Was there a message in the music?

I have hundreds of songs on my iTunes, but I tend to fall into ruts depending on whatever I’m into at the moment, or whatever I last downloaded to my phone.

Sugarland and Jennifer Nettles will always be there, but lately I’ve basically been playing Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves, Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban in pretty heavy rotation.

This morning, though, I decided to hit the shuffle, to just go with whatever came out next. It’s a pretty good way to remind myself that I have a lot of different stuff that I like.

Pretty quickly, Halestorm and Evanescence came on back to back … a little harder than I’ve been listening to lately, but that’s cool. (Warning: If you’re going to watch the video above, it’s not the edited version.)

Not long after were two Shania Twain songs in a row … nothing strange about that, except I don’t have as many of her songs as others, so I just thought it was funny.

Then came Taylor Swift and Adele … a couple women known for their songs about breakups. (Admit it, when you heard Adele was getting a divorce, your first thought was “Her new album is going to be EPIC!” Yes, I know it’s terrible, especially since they have a child, but sometimes humans think terrible thoughts.)

I don’t know how exactly how the shuffle function in iTunes works. I’m guessing it’s somewhere between the musical version of 52 pickup and a selection curated to my recent activity that probably works as well as my buddy Al Gorithm did with his concert recommendations.

But I couldn’t shake the feeling my phone was trying to tell me something.

If I could only figure out what it was.

“Like a loathed relation we all must pitch in to bury, iTunes will always seem sweeter in hindsight than it ever was in person. Yes, it helped make the Internet a more musical place, and sure, it was, in its own clunky little way, the beating heart at the core of the smartphone revolution.

But iTunes also kickstarted what feels like a grand devaluation of music — turning tracks into 99-cent snacks, and ultimately paving the way for today’s streaming services to turn our music from honored art form to something more like a basic utility — something we pay for that flows through our houses, but that we never quite possess. The birth of iTunes signaled the start of a revolution, but its death just feels like the end of an error.”

— “Dancing on iTunes’ grave,” Michael Andor Brodeur, The Boston Globe

I’m finding it interesting, in reading stories — and the occasionally overdone column — about iTunes going away, all of the effort spent on figuring out What iTunes Meant, How Horrible It Turned Out To Be and What It Means Now That iTunes Is Going Away.

It meant I didn’t have to go to the store or get on Amazon to buy music. It meant I could buy an album, or a few songs, with a couple clicks. It meant I didn’t have to buy an entire album if I didn’t want to, or listen to an entire album if I didn’t want to.

I’m assuming it has done the same for TV shows, podcasts and the occasional book.

I used iTunes for several years, switched to Google Play for several years and recently switched back. Why? Because at one time it was more convenient to get music through Google Play, and then it wasn’t. In particular, we have a slow home computer, and it’s easier to use iTunes on an iPhone or iPad.

Apple can do whatever it wants with its various services. As long as I can keep putting songs or albums on my phone, I really don’t care about the rest of it.

I wanted to do something else with my phone as I was listening to music, so I tried to minimize whatever song was playing, but I swiped up instead of down.

And it was there that I saw the magic words … “Up Next.”

And my iTunes experience started spinning off its axis.

Like I said, I was off iTunes for several years. Is this new? Is this something that had always been there and I just never noticed?

I didn’t know how I’d feel about it. After all, part of the shuffle experience is wondering what’s next, especially in that few seconds when one song is over but the next one hasn’t come on yet.

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But I was curious, so I scrolled through the list. I was about to shut my music off for a little quiet, but then I saw “She Used to Be Mine,” an insanely gorgeous song that I may or may not be about to play for the fourth time in a row as I write this, was coming up.

Well, now I couldn’t shut it off, could I? And then, a little further along (I can scroll forever, but my phone shows the “Up Next” graphic, followed by nine songs) was “Just Might (Make Me Believe)” by Sugarland, which is only my favorite song ever.

Lots of good stuff in before and after, too.

When I listened to music on the radio, which I hardly ever do anymore (another Thing That iTunes Has Meant), right before the commercial, the DJ would come on and excitedly tell us we didn’t dare change that dial — “Coming up … the new ones from Britney Spears and Aerosmith.”

I chose to go back to high school and college with that reference. Your mileage, and artists, may vary.

But I realized that’s what that felt like. It was pulling me along with the promise of what was to come.

So that’s what my phone was trying to tell me.

The pictures at the top of the post and below are from Leslie Odom Jr. and the Boston  Pops last week at Symphony Hall in Boston, which I didn’t write about and didn’t listen to today, but which I’m including anyway because Leslie Odom Jr. is amazing and so was the concert.

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