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By the Way: The death of mix CDs

With its indie soundtrack and only slightly cheesy presentation of teen romance, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is one of the most hipster movies of all time. It’s kind of like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but set in New York City and soundtracked by Bishop Allen and Vampire Weekend.

It’s a weird, nerdy love story that rotates around the two title characters and Nick’s ex-girlfriend, Tris. Nick wants Tris back, Tris hates Norah and Norah asks Nick to “be (her) boyfriend for five minutes” to shut Tris up. Eventually, a night-long search for both Norah’s drunken friend and an elusive band called Where’s Fluffy? ends with Nick and Norah sharing a kiss as the sun rises over Manhattan. It’s a little contrived, but it works.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, viewed 10 years after its release, feels like a time capsule of the mid-2000s: iPods, queercore bands, flip phones and indie rock bands that didn’t describe themselves as dream pop or lo-fi.

One of the things that dates Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist the most is the recurring appearance of mix CDs.

Nick makes numerous mix CDs for Tris — the one we first see is “Road to Closure: Vol. 12” — all of which she throws away. Norah then fishes the CDs out of the trash, enamored with Nick’s music taste and goofy hipster art. Later, Nick and Norah bond over their near-identical music tastes.

It’s sad that, with the CD slowly following the cassette into vault of obsolete music formats, the mix CD is headed for its grave.

When I was young, the first way I was able to listen to music on my own was my combination clock/radio/CD player. Every so often, my dad burned me a CD, usually containing some combination of classic country and the Beatles. One such CD that led with U2’s “Vertigo” stands out in my mind.

Over the years, I created several mix CDs for my loved ones, and each disc and each track meant something to me. There’s just something about the tactile, personalized nature of the mix CD — and its predecessor, the mixtape (before that just meant a hip-hop album) — that makes it special.

Today’s alternative to the mix CD is the Spotify playlist. Maybe it’s just me, but the same appeal’s just not there. You still get the same rush since you’ve revealed a somewhat intimate part of yourself, and it’s gratifying when the recipient starts listening to the songs and bands you shared with them.

But like the luxury of not having to see your high school classmates' engagement photos or the ability to not always be connected to your friends, perhaps the mix CD is just another of the marks of a different time in a different world.

In that world, music was an experience that could be shared with heart. Now, it’s a world of “give me the aux cord” or “check out this playlist.” It’s not necessarily better or worse — it’s just a mark of how quickly things change without our realization.

Alex McCann is a junior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you think Spotify playlists are the same as mix CDs? Tweet Alex @alexrmccann.

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