Friday, 12 September 2008


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I once lived in a town where there was a shop called "Chic".
Needless to say, the contents of said shop were about as far from Chic as you could imagine. So it is with a degree of trepidation that I have agreed to let Apple have my iTunes library history, to allow iTunes 8.0 to make use of the new "Genius" feature.

"Genius is a fantastic new way to discover music with iTunes. Genius makes playlists from songs in your library that go great together with just one click", so say Apple.

I like making playlists; I "DJ" to myself all the time - but I'm no genius! I wonder if iTunes Genius can compete?

...The information gathering process is taking a while, and my macbook is all-fans-blaring. I don't think that setting my knees on fire is the sort of thing a Genius should do, so things had better improve fast...
The mac goes quiet, the silence only increasing my nervous apprehension... and I'm in! Information gathered and spewed out, all I have to do is select a track, click the Genius button, and I'll be in playlist heaven.

I chose "Black Butter, Past" by The Strawberry Alarm Clock, a sixties record I've been enjoying recently. Oh dear. Genius doesn't know about that song. Does Genius only know songs in the iTunes store?
So I proceed with a Barry White song, and we're off. Firstly, I discover that I have a song called "in those jeans" by Ginuwine in my library, which would be embarrassing if anyone else saw. Genius, eh? Think it's cool to embarrass me in public, punk?
Otherwise, it's fairly unimaginative. It's as if I told it "I want 25 songs excusively by black soul singers please".
Which I didn't.
Same happens with a hiphop track - "What up man" by The Cool Kids - I'm given a "genius" tracklist of 25 hiphop tracks. Not even the best hiphop I have either - it just looks like a random collection to me.
Cool electro chimps "Crystal Castles"? What do you know, I get a playlist of electronic tracks.
Of Montreal? A playlist ripped from the heart of an anal Pitchforkmedia reviewer (who is right to point out I'm the one who has this music in the first place).

How is this "Genius"?

More fun is to be had by challenging it. Now, no reason for anyone to ask what I'm doing with any Kate Bush music at all, but for reasons you'll never know, and I'll never tell, I have some. OK? Ok, this, bizarrely, is much better. I get a list including Hot Chip, Joy Division, a bit of Michael Jackson, Queens of the Stone Age, Fugazi and the Pet Shop Boys. That's a challenging set right there.

I assume, were I to own much more MOR 80s glossy rubbish, Ms Bush would have elicited a ton of that - but in the absence of natural soul mates, the Genius system seems to have gone crazy (which is quite charming). I am not making this up, but following the Kate Bush track, Genius, in some unfathomably genuis-like way, making a decision that is beyond mere mortal understanding, chose "Jesus Built My Hotrod" by industrial metal act Ministry.

I can conceive of a playlist that included both songs, but I think you need a few more tracks in between to make it work... However, like I said I'm not a genius. iTunes 8.0, so it says on the box, is.


Charles Arthur in the Guardian
thinks "Genius" could be worth 8.4 BILLION dollars, but I wouldn't pay that much, as the iTunes store library is not comprehensive, and the tool itself is too simplistic. Still, I am not most people: I'm sure most people will love having iTunes mix up playlists of their Coldplay, U2 and Keene (s)hits, as most people are probably too rubbish to do it themselves.

Also ...ask her about Dinosaurs!

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