Literary Mixtape: Romeo and Juliet


If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite literary characters might be listening to while they save the world/contemplate existence/get into trouble, or hallucinated a soundtrack to go along with your favorite novels, well, us too. But wonder no more! Here, we sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters. What would be on the personal playlists of Holden Caulfield or Elizabeth Bennett, Huck Finn or Harry Potter, Tintin or Humbert Humbert? Something revealing, we bet. Or at least something danceable. Read on for a cozy reading soundtrack, character study, or yet another way to emulate your favorite literary hero. This week: in honor of Valentine’s Day, Shakespeare’s most famous star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet.

We usually stick to one character for these mixtapes, but you know as well as we do that if Romeo and Juliet were around today, they’d totally be sharing the same iPod, each listening blissfully to one earbud, possibly with at least one of their hands in each other’s back pockets. At least until they killed themselves in each other’s names. Since no one really needs a recap of this classic tale — two teenagers from warring families who fall head over heels for one another and meet a tragic end — we’ll skip straight to the good stuff. Obviously, these two lovebirds would be listening to gushy, cheesy fare nonstop to fuel their passionate embraces and dreamy days dreaming of each other. Here’s what we think they would woo, declaim, and take the poison to.

Stream the mixtape here.

“Thirteen” — Big Star

If only it were as simple for our young lovers as this song: walks home from school, chaste poolside meet-ups, and telling Juliet’s dad to get off her back. We imagine them listening to it wistfully as their world crashes down around them.

“Video Games” — Lana Del Rey

Even if they didn’t like her (and we think Juliet would be a little more into her than Romeo), as modern teenagers they’d at least have to have an opinion. This song would maybe spark adorable play-fighting for the “next” button. Oops, my hand slipped! Oh, Romeo.

“Love Story” — Taylor Swift

Look, as much as we wanted to fill this playlist with sophisticated songs of doomed, poetic love, we had to face the facts: they’re fourteen year olds. And that means Taylor Swift, lip gloss, and (sigh) probably Twilight.

“Kiss Me” — Sixpence None The Richer

After all, we’ve always imagined that first kiss bathed in milky twilight — even if Romeo manages to be a bit more poetic than just “kiss me,” declaring “My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand/ To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.”

“Anyone Else But You” — Michael Cera & Ellen Page

The Moldy Peaches version is just a little too advanced, but you know Juno is like, their favorite movie.

“Linger” — The Cranberries

The sweeping melody and wrenched vocals we know and love would mirror Juliet’s aching heart so perfectly.

“Perfect Love” — Marc Cohn

If only our perfect lovers had stopped at carving their initials in an old birch tree, we might not be in the mess we’re all in now.

“This Year’s Love” — David Gray

Though we kind of doubt Romeo and Juliet have earned the kind of bittersweet desperation that David Gray is singing about, we remember the insanity of teenage love that Shakespeare so elegantly portrays — that it’s now or never, all or nothing, you’ll never love again, so might as well kill yourself if it doesn’t look like it’s going to work out.

“Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” — The Smiths

Isn’t this feeling all anyone’s teenage years are ever about? Especially, we might add, when they’re in love.

“Romeo and Juliet” — Dire Straits

You didn’t think we’d really leave it off, did you? After all, in our experience, teenagers are so obsessed that even if there was an alternate-reality version of a song about themselves, they’d find a way to download it.