Thursday, January 15, 2009

Music nerd stuff

I've spent part of my week playing around with the newish iTunes Genius feature, which, besides shilling product under the guise of "suggestions" (why do they think Guided By Voices fans might also be interested in Bachman Turner Overdrive?), also makes some creepily intuitive playlists based on a song of your choice. Unfortunately, the song must be licensed by iTunes, so a lot of stuff both obscure and super-famous doesn't work, including my Bollywood steel guitar compilation and Beatles albums. The playlists also sometimes get repetitive, with the same songs showing up over and over again. However, this creepy robotic ghost DJ also makes some very interesting connections that flow together like a well-sequenced album. In one instance, robo-Genius followed The Pretty Things' "S.F. Sorrow Is Born" with Pere Ubu's "Non-Alignment Pact," which worked ridiculously well, transitionally speaking, and might never have occurred to me otherwise if I were making a mix. Just now, it included T. Rex in a playlist based on Prince's "Cream." If you were somehow able to exhume dead rock stars, give them the gift of life, and force them to cover songs recorded after their demise, I think Marc Bolan could do great things with this early 1990s Prince hit. Given the Bolan treatment, "Cream" could very easily be a T. Rex song. The lyrics are very T. Rexy, and now I'm wondering if Prince had T. Rex in mind when he wrote it. I never would have considered this without the Genius putting the two together. I also wonder if I'm being tricked into forcing a connection because of the cold, clinical robotic programming of a robo-DJ. If the computer starts making the equivalent of mix tapes on its own, what else will it do? Is this the continuation of a subversive plan to ensure man's enslavement by robots? Is this the rise of the machines? Whoot! Zap! Kablammo!

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