Is Spotify worth the price? (Hold on a second… THAT’s not Paul Simon!)

Wait a second... THAT'S not Paul Simon...

Recently, I’ve been listening to Spotify instead of Pandora. And at first, it seems an incredibly good deal. Pandora (at least in the free version) won’t let you directly pick a particular track, whereas Spotify not only lets me go to the track I have in mind (if it’s in its database — I’ve hit a couple of misses so far), but plays the whole album for me. Which is awesome.

And the price — having to listen to ads — is inconsequential. I’ve listened to radio ads my whole life — only with this, I can hear songs on demand. For free (so far).

But today, Spotify exacted a terrible price on me.

I was happily listening to Paul Simon’s first solo album — I had sought out “Everything Put Together Falls Apart,” with which Pandora had failed to connect me in the past — and then, suddenly and without warning, right between “Run that Body Down” and “Armistice Day,” I started hearing this awful, trite, saccharine bubble gum voice singing something like, “If I was your boyfriend… never let you go.”

Alarmed, I ALT-TABbed over to the application, and saw that it was… Justin Bieber. Fortunately, the ad — for that’s what it was — was quickly over, and I was back to stuff worth listening to. Stuff with, you know, at least a modicum of wit and creativity.

I suppose I can stand this if it happens again. But I’ve just had another reminder (shudder), as if I needed it, that nothing is really free.

31 thoughts on “Is Spotify worth the price? (Hold on a second… THAT’s not Paul Simon!)

  1. Rick

    Go premium – worth it to avoid the ads and beiber hijackings, and now that there’s “radio” like Pandora, it’s even better.

  2. Brad

    Sometimes, I wonder what constitutes pop music these days. And then I hear some, and am horrified.

    On the evening of July 4, my wife was watching “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” Sometime before that, I had been listening to public radio, and heard a story about today’s Top 40 music. The stuff I heard during that segment was stunningly artificial and lacking in creativity.

    And I thought how sad that was. In a time when there are all these Internet paths to getting your stuff heard, and no one has to kowtow to record companies (a record? what’s that?), creativity should be exploding as it never has before.

    But it isn’t.

    And I was thinking — my grandparents, or maybe great-grandparents, had George M. Cohan,and many others in Tin Pan Alley. The next generation had Duke Ellington, and the whole Big Band phenomenon. Those who followed had Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Lennon and McCartney, Bob Dylan, Randy Newman, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, Warren Zevon, Elvis Costello, and then — well, after the grunge movement and the last gasps of punk, it all came to a screeching halt. In terms of originality and musicality.


  3. Brad

    Oh, sure, there’s the occasional exception, such as OutKast’s “Hey Ya”… but they just seem fewer and farther between than in past generations…

  4. Silence

    @ Brad – ” it all came to a screeching halt. In terms of originality and musicality. Why?”

    – You got old.

  5. bud

    Let’s not forget Donna Summer.

    And also let’s not forget a truly remarkable character actor we lost yesterday, Ernest Borgnine. He played the most abhorent of villans as well as the most likeable of characters such as his Acadamy Award winning portrayal of Marty. Borgnine was working until fairly recently but I guess at 95 you can go downhill fast. I will really miss Ernest Borgnine.

  6. Brad

    And I admit I enjoyed the Postal Service while it lasted.

    Occasionally, movies will introduce me to something that I wouldn’t have heard otherwise, and I’m impressed. Say, for instance, the Geto Boys “Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangsta” on the “Office Space” soundtrack.

    Just to point out that it doesn’t have to be the music I came up with.

  7. Brad

    No, Silence, that’s the facile answer. If it were that, I wouldn’t bother to write this.

    It’s not about the music of my youth. I find myself connecting still with music from my parents’ generation that I’d not heard before (such as this original version of “Mood Indigo”) or the rare new stuff that has some musical originality to it.

    The thing is, for years and years after I’d quit really keeping up with pop music — after I’d left school and joined the working world and started having kids and had no money to waste on records/tapes/CDs, I continued to be impressed by good stuff.

    I hadn’t listened to new rock for years when I first heard Elvis Costello. And I was really impressed by the burst of creativity that came with the advent of MTV. Unfortunately, that seemed to die away as MTV moved away from the music-video format.

