The other day I downloaded the newest version of Itunes since I hadn’t downloaded a new version of Itunes in at least a month! Most of the new features seem geared towards new Apple products like the latest Iphones and newest Ipods. There is however one new function on this version that I have found quite interesting called – Genius. Genius is a program which once enabled will search through your entire collection of songs and compare your playlists and song selections with others to assemble good lists of songs for you. I was a little leary about sharing my personal information about my songs and playlists with this program but curiosity won out in the end. Verdict: the program is pretty brilliant, almost clairvoyant in its ability to figure out what I like.
I am a sucker for good playlists. I love assembling playlists for all occasions. For me making the right mix of music for a dinner or an event is not unlike the pairing of the right wine with dinner. Music at any event, even when it is in the background, can make everything from the food to the conversation a better experience. I consider myself quite adept at assembling playlists being that I have spent a considerable amount of time doing just that. So I was skeptical that an impersonal computer program could do this well.
I started with a song by Bruce Cockburn called “Night Train”. I intentionally chose this song because I figured it would be a hard one to develop a palatable mix around. The Genius program worked magnificently. So then I tried an obscure song by Arizona western-mexi-alternative group Calexico, and again the mix was great. So then I kicked it up a notch choosing a track from the little known band Camper Van Beethoven (one of my favorite bands of the late 80’s). To my surprise Genius delivered a compelling mix featuring everything from The Pixies, Wilco, Beck, The Shins, Eels, and Neko Case to more mainstream acts like Paul Simon, U2, and Tom Petty. Finally a personal radio station that only plays stuff I like!
What makes the Genius feature so brilliant is that it is assembles songs from your own collection, which assuming that you only keep stuff you like or are open to liking in your Itunes, means that there is a good chance you will like the mix. But unlike the “shuffle” setting there is a logic to how the mixes are put together; And the logic works! The benefits of using the Genius function over personal crafted mixes are 1. It doesn’t take any time and 2. Genius will put things in that I have either forgotten about or not got around to listening to. This means that those hundreds of songs that have just been taking up space in my hard drive because I just haven’t found time to listen to them, now actually have a decent chance of getting some airplay. What’s crazy is that I am already finding some songs that I like that I didn’t even know I had. Sure the Genius function feels a little like big brother, but it’s hard to argue with its results (I know, I scare myself with this statement even as I write it.)