October 17, 2009

Pandora

A few years ago, I tried out Pandora, the "Music Genome Project" for Internet radio. You tell them a song you like, and they stream over the Internet to you other songs that share similar musical elements, as rated by their staff of professional musicians for about 250 factors. It's not a recommendation system where people who share your tastes tell you what they like, it's based on the actual musical content of the songs.

I found it worked pretty well. But one response was off: I put in Revolution Rock by the Clash, which isn't a rock song at all, but a lazy, joyous reggae ramble. Pandora came back with the punk Career Opportunities by the Clash, which suggests that one of their employees had cut corners and categorized Revolution Rock by title rather than by music. I sent in an email pointing this out, and got a detailed apology from Pandora's CEO, suggesting to me that maybe the boss had too much time on his hands to write to his customers (who weren't paying him, anyway).

So, I'm glad that they've survived financially. Now, there's a long article in the NYT Magazine, "The Song Decoders" by Rob Walker, about how Pandora works:
[CEO Paul] Westergren maintains “a personal aversion” to collaborative filtering or anything like it. “It’s still a popularity contest,” he complains, meaning that for any song to get recommended on a socially driven site, it has to be somewhat known already, by your friends or by other consumers. Westergren is similarly unimpressed by hipster blogs or other theoretically grass-roots influencers of musical taste, for their tendency to turn on artists who commit the crime of being too popular; in his view that’s just snobbery, based on social jockeying that has nothing to do with music. In various conversations, he defended Coldplay and Rob Thomas, among others, as victims of cool-taste prejudice. (When I ran Bob Lefsetz’s dismissal of Pandora by him [for responding to a Jackson Browne song with a Journey song], he laughed it off, and transitioned to arguing that Journey is, actually, a great band.)

He likes to tell a story about a Pandora user who wrote in to complain that he started a station based on the music of Sarah McLachlan, and the service served up a Celine Dion song. “I wrote back and said, ‘Was the music just wrong?’ Because we sometimes have data errors,” he recounts. “He said, ‘Well, no, it was the right sort of thing — but it was Celine Dion.’ I said, ‘Well, was it the set, did it not flow in the set?’ He said, ‘No, it kind of worked — but it’s Celine Dion.’ We had a couple more back-and-forths, and finally his last e-mail to me was: ‘Oh, my God, I like Celine Dion.’ ”

This anecdote almost always gets a laugh. “Pandora,” he pointed out, “doesn’t understand why that’s funny.”

When I started up Pandora again for the first time in years, it remembered all the songs I had entered years before and set up "radio stations" based on each one. Here are some examples of what it came up with in response to my suggestions from the 1975-1990 era. Keep in mind that Pandora doesn't seem to play songs in order of similarity to the source song. It just picks a bunch of songs that are kind of like the one you chose and then it shuffles them. So, each time you return, it offers you somewhat different songs.

Something I hadn't expected was that Pandora performs a sort of factor analysis on your musical tastes. Listening to these songs that I picked out a few years ago plus other ones similar to them, I would say I have post-British Empire upper middle class public schoolboy tastes in music. This may seem odd, but my tastes in songs would seem most natural for a Scottish or northern English lad at a southern English boarding school for toffs, or maybe at Sandhurst, the military academy. I'm not saying that's what people of my generation like that actually liked, just that it would make sense.

Very strange, but it also fits a lot of my taste in authors as well (Waugh, Orwell, Wodehouse, etc.). I now remember how much I liked David Niven's autobiography, who was a Sandhurst grad. And the autobiography of Churchill, another public schoolboy / Sandhurst man.

So, it's no surprise that The Clash were always my favorites. After all, Joe Strummer, despite his appalling teeth, was an upper middle class public schoolboy whose dad, a friend of Kim Philby's, was a diplomat (i.e., spy) for the fading British Empire.

