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Issue Date: February 2008

How To: Set the Mood

Erick Trickey
The obvious moves don’t work. To set a romantic mood, don’t put Barry White on the stereo. Even Al Green is trying too hard, too much pressure. And don’t make mixes. You’ll overplay your hand — three straight pledges of devotion, a stray lyric you didn’t catch about weddings. Whether it’s your third date or your 30th anniversary, go with a full album and a consistent feel. Try one of these classics:

Portishead, “Dummy.”
Beth Gibbons’ neo-torch-singer voice sounds full of pain, but the second track and best-known single, “Sour Times,” shows how sad music can become seductive: “Nobody loves me, it’s true,” sings Gibbons, “not like you do.”

Otis Redding, “The Very Best of Otis Redding, Vol. 1.”
Feisty party tracks such as the carefree, horn-driven “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” alternate with ultra-soulful ballads such as the gospel-tinged love-doctor prescription “Try a Little Tenderness.” Hit shuffle, since track 1, “These Arms of Mine,” is too strong a plea to lead off with (see the No Al Green Rule, above).

Jeff Buckley, “Grace.”
Buckley melded influences from Led Zeppelin to Edith Piaf into this now-classic album. The music’s fragile ambivalence paradoxically melts away nervous uncertainty by track 6, a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” (Or, try most any album by Buckley’s father, Tim Buckley.)

Ryan Adams, “Heartbreaker.”
Alt-country’s bad boy hides his lyrical barbs in a soft acoustic twang, evoking such deep affection (“My Winding Wheel”) and dignified loneliness (“Oh My Sweet Carolina”) that by the time he invites a woman to ruin his life (“Come Pick Me Up”), it sounds like the best idea ever.

“Pulp Fiction” soundtrack.
If your date is edgy, fun and not scared by the film’s shouting, swearing armed robbers in track 1, you’re in for a wild romp through raunchy funk and surf rock. Ricky Nelson’s despairing “Lonesome Town” sets up Dusty Springfield as the clincher: Any unresolved romantic tension will likely be resolved during “Son of a Preacher Man.” 
91.4% of the people who took our poll say they’ve kissed on a first date.

In the Mood for Kisses
68.8% admit to kissing and telling.
62.1% of men kiss and tell.
72.2% of women kiss and tell.

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