for songs like that. Remind me to send you a fancy Valentine’s Day-inspired barf bag after you listen to it. You might need it. It’s that sugary that you’ll want to gag.
P.S.: For future reference, if you’re using a Mac, hit Option+2 and you’ll get that trusty little ™! Your #brand is important.
Date: Tue, February 2, 2016 1:20 pm
Got it. This is so helpful hahaha.
I’m stoked to see what you’ve got, considering you told me there’s a Spanish-language version of a Backstreet Boys song somewhere out there? I checked after you said it’s not on Spotify. It’s a bummer that Spotify region-locks its content. I bet if you logged in on a computer in Barcelona or like, Costa Rica, you’d have a whole different experience.
I’ll start mine when I finish everything else on my plate in the next few days — feel free to send me yours early! I’ll give it a review, Rob Sheffield-style. (I wonder if he’d read this. Let’s hope not. The secondhand embarrassment might be too much.)
Date: Wed, February 3, 2016 6:56 pm
There is a Spanish-language version of a Backstreet Boys classic out there! How do I know this? I went through a pretty hardcore boy band phase when I was in elementary school. In fact…I think I actually have the Spanish version on a CD somewhere in my collection! I mean, it’s a pretty solid version and I’m really bummed it’s probably content-locked. I know YouTube keeps content blocking some versions of the music video, so whatever.
Date: Wed, February 3, 2016 9:57 pm
It’s a miracle I didn’t physically barf listening to this in order, trying to write short little blurbs. My system’s been overwhelmed by the sweetness. How did I survive being a kid in the ’90s listening to 95% of this?
1. “Love On Top” – Beyonce – Okay, yes. Beyonce isn’t exactly an artist that would come to mind when thinking about “Super Saccharine Love Songs.” However, this is one of the sweetest songs in her entire discography! It’s the perfect song to kick off this playlist, much like the cherry on top of a delicious ice cream sundae. Will this playlist be like a sundae? Perhaps. It shouldn’t give you a brain freeze like an actual sundae, but it might leave you craving one.
2. “Candy” – Mandy Moore – When I first started thinking about what to do for this playlist, this song was one of the first that came to mind, and not just because it’s titled “Candy.” When Mandy Moore first hit the scene in 1999, she was one of many blonde pop stars out in the music world. She wasn’t billed like Britney or Christina, who were just starting to ooze sensuality (long before their racy, overtly sexual sides came out) but rather was billed as a sweet-sounding starlet, complete with sugary bubblegum pop songs.
3. “Lovebug” – The Jonas Brothers – I own the album this song is on. I love this song that much. It was one of the few songs that I loved from first listen. It’s a sweet, sappy love song that drones on and on about how the boys never thought that they’d get hit “by this love bug again.” If you listen to it enough times, you realize just how sweet it really is. Is it cavity-inducing? Totally. Makes you want to blow chunks everywhere? Yes. I was in the intended audience this song was geared to when it came out (albeit on the older side…) and usually I have those exact reactions to songs like this. But instead, I found myself carelessly bopping along to the melody as a bitter 17-year-old, who felt like she had to hide her love of this song (and their album, A Little Bit Longer) from the public eye, because it was such an outlier in what I was listening to at the time.
4. “Can’t Help Falling In Love” – A*Teens – Ah, who doesn’t love a Swedish pop band that got their start performing ABBA covers? This super saccharine cover of the Elvis classic was featured on the Lilo and Stitch soundtrack. It’s a cutesy, upbeat cover that doesn’t have the melancholy feels the original gives off. And the music video for this song featured puppies (and scenes from Lilo and Stitch…including the iconic scene where Stitch is used as a record player). C’mon, it doesn’t get sweeter than sugary teen pop, a Disney movie and puppies!
5. “Your Body Is A Wonderland” – John Mayer – Songs about sex can be super sappy and sweet. Case in point? This John Mayer hit. There are people out there who actually have this on a playlist of songs to romp around the sheets to. I’m not one of them. But here I am, almost 25 years old, and I still laugh about the “bubblegum tongue” lyric.
