I know, I know, the CD died long before Best Buy recently decided to stop selling them (rumor has it, Target is next) as most people have comfortably made the transition to all things digital.
And while I’m usually a fan of anything that frees up additional shelf space, it’s the weirdo, clutter-free freak in me, I’m still a little bummed that CDs are rapidly going the way of cassettes and 8-tracks.
Worse yet, they’re also destined to be mocked by future generations. You’re kidding, you had to put that shiny, frisbee-like thing into a CD player to hear music? Perish the thought.
Strangely enough, I was sort of a late convert. I owned many, many cassettes and couldn’t imagine shelling out nearly $20 for every new album I “needed” for my collection back in 1995. But once I overcame the sticker shock, I discovered the hype was actually true. The sound quality was really, truly superior, and it felt like I was hearing everyone from The Beatles to Michael W. Smith to angry young Alanis for the first time. Plus, you didn’t have to rewind a CD to hear your favorite song many, many times in a row—that game-changing development alone was HUGE!
On a side note, when transitioning from cassettes to CDs, I did miss the many charms of the homemade mix tape. When you had to rewind a tape to just the right spot for inclusion on your mix tape, mistakes and awkward transitions were inevitable. But that lack of precision, not the mention the sheer effort required for the task, made the listening experience all the more fun somehow. I loved giving—and receiving—an imperfect collection of someone’s favorite songs of the moment. In the digital age, we not only have music that’s overly Pro Tooled but our playlists no longer have the charming nuances of human error either, boooo.
Ok, thanks for letting me wander off there, now back to the matter at hand…
Helping aid and abet my music addiction during my lean college years were all the shops that began adding used CDs to their inventory. I can’t tell you how many bus rides were solely dedicated to finding a used copy of whatever just released that week. These trips usually resulted in a few spontaneous purchases too, some new British band that Spin raved about, the soundtrack to a movie I saw recently and loved, or occasionally, I’d get on a very specific kick and suddenly had to listen to big band or ABBA or The Carpenters.
And yes, I was a 19-year-old college kid who occasionally listened to what’s playing regularly on Lite FM, but I stand by my choice. In stark contrast to my beloved Alanis, Karen Carpenter’s voice was sad, angelic and surprisingly devoid of angst. If I was an actress who needed to cry on cue, all they’d have to do is play anything by The Carpenters, and I’d be a blubbery mess. J.J. Abrams, you’re taking notes, right?
Last but not least, it would be difficult to picture my college dorm room without the big, clunky CD tower. It was the most prized piece of furniture I owned at the time, and I put a lot of thought into which one I’d choose. If there had been an IKEA in the Twin Cites in the early ’90s, I’m sure they would’ve made a super cool one that would’ve taken me a full year to put together.
But the CD towers featured in your garden variety chain stores? All pretty similar. The big decision was determining just how many CDs you needed it to hold. I remember after many long debates with myself that 96 seemed right. I don’t know how the CD tower makers decided on such a random number, but it served me well for the better part of my college experience because I was constantly adding to my collection by selling a few CDs in return. Once I’d played something to death and was ready for something new, I already had the deposit, which I thought demonstrated mature, even brilliant, financial aptitude (ha ha).
These days, however, my CD collection, sans CD tower, is much smaller and populated with only my top tier of favorite artists and a generous selection of Christmas music I dig out the day after Thanksgiving and retire January 1. It takes up exactly one shelf in my office and wouldn’t impress my college self very much. And while it’s been a slow climb in signing up for Apple Music, I do find it’s pretty perfect for the gym. Any of my musical whims, no matter how out there, can be catered to in a matter of seconds, and that’s pretty cool.
But there will always be a part of me that will miss perusing the CD section, and I can’t help wondering what will take their place. My vote? Books. But I’m guessing that won’t be the case.
Now how about you, friends and fellow music lovers, will you miss CDs or have you already moved on? How are you listening to your tunes these days, and what do you think will replace CDs in a store near you?