Is it a form of cheating to play a song that one boy introduced to you while you kiss another?

It feels like it to me. When I press play on “Another Girl” by Jacques Greene or especially Nina Kraviz’s “Turn on the Radio”, it’s like walking into the bedroom wearing a lacy set that another man gave you. Sure, your own assets are the important part (roll with me on this metaphor: assets being good musical taste and an acumen for playing the right song at the right moment) but you’re using somebody else’s gift to show it off.

Then again, perhaps only musicheads experience this. We gift each other songs with a special passion and pride, because we know the right track can turn someone’s day or week around and become part and parcel of their emotional state, a soundtrack for their deepest hopes and fears and that particular moment in their life. But most girls only come as close to this emotional ownership as having a special song with their boyfriends. Everything they listen to belongs to 250 million other people as well. (Gotye anyone? Ugh.)

Once, when a song I particularly loved came on, I realized with a sickening feeling that the boy wasn’t worthy of it. I was despoiling its pure transcendence with a so-so makeout. So I showed him the door. In fact, if I make fun of your musical taste, you can be sure the relationship is doomed from the start. If you don’t realize how important it is to have something, anything with a bass box hooked up to your laptop so that you can get the full range and feeling of music, we will probably never build anything meaningful together. (Don’t fret, ladies, his rule does not apply to friendships, just romantic relationships.)

My starred playlist on Spotify is a history of my social life, and since one of my past times is dating, many of the tracks are tied to certain relationships. (Perhaps this is why I have a yen for DJs? One such guy is responsible for almost an hour’s worth of songs.) When I play Lana del Rey, cooing “You’re no good for me, baby you’re no good for me, but I want you, I want you,” I think of the short, intense and ill-advised relationship last summer I had with a guy who sent me the song, saying, “This is so true.”

Every time XX comes on, I can’t help thinking of the guy who said he and his friend called it, “closing music.” As in, take a girl home, put it on and she’ll melt all over you. He’s right.
(This is a remix so it’s more intense than regular XX. Love it though for yoga, though.)

Death Cab’s “Summer Skin” was the bittersweet song for summers between college when I knew I would leave my high school sweetheart behind soon.

For a while this summer, I listened to a remix of Above and Beyond’s “On the Beach” on repeat, because a guy who spends what seems like four days out of every week on the beach sent it to me, teasing me with its lyrics:


There’s nothing like you and me
On a beach
Moving with the waves in the sea

And now my current obsessions is “Set me Free” by Dato. The guy in question was showing me one song he loves while we sat on the High Line watching New York traffic slide by, sipping chilled wine  and sharing earbuds like teenagers. But when the track switched into “Set Me Free,” I wanted that song for myself and made him send it to me the next day. It’s an anthem of possibilities for where this relationship could go. “In a state of mind/tease me/one of a kind/please me/only you can set me free/can set me freeee yeah.”

You see, music is an intensely personal, sustainable–free–gift that just keeps giving, for weeks or even years. I don’t want your jewelry. I’ll exclaim over it and toss it in a drawer. Nice dinners are delicious and then forgotten. But play me a beautiful song I’ve never heard and will never hear anywhere else and you have me. (Except take-me-back songs. Sending over a sad sack song after a breakup has never worked in the history of the world for any guy.)

Even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll know that years from now I’ll be thinking of you while I lay on the beach, get ready to go out, and maybe even with a wry smile while I cuddle with someone else on the couch. He doesn’t have to know.