Aside – it has been pointed out that I could do most of what I’m complaining about with playlists, but that’s missing the point. Since the advent of Genius, I refuse to manage my music, the iPod must do it for me.
Some (many?) people have expressed a concern with the Genius feature and the fact that Apple is collecting your sensitive, private information. I disagree. If anything, I want Apple to know more about me. I want Genius to have access to every possible piece of information it can get its hand on. I want it to know what I was doing when I listened to the song. Did I steal it? Is it on my iPod by accident? Is it my wife’s shitty music (looking right at you Corinne Bailey Rae). Was I humping when I last heard it? Apple needs to know this information. Anything to create better playlists for me. If Genius took control of every facet of my life, I would be the happiest guy alive.
– People who shopped at the Gap also liked…
– People who rolled a priest on World of Warcraft also enjoyed playing…
– People who work for that company also have worked at…
– People who nailed Cindy have also nailed…
The most important piece of functionality my iPod has is the music rating feature. It allows you to rate every song on your iPod from a scale of 1 to 5. It is critical that every single song on my iPod is scored appropriately and I spend the majority of my time doing this. Who has time to actually listen to any of the music? Not me, I’m too busy flipping through, rating, second guessing, re-rating.
Part of the difficulty is in determining what each of the ratings mean. This week, my guidelines for rating songs is as follows:
5 star rating
Very few songs get this prestigious ranking. For a song to qualify, it must meet two key criteria. It must be a near-perfect song and it has to be one that I never ever skip if it comes up. I will always listen to this song. Of the 1,500 songs on my iPod there are currently 10 with this rating. Once a song is a 5-star rank, it can never drop down. If it does, I have done something horribly wrong.
4 star rating
A song in this category is nearly perfect but not quite. Maybe it’s a little too long, maybe I’m just sick of it. It’s also quite difficult to get into this category. I will listen to a 4 star song 80% of the time when it’s played.
3 star rating
Easily the most complex of all the ratings, and the one where Apple needs to do some additional work. A three star song really has three types. A weak three / almost two, a basic three and a strong three / almost four. Songs will bump in and out of the three star category depending on my mood when I listen to a song. A standard three star song is a song that’s not too bad, it doesn’t specifically offend and I’m mildly pleased when I hear it. I’ll listen to a three star song 60% of the time.
2 star rating
It’s as difficult to get a 2 star rating as it is to get a 4 star rating. It’s either a song that doesn’t totally suck or a courtesy ranking. For example, I’ve given “Flowers of Guatemala” by REM a 2 star rating, but most of that is based on the fact that the entire CD (Life’s Rich Pageant) is fairly good. As I listen to the song it’s barely tolerable. I’ll almost never listen to a 2 star song.
1 star rating
Fuck you, one star songs. I hate you. You’re terrible songs and you make me angry when I listen to you. Yes, I’m looking at you almost every song by Death Cab for Cutie or any song by Dan Bejar on the Swan Lake CD. You’re all awful and you should feel ashamed of yourselves for even existing. The only reason I keep you on my iPod is because I like to have complete CD’s. I will only ever listen to a one star song again on the off chance that I feel I may have rated it in a bad mood and it needs to be reconsidered.
Given I have this much trouble with five little stars, you’d think I want a way to simplify the process. Well you’re wrong. If anything, I need more features to allow for greater granularity of rankings. I’ve suggested some below.
4-Star songs I never want to hear again
I rely quite heavily on the automatically generated playlist of my highest ranked songs. The problem with this feature is just because I give a song 4 stars doesn’t mean I ever want to hear it again. Most of Pearl Jam falls into this list. I love a ton of their music and much of it is highly rated. But I’ve been listening to Alive for 15 years now. If I never hear Alive again, I’ll be quite happy. So to keep it out of this playlist, I have to rank it lower, which is unfair. You might suggest that I could just take it off my iPod, but that’s not an option. My entire library is based on the fact that there’s an off chance I might want to listen to the song. So they really need a feature for “keep this song on my iPod, let me give it a high ranking, but never play it”.
5 Stars just isn’t cutting it. Ideally, I would like to be able to rate my music down to the decimal. A song might be a 3.2 or a 1.7. My iPod should also have some feature where it knows how emphatically I ranked a song. When I gave “The King of Carrot Flowers pt 1” 5 star rating, I punched a hole in my iPod. I ranked the shit out of that song. Similarly, I have never given a song a harder 1 star rating than any “fat guy” song by the Goo Goo Dolls.
Not only do I need more rankings, there are some songs that are so awful that they need to be negatively ranked. They will sit on my iPod with their -5 rating as an example to all my other music, a cautionary ballad. “Don’t be as awful as this song” will be the message my other music gets. There also needs to be some kind of punishment associated with this ranking. Maybe every time I rank a song with a negative rating a homeless guy gets hoofed in the coin purse or something.
I would love to be able to set up my own tags for my music and group each song accordingly. Like I could have a field called “mood” and each song could be ranked for happy, sad, mellow, gym, walking, sleeping, video games, driving, etc. Yes, I’m aware that I could do this through playlists, but haven’t you been listening? Since the advent of Genius I refuse to manage my music. iPod must do it all for me.
Average user rankings
Not only do I want to know my rankings, I want Apple to get the rankings of every other person who has the song and compile it into an average that I can keep on my iPod. I need to know what a collection of strangers I’ve never met thinks about a song I don’t like. This is extremely important to me.
It’s not enough for me to rank a song, I need to also rank the overall CD. Then I would have to rationalize how a CD with nothing but individual three star ratings gets an overall ranking of four. And yes, this would happen.
Different rankings depending on when the song is played
If I were to listen to certain CD’s, in order, at once, many songs within the CD would get higher ratings than if I listened to the song individually. My iPod needs to be intelligent enough to understand that the quality of the song is affected based on the circumstances under which it’s played. So ideally there would be a “Song within CD” rating and a “played individually” rating.
Lastly, once all this is implemented, I need to be able to do all of this from my iPod. I should be able to alter the characteristics of any of my music on the fly.
And for God sakes, when do I get to be able to delete music from my iPod?