    But now… what is there to compare to the fantastic variety of really innovative new stuff that we heard in any one year back in the 60s — or the 80s, for that matter?

  8. Brad

    What is there with the life and naturalness and unfettered sexual energy of Wanda Jackson singing “Hard-Headed Woman” (as opposed to the cartoonish sexuality of the admittedly gorgeous Katy Perry) or the utter cool of Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz on “Girl from Ipanema“?

    Where is there anything that REAL?

  9. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    Dunno–I can check out all sorts of interesting music on You Tube, and if I like it, buy it on iTunes, Amazon, etc. Back in the analog era, I was stuck with the tripe WBBQ Tiger Radio played, what was sung on the variety shows on TV and what I could buy in the record department in KMart or that used store downtown. I’d try something different and blow my whole allowance on a record I didn’t like. Mostly, I was introduced to records by my friends. None of us had a lot of music.

    Now I have huge playlists I call Radio Free Steve–all classical piano, all bossa nova, all instrumental jazz with no honking saxes…anywhere, any time, no commercials. If I really want to check out music that just gets played to me, public radio has quite a lot of choices aside from the excellent classical programming–including “Guitars, Cadillacs and Hillbilly Music,” “Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland,” “Echoes”….

    It’s the best of times….

  10. bud

    Here are some “quality” lyrics from that dynamic song writing duo Lennon and McCartney:

    She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
    She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
    She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

    Don’t get me wrong I love the Beatles and some of the other entertainers Brad is so enamoured with, but really this is all just pop entertainment. Let’s not take it too seriously. Silence is right on this one, it does come down to the aging process.

  11. Brad

    The idiotic lyrics of “She Loves You” were completely beside the point. Who noticed lyrics, with such arrestingly innovative music?

  12. Brad

    The closest they came in that period to a creative dud was “I Wanna Be Your Man,” and they wrote that for the Stones, not for themselves. With that, they were being intentionally primitive…

  13. bud

    Of course it’s not about the lyrics. Katy Perry’s extraordinary Fireworks video is terrific. It’s original, dynamic, inspiring and just plain fun. Younger folks see the energy in that the same way we did with music from our particular generation. Brad, I’m afraid you’re just being a snob on this one. And an old one at that.

  14. Brad

    Bossa Nova!

    As I type this, I’m listening to “Desafinado” on a Stan Getz playlist… Spotify really is cool.

    By the way, I just found the NPR story that launched me on this tirade. It was about “Songs of the Summer.” The contemporary samples provided were appalling.

    Puts me in mind of the summer of ’66. I came back from the beach determined to go out and buy three singles: “Green Grass” by Gary Lewis and the Playboys, “I Am a Rock” by Simon and Garfunkel, and “Little Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs.

    OK, so sue me. I was 12. At least “I Am a Rock” was cool.

    But look at what else came out that summer:
    PAPERBACK WRITER – The Beatles
    WILD THING – The Troggs
    PAINT IT, BLACK – The Rolling Stones (still my favorite Stones song)
    SUMMER IN THE CITY – The Lovin’ Spoonful
    HANKY PANKY – Tommy James & The Shondells
    STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT – Frank Sinatra
    MOTHER’S LITTLE HELPER – The Rolling Stones
    AIN’T TOO PROUD TO BEG – The Temptations
    DIRTY WATER – The Standells
    WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN – Percy Sledge
    MONDAY, MONDAY – The Mamas & The Papas

    Not to mention these forgettable items that I loved at the time:
    RED RUBBER BALL – The Cyrkle
    SWEET PEA – Tommy Roe

    That was all just one summer.

    Come on — what will today’s 12-year-olds have to look back to in the future?

  15. Brad

    I keep thinking of the occasional post-grunge items that impressed me. There’s Fiona Apple’s cover of “Across the Universe.”

    And that’s NOT because it’s a Beatle’s cover. That song was, for those of us alive and young at the time, one of the Beatle’s most forgettable. It wouldn’t have a made a top five list even from that highly uneven album of leftovers.

