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Pandora’s Latest Box is Full of…Boom?

If you go to the archives and do a search for “I don’t like songs,” you will very quickly come to the conclusion that…I don’t like songs. Yes, I am aware that I have no soul. But really I have decided that it is true-er to say I do not like MUSIC. I’m a writer. I like LANGUAGE. I like it a lot, actually, and last time I checked, that’s what they make all those lyrics out of. I actively like quite a few lyrics, and lyrics are a big part of many songs.

There are words and sentences and whole VERSES of songs that make me get all warm and pleased listening to them. Sadly, you can play me a song by the same artist, or in the same genre, and I stay clammy. The only exception is Indigo Girls. I like the lyrics in almost ALL their songs. But that is a huge exception… There are very few bands or groups that I like more than one or two of their songs. Because it’s really based on if the words make a picture in my writer brain.

Sometimes it is the lyrics as a whole, such as in Dire Straights Romeo and Juliette. That’s a brilliant story of a song. Other times, a single phrase or line will make me like a song, and if I hear that, I will wait patiently for the piece I like, and then the singer says that piece, and then I stop listening.
For example, there is a song that says…a lot of things. No idea what they are, really. When it comes on, I don’t even realize it is THAT SONG. It’s just noises in the room. THEN the guy starts saying the words in the black box. The cadence of this rhyme pleases me NO END. It sounds to me like…Dr. Seuss in love. When he says that part, my brain lights up and I LISTEN and I say, OH I LIKE THIS! After that, I sit there waiting for the guy to say that part again. He says it three times. Every time he gets to it I warble along all thrilled. It’s…weird.

I say all this to say, Scott found this CREEPY BRAIN WORM TIME SUCKER called Pandora. He made a channel for me called Revelation Radio. He said it would change how I listen to songs. FOREVER. He told it ONE SONG he knows I like. And then he left me alone with it.

I have had this thing screwed into my ears for quite some time now, running it while I have been drafting a HUGE chunk of the new novel (pause here to note my virtue and goodness! I AM WORKING! The surgery apparently did not kill my brain.YAY!). While I worked, this thing has been picking song after song it thought I might enjoy based on the first song, and I am supposed to VOTE. Sometimes I would forget the songs were on, but mostly I would pause and vote… I have been doing this for days.

THIS THING IS LEARNING ME. I have spent enough time giving it little CLUES and saying yes and no, and now it is navigating my PSYCHE. I am SO creeped out by it. And yet I can’t stop DOING it. THIS THING IS IN MY HEAD. Apparently there are musical things I like so subtly that I don’t even know I LIKE them. According to Pandora, I am more likely to notice a song with hard rock or ska roots. Good for me. I loathe R and B but like am willing to make out with hip hop. True. I am less likely to be bothered by music if it is made on or with acoustic rhythm guitars. If you say so. It SAYS I like breathy male vocalists, but that makes me sound like a dirty pervert lady, so I refute that.

Here’s the thing that freaks me out: it is GETTING ME RIGHT. The last 4 songs it played, in a ROW, were 4 of the 40 songs I like enough to have on my audio-book jammed i-pod.

Seriously. THINK ABOUT THAT! Out of all the songs in the WORLD, I have less than 40 I like enough to own. And this thing just found 10% of them and played them to me. It also is starting to find songs I liked ten years ago, and I pause and hit the THUMBS UP and it goes and gets more.

And as I sit here, I find I am bothered by how LEARNED and ADVISED I am becoming by technology. Our Dear and Glorious Overlords at Google are tailoring all my facebook ads to me, gleaning info about me as I surf and shop and register for stuff. Netflix is telling me films I am going to like based on my rentals and ratings. Now this chuffy little Pandora object is telling me what songs I will like, and I don’t even like SONGS, and it is still getting me right, 90% of the time.

Word of mouth is becoming word of ones and zeros. And as fun and navel gaze-y as it is to have this machine figure me out and pump things I like directly into my brain…well, the answer to “IS IT CREEPY?” is in the phrasing of the question, right?