6. “All My Loving” – The Beatles – The Beatles wrote some of the best cheesy love songs. Ever.
7. “I Think I’m In Love With You” – Jessica Simpson – This song samples “Jack and Diane” by John Cougar Mellencamp. I can’t even make it through the entire song without barfing because of some of the cringeworthy lyrics: “Just the other night baby I saw you hangin’. You were with your crew. I was with mine too! You took me by surprise when you turn and look me in my eyes, boy you really blow my mind.” COOL.
8. “Marry You” – Bruno Mars – This song is admittedly one of my favorites from him, despite the fact that it talks about one of the silliest things people sometimes do when they’re still in the “puppy love” phase of a relationship: impulse, Vegas-style weddings! His rhyming is adorable. It gave me slightly unrealistic expectations of love. “I’ll go get a ring, let the choir bells sing!” I’ll say “I do” to that. Honestly. It’s really, really sweet.
9. “Oh, It Is Love” – Hellogoodbye – This is the outlier on this list. Hellogoodbye isn’t technically a pop group, whatever. Over the past ten years (has it really been that long since this album came out?!?) I’ve realized just how sweet and endearing it is. I think it’s the ukulele in it. Each time I hear it, I just envision a world where love is perfect, featuring couples being overly adorable together and where everything is filled with cute, fluffy animals.
10. “Always Be My Baby” – Mariah Carey – It’s Mariah Carey, the Elusive Chanteuse! She’s one of the few artists that monopolizes sugary pop songs. Of note: this song is as old as you are! And it’s still a classic.
11. “Because You Loved Me” – Celine Dion – You might be asking the question, “But Meghin, why isn’t the song from Titanic on here?” Easy. Like Mariah, Celine Dion is known for her sappy love ballads. Any song that talks about how someone sees the best in someone with flowery lyrics, is pretty much the ultimate sugar-coated love song. Google the lyrics. They’re mushier than “My Heart Will Go On.”
12. “This I Promise You” – *NSYNC – Boy bands are such saps. This song gives me such a warm, fuzzy feeling each time I hear it. It’s the musical equivalent of a warm mug of hot chocolate, topped with marshmallows, a little bit of sprinkles and whipped cream.
13. “Little Things” – One Direction – This is the song that made me fall in love with One Direction, and more specifically, Niall Horan. Now that this is out in the open, let’s talk about how sickeningly sweet this song is. How it evokes such a strong emotion from people who hear it; even the heartless have a heart listening to it.
14. “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” – Backstreet Boys – I WISH THIS WAS THE SPANISH VERSION BECAUSE THAT SOUNDS WAY MORE ROMANTIC AND CHEESY THAN THE ENGLISH VERSION.
15. “I Will Always Love You” – Whitney Houston – There’s no better way to end this playlist than with this iconic song. I dare you to think of a better song to close out a playlist like this with. You can’t, can you.
Yoink. Here it is, in typical James Cassar™ fashion (I did the ™ thing!) the title is rendered in lowercase. with a cherry on top.
This is a more a hodgepodge of genres than it is sticky-sweet pop music. Don’t worry – there’s plenty on here – but what shines is how the love song has been written into different conventions in the twentieth century and beyond. Basically all of these were traded back and forth in some form via mixes that my high-school girlfriend and I shared. Still can’t top 500+ songs swapped over two years. Damn.
1. Jackson Browne: “Somebody’s Baby” – Forget that Have Mercy did deliver an incredible cover of this song (Somos’ side of that split is better, but I digress) and consider the source. This song was written for the most lewd sex scene in the teenage stoner legend that is Fast Times at Ridgemont High. A 15-year-old loses her virginity to a pushing-thirty stereo salesman under a dugout. A graffiti signature reading “NAZI PUNKS” is the scenery she’s subject to in this, uh, special moment. You wanna know about juxtaposition? This song is cheesy as Nabisco whiz. It rules. Get into that bass slap action and we’ll talk.