- Steve's Pick: Death or Glory - The Clash ("But I believe in this and it's been tested by research" -- What better lyrics to try out Pandora upon?)
- Pandora's #1 response: Queen Bitch - David Bowie
A very Lou Reed-like electric guitar riff rocker. I guess it points out the influence of Reed on The Clash as well as on Bowie. Still, the Bowie song is missing the inspiring masculine militarism of Death or Glory. Ultimately, David Bowie and Joe Strummer are different personalities and will appeal to different listeners.
- Pandora #2: Career Opportunities - The Clash
Well, that wasn't too much of a stretch! But it does raise the issue that Career Opportunities isn't quite as good as Death or Glory. The Clash had already done a bunch of songs like Career Opportunities, and they weren't putting more basic punk rock songs like that on their London Calling album. Death or Glory, as the title suggests, was intended to top their earlier stuff, or go down in flames.

- Steve: Story of My Life - Social Distortion (Scots-Irish-American roots rock anthem, both self-pitying and uplifting, much like Death or Glory)
- Pandora #1: Death or Glory - Social Distortion
I guess I should have seen this one coming!
- Pandora #2. Sunday Morning Coming Down - Me First & the Gimme Gimmes
A Scots-Irish rock cover of the fine Kris Kristoffersen song made famous by Johnny Cash -- I'd never heard of the band but I liked it a lot.

- S: The Great Curve - Talking Heads (from their Afrobeat groove era when they had 9 musicians)
- P1: Waiting for the Roar - Fastway
Pretty good AC-DCish metal, but not at all like Remain in Light-era Talking Heads.
- P2: Misfit Love - Queens of the Stone Age
This is a grunge groove song that has some similar elements to the Talking Heads song, but is much heavier and less lilting.

- S: In Between Days - The Cure
- P1: A Night Like This - The Cure
For English heterosexual foppish romanticism, you can't beat The Cure. On the other hand, once again, while A Night Like This resembles In Between Days, it isn't as good.
- P7: I Melt With You - Modern English
This has always struck me as the closest predecessor to In Between Days. Perhaps Pandora isn't set up so that the closest match is the first song played?

- S: Heroes - David Bowie (with Brian Eno)
- P1: Space Oddity - David Bowie
I suppose there's some underlying chord structure similarity, but the gestalt is radically different between the acoustic guitar Space Oddity and the shimmering Wall of Synths of Heroes, but then Heroes is a pretty unique artifact. Offhand, I can't think of any songs that Heroes is like. (Holidays in the Sun is also about the Berlin Wall, but not very close musically).
- P2: Bad Girls - Don Felder (of The Eagles)
Nah ...
- P4: More Than This - Roxy Music
Great languid song, although I'd probably put it on my In Between Days Fop Rock station (see above). One thing you learn as you see songs show up on one of your stations that you think are more like the source song for a different station is how related all your songs are. For example, on my Veronica station below, Pandora played a song I had never heard before, Shut Your Eyes by the Shout Out Louds, which sounds just like a more straight-ahead, less shimmering version of In Between Days.

- S: Revolution Rock - Clash (joyous reggae)
- P: Too Late to Turn Back Now - Don Carlos (happy reggae cover of the soul song by Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose)
Good choice. This is the kind of thing I would never find by myself.

- S: Genius of Love - Tom-Tom Club (offshoot of Talking Heads)
A fun dance song
- P1: Mystereality - Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark
Nah
- P2: Space Is Deep - Hawkwind
Nah

- S: Veronica - Elvis Costello (w/Paul McCartney)
- P: Takin' Me Back - Cheap Trick
I was a big Cheap Trick fan in the 1970s, so this is a pretty good call. Most of the recommendations on this channel are conventional rock songs, but lack the expertise that McCartney brought to Costello in 1988. (I've always thought that the dyspeptic Costello was McCartney's best possible replacement for John Lennon in terms of pushing McCartney to repress his kitschy side. If McCartney had teamed up with Costello in 1978 right after Costello's first album, who knows how good they could have been together.)

