Bob Schwartz

Tag: Spotify

My Spotify Listening 2018: WOW or WTF?

Spotify is telling listeners about all the songs they listened to during the past year.

As readers of the blog know, I love music, and Spotify is my streaming music library. I listen many ways, sometimes in focus, sometimes in background.

But seeing the statistics and the profile of the music I listened to gave me pause.

I listened to 8,733 minutes of music.

Spotify says: “Those are minutes you’ll never get back. But then again, why would you want to?”

I listened to 2,696 different songs:

Spotify says: “You listen to non-mainstream artists 50% more than the average Spotify listener—so here’s to being different.”

Too much? Too little? Just right?

A while ago, you would have found me dancing around the kitchen, with songs from Spotify as the soundtrack.

You know what David Crosby sang:

Everybody’s saying music is love
Everybody’s saying it’s love

Put on your colors and run come see
Everybody’s saying that music’s for free
Take off your clothes and lie in the sun
Everybody’s saying that music’s for fun

Spotify Throwback Thursday: Let’s Dance

Burn, baby, burn
Burn the mother down.
The Trammps

This week’s Spotify Throwback Thursday playlist isn’t hard to figure out: the theme is dancing.

Those raised on EDM may find these classic dance tracks a little slow on the BPM and a little light on the electronics. But if it means anything that the D stands for Dance and M stands for Music, this is the stuff.

Not all of this music was the greatest. But some of the artists are masters and some of the tracks are the mountaintop. An annotated selection from this playlist:

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough (plus one other track), Michael Jackson
It’s so confusing to think about Michael Jackson, in terms of the way his life and his music went. But Off the Wall is one of the major dance albums ever. Yes, the guy on the cover is Michael Jackson.

Let’s Dance, David Bowie
Bowie being Bowie, he couldn’t make dance music like everybody else. He had to Bowieize it.

Take a Chance On Me (plus four other tracks), ABBA
One time I drove almost a thousand miles with ABBA Greatest Hits as my primary soundtrack. I don’t regret it, and would do it again.

I’m Every Woman, Chakha Khan
Chaka Khan. Chaka Khan. If you don’t know that music is magic and Chaka Khan is magic, you don’t know. Also, for those into woman-type statements, this is a goddess singing about being a goddess.

Disco Inferno, The Trammps
People getting loose, y’all. Getting loose to burn the mother down. Is this about dancing?

It’s Raining Men, The Weather Girls
Did you not want to have fun? And depending on your inclinations, not want to see what happens at 10:30 to get absolutely soaking wet?

Le Freak, CHIC
From small things big things come. Here Nile Rogers invents an entire piece of dance pop music.

I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor
Women have been singing this message forever, on record and off. But never quite like this, before or since. I’ve got all my life to live, I’ve got all my love to give. You’re not welcome any more.

September, Earth Wind & Fire
It’s Earth Wind & Fire.

Last Dance (plus two other tracks), Donna Summer
The story of how the night ends at the club. Go home with the one who brought you. Go home with the one you met. Go home with the one you dance with last. It may not be Donna Summer. It can’t be.

Friday Songs

The Cure

2015 good or bad? Stupid question, because here it is now, as it is. On the plus side, you can put any search term in your Spotify and see and hear any tracks that mention the term in the title, album or artist. Like “Friday”.

Today is Friday. Friday is probably the second most used day in music. No contest that Saturday is first, but we’ll leave that for another post.

Here are some Friday tracks:

Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.), Katy Perry – We don’t know whether in the future pop music historians will regard Katy Kat as a significant groundbreaking artist who moved music in directions no one had even conceived. We do know that she is massively popular and that her music embodies Pure Pop for Now People. T.G.I.K.

Friday Night August 14, Funkadelic – Funkadelic was not ahead of their time. They were their own time, past present future, combining the then with the now with the what will be, all on the Mothership. No boundaries here or on its album Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow. Mark Ronson successfully revived James Brown style for the biggest hit of this year, Uptown Funk. I don’t hear anyone trying to revive Funkadelic, because they are always being born. If you don’t believe me just listen.

Friday On My Mind, The Easybeats – A great slice of 60s pop. Later covered by David Bowie for his Pin Ups album covering some of his favorite oldies.

Current Favorite Friday Song: Friday I’m In Love, The Cure – The Cure bridged the changing landscape of pop from the late 70s to early 90s. Some say they were the beginning of emo, most of us don’t care because labels don’t matter and it’s only in the grooves. Maybe this irresistible hit from 1992 is sprightly emo: jangly guitar and upbeat message about the freedom of Friday. Thank you Robert Smith.

