Making a Big Splash in This Music Ocean
In what might have been one of the more incongruent moments of my recent musical past, I found myself walking around the house the other day singing "I'm Sexy and I Know It."
For starters, I'm not and I know it. But I doubt there are too many folks my age or north of there who are familiar with this LMFAO tune other than, say, a brief encounter when they dip their heads into their children's rooms long enough to yell, "Turn that crap down!"
But there I was, cooking something or other in the kitchen, and the tune comes on my iPad playlist, drawing my move-busting 5-year-old into a dance sequence that would normally rank up there as a seizure.
Contrast that with another moment the other day, this one while driving down Midland Road on the way home from work. The windows are rolled down, allowing me to thaw from the freezer of an office, and I'm digging that summer heat. On the radio comes Heart's "Magic Man." I begin daydreaming about how this song felt like summer when I first ran into it - 36 years ago. It would have hurt less if I'd crashed into a median tree.
When it comes to the music ocean, many folks are content to stick with the original waters where they learned to swim. Perhaps they grew up with Bad Company, The Four Tops or Mel Tillis, and that's where it ends for them.
Me, I like to splash around. A little chamber music one day, indie folk the next, Miles Davis another, and maybe it's pop princess Rihanna in the gym or while roughhousing with the kids.
The phrase "music discovery" used to mean either having a buddy at the local record store or punching your car radio buttons repeatedly in a never-ending search for something decent to listen to.
But in the digital age, it's just too easy to find something new, interesting or fun to listen to. Once upon a time, there was Pandora.com, where you could type in a particular song or artist and it would play an endless stream of music with similar qualities. The mix-tape suddenly seemed quaint.
Various imitators and iterators came along. Then, about a year ago, the music app Spotify, long beloved by its European fan base, launched in the U.S., offering more than 10 million songs. Pay $9.99 a month and I'd have access to an inventory I could never hope to buy? For someone who once would spend 10 times that much a month on CDs, a better bargain I couldn't find.
Tapping into the great social web, Spotify every week told me what was new, made suggestions and showed me what others were listening to. From this rich sonic tapestry, I could assemble my own playlists based on whatever weird tastes I had at the moment. So if I wanted to build a list of the 50 best songs to bake biscuits to, perfect!
Even better, it wasn't long before someone came along to do the work for me. "Share My Playlists" is a website/app that each week posts a vast collection of Spotify playlists folks build and then contribute. This week, I have a choice of "Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time," "The Best of Richard Rodgers," or "I Hate Myself and Want to Die: The 52 Most Depressing Songs You've Ever Heard."
"Music discovery" never sounded so far-flung. But just as I'm starting to gnaw on this smorgasbord, a new kid joins the block: Songsza.com.
Funky name aside, Songsza is really just a collection of almost 2,100 playlists. The trick is that you can pick a playlist based on time of day, your mood, or what you're doing. Am I drinking in a dive bar? Maybe I want to hear "Ultimate Party Sing-alongs" or "Chess Upon the Thames." Is it a rainy day? Perhaps I'll play "Freak Folk" or "Ascension Day" or maybe just "Rainy Day."
Having run into Songsza a couple of weeks ago, I made the mistake of sharing it with some co-workers. Suddenly I seem to be getting blamed for their being distracted from their work. Hey, I didn't tell you to listen to Hanson's "Mmm Bop."
Is it all a bit much? Really, could I get by on some outdated record or CD collection of predictable pop and office-appropriate Kenny G? Maybe, but why not splash around in some currents I might not otherwise cross? I don't need a rocking chair yet. And wasn't it George Jones who sang "I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair"?
Hmmm. George Jones. Maybe I'll try the "Classic Countrypolitan" playlist.
Contact John Nagy at (910) 693-2507 or email@example.com.
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