I like iTunes - like many Apple products it does exactly what I want in a pretty and easy to use package. Sure, I may have to customise a bunch of options to make it rip CDs the way I want but on the whole it works swimmingly.
I updated to iTunes 8 today, because I wanted to try out the new ‘Genius’ feature - the ability to generate playlists from both within your collection and also to suggest more that you don’t own yet. I’ve tried several products that have purported to do this kind of thing before, such as TheFilter and of course the Last.fm plugin, and generally I’ve come away underwhelmed. Pandora was the only service I really liked and used regularly, but they shut the UK out recently and sound like they’re going out of business pretty soon, out of my earshot.
Using Genius is simple, just select a song and hit the Genius button in the bottom right, and you’ve got a playlist built from similar songs in your collection. I did it for a few songs in my collection, edited out the duplicate artists and picked the top 10 from the playlist, here’s the results:
Song: You’re All I Have (Snow Patrol)
Genius Playlist: In The Morning (Razorlight), Other Side Of The World (KT Tunstall), Wisemen (James Blunt), Dirty Harry (Gorillaz), Have a Nice Day (Stereophonics), Why Does It Always Rain on Me? (Travis), The Zephyr Song (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Zombie (The Cranberries), Sit Down (James), Bat Out Of Hell (Meat Loaf)
Pretty good, it seems to have mostly picked out the ‘Alternative Rock’ (‘Indie’ to us Brits) elements, although unfortunately it discovered the presence of James Blunt in my collection. How embarrassing.
Song: Spybreak! (Propellerheads)
Genius Playlist: Eple (Röyksopp), Feels Just Like It Should (Jamiroquai), Stayin' Alive (Bee Gees), The Trick (The Prodigy), Purple Haze (Groove Armada), Glory Box (Portishead), Groovejet (Spiller), Fool’s Gold (Stone Roses), Don’t Falter[Mint mix] (Mint Royale), Leave Home (The Chemical Brothers)
Damn good choices - if I’m feeling like a bit of upbeat Propellerheads, chances are I’m probably also in the mood for the others in that list, a mixture of funk/dance/electronic. Groove Armada and Portishead tend to be a little slower but they’re definitely in the same vibe.
Song: Diamond Hoo Ha Man (Supergrass)
Genius Playlist: Horse To Water (R.E.M.), Shot Down (Nine Black Alps), Love Is The Law (Seahorses), Animal Nitrate (Suede), Charmless Man (Blur), Waterfall (Stone Roses), This Is Music (The Verve), Girl From Mars (Ash), Good Souls (Starsailor), Slight Return (The Bluetones)
Again, a really appropriate selection. A good selection with the same mix of Indie and Post-punk influences that I tend to like at pretty much any time of day, with a sprinkle of BritPop.
Song: Jumpin' Jack Flash (The Rolling Stones)
Genius Playlist: My Generation (The Who), All Right Now (Free), I’m a Believer (The Monkees), Sweet Emotion (Aerosmith), Black Dog (Led Zeppelin), Suffragette City (David Bowie), After Midnight (Eric Clapton), Monkey Wrench (Foo Fighters), Orange Crush (R.E.M.), For What It’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield)
It clearly picked up the ‘Classic Rock’ pointers here, which is good - although the inclusion of The Monkees is really only period-accurate and not genre-accurate:)
Song: Wonderwall (Oasis)
Genius Playlist: One Week (Barenaked Ladies), I Believe In A Thing Called Love (The Darkness), Everybody Hurts (R.E.M.), Smooth Criminal (Alien Ant Farm), Lady (Lenny Kravitz), Otherside (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Mysterious Ways (U2), A Little Less Conversation (Elvis Presley), Single (Natasha Bedingfield), Talk (Coldplay)
Mmkay, a little more random variation here - I would love to know the thinking behind associating Elvis with Oasis, apart from silly accents 😉 I also would have associated The Darkness with more glam rock, but there we go.
I had noticed that big names like Radiohead and Queen were going strangely unacknowledged by Genius so far, so I decided to see what it did think went with those:
Song: High and Dry (Radiohead)
Genius Playlist: Lucky Man (The Verve), Supernatural Superserious (R.E.M.), Everyday Is Like Sunday (Morrissey), Hands Open (Snow Patrol), Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (Led Zeppelin), Stay (Faraway, So Close) (U2), Supersonic (Oasis), Have a Nice Day (Stereophonics), Sam’s Town (The Killers), Low (Cracker)
Hmm, yeah I can buy that list - definitely on the pensive end of the rock spectrum 😀
Song: Fat Bottomed Girls (Queen)
Genius Playlist: The Hand That Feeds (Nine Inch Nails), Oye Como Va (Santana), Personal Jesus (Depeche Mode), After Midnight (Eric Clapton), Won’t Get Fooled Again (The Who), Kashmir (Led Zeppelin), Dude Looks Like a Lady (Aerosmith), Can’t Stop (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Fly Away (Lenny Kravitz), DOA (Foo Fighters)
A bit of a mixed bag that one, but then Queen are a fairly hard band to pigeon-hole, and at least Santana finally made it in to the list.
So, overall Genius seems to do a pretty good job. I’m way too lazy and disorganised to make manual playlists for groups of songs that I like at particular times - I’ve tried but I just can’t be arsed, I think I was born without the ‘filing gene’. I have so far relied entirely on the ‘Recently Added’ and ‘Party Shuffle’ lists, so I can envisage Genius being useful - I recommend checking it out.