I think that's a basic problem that you can't get around in Pandora: if you like a song not so much because of the style but because it's an expert execution of a style, then Pandora isn't as good as a recommendation site.

Overall, I think the above examples are a little unfair to Pandora, since there isn't a notable dropoff in correlations as the songs go on. Possibly they randomly mix the order of the songs in terms of similarity so that listeners don't get progressively more displeased as they go.

It would be interesting to use Pandora's remarkable database for scholarly purposes. For example, T.S. Eliot pointed out that an artist creates his own "school" of predecessors that nobody noticed had anything in common before. For example, I've always felt that the ancestors of the punk rock of 1976 included from the 1968 to 1973 era: Communication Breakdown by Led Zeppelin, Paranoid by Black Sabbath, and Saturday Night's All Right for Fighting by Elton John, three songs that sounded like they have more in common after you'd heard the Ramones, Sex Pistols, and Clash than before. This giant proprietary database would presumably allow those kind of academic hypotheses to be tested objectively.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

52 comments:

wintermute said...

I think that's a basic problem that you can't get around in Pandora: if you like a song not because of the style but just because it's an expert execution of a style, then Pandora isn't as good as a social recommendation site.

There's something very wrong with Pandora, and I say that having given it more than the old college try. Like you, I ended up exchanging lengthy emails with engineers there, and after leaving and returning a few times over the years, have ultimately decided that the whole metaphor of a 'musical genome' is just too misleading, and that Pandora fixated on arbitrary elements in the music that have no actual predictive power. One friend with catholic tastes is vastly more useful than anything I've seen on Pandora.

OTOH, if you just let last.fm scrobble your iTunes, or put a few hundred of your favorite songs on a playlist and leave it running for a week or so, you'll get set up with a number of "neighbors" - what Amazon once creepily deemed "people just like you". If you play your 'neighborhood radio' - a station that randomly picks songs your neighbors are listening to - you'll get more music, new and old, that you love and never have heard before in a week than you would on Pandora in ten years.

Not that that's necessarily a good thing. I wouldn't recommend 'neighborhood radio' to anyone without a fair amount of disposable income, or who isn't an old hand with torrent sites. There's a lot of music that you love which you've never heard before, and last.fm is better than any similarity engine I've ever used in delivering it to you - by the warehouseful. It makes Amazon's similarity engine look like ENIAC by comparison, though to be completely fair, Amazon has never had the chance to rifle through the accumulated playcounts and ratings in my iTunes, though I often wish they would. What good are world government, 24/7 video survellance, keyboard snooping, orbital mind control lasers and vast privacy violating databases if I don't see some some consumer advantages from it? These people better get with the program or I'm voting against the North American Union.

ziel said...

Is this what Dodger fans do during an Angels-Yankees Greatest-Non-Deciding-Playoff-Game of the century?

Underachiever said...

Pandora works very well for me. It helped me rediscover some of my old favorite songs.

Anonymous said...

I like your taste in music

Carbon said...

I read that NY Times article, start a Pandora account because it sounded interesting....and lo and behold isteve has an article about it.

I've been on for about 40 minutes so far. Started with Yoko Kanno and the first thing it took me to was Adiemus (yeech!). But I suppose my reaction was just familiarity, so I let it slide.

Now its serving me up tunes I like and have never heard of, and I don't have to do any work at it. The not working/thinking/searching bit is kind of nice.

John Seiler said...

You should have been in Detroit in the late 1960s, when the MC5 and the Stooges were blowing everybody's ears off inventing what later would be called punk rock.

Anonymous said...

you left a link to "In Between Days" on pandora in your post.

Pandora made different recommendations. Pandora chose:
"A Letter to Elise" by the Cure
"Sometimes I Remember" by the Pernice Brothers
"1963" by New Order

Steve Sailer said...

"Temptation" by New Order would definitely be near the top of the list of closest to "In Between Days."

stari_momak said...

punk .. Paranoid by Black Sabbath

Which is probably why the SoCal "novelty" punk band the Dickies (famous for their 'we're not from England' tour) covered it.

