The other day I joined Spotify and thought my woes of trying to find a proper medium to enjoy late-stage Billy Joel had ended forever. I couldn’t imagine then how influential this little machine would truly be.
Now that everyone posts on Facebook what songs broadcast on Spotify, I’ve been able to officially delete three to five friends, with half a dozen more on the chopping block.
I’m not a music snob. I’m open to musical justifications of projects/bands/techno-lab-rats if your argument is good. I’m not some weirdo who has like Rob Fleming-style notebooks full of “do’s” and “don’ts” about pop music for dating women. No, my filtering is usually much more indiosyncratic and spontaneous. Almost intuitive. For example, it wasn’t till I dated a girl who seriously celebrated Damien Rice and Dave Matthews Band that I discovered that I could never date a girl who seriously celebrated Damien Rice or mid-90s-saxophone bands.
And, I’m not like some cutting-edge cube zombie who insists you’re only allowed to listen to “Hallelujah” by Cohen or something. Who cares? I just purchased songs by Leonard Bernstein that get played in high school marching bands, and I’m not apologizing!
But this is the problem with Spotify; there is no room for musical justification. I simply see an update from some girl I’m friends with on Facebook who I have no social contact with other than Facebook—say, “Katie Kateson is listening to Aqua”—and I’m left to figure out the rest. Why would this person I really don’t know listen to Aqua? Is it a joke? Is she reliving middle school dances? Did her daughter just buy a Barbie?
Suddenly, the only thing I know about you is that you listen to Aqua, and my mind naturally thinks the worst.
Take for example, a wife of an old high school friend of mine (this is the kind of relationship that typifies both those generational arguments for and against why Facebook is generally stupid). Anyway, here’s what my new Facebook Spotify Channel (which that weird ticker thing in the top right corner really is) told me: “Jamie Jamison is listening to ‘Some Song’ by Carrie Underwood.”
I first slapped my face. Then took a sip of coffee. Then waited three minutes for the update. Again. “Jamie Jamison is listening to ‘Something Else I Don’t Remember’ by Carrie Underwood.”
But here’s where it gets weird. Just as I’m deep in an internal debate regarding why or maybe why not at the age of 27 she’s listening to an American Idol winner who sings about slashing ex-boyfriend’s tires for a living, I saw this pop up:
“Jami Jamison is listening to Le Butcherettes.”
Now, I don’t know who Le Butcherettes are. I assume they’re indie. (Let me check….yep, just looked at the website photos. Indie.) So either Jami Jamison is nonchalantly and unconsciously skipping from America’s Country Princess to what appears to be Mexico/America’s Bad Girl Punk-Rock Butchers (unlikely), or she’s knowingly trying to boost her online musical persona by remedying an uncool choice with a cool choice.
This is what makes me lose some respect for her. Her taste has been through the New Age Looking Glass—and she doesn’t like what she sees.
The scary part about Spotify is that it has the power to single-handedly out like millions of shitty music listeners. And this should be great. Because I believe people should listen to what they want to listen to—whether it’s something twangy about using a Louisville Slugger on your boyfriend’s truck or something about (let me check again), ok, gender-bending chick rock involving on-stage urine tossing.
But, thanks to how vulnerable we feel in our public affirmation of music artists, bands, and styles, Spotify will probably just do the typical social media thing. Which is not show everyone how different and unique and maybe even boring or lame or fantastically weird that we are. But rather how cool and the same we all are. And this is just boring. Way more boring than any Carrie Underwood song.