Lovin' Genius


The latest version of iTunes has something called Genius which automatically creates playlists from a single song. When I downloaded the new version, I turned off the genius sidebar and figured it was something I'd just ignore. I was turned off by the need to genius to upload information about my songs to Apple and the idea that it has such strong tie-ins to iTMS.

But yesterday Steve Fulling was raving about it, so I decided to give it a try. In less than 12 hours, I'm a convert. I still hide the sidebar because that's where all the music suggestions are and I don't need to buy any more music right now. The playlists it puts together are incredible. I can hardly wait for one to finish so I can pick another song and listen to the next set that iTunes puts together for me.

I often find songs I like but haven't listened to much on the list and the selections are always diverse and yet somehow hang together. Just one thing--I can't figure out why almost every playlist has "Brandy" (Looking Glass) in it. What's iTunes trying to tell me?

Here's an example of the playlist that Genius created for me when I selected "Melissa" (The Allman Brothers Band):

Can't You SeeThe Marshall Tucker Band
Long Train Runnin'The Doobie Brothers
White RoomCream
Gimme Three StepsLynyrd Skynyrd
Walk On the Wild SideLou Reed
Rocky Mountain WayJoe Walsh
Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)Looking Glass
Peace Of MindBoston
You Ain't Seen Nothing YetBachman-Turner Overdrive
Feels Like the First TimeForeigner
House of the Rising SunThe Animals
New York State Of MindBilly Joel
Statesboro BluesThe Allman Brothers Band
Fire On the MountainThe Marshall Tucker Band
God Only KnowsThe Beach Boys
Ventura HighwayAmerica
CocaineEric Clapton
Somebody's BabyJackson Browne
What's Your Name?Lynyrd Skynyrd
Take the Money and RunSteve Miller Band
Hey NineteenSteely Dan
Wreck of the Edmund FitzgeraldGordon Lightfoot
New Kid In TownEagles
Crimson And CloverTommy James & The Shondells

Repeating the same selection and hitting the genius button results in a new, but similar playlist. Don't like the list? Just change the selection or hit refresh and you've got a brand new set of songs. As a bonus, Genius is also available on the iPhone and iPod Touch if you've enabled it in iTunes.

So is Apple mining my music listening? Probably. But they're also giving me value. I'm willing to make that trade. My music is now more valuable to me and more enjoyable and that's not something I can say for the dusty CDs sitting on my shelf.