Limey Oik said...

In general, listening to these songs that I picked a few years ago plus other ones similar to them, I would say I have post-British Empire upper middle class public schoolboy tastes in music. So, it's no surprise that The Clash were always my favorites.

Haha.

There is something I find entertaining in the thought that you probably have a very similar taste in popular music to the upper middle class ex-public school types who write articles for The Guardian's CIF blog.

If I may go off at a tangent...

I went to see The Clash with some mates sometime in the early eighties at The Brixton Academy.

Unlike some other bands I went to see at the times, it sticks in my mind for a number of reasons.

First of all, I was struck by how the place seemed to be full of people I thought at the time were dressed like social workers. Nowadays I would recognise the type as being Guardianistas/swipples.

Secondly, there was an amusing part of the show which I'd never seen the like of before. There was a bank of TV screens behind the band. At one point the screens were showing black immigrants coming off the banana boats in the 1950's. There was a caption underneath that I'm pretty sure read "The Oppressed. Next, the TVs showed footage of a riot with the police whacking people with their truncheons, and the caption read "The Oppressors".

At the time I was a Labour voter who had given some of my hard earned beer money to the striking miners fund. Nevertheless, rather than whip me up into the mood for revolution, the sort of thought that popped in to my mind was: "wankers".

Then, between songs, Joe Strummer shouted out to the crowd in his mock cockney accent "get out in the streets and get involved".

I'm afraid I laughed out loud.

I think its probably a class thing.

I read on Ed West's blog in The Telegraph recently, that at a U2 gig, Bono had in between songs, shouted to the crowd "every I time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies". Apparently someone could be heard shouting back "well stop clapping then".

A man after my own heart.

Probably another oik.

american fez said...

Hawkwind mixed in with Tom Tom Club does make no sense at all, esp "Space Is Deep". However, Hawkwind have a number of songs that would meld neatly with the Clash's "Death or Glory." Try the compilation called "Stasis: The United Artist Years."

Anonymous said...

One of your lefty readers here, decloaking to say that while I find many of your views on race deeply problematic, you have killer taste in music.

Nanonymous said...

I used Pandora few years ago. I don't think its underlying idea works but I really liked it as a way of discovering new music. A lot more effective than following reviews, critics, lists or even asking friends for recommendations.

Northern VA said...

I always thought the 1968 Beatles song "Birthday" had a bit of proto-punk sound in spots.

Anonymous said...

Bono had in between songs, shouted to the crowd "every I time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies". Apparently someone could be heard shouting back "well stop clapping then".

Another Third World guilt trip.

I wonder if Boner realized that at the same time a child in Africa dies of whatever causes, someone is also imprisoned, tortured, or murderer by commie thugs in the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, etc.

Anonymous said...

Steve, have you read Kingsley Amis's "Memoires"? He was more middle middle than upper middle class, but I love that book to death. It's as good as his best novels and it has chapters on his experiences in public school and at Oxford.

His son Martin is such a disappointment, considering.

By the way, K. Amis's novel "The Biographer's Moustache" is kind of sort of about Waugh.

Anonymous said...

I tried Pandora about two or three years ago, and had a mixed response to it. It did manage to pull a few songs I already knew I liked (e.g., Natalie Imbruglia's cover of Torn) right out of the air, and it came up with a couple of new favorites as well. It also did better than I thought it would when I seeded stations with relatively obscure folky bands (e.g., Steeleye Span, or The Watersons).

But as time went by it seemed that I just wasn't getting anything new, that the same songs kept coming up again and again. Eventually I lost interest, in part because I found I could get better results on YouTube simply by following links and looking at other people's playlists and favorites. One big thing is that YouTube gives me a lot more control over what I can listen to at any given moment, and a much wider landscape of related styles to chose from when I go looking for new music (for example, I just recently stumbled across some Hardanger fiddle videos). I think this is a fundamental problem with the radio station model: it forces you to passively sit and listen to whatever the station decides to play next. It's always better to have control.

