Sunday, 14 September 2008

Is Genius a shortcut to banality?

Like many others I've been enjoying the Genius playlist feature in iTunes 8. I've been generally pleased with the results until a realisation struck me tonight. It only really plays singles or well known album tracks.

It's like listening to Now That's What I Call Adam's Music.

I can't remember hearing an obscure album track that made me think wow, yuck, mmm or in fact anything. It was all very easy to listen to.

This weekend I spent a good couple of hours putting together a playlist for my son's birthday party. Basically a list of upbeat numbers that he likes from my collection, censored for rude words and inappropriate content.

That said, I couldn't resist Simian - La Breeze which I'm sure is about SBDs (Silent But Deadlies), perfect for his age-group.

I then got the tracks in order merging nicely, taking the tempo up and down and throwing in various timely numbers. I got Kaiser Chiefs - I Predict A Riot bang on, just at the point when they decided the winner of pass-the-parcel need a victory circuit of the room on their shoulders.

While I haven't got the time to do that for every playlist, it made for a very different and enjoyable listening experience. AS you can probably tell, I was quite proud of it.

Judging by the privacy warning I had to agree to to start using Genius, I'm guessing that it uses appearances in someone's playlist as a positive indicator that songs should be played together.

If this is the case ,what happens as people save these Genius playlists. The 'greatest hits' content gets fed back to the mother ship, self validating the Genius algorithms.

Systems like this can easily tend to the lowest common denominator, in the case of music this means banality. Commercial radio style scheduling at your fingertips.

I'm sure there are other drivers but playlists are probably high on the list.

So until we can find out otherwise, I urge you all to use Genius sparingly and whatever you do DON'T SAVE.

Incidentally if you have any John Mayer in your collection might be worth checking how often his songs appear in your Genius lists.

1 comment:

friarminor said...

Funny as I was only able to find out the first time about Genius from your post. But then trying it only now made me realize it will never ever create a connection with me for my musical tastes range from obscure to faded and to present-non-commercial.

Oh, sure hope you've got yourself one cool kid's bday playlist!