2. Justin Timberlake: “Summer Love” – Didn’t take long for the pop smashes to filter through (and at least in the case of JT, it comes through with a handclap-aided bang). Despite owning every *NSYNC record (even the German version of the self-titled disc, thanks), I saw you already included one of the best tracks. This isn’t the best song out of Mr. Suit and Tie’s solo career. It’s not even close. The synth is patched weirdly, the harmonies simmer flatly compared to other soaring flights and FutureSex/LoveSounds was a mess in general. Can’t beat seventh-grade school dances’ misplaced hormonal tensions, though. Rest in peace, awkward swaying.
3. Katy Perry: “Teenage Dream” – Teenage Dream is the pop record of the 2000s. Hot take? Absolutely. Look at the hotbed that was Zomba Records. They signed both the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC to shady management deals, pitted them against each other, and broke SoundScan forever. The whole Katy Perry story is a weird one — gospel singer turned scandalous (gasp) girl-kisser – but she came into her one with this LP. The opener/title track was irresistible enough for me to cover it on the drums in a Devil Wears Prada tee I overpaid for in a Hot Topic while texting my future ex-girlfriend. Things are really weird.
4. Scandal: “The Warrior” – This hook is Nick from The Obsessives’ Twitter bio. For my 13th birthday, my best friend bought me Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s and I watched him beat every song but the final number on Medium (that was when the PS2 in the basement stopped working for all eternity). This song is girl-pop schmaltz turned up to 11 and it’s got a lot in common with Miss Perry. Hear those hair-metal gang vocals in the back? Goosebumps.
5. Backstreet Boys: “The One” – Millennium is the end of an era (well, a century). This record isn’t perfect, like, at all. When you’re five years old and given a cassette version of this album, it might as well have been the best thing to happen to you since a girl named Krista said hi to you when you were walking with your family to a choir concert. This song was chosen as a single when Nick Carter voiced his support for it on MTV. I remember. These five guys’ devotionals go down smoother than Five Guys. That boom-clap percussion (and that angelic string section!) was even okay for my grandparents. Miss you dudes.
6. Carly Rae Jepsen: “Run Away with Me” – If we’re talking surefire party-starting album openers, “Teenage Dream” is the gold standard. Carly Rae may never become the critical-consensus runner-up (let’s not talk about her tepid fan reception), but this track blew me away when I first heard it. This song clowns Taylor Swift’s 1980s dressup play. Let’s make CRJ famous.
8. Childish Gambino: “3005” – Honestly, Donald Glover should become the next Spider-Man so I don’t have to smell the pretense sweating off anything post-Because the Internet on the opposite coast. Gambino’s flow is choppy on this track, the one-liners are sometimes solid. “Sorry, I’m just scared of the future” is the best thing he’ll ever let slip. Why? It’s stripped off the machismo of Camp (“Heartbeat” is a dubstep power trip) to reveal a sleek, yet self-conscious interior.
Herein lies the shift in the tracklist. Love songs get more nuanced in their instruments (both played and vocalized), yet bolder in their pronouncements. Here we go.
9. Bob Dylan: “To Be Alone with You” – Nashville Skyline was a fun little experiment in the Dylan megacanon, probably enough to get me to care about his music at all. I almost included “Girl from the North Country” on here, a duet with the Man in Black (Johnny Cash, not me). Here’s kind of a fun transition from “3005” to what’s next — it’s upbeat and lovesick, but it’s not as bombastic as a pop-song standard or as overblown as a hair metal track.
10. Avril Lavigne: “I’m with You” – There’s a rumor going around that post-The Best Damn Thing, our Canadian friend was replaced by a cold, unfeeling clone, the one that got married to Nickelback’s token Ramen noodle. (Side note: Nickelback isn’t actually bad. They never promised to be anything but a dumb butt-rock band, and anyone who fires off insults pertaining to this group needs to realize they’re not promising to save rock and roll like the Foo Fighters or something.) This power ballad off Lavigne’s debut LP is overdone, some might say. The vocals are quadruple-tracked against light strings and a drum kit with a set of barrels for tom-toms. I don’t know. Any track that gets Rihanna to sample it later in her career must have some merit, plus that final chorus’ octave lift is just insane. Please Press column on this incoming, probably.
