I woke up with this song in my head today:
…so I started a song radio with it on Spotify to start my morning. It wasn’t an intrusive brainworm of a song because I really wanted to hear it again, and it echoed the sentiment in some dream I was having at some point last night. Dark dreams for vertigo nights.
Song radio is Spotify’s way of creating a playlist that sounds like the song that the radio is based on. This is a technology that was started by Pandora back in the dark ages of the internet. I helped craft that algorithm to some extent because I was an early adopter of Pandora and I would still be using that software if they had the sense to grandfather their founders into the for-profit system that they are today. Instead they annoyed every single one of us with advertisements placed slap in the middle of a song unless we voluntarily started paying them money every month.
I started using other music software because of Pandora’s betrayal, and those systems whose advertising policy managed not to drive me away within the first few weeks of my testing their service out stayed in my rotation. It wasn’t until discovering Spotify and its song radio that I thought I had found a new home for my music listening soul (Still trying not to think about a million dollars going to Joe Rogan. Trying and failing) no other service could figure out how to offer me songs that fit in the vernacular of what it was I wanted to hear that day.
This was also a frequent problem with disc jockeys on radio stations, understanding why a particular song appeals to a certain section of an audience. It soon became clear that Spotify didn’t understand my attraction to this particular song this morning, either. There is a persistent cynicism across pretty much everything Donald Fagan and Steely Dan ever created. They use bright upbeat tones to masque the dark cynicism of most of their lyrics. It’s a tactic that got you airplay back in the days of human disc jockeys who only selected for audio quality and didn’t listen to the message of the song itself. Or maybe they did listen that closely and they were just cynical bastards themselves who appreciated those kinds of messages.
In either case, the song radio that was created from The Goodbye Look was populated with sickly sweet love songs, most of which have not the slightest hint of cynicism in the lyrics. It makes sense when you think about the nature of the beast that compiles these lists. Computers just know what you ask them for, they don’t understand sarcasm or cynicism. Spell checkers can’t even figure out that you mean cynicism if you misspell it. No, I didn’t mean to say Cynthia you ignorant machine.
This is why I detest voice activated assistants. They just don’t understand me at all. When I mumble my voice instructions and the AI dutifully asks me “who do you want to call?” it studiously looks for a number for Ghostbusters and offers me similar sounding alternatives to dial when I give the correct response to that question. Every human born in the last 40 years knows the answer to the question is Ghostbusters, but computers will never get that. Computers pedantically just do what you tell them every single time. They don’t understand implied meanings. Conflicting emotional undertones. They have no emotions. I wonder if that is a good thing or a bad thing?
In any case, after I weeded out the Joe Jackson and the Elvis Costello songs from the list I got down to the kinds of songs I was trying to listen to and I rediscovered Dr. John and his unusual take on popular music. Rediscovered him and added that particular song to the ever-growing list of songs I know I heard at the pool as a child. The twisted-assed nature of my emotional state has been revealed to me once again. Onward through the fog.
George Bernard Shaw (h/t to amandaonwriting)