A Valentine's Day mixtape is a risky venture, yet people still give them out by the thousands. Most often, they're too long and full of awful songs. It's a special thing to compile songs for someone you love; it's another entirely to include anything sentimental. If you can't resist playing DJ Cupid - please reconsider! - here are the basic rules.

A Valentine's Day mixtape is a risky venture, yet people still give them out by the thousands. Most often, they're too long and full of awful songs. It's a special thing to compile songs for someone you love; it's another entirely to include anything sentimental. If you can't resist playing DJ Cupid - please reconsider! - here are the basic rules.

Include good songs.

This is a collection of music first, a love letter second. Thankfully, God created Otis Redding.

Know your audience.

A mixtape should remind someone how you feel, not tell them something new. Never announce true love, a breakup or engagement via song.

Start strong.

The wisdom of High Fidelity holds true. Start with a powerful song, turn it up a notch, smooth things out with track three. Mix tempo and style from there, paying close attention to a song's first and last 20 seconds.

Select the unexpected.

Include unfamiliar tracks or obscure ones from a favorite artist. If she's into the Rolling Stones, try "Moonlight Mile" instead of "Start Me Up."

Don't rub it in.

Even on a romantic mix, only four of 12 songs should be about love.

Only one song per artist.

As tempting as it is to pepper Sam Cooke all over this thing, he isn't in love with your partner. You are.

Twelve songs maximum.

No one loves anyone 14 songs' worth. Also, no song longer than five minutes.

No gangsta rap.

Yes, Eazy-E's "Bank Robbery" is catchy. It's just not appropriate here. Also, no Cher.

Avoid songs named for other women.

The Beatles' "Michelle" is appropriate only for a girl named Michelle. "Layla" is never appropriate.

Keep it clean.

Romance is far better fodder than sex. So avoid Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" and absolutely everything by DJ Assault.