Genius? …yeah, maybe

My current job requires me to walk a short distance of about 10 minutes from where I can park my car to my office. Due to this time spent afoot I think I’m making even greater use of my iPod than I did when I commuted 45 mins to and from work. I say my iPod when really mine was lost when it fell from it’s appointed location on my backpack whilst rushing to get into a car. A good friend offered me the use of his 20Gb 3rd Gen iPod. It plays tunes and even has a remote. Once I got it rebuilt with a new drive and battery I was a mighty happy guy. I’ve digressed a little here.

Now that I’m using a smaller iPod I thought I would try to make better use of the space by letting the iTunes Genius pick some of my songs for me. I’m an album listener more so than individual tracks. We all know most albums are 10% good  music and 90% average music at best so even picking good albums results in some wasted space. My impression of iTunes’ Genius was that it was nothing short of magical in it’s all knowing ability to pick out similar tracks. Well…I’m not as impressed anymore.

I have a very diverse range of musical tastes and can switch from Blues to 70’s Rock, to Metal, to R&B and any number of other genres in the span of a few days. Needless to say that gives “Genius” a fair amount to work with in the 13,000 odd tracks in my music collection. I was actually pretty excited when I picked out some of my favourite tracks by Demons & Wizards, Kiss, Golden Earring and Magnum and turned the Genius loose to find me things in a similar vein. Needless to say, I was disappointed. It appears to me that Apple has not pioneered a brilliant algorithm for sniffing out similar songs like I thought, it’s really just comparing genre’s and styles. My Magnum-based playlist was the most disappointing. With a classic tune like “The Bringer” being paired up with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Prince, and Sam & Dave. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy each of those artists and the tracks that the Genius supplied me with but in no way shape or form did the chosen tracks have the same feel as the song I provided. I believe I selected Kiss’ “War Machine” for my second list and was only slightly more pleased with the pairing up of Rory Gallagher, Thin Lizzy and a few others. This particular playlist was more enjoyable but still encompassed a wider range of styles than I expected overall.

For those who have yet to mess with the Genius, give it a try. You may be very surprised to unearth a rare gem from your collection as Genius seems to be an excellent way to be introduced to new music. For those of us who routinely listen to albums in their entirety and know our collections intimately, Genius is just cranking out bad mixed tapes.

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