Still, now that I'm reminded of it, I'm going to give Pandora another shot. Maybe it's improved its algorithms since last time.

Anonymous said...

I tried last.fm like another commenter, and I decided that either their find-similar-folks function is pretty unreliable, or nobody actually a taste in music resembling my own. Since hardly anybody is as unique as they think they are, I have to suppose the former. Probably I was "loving" (a last.fm term of art) songs from too many different genres. Nonetheless it's kind of an interesting site for digging up 20th century music that I didn't know about.

Where it completely falls flat is when it comes to real music. For one thing it only plays one movement (which isn't so bad; of course plenty of romantic klavierstueke and such are just one movement anyway, and anyhow is it so bad to just hear just the last movement from the D.959 sonata in A? No) but more importantly its database seems awfully limited.

I'm trying Pandora now and its database seems a lot better. Huge, really. And the find-similar-stuff function seems pretty good. Like when I typed in Schubert it kept trying to give me Chopin, which is obviously not right. But after using the thumbs up/down to point it in the right direction, it's giving me some good stuff by Schumann and Johan Hummel that I didn't know.

You didn't say anything about that, Steve. Were you using the thumb buttons, and if so did it seem to help?

AllanF said...

S: The The: This is the Night.

P1: The The: Bluer the Midnight
So cool. Actually this *is* the better song. I meant to put this song in first, but pulled a fast one by putting in a lesser song to see what would happen.

P2: Meatloaf: All Revved Up
Meh. Too fast. Too busy. Bluer the Midnight is clean, almost austere. There's a few riffs here I like and can see the similarities now that they point them out, but overall a big miss on the emotion.

P3: Amos Lee: Careless
Huh. Hadn't heard of this before, but it works. Bluer than Midnight is pretty unique. I don't see how you can get from it to a whole lot of other places without being a bad knock-off al la This is the Night

tommy said...

He likes to tell a story about a Pandora user who wrote in to complain that he started a station based on the music of Sarah McLachlan, and the service served up a Celine Dion song. “I wrote back and said, ‘Was the music just wrong?’ Because we sometimes have data errors,” he recounts. “He said, ‘Well, no, it was the right sort of thing — but it was Celine Dion.’ I said, ‘Well, was it the set, did it not flow in the set?’ He said, ‘No, it kind of worked — but it’s Celine Dion.’ We had a couple more back-and-forths, and finally his last e-mail to me was: ‘Oh, my God, I like Celine Dion.’ ”

This man is an exception. I like Sarah McLachlan. I cannot stand Celine Dion. I don't know anyone who likes Sarah McLachlan who also likes Celine Dion. SM has more of a somber 90s alternative feel. CD has a sound that is much more sugary and bombastic. CD appeals more to the middle-aged romance novel set than SM.

josh said...

Ha!Steve youre so white(r)! Even with something like rock music you have to go off on crazy tangents.I am satisfied with more conventional offerings,so Pandora works good for me. Im a huge Rory Gallagher fan,but that staion,for example,had a lot of boring blues crap come up. I love the Cure.(And yet I am straight!) But again,most of what came up was dreck. My Beatles station,tho,pumped out one good song after another. Re the Bono clapping comment: As I read this I had hoped that the obvious rejoinder would be a bit darker, such as,"KEEP clapping", just to piss off that fatheaded clod.

josh said...

A question Ive wondered about occasionally(speaking of Bono)is:How come only English speakers can make good rock music? The USA,British Isles,Canada and even austarlai have produced ALL of the decent rock music. Anyhting from Europe,let alone any other place,is run of the mill junk at best. Even Scandanavia produces nothing worthwhile. (Well,aside from "I'm A Barbie Girl" which is one of my faves!)Hasnt the long arm of American culture spread far enough for long enough for others to make good rock music? It sure didnt take England(and its neighbors including the oft-despised dreaded Ireland) long to pick it up. Yet today,what French,Italian,Greek or Japanese rock do you want to hear? NONE! Thats what! :)

Steve Wood said...

