Eightface

by Dave Kellam

Small-talk and genius mixes

Screen capture of iTunes genius mixes

In casual conversation, music is one of those those canonical small-talk subjects that ranks up there with the weather. Even if you don’t share musical tastes, the topic can provide numerous avenues of discussion before the canapés arrive. It should be easy, but my encounters tend to go something like:

“So what do you listen to?”

“Umm… well… you know… lots of stuff.”

Which, is usually followed by some mumbling and wild gesticulation in attempt to coax a few band names out of my brain. Meanwhile, I’m hoping the prolonged awkward silence will push the conversation in a different direction or at least give me the opportunity to pull out my phone and distract them with videos of kittens falling over.

If my sparing partner actually seems interested and vaguely techno-savvy, I point them towards my last.fm profile. Of course, it’s just a clever way to redirect the discussion and draw attention away from the fact that I know nothing about my own musical tastes.

Now, we move on to a subject which could be considered tangential, if it hadn’t already been mentioned in the title and featured prominently in graphical format. Yes, this is a lazy segue.

I’m a regular user of the genius mix feature in iTunes, it provides a decent base for playlists and can set an overall tone better than DJ. On the other hand, I probably used the genius mixes feature once or twice when it came out and forgot about it. Most of my music wasn’t in genius at the time, but it’s the lack of customizability kills it for me.

The genius mix label gets lost in the iTunes sidebar’s sea of text, so I don’t normally notice it. I was playing around with the iPad’s Remote app, where the feature seems much more prominent and decided to give it awhirl. Honestly, I’m still not a big fan of the feature, the lack of customizability kills it for me. Although, now that more of my music is indexed it drew my attention to the genres and iTunes’ perception of my listening habits:

  • Indie Rock
  • Punk
  • Alt Singer/Songwriter
  • Electronica Mainstream
  • Post-Modern Rock
  • Progressive House
  • Chamber Pop
  • Classic Rock
  • Brit-Pop and Rock
  • East Coast Rap
  • Pop
  • New Wave

There we have it — new fodder for the small-talk cannon. It doesn’t even matter if the list is accurate. Memorize the genres, spit out a few of them at any given time and you’ve got enough permutations to last a lifetime or at least until the last course is served.

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