My brother was reading an article about these programmers who are working on making little facebook/linked in/myspace and blog commenting bots that will interact in such a way that we won’t know it is a bot. It will be a little tailored “friend,” who you may meet here…this friend will like what you like and be really supportive and great and it will casually tell you about products and events that you will enjoy…and you WILL enjoy them. But your friend? Will be a little brain worm. And you won’t even know. SO CREEPY.

I know this. And yet… here I sit, with this thing plugged into my ears, feeding my brain all the things it likes. The way you moves not fair you know. Yum.

25 comments to Pandora’s Latest Box is Full of…Boom?

  • I am not a music person either. The presence or absence of a soul depends on who you ask. And I, too, and totally smiitten by Pandora’s ability to learn and play what I like.

  • JUST smitten? Or smitthen and disturbed? *grin* I am BOTH, but clearly MORE smitten than disturbed as I keep USING it.

  • Haha I’m definitely more of a lyricist, but I love music, too. I’m afraid I’m one of those who simply can’t fathom your position – but I’m kind of glad in a sort of evangelistic way that the brain worm is getting you to listen to more music, because I truly believe music is good for the soul!

  • I love music. Hard rock, country, classical, jazz, blues, even the occasional (okay, ONE song) opera. I like that it makes me feel things. If it doesn’t make you feel things, then I can understand why you aren’t all gooey over it like I am. I have to ask (and please feel free to tell me to take a flying leap because you really don’t care to hear another music recommendation), have you ever listened to Jimmy Buffett? I don’t mean Margaritaville or Cheeseburger in Paradise. He writes great words in songs like A Pirate Looks at Forty, Come Monday, or He Went to Paris. (Of course, I also love his silly, quirky songs – A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean, Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw, and Overkill.)
    And, because I am typing this and cannot see your eyes glaze over, listen to “I’m Alive” by Kenny Chesney and Dave Matthews.

  • Mit

    I want the “Little Friend” to do this for me with recipes.

    I want it to learn the flavors I like, the methods I’m skilled at – and more importantly – learn that I ain’t using “processed” anything (not that the recipe places I normally visit have that kind of ingredient) … and I want it to know the season – and what I’m going to find at the Farmer’s Market and in my CSA box.

  • Stacey

    I heart that song! My favorite is the line in the black box, but I find myself train wreck fascinated by “my heart is bound to beat right out my untrimmed chest.”

  • Brigitte

    I was going to say that the real friends don’t sneak in those recommendations, but I actually have, once or twice. Oops! It’ll be sad when I can’t be distinguished from a spam-bot. 🙁

  • I LOVE Pandora! It’s crazy how it figures out your likes, and I have a lot of them, music-wise. I love how when my mood changes, I have a radio station set up for me in any music format I prefer: 90’s alternative, Hawaiian, Flamenco, Classical…it’s there.

    Just finished your newest book, which I won from Katie’s Korner blog. What a page turner! My heart was pounding and my hands got all sweaty in the intense parts. You sure know how to make your reader feel like a fly on the wall!


  • Yep, definitely creepy … yet, I must try it out.

  • Brigitte — I don’t think a real friend has an AGENDA to make you buy a thing—but if I find something I enjoy–a new place to eat, a book, a movie—- the first thing I DO is tell my friends. Like I just told YOU guys all about Pandora… And really? A friend’s rec has mroe weight with me than ANY review or advertisement. IT IS SUPER CREEEEPY!

    Also I am feeling comforted. Pandora does not have me down cold JUST yet. This morning it tried to play JOURNEY for me. Don’t Stop Believing. I was like, “Honey, I stopped believing YEARS ago.”

  • Jill W.

    I got to see the Indigo Girls recently in a small venue in my hometown. Squeeeeee! It was the awesome!

    I love Pandora, but it is funny because I am so used to it reading my mind, that when it his a wrong note, for example trying to sneak in some late 80s Peter Cetara into my lovely Joni Mitchell channel I am righteously offended. I have been known to verballychastise the Pandora gor these missteps. If you are going to implant a worm in my brain, there is no room for error.