I had never tried Pandora before. Thanks, Steve! By the way, even though you lot all seem hung up on late-20th-century music, they do a very nice job with jazz and standards from the mid-century peak of American popular music, too. I've been enjoying an hour of cool jazz I mostly hadn't heard before just from typing in "Take Five."

Anonymous said...

Steve, this post alone has earned you a Nobel Prize.

But as an equally hopeless music geek, I must offer one correction:

"...the shimmering Wall of Synths of Heroes"

I think the shimmering sound is not chiefly Brian Eno's synth, but Robert Fripp's guitar, feeding back in a carefully controlled manner. What a sound.

-Skippy

Steve Wood said...

Sorry - one more comment.

The only thing that's a little worrisome about Pandora and similar sites is that, like hyper-niche cable TV and satellite radio, it tends to allow people to focus only on things they already like and avoid exposure to things they either don't like or aren't familiar with.

I don't mean just music. These days, we are mostly able to avoid hearing or seeing anything we don't like ("like" in the sense of matching our taste or opinion). And yet, being exposed to a diversity of styles, whether in music, entertainment, news, or political blather, is a good thing, I think. It keeps the mind fresh and focused to hear opinions that differ from one's own and helps to avoid cultural ruts to be exposed to music, TV or movies that we normally wouldn't seek out because they do not fit in our preferred genres.

Anonymous said...

On a somewhat related note, since it intersects with 70s-80s British Music, Southern California, and Mexican immigration; would you care to entertain us with the theory as to why Morrissey is so popular with second and third gen Mex-Am teens and 20-somethings, Steve?

Go to a Morrissey concert nowadays and you'd wonder how all the mopey kids of Brighton teleported from 1985 and turned brown.

allanF said...

"Very strange, but it also fits a lot of my taste in authors as well "

I have a small talk/ice breaker /party trick which when chit-chatting over beers is to ask a person what the first album they ever bought with their own money was. Then the group gets to figure out what that says about the person. Quite often it gives a pretty uncanny insight into the person's personality and tastes. Give it a try the next time you're at a rubber chicken dinner with a bunch of folks you kind of sort of loosely know from professional contexts. It's pretty fun,

FWIW, mine was Genesis Invisible Touch.

And yours Steve? :-)

Steve Sailer said...

"I have a small talk/ice breaker /party trick which when chit-chatting over beers is to ask a person what the first album they ever bought with their own money was. Then the group gets to figure out what that says about the person."

45 single: "Cinnamon Girl" by Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

Steve Sailer said...

"would you care to entertain us with the theory as to why Morrissey is so popular with second and third gen Mex-Am teens and 20-somethings, Steve?"

I don't know, but it reminds me in its improbability of the East LA Mexican-American mania in the early 1970s for 1950s East Coast doo-wop songs like "Why Must I Be a Teenager in Love?"

AllanF said...

This thread seriously needs a link to the Beta Band scene from High Fidelity.

Anonymous said...

"would you care to entertain us with the theory as to why Morrissey is so popular with second and third gen Mex-Am teens and 20-somethings, Steve?"

Morrissey and Ranchera are both very melodramatic...

Anonymous said...

As a Brit I find Morrissey's new audience a very strange phenomonen.

I saw a kid from LA on TV a while back saying it was because he, like they, came from an immigrant background, they understood him. In his case Irish settled in England.

But is that what he is about? I really cant see that reflected in much of his output Smiths to now. He is the lonely misunderstood, introverted, sensitive outsider. Thats who used to appeal to, this new audience otoh...?

albertosaurus said...

I suspect that there's very little to it. Sounds to me like a very simple primitive algorithm surrounded by a lot of mumbo jumbo.

A few years back I was the director of software development at a web based company. That meant I had all the web coders. I didn't have the so called systems coders at least at first.