11. Van Morrison: “Into the Mystic” – Back in the 1970s, Van Morrison was a polarizing figure. His anti-drug stance seemed to stay at odds with the psychedelic cover art for his 1967 debut Blowin’ Your Mind!. Records like Astral Weeks were weird, jazz-rooted compositions that were a financial nightmare for Warner Bros. Records. Moondance saved Morrison’s career from being a major-label mess, mainly because he confessed that as an artist, he needed to also make money to support himself. Good choice, because Moondance wasn’t only impressive in its sales numbers but critically regarded as a new side for Mr. Morrison. This is the wedding song in American Wedding and it’s one of my favorite love songs of all time. Not sure why. Pretty sure I’ve slow danced to this three times in my life. Confession over.
12. Ke$ha: “Animal (Billboard Remix)” – Not sure how I stumbled upon this corner of Ke$ha’s career in high school, but despite any protestations from my inner snob, it stayed in heavy rotation. The original song isn’t that tight, but when slowed down (cue the syrupy, whiny synth refrain) it really shows that Ke$ha deserves our praise. Well, we already knew we needed to stand with her. Also, it’s a textbook execution of multitrack vocals. They weave in and out, like a sick pop-vomit tapestry. Moving on.
13. Lifehouse: “Somewhere in Between” – Pre-“You and Me” Lifehouse is a mixed bag. Post-“You and Me” Lifehouse is worse, but their singles were infectious. Lifehouse became an adult contemporary staple with 1999’s No Name Face, propelled by “Hanging by a Moment.” (You know, that song.) This song isn’t lovesick, but it’s a meditation: yo, what happens when things aren’t storybook perfect? I’m just trying to get through the week so I can see you. Things like that ground even the most zonked Cloud Nine high.
14. Dan Fogelberg: “Same Old Lang Syne” – Ever been to the Alexandria, VA staple The Torpedo Factory? It’s like this art museum inside a former torpedo factory (sure). I had just begun dating my high school girlfriend and drafted a playlist called Slowdance on the Inside in the trunk of a Saab SUV. This song was track two. The Wikipedia page on this track is darkly funny, because the song is a literal page out of this sappy crooner’s autobiography: Fogelberg saw his old girlfriend in a convenience store on New Year’s Eve and had a few drinks with her. The girl he’s writing about found out this song existed and didn’t make a public statement until Danny kicked the bucket in the 2000s. There’s a line that goes, “she would have liked to say she loved the man, but she didn’t like to lie.” They were obviously talking about current lovers (hers, an architect in the song. In real life? A GYM TEACHER.) over a six-pack of beer. The kicker? She had divorced him around the time this song came out. ZING.
15. Stevie Wonder: “I Believe When I Fall in Love (It Will Be Forever)” – I can knock High Fidelity all I want, but this is the song that closed the movie. It starts up after Rob Gordon/John Cusack says he’s about to make a tape for his ex-then-next girlfriend Laura full of songs she’d like, songs to make her happy. I guess that’s what love is, right — getting over your own tastes to figure out someone’s own, someone’s inner sanctum. Stuff like this is hard for me to wrap my head around. But it’s worth it, I guess.
Date: Tue, February 9, 2016 11:47 pm
To start, I think you did an excellent job picking songs and adding your own personal anecdotes about them. That is true James Cassar™ material right there. We both kind of did something similar with our playlists, in terms of actually having some sort of divide. I started mine with a lot of upbeat, extremely sweet songs, but managed to slow it down towards the end.
Love songs evolve over time, yes, but there are always going to be some that stand the test of time. I think my list focuses a lot more on songs like that. Especially from a pop perspective. A lot of the older tracks are literally just timeless classics by iconic artists. Even hidden gems that have been unearthed, like “To Be Alone With You.”
