Nothing says love like burning.

I was recently at a poker game where my concentration (or my attempt to pretend I had a full house when in fact I had a pair of Jacks) was momentarily interrupted by the music playing in the background. It was the theme song from the now-defunct

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

television show. I was amazed that someone else actually had this piece of music and dared to play it in public. Amazed, that is, until I realized-as Buffy segued into 2Pac's "California Love"-that I must have been responsible for this particular mix.


My love of making mixes dates back to the earlier millennium. Two tape-decks, laborious cueing, all sorts of crazy atavistic accoutrement including, if you can

recall, the one-song cassette tape. These days, all those old cassettes are still in shoeboxes in my closet as I can't bear to get rid of them (throw away an old LL Cool J bootleg I bought on a street-corner in Philadelphia in 1986? Are you crazy?). But my High Fidelity days are long over. I still make mixes, but not sitting on the floor next to my stereo surrounded by albums and tapes all put in the wrong cases. I just sit here, at this very computer, workin' it out on iTunes.

I'm not normally one to whore for a particular brand of software, but iTunes has made life for wannabe DJs like myself a whole new ballgame. For a while I did, like errant teenagers everywhere, make use of the illegal options for downloading music. But the random quality issues and the nagging fear I had (like a headline in another paper reading: "Reporter Editor Arrested for Illegal Download of Lil' Kim") steered me towards the iTunes music store.

Putting aside the obvious hawking of new-and often crappy-songs, there is an ineluctable joy at being able to retrieve, in approximately five seconds-nearly any song one has the need for. And, for Valentine's Day, it's also the perfect gift. Ten Love songs, Ten I Used to Love songs, Ten I'm Never Gonna Love Again songs. (Note: There is no need to only have 10 songs, it's just a nice even number. And a $10 gift).

ITunes does, of course, provide pre-mixed mixes for Valentine's Day (they call them "playlists," but I don't want to get too jargon-y). Their Valentine playlist, for example, includes Chet Baker's "My Funny Valentine," The Temptations' "My Girl" and Faith Hill's "Breathe." Their Valentine's Alone playlist has "She's Gone" by Hall and Oates, Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" and Roy Orbison's "Only the Lonely." Five minutes to download, five minutes to burn. If relationships were this easy, everyone would be in one!

I'm not so into the idea, though, of burning someone else's playlist (although the Celebrity Playlists at iTunes are a source of constant fascination to me. The joint playlist allegedly compiled by Liz Phair and John Cusack struck me as having a weird authenticity despite my theory that all "news" about celebrities is completely fabricated). I like to think that the mixes I make have a personal touch. On the one hand, you wouldn't want to play them at a party (people would be dancing wildly one moment and crying in a corner the next), but you might, at least, hold onto them for, well, anyway.

This Valentine's I am in the process of making a mix for a certain someone. That certain someone isn't someone I'm interested in, but a friend with a still-mending broken heart. (And while this is off-topic, I would highly recommend Valentine's gifts for the broken-hearted in your circle as a good Karma-inducing activity.) Here's where I'm at so far. Feel free to steal this mix.

1. Def Leppard: "Bringing on the Heartache"

This song makes me very nostalgic for my teenage years, although I have no clear memory of why this is the case.

2. 2Pac: "California Love"

I put this on every mix I make. So it seems, do many celebrities at the iMusic store. Must be a weird rap-related conspiracy thing.

3. Elton John and Kiki Dee: "Don't Go Breaking My Heart"

I had a 45 of this when I was about 10 years old and was obsessed with playing it over and over again and singing along with both parts. I attempted this not long ago at karaoke and it was not a huge hit.

4. Aimee Mann: "That's Just What You Are"

This is the best anthem ever about a significant other who won't change his or her ways (actually I think it's kind of a man-specific song, but this is a bi-gender list). Lyrics are slightly hard to understand, though, so this song doesn't work as well if you are giving it to someone as a pointed message.

5. Alison Moyet: "All Cried Out"

"You took a whole lotta lovin' for a handful of nuthin." This is a bitter sentiment, indeed, but it sounds less so when backed by an electronic drum machine.

6. Bob Marley: "No Woman, No Cry," live version

This doesn't have much bearing on the broken- heart theme, but it's important to hear that "everything's gonna be alright" when you are getting over a breakup.

7. Mary J Blige: "Real Love"

This song is just for a reminder of the supposed point of all these pointless relationships.

8. Matthew Sweet: "I Almost Forgot"

"You should never have to choose. Whenever you win, you know I'm wishing you'd lose. So you know I love you." Now that's my kind of breakup song.

9. Prince with Rosie Gains: "Nothing Compares 2 U"

So much better and more heartbreaking than Sinead's version. If there's any tears left in ya, this will wrest them out.

10. Roots: "Complexity"

This song ends my little set because a) you can't make a mix without The Roots on it and b) sometimes love is way too complex for simple rock 'n' roll.