One of these sytems programmers had developed - so he told me - an algorithm which none of my ASP coders could understand because it was written in C. It remained a secret. It was referred to as "the algorithm". It translated time data in liquid volume in milliliters. He claimed he had arrived this formula through a complex and sophisticated analysis.

Then I became the Chief Technology Officer and I got to supervise the systems coders too. The secert algorithm was two. Multiply seconds time two. He had just made it up - no measurements, no analysis - and it was written in VBScript. There was no theory. It was just bogus.

I suspect that Pandora doesn't have 250 factors nor does it use ratings from professional musicians. I'll bet the formula is trivial. I doubt if the "actual musical content" is considered in anything other than an anecdotal way.

What musical content would it consider? Tempo? So if you like a fast song it will give you more. Key signature? If you like something in F Major you get more. Instuments or singers? So if you like a song sung by a woman you get more female artists.

From your examples I could write a a few lines of code that would acheive the same kind of results.

David Davenport said...

He was more middle middle than upper middle class

Please tell us foreigners how to discern the difference.

JeremiahJohnbalaya said...

Morrissey is so popular with second and third gen Mex-Am teens and 20-somethings

You know, I have noticed a lot of little "emo" Mex-Ams recently.

the first album they ever bought with their own money was. Then the group gets to figure out what that says about the person

Beastie Boys' License to Ill.

AllanF said...

"45 single: "Cinnamon Girl" by Neil Young and Crazy Horse."

Hmm, I guess I'm about 10-12 yrs too young to nail this, but how about... a male teenager not in the cool crowd; friends into the rebelliousness of hard rock, but himself can't help but picking a brainier musician with a cause. Ultimately though wanted and would trade everything for the physical affections of an older girlfriend, but utterly clueless as to how to make that happen.

tommy said...

I've used Pandora many times, but I cannot say how well it actually works for me. I inevitably wind up creating tons of channels and switching back and forth between them.

Classical Music
Love: Lots of things ranging from Vivaldi to Wagner to Rachmaninoff
Hate: Some early baroque music and most modern classical music doesn't appeal to me

Contemporary Female Musicians
Love: Sarah McLachlan, Corrs, some Dido, some Paula Cole, a few others
Hate: Celine Dion, Jewel, pop music generally

Metal
Love: Older Metallica (no later than the "Black" and "Garage" albums), some Anthrax (the "Sound of White Noise" album and a few thereafter), a few songs by Slayer
Hate: Newer Metallica, older Anthrax, all death metal, Megadeth

Classic Rock
Love: Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix,
Fleetwood Mac, Joe Cocker, the Rolling Stones, CCR, Jackson Brown, the Beach Boys, some Motown
Hate: Most "psychedelic" music, Jefferson Airplane, Steve Miller, Rush, quasi-classic rocker Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin

Punk
Love: Sex Pistols, The Clash, Iggy Pop, a very few "new punk" bands like Bad Religion and the Offspring
Hate: Ramones, most new punk like Rancid

Grunge/Alternative
Love: Alice in Chains, Screaming Trees, Garbage
Hate: Pearl Jam, Candlebox

Country
Love: "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers
Hate: Pretty much every other country song I've ever heard

80s Music
Love: New Order, Crowded House
Hate: Pretty much everything else produced in the 80s. (Twisted Sister gets a plus for comic effect.)

Rap
Love: n/a
Hate: Everything.

AllanF said...

JeremiahJohnbalaya said...
Beastie Boys' License to Ill.

You're 32-35. Have a slight rowdie streak and an anti-establishment bent, but are not a full-on ideologue in any regard.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is that it's better that them kids are appropriating Morrissey and Emo rather than gangbanging rap.

"Hey Carlos, want to go knock over the mercado?"

"Nah, I wanna lie in bed and cry in my pillow for the next few months over the girl I'm too scared to talk to, then get a crappy job and write bad poetry until my thirties when I realize I'm single and can only love women in old black and white movies."

