Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Road-worthy mix hard to craft

Zach Braff's life would not have been changed if not for Natalie Portman and her gigantic headphones offering a morsel of tasty Shins goodness in "Garden State."

Rewind back to the cult classic "Reservoir Dogs." The notorious ear-cutting scene would have been infinitely less delightful had Mr. Blonde not sliced the police officer's ear off to the bouncing tune of Stealers Wheel's hit "Stuck in the Middle With You." (Thank you, Quentin Tarantino.)

Ah, the power of a good soundtrack.


The right background music has the ability to bring the characters of the silver screen together after a night of tripping on illicit substances a la "Tiny Dancer" on the Stillwater tour bus in "Almost Famous," or blow them apart in freak gasoline fight accidents to "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" (and Wham! in top form).

Spring break is nearly upon us. And while many of us will rest in the comfort of an airplane as we are whisked off to our all-inclusive FunJet vacations in Cabo, others — such as yours truly — are going the budget route and hitting the open road.

Without an ass-kicking, mind-blowing, non-repeating soundtrack, spending 18 hours in a Ford Focus with a pre-med student buried in a chemistry book, an anthro major with a pea-sized bladder and some other dude who looks just like Jerry Seinfeld and wears fleece in 80-degree heat would likely wind up as painful as aural amputation.

Company aside, traveling from Wisconsin to Florida sans concrete soundtrack — that's more than 1000 miles of nothing but highway, shifting radio frequencies, farm country and Waffle Houses from the Kentucky border onward — has the potential to cause radio-induced sanity.

Imagine for a moment that as you approach the edge of Madison, "Cupid's Chokehold" by the Gym Class Heroes starts bumping from the speakers. "Man, this is such a great song," you say. "Yeah, this is our jam," your road trip partners in crime chime in. You rock out for three minutes and 35 seconds and then press on through Milwaukee, where, go figure, the radio stations also love that sick track. They also love it in Chicago, Cincinnati, Memphis… And by the time you hit Atlanta, you actually want to exit the highway to go find the godforsaken radio station playing the infectious ditty and drive your car through the studio — but that would take even more time in the car, so you decide otherwise.

When it comes to spending extended time confined to approximately 3 square feet of personal space, the smallest bit of audio entertainment can help ease the tensions and take your mind off the stressful round of the billboard game or the latest new car pastime, "Angelina and Brad go to a picnic, what child do they bring?"

That's where making one spectacular soundtrack comes in. While anyone can craft a decent playlist, for true mixmasters, there is a science, a rigid formula that must be followed en route to lyrical euphoria. What you are about to read is just a brief excerpt from my own extensive soundtrack selection guide, jammed full of corny sayings, obscure pop culture references and other general nonsense that will someday — fingers crossed — be published and made available on Amazon for the low, low price of $21.98.

Follow these cliché tips, and the music shall set you free.

What is popular is not always right; what is oh so right is not always popular.

This is the simple line of thought counting against our friends on the annoying, redundant radio stations playing those irritatingly infectious Top 40 hits on loop, every hour on the hour. Fergie and Daughtry might be top the charts with their ever-so-catchy tunes, but the Dutchess and the "American Idol" castoff get enough airtime otherwise. So ditch the avid speller and the bald dude with sweet 'burns, and give some other musicians a chance.

Listen to your parents. But remember, this isn't your Mom's roadtrip; turn off the damn Celine Dion.

Okay, maybe keep "Power of Love" for some added emotional flair and to give your arms a stretch by adding in some intense gestures as you sing along and then continue along. Simply translated: Use tunes that anyone could find in her parents' record or cassette collection. Anything by ABBA should be used sparingly, but don't be afraid of busting out a little "Pinball Wizard" by The Who, and of course anything and everything by Queen is fair game. Also add in a hint of Wham!, as noted above, for those gas station pit stops when a gasoline fight is necessary.

Remember when…

Nostalgia is important, especially when creating mixes for the long hall. Repeats are about as socially acceptable as shaving your head and then celebrating with random tattoos, so dipping into the memory bag is probably a good idea. Speaking of certain pop stars: Travel back to your middle school, TRL days and embrace the days when Britney was still a virgin, had hair and flashed her midriff around like it was going out of style. Find tracks that remind you of those absurd freshman-year impromptu Sublime dance parties, that time when you thought Good Charlotte (Everclear, Hanson, insert other generally bad band here) was cool.

Keep 'em guessing

Stick with a theme if you must, but for additional fun, keep your posse on their toes and go for the random transition. Don't follow up the Beatles with, say, The Monkees. Instead, try out an "Eleanor Rigby" to "Sweet Home Alabama" to "You's a Ho" combination. This ought to keep people way more awake, especially during those pesky night drives.

Hoes in different area codes

Nate Dogg. Not the best rapper, gives pretty decent advice, though. If you're not completely into the random-selection method of mixing, test out a loose, yet thoughtful strategy. If you're headed cross-country, why not try to set the mood by state? This does not by any means condone playing Sufjan Stevens' "Illinoise" in its entirety as you journey through the Land of Lincoln, but "Welcome to Atlanta" or "Southern Hospitality" would be completely welcome in the fine state of Georgia.

If all else fails…

Just toss in any title remotely related to travel. This includes "Life is a Highway," "Riding Along in my Automobile," "Hit the Road, Jack" and, for "Grey's Anatomy" fans, "Chasing Cars."

Safe travels. Happy listening.

Ashley Voss is the creator of such mixes as "Old Songs That Make Me Happy" and "I Heart Substance Abuse." Need a few more pointers? E-mail her at [email protected].

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