The genius of Genius

by david

I’ve not made much use of iTunes Genius feature. Occasionally, I accidentally click the icon and it spits out a playlist, and I’ll say, “Oh, OK. Fine,” and listen to it for a bit, but I never really stick with it. I never use shuffle, either.

But last night, I accidentally clicked Genius while attempting to back up 30 seconds on my iPhone (the Genius button is right where the podcast 30 second rewind button is – I forgot I wasn’t listening to a podcast). The playlist it spit out is amazing. I’ll skip the trigger song and just list the first few songs that it assembled based on that one track:

“Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell” – Iggy and the Stooges

“The Ballad of El Goodo” – Big Star

“Pet Sounds” – The Beach Boys

“The Rocker” – Thin Lizzy

“Twin Cinema” – The New Pornographers

“Friend of the Devil” – The Grateful Dead

“You’re Crazy” – Guns N’ Roses

“Atlantic City” – Bruce Springsteen

The list goes on to include Fugazi, Greg Dulli, and Cream, among others.

Two things. 1) I have a lot more of the 1970s in my collection that I thought. 2) I would NEVER, ever, ever assemble a sequence of songs like that, but yet they’re all on my iPhone, and they were all unlocked by the skeleton key of one song. And the reason such a bizarre sequence of songs came together is because the trigger song itself is non-canonical and sort of weird: Roky Erickson’s “The Interpreter.” I think the secret to getting something good out of Genius is to feed it unusual triggers. If I fed it “Friend of the Devil” or “You’re Crazy”, I think I could predict the results. I think I’m going to feed it Mr. Bungle next.

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