I don’t care if Monday’s blue
Tuesday’s grey and Wednesday too
Thursday I don’t care about you
It’s Friday I’m in love

Monday you can fall apart
Tuesday, Wednesday break my heart
Thursday doesn’t even start
It’s Friday I’m in love

Saturday wait
And Sunday always comes too late
But Friday never hesitate…

I don’t care if Monday’s black
Tuesday, Wednesday heart attack
Thursday never looking back
It’s Friday I’m in love

Monday you can hold your head
Tuesday, Wednesday stay in bed
Or Thursday watch the walls instead
It’s Friday I’m in love

Dressed up to the eyes
It’s a wonderful surprise
To see your shoes and your spirits rise
Throwing out your frown
And just smiling at the sound
And as sleek as a shriek
Spinning round and round
Always take a big bite
It’s such a gorgeous sight
To see you eat in the middle of the night
You can never get enough
Enough of this stuff
It’s Friday
I’m in love

The Spotify Cover Game

Note: Two online music services launched in 2006, one in Palo Alto, California, one in Stockholm, Sweden. Both shared a vision of offering on-demand, track-by-track access to streaming music. Lala, the American service, was a simple and usable platform. It was offered free, and was based on an evolving business model that had something to do with future subscriptions and music sales. It was a wonder. In 2009, Apple bought the company, possibly to integrate the platform into a future streaming service of its own. That vapor service never materialized and, instead, Apple killed Lala.

At the same time, Spotify was developing its own more sophisticated service in Europe. Music licensing held up its introduction in America until 2011. Lala lovers, still smarting from its demise, have to admit that Spotify is indeed everything Lala was and more. Spotify is flourishing, though it still has to prove the viability of its business model, but we enjoy it while it lasts. Maybe Apple will buy it and kill it too. Sorry—still a little bitter.

Spotify has changed the way we listen to music. What music lovers hoped would happen in the future happened: Click on a track, there it is on your computer. The future is here.

Spotify enables a lot of listener creativity and sharing. There are thousands of playlists created and available. Of course, commercial media, artists, and labels are drawn to popular platforms like moths to flame, and there are now plenty of those generated playlists too.

Spotify also allows unlimited exploration and discovery. Among the unique paths is what might be called the Spotify Cover Game. You can choose any song and listen to nearly every version of it ever recorded, minus the small number still unlicensed and unavailable.

The Spotify Cover Game is fun and educational. To try it, take any popular song from any era. Search for the track, and the results will list all—sometimes dozens—of the recorded versions from different artists.

To demonstrate, Mad Men fans might pick The Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows from Revolver. (For non-Mad Men fans, this is the track that in a recent episode young and sexy Megan Draper plays for her older and sexy husband Don Draper to introduce him to the Beatles in 1966.)

Here is a very partial list of artists you can hear performing Tomorrow Never Knows on Spotify:

Phil Collins
Junior Parker
Jimi Hendrix
Michael Hedges
Danielle Dax
The Pink Fairies
Cowboy Mouth
Wayne Krantz
Living Colour
Tangerine Dream
The Mission UK
Dwight Twilley
Herbie Hancock & Dave Matthews
Dweezil Zappa
Grateful Dead
Phil Manzanera

The proof of the song is in the covers, and Tomorrow Never Knows doesn’t fail. Whether vocals or instrumental only, it pushes artists to rise to the occasion as they aspire to recreate a cultural milestone.

Best: Herbie Hancock and Dave Matthews. A surprise, given the competition from Jimi Hendrix, Living Colour, and others, and given that neither Hancock nor Matthews are noted for this kind of psychedelia.

Worst: Grateful Dead, hands down. They are noted for their psychedelia, but in this particular live version from a 1992 concert in Oakland, the vocals are literally unlistenable and the music isn’t all that great either. Probably better the next night or if you were really high.

Most Interesting: Legendary bluesman Junior Parker, who recorded it as part of a Beatles album. His smooth and full-bodied voice is in stark contrast to the usual ethereal takes. Accompanied by a spare arrangement of hypnotic bass with a touch of guitar and keyboard, this is a perfect realization and transformation of the original. One of the most interesting Beatles covers ever.

In addition to hearing the multiple ways that the strongest songs are treated, the SCG—and Spotify itself—is about serendipity, the exploration and discovery of unheard artists and tracks. The Hancock/Matthews track, for example, is from a 2010 collection of collaborative covers called The Imagine Project (containing Imagine, but it’s not a Beatles-only collection). There you will find a cover of the Peter Gabriel-Kath Bush anthem of hope in hard times, Don’t Give Up, with John Legend and P!nk performing. Nearly (only nearly) as good as the original, it is mesmerizing, heartbreaking, and uplifting at the same time:

No fight left or so it seems
I am a man whose dreams have all deserted
I’ve changed my face, I’ve changed my name
But no one wants you when you lose…

Moved on to another town
Tried hard to settle down
For every job, so many men
So many men no one needs

Don’t give up
’cause you have friends
Don’t give up
You’re not the only one
Don’t give up
No reason to be ashamed
Don’t give up
You still have us
Don’t give up now
We’re proud of who you are
Don’t give up
You know it’s never been easy
Don’t give up
’cause I believe there’s a place
There’s a place where we belong

That’s the Spotify Cover Game. Try it. Enjoy. Explore. Discover. And don’t give up.