Steve Sailer said...

Allan F psychoanalyzes my first record, Cinnamon Girl by Neil Young:

"a male teenager not in the cool crowd; friends into the rebelliousness of hard rock, but himself can't help but picking a brainier musician with a cause. Ultimately though wanted and would trade everything for the physical affections of an older girlfriend, but utterly clueless as to how to make that happen."

Maybe, but I was only 11 or so, so I think a simpler explanation would be that I liked really loud electric guitar.

AllanF said...

As far as Pandora, I see it useful in two ways:

1) As the equivalent of cable radio where you pick a style you know well and want to listen to, then never veer too far from it. Ultimately though that grows a bit boring and you realize how a good DJ is able to mix things enough to stay interesting.

2) As a way to find more odd esoteric stuff to go along with the few albums you have that don't fit into any of your other categories.

Anonymous said...

The USA,British Isles,Canada and even austarlai have produced ALL of the decent rock music. Anyhting from Europe,let alone any other place,is run of the mill junk at best.



It depends of course on what you consider decent rock. But I can think of a few bands from non-Engish speaking countries which were good. The Scorpions, for instance. I was in the (US) Army in the early eighties and we all listened to Animal Magnetism.

AllanF said...

"but I was only 11 or so,"

Yep, that totally screws up the algo. It's really dependent on the age of the purchaser. :-) I figured you were 13, pushin' 14, when you bought your first album. I guess the tell was it was only a 45. ;-)

Well what the hell, it is after all, a parlor trick for chit-chat over drinks. :-)

AllanF said...

Oh, and I stand-by the brainy part. Off all the loud guitar rock songs you pick one by Neil Young. That's no accident, that's the universe tipping her hand. ;-)

tommy said...

The Scorpions, for instance. I was in the (US) Army in the early eighties and we all listened to Animal Magnetism.

I've noticed that the Scorpions continue to be enormously popular with many East European immigrants.

tommy said...

Having played with Pandora in the past few hours for the first time in months, I can say that it poorly predicts my musical tastes in every genre entered. However, it does better than a radio station.

tommy said...

Even Scandanavia produces nothing worthwhile. (Well,aside from "I'm A Barbie Girl" which is one of my faves!)

Since you like a poppy song like Barbie Girl, do you go in for the Cardigans? They were popular a decade ago. Two songs stick out in my mind: "My Favorite Game" and "Lovefool."

Granny J said...

Pandora worked well pulling together a fado radio station as well as JS Bach & flamenco stations. But I couldn't find any way to work up a Bollywood collection & my Edith Piaf lead which I figured would give me French cafe music instead gave me Ella & Satchmo. My only other problem with Pandora is that they seem to have an absolute s**tload of Boccerini that they push at me on my strings station.

Anonymous said...

I've noticed that the Scorpions continue to be enormously popular with many East European immigrants.



They wrote a song, Winds of Change, during the Soviet meltdown in 1990 which has become the unofficial anthem of that event.

Interestingly, they also seem to be popular in the Hispanic market. (Which here means Spain and Portugal.) Winds Of Change was released in Russian and Spanish as well as in English. Ironically, not in German.

This is from a concert in Lisbon. Note the cute cello player.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yQeSKa4RsU

Anonymous said...

To my ear, the direct ancestor of punk is "She Said Yeah" by the Rolling Stones, which pre-dates "Communications Breakdown" et al. A great tune.

not a hacker said...

Steve, slightly OT but have you ever considered that today's politics might divide according to how people reacted to a single artist in the '70's? For example, my guess is that white non-Obama voters hated Peter Frampton, and vice-versa.

Peter A said...

The USA,British Isles,Canada and even austarlai have produced ALL of the decent rock music. Anyhting from Europe,let alone any other place,is run of the mill junk at best.

Even Australia? Just for AC/DC alone they would be in the running for best rock bands per capita. And early Midnight Oil also rocks as well, not to mention dozens of other strong Ozzie bands.