Refound Sound on a Cassette Tape (aka my millennium playlist)

by - Sunday, January 18, 2015

currently: listening to Liz Phair 'Why Can't I?'


Once upon a time, Spotify didn't exist, I didn't own a laptop, and I didn't even own a CD. All I had was a radio and a blank cassette tape.

I never really owned any music when I was a kid. My family owned a Christian music tape for kids (the ones that help you learn bible verses), a couple of Kenny Rogers cassettes, and that Mariah Carey 'Merry Christmas' cassette EVERYONE in the 90s owned. Buying cassette tapes when you didn't even earn pocket money was impossible. So what was the solution to get music for free in 1999? I ripped it off the radio.

Yes, even at 8-years-old I was essentially illegally copying music off the radio. Of course illegally stealing music was a difficult task back then. I would listen to More FM for hours, poised over the record button to press it the second the song started. If the radio DJ talked over the beginning or end of the track, it meant I had to record it all over it again.

Anyway, in my annual room clean last week (yeah I only clean my room once a year) I rediscovered my two mix tapes from 1999 and 2001, the track names handwritten with my barely-legal pen licence. I couldn't help to test the cassettes to hear if they still work after all these years, and as dorky as it sounds, there's this comfort feeling hearing the grain of a tape playing through a stereo. Or maybe it's the familiarity of remembering my 10-year-old self singing along to the same Vanessa Carlton song in front of my parents' stereo.
What's probably dorkier was that I decided to spend my quiet Saturday night yesterday searching up all the tracks I could on Spotify to recreate my mixtape playlist. My musical choices as a kid were very female-powered pop. Vanessa Carlton, Michelle Branch, Atomic Kitten and Destiny's Child - those were probably the artists I played the most. What's most surprising to me is how well I know the words to these songs. And some of these songs I haven't heard for maybe 10 years. Seriously, had I known my memory was going to be this good I should have forced myself to learn the Cantonese language via catchy pop songs.

Even though these songs are permanently preserved on the internet, I don't think I'll ever be able to throw away these cassettes. They're pretty much like relics of my senior primary school years. But if you'd love to enjoy the playlist of songs I worked hard enough to record from the radio, you can see the songs I loved as a kid below. Feel free to love, enjoy or just critic my love for female-power pop.

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