Upon downloading the new version of iTunes (which was a chore in and of itself because I was trying to unload the 60MB of music I had stored on my laptop into an external HD), I noticed a new feature that made little musical notes dance around in my head with glee.
I’m sure that the vast majority of you have already noticed the Genius sidebar that now appears on iTunes. This feature suggests songs by a particular artist that it notices you don’t have on your computer, and it also takes the liberty of suggesting songs for you from other artists. You can even click on a song in your iTunes library, hit the little “Genius” button (it’s a flower-like thingie on the bottom right of your screen, and iTunes will manufacture a playlist of other songs in your library that it thinks fit with the song you’ve originally chosen). Pretty cool stuff, in theory and, to a degree, in practice.
I polled a handful of MHW staffers to get their opinions on the Genius feature, and almost everyone I spoke to said that they haven’t had enough time to play around with the feature yet. However, one brave soul took some time to tinker with Genius, and this is what they thought. Take it away, Greg.
I’ve been tinkering with Genius for a couple days now, and it’s not bad, I guess. The best thing going for it is that it’s great for finding rare tracks by your favorite artists. I had no idea Damien Rice released so many non-album songs. So now if I’m in the mood for Damien Rice, but don’t want to play O for the hundredth time, I don’t have to through suffer crappy 9! And I guess if you’re too lazy to keep up with music journalism (though the fact that you’re reading a music blog kind of suggests otherwise) it might introduce you to some cool new bands you haven’t heard of. So yeah, I guess Genius has its perks.
The playlist feature is kind of disappointing though, since Genius mostly compiles by genre. In other words, if you want R.E.M., Public Enemy, Boards of Canada and The Beatles to occupy the same playlist, then you’re pretty much on your own. That actually reminds me of another problem: the fact that Genius only reads music that’s in the ITunes database. This screws over a lot more artists than you’d think. Foreign bands? Hip-hop pioneers? Self-released albums? The fucking Beatles? Arists who simply haven’t given enough of a rat’s ass to upload their music digitally or god forbid wish you to actually buy the record? All these folks are gypped by Genius. You might say: what the hell do I care that Big Daddy Kane is exluded from Genius? Well, you don’t have to. But I do. And Genius is decent but flawed.
Um…that saves me from going into a hell of a lot of detail, because, quite frankly, I feel the same way. One of the first things I did was click on a Beatles song to see if Genius would recognize it-didn’t happen. So, if you’re looking for any artist not included on iTunes to either be offered as a suggestion or make their way onto one of your Genius playlists, sorry bro, you’re S.O.L.
The other thing, as Greg mentioned, is that it doesn’t really make concessions for folks with more eclectic tastes. The first song I made a Genius playlist with was “(You Make Me Feel) Mighty Real” by Sylvester. I was going to the gym and wanted an appropriately high-energy mix without having to scroll through my library and hand-pick tracks. Genius did the trick nicely in that regard. However, in most cases I don’t want to hear 20 disco songs in a row, or 20 of any one genre in a row. If you type in “Tim McGraw”, it makes a country playlist. If you type in “50 Cent”, you’ll get a modern-day hip-hop playlist. But what if you’re one of those guys who listens to Tim McGraw AND 50 Cent?
Apple notoriously debuts new hardware and software to the public before working out all the kinks, so the fact that there’s a little more work to be done with Genius isn’t much of a surprise. Once the program is configured to include artists who are not yet on iTunes and it makes allowances for folks with somewhat wider tastes than the average person, then it will be worthy of its’ name.