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The Perfect Playlist 

A field guide to sharing the love.

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Flowers die and chocolates might hit a New Year's resolution nerve. Fear not. Nothing says lovin' like the perfect batch of songs, meticulously situated on a playlist to reveal the admirer's every feeling. Some folks might not think it over that obsessively, but it's a sure bet that the recipient of the mix CD will be flattered that you spent a good 80 minutes thinking of them.

We've put together a few tips to guide you through the compilation process as well as a few musical suggestions.

  • Show the artist some love and pay for your downloads on sites such as iTunes and Amazon.
  •  Never leave your mix CD without a track listing! If someone likes what they hear, they want to know who sings it
  • For the cover art, doodle a heartfelt drawing regardless of artistic skill.
  • Don't chock a disc full of blatant love songs unless the relationship warrants it.  It could freak someone out.

Turn Them On. … to Something New

Nothing impresses like killer music taste. Why not flex your music muscle and throw together some of the newest music of '09? Guaranteed to bring any man or woman to their knees is the silky voice of alt-country darling Neko Case. Every track from her latest, “Middle Cyclone,” is a must-have. Multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird's “Noble Beast” tickles the ear with violins, percussion loops and assorted beautiful sounds; and bare-bones songwriting genius Bon Iver's “Blood Bank EP” is a heaping pile of poetics, fleshed out with a full band this go-round. Include most anything by these folks and you are golden.


Barry White's Got Nothing on This

Often called the “make out mix,” these songs suggest pure sexy and should only be used when the person is into you. As a rule of thumb, trip-hop is slightly dated (sorry, no “Glory Box” by Portishead this time) and Mazzy Star's “Fade Into You,” while great, has shown up on every playlist since the mid-'90s. Throw back to old soul greats such as Marvin Gaye's “Let's Get It On” and Al Green's “Here I Am (Come and Take Me)” for sure bets. Ben Harper's twist on a must-have track, “Sexual Healing,” would sit well alongside the sultry “Crazy for You” by newcomer Adele. Other sensual essentials might include cuts by Bebel Gilberto, Morphine and Goldfrapp.


Keep the Fire Going

For those lucky enough to have had a good thing for a good long time, the sweet and sentimental mix is acceptable. However, avoid cheesy picks including anything by Kenny G. and Michael Bolton. Mariah Carey's “The Ballads” pulls together some of her great, earlier tracks such as “Vision of Love,” and you can never falter with a smoldering Aretha Franklin song like “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman.”  The power ballad is always a nice addition to a lover's playlist, and when Steve Perry belts, hearts swoon. Throw in “Faithfully” by Journey and keep on rockin' with Bruce Springsteen's “I'm on Fire” and the Pretenders' “I'll Stand By You.” Judy Garland, Johnny Cash, Sarah Vaughn and Bette Midler also have a handful of romantic gems in their catalog that are worth the download.

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