I had an odd realization the other day; I ran across a new music streaming site – promising “interactive radio that will blow your mind” – but while scanning through the list of 50 or so categories of music to choose one matching my tastes, my interest rapidly waned. ALL of them looked bad to me. It was like going back in time 20 years and flipping through the free audio cassette bin at a suburban yard sale. I couldn’t imagine starting up an audio stream in any of these categories and liking what I heard. R&B?
At first I thought that maybe my musical tastes have just grown too weird and eclectic over the years, but there are plenty of tracks I like that are “popular”, or were popular 10 or 15 (or 100) years ago.
Here’s the catch, though — I don’t like categories. I don’t even like artists. Example: I like Radiohead — see, that’s totally mainstream! — but they have entire albums I’d just as soon skip past, and no single album I’d want to hear in its entirety. There are songs I’ve liked enough that I’ve listened them to death, and never want to hear them again.
There are songs that I still like because I had some past emotional connection with them (and I suspect I’d reject otherwise), like this one.
I have a yen for a handful of old Nat King Cole tracks, like this one; I like this Rosemary Clooney song and a few others by her (and Dean Martin’s version isn’t half bad either) but if you give me random, or even the most popular tracks by any of those three, you’re going to have me rolling my eyes. And damn it, if you think I want to hear Natalie King Cole dubbed in with her father singing “Unforgettable”, you are dead wrong. (Can you tell I’ve tried a few sites that guess what I want to hear based on what I’ve selected already? No, I don’t think that’s the answer either…).
I wander about sites like bandcamp, thesixtyone, soundcloud — these are neat (but it’s frustrating how much music is out there that I don’t really like). I found this and liked it, (and used an excerpt in a youtube video), though it starts a bit mediocre, and degrades into confusion at the end. And nothing else the artist did worked as well for me.
This is my personal landscape of music preferences, but am I the only one? The amazing diversity of music “out there” has become the amazing diversity of music “right here”, whenever we feel like wandering around a bit in the aural landscape to sample some new treats.
The old-fashioned radio stations — and the entire model of a radio station, with a programmed sequence of tracks to be shared by everyone listening — can’t cater to this kind of demand.