In the winter of 2005, I was a sophomore in college living in an all-girls dorm hall. My roommate was from Germany, and we didn’t speak much mostly because we didn’t have much in common outside of the room we shared. She did occasionally let me use her landline to call home because cell phones didn’t work on campus back in ancient times (2005).
I had little or no belongings in the room outside of my clothes, books, bedsheets, and a Compaq computer tower with a monitor placed on a pale wood-paneled desk, the only other piece of furniture in the room outside of twin beds. The computer ran a Windows XP OS and was fairly bare-bones – I don’t even think it had a Microsoft Office Suite. But it did have one thing – the Window Media Player.
Existing at the same time as controversial but life-changing peer-to-peer file-sharing software such as LimeWire and Napster – the Windows Media Player was one of the first applications used for playing audio mp3s or maybe as we know it better today, streaming music. Much like iTunes, someone could import music and sync it up to an MP3 player and listen to seemingly endless amounts of music or create playlists to listen to at any moment of the day or night. This really did it for me I must say – it was the peak moment of personalization and control.
Previously, mix tapes and even mix CDs were the only way to control the order in which a song played into the next. Sure, we could call into a radio station and request but that was like hoping for snow on Christmas. The WMP application would let us drag and drop all our pleasures into one long queue for endless listening pleasure. No more skipping tracks to get to the best songs on an album – the gangs on all here on the right side of the screen waiting to be played to an ambient visualization.
To give more context to the power of The Player: In the winter of 2005, I knew very little about love, sex, or the opposite sex but what I did know is I wanted to make out with boys, A LOT.
A sheltered child, a moderately tame teenager, and now well into my 20s, I was ready to kiss the opposite sex and mean it. To prepare my body and soul for upcoming kissing, I created the quintessential “Make-Out Playlist” choosing wisely from my collection. I couldn’t tell you most of the exact choices but I do know there were songs provided by Jack Johnson, maybe Lifehouse, and absolutely a John Mayer song of certain fame and title – we all know this one.
One of my song staples on the mix was an acoustic song “After An Afternoon” by Jason Mraz from his 2001 record “Live at Java Joe’s”. It is simple, a little serious (as called out by Mraz), and a little sexy.
A few years ago, Mraz released “Jason Mraz Live & Acoustic 2001 (20th Anniversary Edition)”, a re-issue of his first live 2001 album “Live at Java Joe’s” which until now has not been available to stream. For those curious, Java Joe’s is the coffee house where Mraz performed live once a week for nearly three years before he became the light-hearted Scatman hat man you know today.
Now I am not here to defend Jason Mraz and say whether you should love him or think his music is a little too on vacation — but it should be said I don’t really follow Mraz’s work much today. Perhaps it became too mainstream or just didn’t appeal to my increasingly alternative tastes over the years. Whatever the reason, I am somewhat of a first two (four if you count the live albums) purist when it comes to Mr. Mraz’s discography. I fell off after Mr. A-Z and haven’t returned much since the re-release of this 20th-anniversary album outside of the occasional autumnal mix playlist addition of “The Boy’s Gone”.
This re-release immediately took me back to that dorm room and my Window Media Playlist obsession of the mid-aughts. I can still feel myself sitting in from of the computer contemplating the anticipation of making out with one person to my beautiful playlist and how I thought it would heighten the experience. I thought the musical masterpiece of my creation would somehow make a person more into me than already the agreement to make out on a twin-sized bed in a dorm room in West Virginia.
I begin to wonder, do people even make sexy playlists now? With Spotify curating our lives with AI, is Gen-Z out there going DIY with it? A quick search on Spotify turned up no less than a few 100 playlists with the words “make out” in the title. The young urge to press bodies against each other and do that with a soundtrack has not been lost to time.
I like to think that I exist somewhere in another reality or quantum plane in my old dorm room. The lights are out, ambient WinAmp visualization casting a glow on my modest bedpost, playing Jason Mraz and my make-out playlist. Maybe I am there with a tall dark-haired boy who kisses poorly but likes the same silly music that I do and will hold my hand now and then. The kissing was never as memorable as the music or at least the feeling of the music, and the anticipation while putting together that perfectly curated playlist for someone special, myself, or maybe no one at all.