I was going to do a track-by-track review here, but then I realized I was rambling, so I’m only going to include some choice paragraphs from that mess in here. This playlist as a whole honestly sounds like a movie soundtrack. It’s fantastic. And despite its cinematic quality, it brought some heavy feels my way. You know, the ones known as nostalgia. This sounds like a grouping of songs that would be played at my high school’s annual King Of Hearts dance, especially that Lifehouse song. And now that I think about it…I’m sure some of them were played at that dance. I went to probably two of those dances during my high school career. My freshman year and either my junior or senior year. It was the type of dance that was flooded with couples. It was kind of sickening to see, especially since (in typical high school fashion) the dance was in the cafeteria. The place where people eat. Even though it was transformed into a lovestruck hideaway in South Central PA, it was still gross to think about because of the PDA.I also like the fact that this was something stemming from high school with you (hence some of the absolute bangers on this list. Here’s to you, JT. The one who will always be my ultimate boy band crush), because it shows you actually had some sort of relationship in high school. Me? On the complete opposite side of the spectrum. I had crushes, but that was about it. I think that stems from me being shy and awkward up until I hit college. Truth be told, I’m still shy and awkward, but still. I blossomed a little bit. That’s also why I rarely went to the KOH dances. I went with groups of friends instead, because tolerating public PDA is better in groups.
Moving on here, JT. To me, this song is the ultimate summer crush song. It’s catchy. I still awkwardly sway to it…because I’m a white girl who can’t dance. Speaking of the other pop jams on here, I like Carly Rae Jepsen. I guess I’m admitting that publicly for the first time. Whoops. But I think this song doesn’t go back to high school for you, since it’s off her most recent release, which really is an underrated album. I’m surprised to see Ke$ha on this list, since she doesn’t normally strike me as someone who writes love jams. The same goes for the ultimate faux-emo girl every girl wanted to be when I was in fifth grade, Avril Lavigne. “I’m With You” is a song that’s easily one of my guilty pleasures. I don’t even care that my dad loves her music that much…or her marriage to everyone’s second favorite Ramen-haired lad. Let’s be real, JT owns that top spot…because the 90s! “Teenage Dream” is admittedly, one of my favorite Katy Perry songs. And it nearly made my list as well…in the form of the Glee version, featuring Blaine and the Warblers. Say what you will about Glee, but that version is actually good. Like surprisingly good. And no “romantic” list is complete without the Backstreet Boys. I still know all the words to “The One,” despite the fact that it came out in 1999. It’s still a great song today. The video mesmerized me as a young gal. Sure, it’s not nearly as cheesy as some of the songs from their self-titled album, and it’s more anthemic than anything, but it’s still great. End of discussion.
I still can’t believe you actually recorded yourself doing a drum cover of a KATY PERRY SONG while wearing a Devil Wears Prada tee. Weirdly enough, I could see my brother doing that. Lord knows he recorded a lot of drum-related videos in middle/high school. Were any pop covers? Not particularly, but that would be funny.
PS: “3005” is going to be stuck in my head for a while now. Catch me embarrassing myself further by dancing horribly to it at inopportune times because I can.
Date: Wed, February 10, 2016 6:19 pm
Yeah, I’m great™. Glad you liked it; it was a blast to make. As previously said, a lot (the grand majority, really) of these landed on mixes to prolong the longest relationship I’ve ever been in. That wasn’t eulogized here, just kind of commemorated with some queasy nostalgia. Now, your playlist is just plain queasy, good work.
I’m just going to list (using bullet points), some initial reactions (and memories) wrapped in these tracks. Believe it or not, some exist! Wasn’t always King of the Emos. I cringed writing that. Sorry.
Thanks for indulging a part-memoir you didn’t ask for! Queue this bad boy and let’s get those social media shares on our terrible taste in music!
I Made This For You will continue throughout 2016. Until the next installment, Meghin and James hope you find love, fake love or forget love. In any capacity, you’ve got two very different (but boy-band-sympathizing) playlists. Go forth and multiply. Actually…that visual was too much.