    Ms. Apple showed the potential that was in it. (And it was a very cool video.) The irony is that after she did that, all of a sudden “Across the Universe” is a deeply important part of the Beatles canon to young people, even to the point of being the title of that movie. No one, in 1970, could have predicted that a movie of Beatles covers would have taken that as its title…

  16. Brad

    That was quite a year for proto-punk, the heyday of the garage band — “Wild Thing,” “Dirty Water,” “Doubleshot”…

  17. Brad

    And “96 Tears”! Same year. That was an awesome year for that genre, or subgenre…

    “Louie, Louie,” of course, was several years old at that point. Just to round out that meme…

  18. Mark Stewart

    It’s fragmentation as well; maybe all the young, creative kids are spending their time developing apps and video games?

    You are referencing the time where there we three mass mediums – magazines/newswires, network tv and top 40 radio. Of those three, music was the obvious choice for creative rebellion. Life’s a bit different now – and has been hurtling in new directions since the early 1990’s (which, to me, still feels like yesterday).

    Maybe the mid 50’s to the mid 1970’s was the apex of rock and roll? I’ll give you that. But the question is still “so what?”

  19. Brad

    So what?

    So WHAT?!?!?

    SO WHAT!!!????!!!!

    How is it even possible for you to type that?

    Oh, and I’m not just talking rock ‘n’ roll. I’m talking popular music. And I’m wrapping in the couple of generations before that. (Gershwin! Cole Porter!)

    There was all this ferment, all this creativity (of which, as I’ve written before, the 60s seemed to be the apex in terms of sheer variety and output, from pop to jazz to rock to Latin to novelty to country to what have you), and then an interesting juxtaposition of the music with visuals in the MTV era, and then… plop. Splat. Nothing. Or virtually nothing, by comparison.

    And I’m asserting that music is sufficiently important to the human soul, or at least to a vital popular culture, that it MATTERS…

  20. Mark Stewart

    Hootie and the Blowfish may take issue with your splat.

    Music does matter and always will; just not as much anymore.

  21. Brad

    As for creativity being shifted into apps — there was an interesting piece about that in the WSJ Saturday, although it was more in the context of we’re antiquing photos rather than going to the moon.

    An excerpt:

    “When Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced in April that his company would pay $1 billion in cash and stock to buy Instagram, the deal put an exclamation mark on the shrinking ambitions of our inventors and entrepreneurs. Instagram has 13 employees and zero revenues. Its claim to fame is a free smartphone app that reformats photographs to look as if they were taken by an old Kodak Instamatic. Providing yet another means for people to fiddle with snapshots is super, but it’s hardly a moonshot.

    “What’s behind innovation’s turn toward the trifling? Declinists point to several possible culprits: America’s schools are broken, investors and executives have become shortsighted, taxes are too high (sapping the entrepreneurial spirit), taxes are too low (preventing the government from funding basic research). Or maybe America has just lost its mojo. …”

    But I’m going beyond that. I’m saying we’re not even as creative when it comes to the “trifling,” when we’re talking pop music…

  22. Brad

    Hootie… look… Hootie are a great bunch of guys, who have done a lot for their community, and continue to do so (especially Jim Sonefeld).

    I’ve met them. I like them.

    But the best I can say for them musically is that they were a better-than-average party band. I never realized how good they were until I heard their cover of “Ballad of John and Yoko.” I mean, it was weird that they covered it. Why would anyone but John Lennon ever have recorded that paean to his own personal, specific narcissism?

    But it was good. It showed what a talented band they were. It came on the radio, and I was like, “What the…? Hey, that’s good…”

    But their original stuff just didn’t do that for me. I didn’t see anything in it that grabbed and held on. I wish I had, because I want to be supportive of local bands…

  23. Steven Davis II

    $1 billion… if serious, I’m guessing people will be dumping Facebook stock at record pace if that’s the business decisions being made by it’s leadership. You could find a handful of programmers to do the exact same thing for $999 million less.

    If Instagram owners turned this down, they’re the biggest idiots on the planet.

  24. Jesse S.

    @Steven, yeah, they took it, but they also had a ton of users and that is what Facebook really bought.

    Still if you are interested, I’ll happily build you a mass Polaroid photo filter for a measly $600k.

  25. bud

    Justin Beeber is a teenage heartthrob that come along every generation. No different from a young Sinatra, Elvis or Sean Cassidy. He shouldn’t be judged on his artistic merit. That would not be fair to him; that’s not his appeal. If he’s still making these kinds of songs in 10 years then that would be different. But for now let’s leave the young man alone and let the 13 year old girls enjoy him for what he his.


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