Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Conversations with Genius on my iPod

I finally upgraded my iPod. I've been needing more space for ages, but when the Classic came out it had user interface issues (stutters) and the price point for the 160GB version was a tad high. I played with one of the new 120GBs, though, and they fixed both the stutter and the price point, so I bought. This iPod has built-in Genius playlist building. I thought that would be fun to play with. It went like this...

Me: "OK, let's see what you've got. I figure if I start with 'Escape (The Pina Colada Song)' you should hit Jimmy Buffet within 3 songs. Go"

iPod: "Steve Miller Band - The Joker"

Me: "That works."

iPod: "Gary Wright - Dream Weaver"

Me: "Umm, OK."

iPod: "Jimmy Buffett - Margaritaville"

Me: "There it is. Well done."

iPod: "Joan Jett & The Blackhearts - I Love Rock and Roll"

Me: "What? That's not even close. Are you insane?"

iPod: "Me insane? You're the one having a conversation with an iPod."

Me: "Bite me. New genre. Coal Chamber - Fiend. Go."

iPod: "Korn - Wake Up Hate, then Kittie - In Winter, then Dope's cover of You Spin Me 'Round."

Me: "Whoa. That last one I never would have thought of, but it totally works. Well done."

iPod: "Well, I am a Genius."

Me: "OK Genius, try this. Jocelyn Pook - Masked Ball."

iPod: "WTF is that?"

Me: "It's that really cool dark brooding music from the masked ball in Eyes Wide Shut."

iPod: "Like that helps. You do know that I don't watch movies, right? Anyway, not only does it not sound like anything else in your collection, I don't think it sounds like anything else period. So here, have a list of completely random songs."

Me: "Sigh. OK, another new genre. The Crystal Method - Murder. Go."

iPod: "Leftfield - Song of Life, then Propellerheads - Bang On!, the Goldfrapp - Hairy Trees."

Me: "Nicely done."

iPod: "Thanks."

Me: "Another new genre. In-Grid - Pour Toujours. Go"

iPod: "French electronic? Seriously?"

Me: "Why are you being judgemental?"

iPod: "I'm not. You do know that you are having this conversation with yourself, right? Anyway, how about Bond - Hungarian, then Bond - Samba, then Aurora - Real Life."

Me: "OK, that works, I guess. But do you have something against French music or something? Edith Piaf - L' Homme A La Moto. Go."

iPod: "Genius is unavailable for the selected song."

Me: "Ha! Got you. At least that's better than random songs. OK, let's try something different. Alien Ant Farm's cover of Smooth Criminal. Go."

iPod: "OK, how about System of a Down - Chop Suey!, then Disturbed - Land of Confusion, then Dead or Alive - You Spin Me 'Round."

Me: "Another cover of You Spin Me 'Round? It works I guess, but why?"

iPod: "Why? It's your music, Bub."

Me: "Sigh. Chris Thile - Stealing Second."

iPod: "Sheryl Crow - Steve McQueen"

Me: "Huh? I give you instrumental bluegrass and you give me Sheryl Crow?"

iPod: "R.E.M. - Rockville"

Me: "Still not even close."

iPod: "Neil Young - Sugar Mountain? The Grateful Dead - Franklin's Tower? Kings of Convenience - I'd Rather Dance With You? You know - it's not my fault if you don't have any similar music."

Me: "I have a dozen instrumental bluegrass albums and a couple dozen instrumental celtic albums that would be way closer than anything you've shown me."

iPod: "Yeah, whatever."

Me: "OK, one more. Yo-Yo Ma - Elgar Cello Concerto."

iPod: "Yo-Yo Ma - Gershwin Prelude #1, then Jian Wang - Suite No 2 in D Minor, then Hayley Westenra - Wuthering Heights."

Me: "The first two are great, the last one though? That's a cover of a Kate Bush song."

iPod: "By a classical musician."

Me: "That's the tie? That's stupid."

iPod: "Whatever."

Note: The idea of turning this into a conversation with my iPod was totally stolen from Wil Wheaton's twittering.


Jeff Carlson said...

Hahaha. That is awesome. I was unaware that you were into Coal Chamber and Kitty. Cool.

I think your Genius is quite a lot more sassy than the one I have on my iTouch. Maybe it is mad at having to remember the billion different tracks you have and then figure out how they are related.

I do find it interesting that it seems to give the most "wrong answers" when you are looking at what many people would consider more mainstream music.

David said...

I think more mainstream music might be more generic and therefore harder to distinguish. But based on sound alone I am totally at a loss for how it got the bluegrass wrong. Mandolin is a pretty distinctive sound and I am positive that Pandora wouldn't make that mistake.

I wonder how many elements they are using in their fingerprint?


Mark said...

With all due respect to your musical taste and preferences, I have found that when a GREAT singer like Hayley Westenra does a cover of another artist's song, she IMPROVES on the original version with her superior talent.

If you don't believe me, I can provide numerous examples from Hayley's singing, Celtic Thunder, Israel Ole, and others.

Let me know if you need a list to be convinced. Then compare the versions at your leisure.

David said...

Uhh, Mark, you seem to have misinterpreted what I said.

I didn't dis Hayley. All of the songs mentioned in the post are in my collection, so there is a pretty good chance that I like them all. I have two of Hayley's albums in my collection and I really like her version of Wuthering Heights a lot, being both a Kate Bush fan and a Hayley Westenra fan.

What I did think was stupid is that the iPod Genius feature selected Wuthering Heights when I started with the Elgar Cello Concerto. That is wrong. I have dozens of classical Cello tracks (since I am also a Yo-Yo Ma fan and an ex-cellist) that it could have chosen instead.

Do you think that Wuthering Heights sounds like the Elgar Cello Concerto?