There’s a fine distinction between “music snob” and “music connoisseur.” Actually, I’m attempting to forge a distinction in hopes of placing myself on the more palatable and French-sounding side of the matter. A snob throws up his or her nose at the sound of something that doesn’t fit into their predetermined tastes. Snobs often become obsessed with certain composers or collectable 45’s from a precise year at the expense of a pure enjoyment of music as it comes. A connoisseur makes room for new methods and modes and seeks a common quality that crosses genres and ages.
I swear I’m not a snob.
I entered the Pandora Web site genuinely unsure of whether it could take me on the high-caliber, inter-genre journey I demanded or leave me stranded on some back road dead end. Pandora threw down the gauntlet right away. All I had to do was type in any song or artist and it promised to fire up the cruise control.
I didn’t want to stump the thing (that would be the snobbish thing to do) so I went for “When You Sleep” by My Bloody Valentine. I figured it was an all-time favorite band of mine, but an accessible major-label group with all sorts of laurels. No problem, right?
Imagine my surprise when a four-chord balls-to-the-wall pop song by the Anniversary started blasting out of my computer speakers. First of all, where is my MBV song? Here I am on the bearskin rug by the fire with the Cabernet decanting and I’m ready for some dreamy Shoegaze tunes. No such luck. You see, Pandora’s licensing prevents them from playing specific songs on request. Makes sense to me and, fortunately, I was able to use Pandora’s intuitive interface to give the Anniversary song a “thumbs-down” whereupon the site politely apologized and promised never to play it on my custom station again.
Next up, they’re throwing Fountains of Wayne at me. Sorry, but Fountains of Wayne are super-lame, especially, apparently, their song “Please Don’t Rock Me Tonight.” No offense, Wayne, or Fountain, or whoever you are, but you’re not allowed on my station.
And then, another song by the Anniversary!
“Damn you, Pandora, I don’t like that band!” I had pressed the little thumbs-down and everything.
Time to try again and this time maybe with something a little more esoteric in hopes of creating some more restrictive criteria. “Vitamin C” by the seminal ‘70s Krautrock group Can is one of my favorite songs. With a little prompting, Pandora easily identified the song and played a Can song from another album.
Ah, music to my ears. Pandora made a good DJ call and played a Sonic Youth song from their self-titled record. Not only that, but the song was similar in instrumentation and tempo, the kind of choice a real live human selector would make!
In conclusion, after careful and not-so-extensive research, Pandora works roughly half the time — and I am a total music snob.