Friday, November 04, 2005

Not At All-Gifted

Whatever you do, don’t open the box!

Dear Pandora;

I know we only met a few weeks ago, but I feel like I’ve known you all my life. I bought you an expensive dinner and bragged about you to my friends, encouraging them to try your 10 hour free trial. You were too good to keep to myself—I wanted to share you.

But Pan, you’ve made no effort to get to know me. At the beginning you were so eager to please. I told you I liked The New Pornographers, and you played them for me, and other people who kinda sound like them. But then you started playing weird stuff—you apparently thought I would like anything with harmonies and a mix of acoustic and electric instrumentation--so I told you a little more about me: I like The Smiths, The Pixies, Nirvana. I made the mistake of telling you I like Filter. Remember that day? I think you played Mudvayne and Alien Ant Farm.. But no matter how much music I added to my list, you still screwed around with me. Every afternoon you’d start your jam-band set: Phish, Dave Matthews, Blues Traveler and even the Grateful Dead. I had to stop working on my very important spreadsheets to tell you THUMBS DOWN HUNNY! And then I’d get that sad little message from you “We’ll never play that song again.”

Pandy, you’re so smart in some ways, but so dumb in others. You know I like songs with “vamp” (yes, I had to ask Jack what that meant), but what I like about The Decembrists is not the accordion. Sure, I like a squeezebox as much as the next guy, but I don’t want you to play Weird Al because I told you I like “Engine Driver.” Also, what’s the deal with trying to push such crazy shit on my in the late afternoons? There was that one afternoon that you played some Huey Lewis song that wasn’t even a hit (I think it was called “I Know What I Like”). I told you I like the Smiths, and you never play any, or any Morrissey either, or even any of those Johnny Marr projects.

In case you’re baffled, is the online “radio station” portion of The Music Genome Project, a really brilliant project that analyzed thousands of songs and categorized them by certain criteria. Pandora sort of acts as an e-harmony of music—you tell it what you like and it searches the databases for things that have the same musical criteria they’ve applied. You can tell it you like an artist or a specific song. It’s pretty neat. You get 10 free hours and pay $36 for the year if you dig it.

But my time with my new girlfriend Pandy has taught me that music is more than just a check list of things—it’s my response to it (and yours too, I guess). Sure I like mild syncopation, subtle vocal harmonies, and a major key tonality, but I also like quirk. How do you quantify quirk? Or exuberance?

I still like Pandora—she’s cute and easy. I sure wish she was smarter.


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