    I second the “lesser known Jimmy Buffet songs” recommendation. And add a recommendation for Colin Hay ( the frontman of Men at Work). His solo stuff is lyrictastic. Plus, Overkill by MAW is one of my favorite songs. “I can’t get to sleep./ I think about the implications/ of diving in too deep/ and possibly the complications.” This is a man who knows his way around and up and down a mental illness number scale.

  • Just smitten. Not disturbed. Also not smiitten, as was the case yesterday apparently. I’m blaming the brain worm for my inability to type. Sigh.

  • Pandora is interesting and amazing, and sometimes completely whacked. But it is addicting, in a stalker-y sort of way.

    You might consider listening to Billy Pilgrim. Their use of words is evocative and sometimes disturbing, and they have acoustic guitars.

  • JulieB

    I just missed an IG concert — I am dismayed. It was close enough to get to easily and I was CLUELESS that it was even happening until someone begged off a lunch date w. me to go. 🙂
    But yes, computers are creepy.

  • JulieB

    Oh, but thanks to you, I have turned many friends on the the Fratellis.

  • For just a moment, I hate you (in love, of course). You see, I hate that song. I think it’s one of those dumb songs the radio is in love with for absolutely no reason at all. To make matters worse, this song gets stuck in my head like nobody’s business for weeks on end. I had finally worked it out.

    Then I came here.

    It’s like a haunted house.

  • WandaV

    I really like Gordon Lightfoot for his lyrics. One line from his “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” haunts me:

    Does anyone know where the love of God goes
    when the waves turn the minutes to hours?

    Of course most of my favorite songs tell a story of some sort.

  • The lyrics in the black box are from “Hey Soul Sister” by Train – one my most favorite bands, btw! – and they have many great lyrical moments. I think my favorite line from one of their songs is “I don’t spend my time with anyone who doesn’t think I’m wonderful or somewhat cash refundable at times.” 🙂

  • gilly

    Have always enjoyed music but with songs i ALWAYS want to hear the lyrics. to me it is the lyrics that make the song. yes the melody etc is important but the poetry is what grabs me. This is why I find most music videos abominable – seldom are they true to the lyrics.
    I am carefully going to saunter over to Pandora because I am sure to become addicted. oh well. Thanks again

  • Lizzy

    DUDE! I love pandora, for all its creepy knowing-ness. I have like, 3 stations. One is dance, one is metal one is…. other. I find all my new favorites there. Sadly, with only 40 free hours a month… I run out fast.

  • Kitty

    I never really thought of Pandora as creepy until now… thanks! I only wish the evil-website-blocking-big-brother at my place of employment would allow me to go on Pandora at work. BTW – Indigo Girls is also one of my favorites! I got to see them in concert once. It was awesome.

  • I’m in love with the laziness factor of Pandora. I have no time or patience for figuring out new music to listen to, but since I do NOT want to be that woman who still listens to her high school soundtracks, um, gotta get new stuff in the head somehow. My husband brings me lots of good stuff i’d never have found otherwise, and I’m incredibly fond of the angry-sounding music my teenage son plays when he’s “in a mood” and have given him back Alice in Chains for just such occasions. Which is nice. But Pandora? It’s so lazy and wonderful. I love something that’s working hard to make me happy with very, very little work on my part. I don’t care if it’s creepy. hee.

  • Jill W.

    @ WandaV.- I LOVE “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. Anytime I am feeling really depressed, I listen to that song and it perks me right up, because, DUDE, whatever I are going through cannot be worse than what is going on in that song/story! Plus, I just love me some Gordon Lightfoot.

  • Ooh, Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald! The lyrics + the music + the sound of his voice give me chills. Also, since we’re throwing lyrics out there (and talking mental illness numbers): “From the bottom it looks like a steep incline, from the top another downhill slope of mine” and “droplets of yes and no in an ocean of maybes,” both from the song Falling to Pieces by Faith No More.

  • wow, looking at this post I now realize why this approach is vital mankinds well-being, thanks a lot! Thanks