Twenty songs. That’s all this is. But damn if twenty songs isn’t the hardest thing to narrow down when coming up with what I like to call “the perfect mixtape.”
A few years ago, I crafted a Spotify playlist with this exact name. I keep twenty songs on it. Now, they change frequently. I keep certain songs in rotation and tracks come and go, but there are a few which always hold steady and never leave the list.
And now, I share this list with you.
You ready for it?
1. Elbow – “Powder Blue.” I blame this song on Bob. If you’re reading this, you know who you are. Bob first put an old copy of this cd (when cds were, you know, still a thing) in my hand and said, “You must. You simply must.” I did and I never looked back. I feel like there has to be an anecdote that I should share with you, but there just fucking isn’t. It’s just a great song with weird lyrics and haunting melodies, so… whatever. *shrugs shoulders*
2. Bjork – “Bachelorette.” If I am in the car and this comes on… well, fuck. You may as well put me in a goddamned swan dress and call it a day. It’s over and everyone within a five-mile radius knows.
3. The Czars – “Paint the Moon.” I feel like if you don’t know who John Grant is and you call yourself a member of the LGBT community, you should probably go ahead and give yourself a good old-fashioned punch to the throat. He is a poet—plain and simple.
4. Tears For Fears – “Head Over Heels.” This song reminds me of growing up. Like making out and fucking around. I never get tired of it… like EVER.
5. She Wants Revenge – “Tear You Apart.” When I first heard this song, I nearly shat myself. Shat? Shit? Regardless, they are a throwback to every band I loved in high school reincarnated into some gothy fucking amazing synth angsty sex-slicked hands-down-the-pants outfit that I definitely wanted to know more about.
6. Thompson Twins – “If You Were Here.” Okay, so maybe I’m going to date myself here, but there’s this scene where Samantha comes out of the church in Sixteen Candles and Jake is there—fucking Jake, am I right?—and he’s got this sweater vest and these jeans and the boots that are like dipped in minwax or whatever… and he gives her this wave, right? Jake fucking Ryan. And this song is playing in the background. And he’s saying, ‘hey, like, um, do you want to get in the car?’ or whatever and she’s looking around like a fucking twat… ‘who, me?’ and he finally wrangles her in there and then basically he makes her the birthday cake and she loses her virginity (or whatever—she does in my mind)… all with this track playing in the back.
7. Britney Spears – “Piece of Me.” Because, you know, reasons.
8. Beck – “Ramona.” So, in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Scott writes a love ballad. The words are simple. “Ramona. Raaaaa-mooooo-nnnnnaaaaa. Ramooooonnnnna.” But, clearly, when the ACTUAL soundtrack came out, Beck cleaned it up a bit and may have added a few more words. I loved the original (with one simple word), but Beck’s version makes me suck in a few breaths and close my eyes.
9. Depeche Mode – “Halo.” There are fifteen-hundred Depeche Mode songs. Okay, maybe not fifteen-hundred, but you get the idea. Why this one? This one makes my pants tight. I don’t know how to describe it any other way. #sorrynotsorry
10. La Roux – “As If By Magic.” I don’t know, man. I just like it. It’s been on the list for a long time and hasn’t come off. And I never skip it when it comes on. NEVER
11. Arcade Fire – “Crown of Love.” This is the most romantic song ever written. Stalkery, yes. Borderline nuts? Um… yeah, sure, but I write. Everything I write is borderline nuts. And yeah, if you weren’t passionate about stuff/people, no one would want to read what you had to say. “Crown of Love” is a love letter. A scary one, yeah, but fuck it. You only live once.
12. Arctic Monkeys – “No 1 Party Anthem.” Alex Turner is the sexiest motherfucker on the planet. I don’t care if you disagree with me. If you do, you’d be wrong. This song sounds retro as fuck and awesome, almost as if he wrote it for some bird in nineteen-fifty-five. The way he sings is straight from the balls—hot and wet and unapologetic.
13. Arctic Monkeys – “The Bakery.” Um… see above.
14. Portugal. The Man – “Mr. Lonely.” This is one of those new tracks that has made its way onto the scene. It reminds me of an old genre mashed with a new one. Like ‘90s trip-hop meets new indie. It’s like a mix of Beastie Boys meets Portishead meets ruby meets Tricky. A new wet audio dream.
15. Lana Del Rey – “High by the Beach.” Yeah, it’s a floppy-hat girl-gets-high song, but it’s a really good one. Like a really good one. Close your eyes and just let all of your predisposed notions about her dumb ass go right out the window.
16. Chairlift – “Ch-Ching.” The chorus to this track is just fun. It just is. Actually, this whole song is fun as fuck.
17. Talk Talk – “Life’s What You Make It.” This song is older than balls. Well, hell, I don’t know how old it is, but I was young when it was out. But it was fucking great. And it’s still great. It’s the kind of song that you listen to with the windows down. Now get off my lawn, you whippersnappers.
18. Lupe Fiasco – “Kick, Push.” This track has been off and on and few times, but it’s back on this month. If you listen, you’ll understand why. It is literally about skateboarding. I mean, it’s an entire song about… skateboarding, but there’s also something else that I can never put my finger on. A struggle? Happiness? Youth? Whatever it’s about, I love it.
19. Lady Gaga – “Telephone.” Don’t… just don’t judge me. I’m not one of those monsters or whatever. I just like this one in, like, an uncomfortable way.
20. Purity Ring – “Begin Again.” Saving the best for last. I could listen to this song every fucking minute of every day. Okay, maybe not every minute, but I’ll put it to you this way. If I made a movie, I would use it in the opening credits. How’s that?
Time to put together your mixtape. Or what the fuck… just cheat and use mine.
Charlie Winters is the best selling author of several gay romance novels. Winters is the winner of the Silver RCA (Readers Choice) at the Sinfully MM Book Review Awards in 2015 and has been featured in the Washington Blade 10 ten “Summer books to read. ” Winters’ latest novel “Aki&Jamie” can be found be found in both hard copy and digital formats on Amazon and Kindle.