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iPod Freakout

My iPod’s shuffle feature is freaking me out!

The "Shuffle" on my iPod is the perfect generator of a mixed tape. I am no longer constrained to listening to songs in a specific order or in fact listening to a whole album. Music is sliced diced and mixed. Its blended and reconfigured. Is this a step forward or a step back to the 1950’s when all music was consumed as singles that our parents saved their weekly allowance to buy and played on their RCA portable record players in their "Happy Day’s" bedrooms?

I have a 4th generation, 30 Gig iPod with 5,204 songs on it. When going for a walk I use the "shuffle" feature that takes my library of songs and randomly chooses and plays a selection. But I don’t think it’s random at all. The selected tracks are perfectly matched to my mood and my tastes. Each song flows into the next both thematically and musically. It grabs songs I have just added combining them seamlessly with more familiar tunes and brilliant obscure selections from albums or artists I have not spent enough time with. I find myself digging into my pocket and looking with shock and amazement at that little Apple display that reveals the brilliant selection my pod has just made for me.

Check this out: It begins with Bruce Springsteen’s "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live" followed by Joni Mitchell’s "The River" and then Dylan’s "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" and John Hiatt’s "Icy Blue Heart" and finally finishing the set with Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint’s "Freedom for the Stallion".

No Rock, no metal, no punk, not even country, just great songwriters what’s going on?

Come on, there’s divine intervention at play here or Apple has wormed its way into my head and is reading my thoughts. Not yet a believer?

Ok try this: The Clash "Revolution Rock", The Rolling Stone’s "Time is on My Side", Neil Young’s "Motion Pictures" off the totally obscure album On the Beach, Wilco "Dash 7" off the equally rare AM, "The Scientists" by Coldplay, "Communications Breakdown" by Led Zeppelin and finally "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley

Reggae to rock to country rock and back…. how cool is that. I know…. its uncanny, its too perfect and its freaking me out!

Does Apple have a little piece of code running that searches the millions of possible combinations looking for the perfect match? Does it look at the beats-per-minute and searches for songs that match? Does it analyze my mood and program something to cheer me up or has it been hardwired it be sympathetic?

Have you had this experience? I bet you have. Our iPods are filled with the music we love because they has been fed by us and yet sometimes they seem to have a mind of their own and they play what they like when shuffled. My iPod loves Billy Bragg and Dido. I have many more songs from Blue Rodeo, AC/DC, American Analog Set, Beatles, Amy Winehouse, Danny Michel, k.d.Lang, Ryan Adams, Steve Earl, U2, Van Morrison, The Weakerthans, The Who, Led Zeppelin, and countless others… but my pod loves Dido. She gets played in almost every set and sometimes two songs in an hour. Dido is only on my pod because my wife likes her and to keep peace in the house… Dido stays.

I checked my iPod for the single title that has been played the most and unbelievably its Snow Patrol’s "Chasing Cars" that I purchased from iTunes after my wife heard it on "Grey’s Anatomy". It’s the only Snow Patrol title on the iPod but the little bugger has taken a shine to this tune and won’t let go. It played the song 17 times in the last 2 months. I am beginning to hate this song.

On the flipside, I have artists programmed that my pod seems to hate. I never hear The Band, Cat Power, The Foo Fighters, Golden Smog, The Jayhawks, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, Los Lobos, TomWaits, or Yo la Tango. Yet they represent significant sections of the inventory. Why does my iPod hate these artists?

I have been thinking about this for a while but have been hesitant to ask people nervous that they would think I was losing my mind. But I picked up a book by Steven Levy called "The Perfect Thing, How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture and Coolness" and there, buried deep was an entire chapter dedicated to this phenomenon.

I am not alone. There are others… sure that their iPod is possessed by a higher being that knows them and programs the soundtrack to which they live their lives.

Steven Levy has done the investigative journalism and discovered that in fact the iPod’s shuffle feature is totally random but, like me, he refuses to believe those empirical, cold facts preferring to believe in the mystic nature of his pod.

My pod is definitely moody. There are times when it likes to rock out and scream choosing Iggy and the Stooges, Andy Stochansky, Wolfmother, and Sloan. Or it gets all mellow and sad playing only Tracy Chapman, Sarah Vaughan, Sarah Slean, and Ron Sexsmith. It will get on a country or blues kick or take a stab at bluegrass. It’s all good and really inspiring.

Whatever it is… the black arts of mind control, lady luck or something spiritual, I’m loving it. You’ll find me taking my little pal for a walk and marveling at the musical journeys that await me.

Chris Brown

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Chris Brown

  • 62 years old
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba, C
  • User since Aug 31st 2007, 15:47

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