When I started my “Five on Shuffle” series on January 25, 2017, I had no idea exactly how it would turn out or how long it would last. Before starting in earnest, I went through several false starts. My biggest enemy was the iPod’s battery. Even though I fancied myself an “experienced” iPod user, I forgot that every time the battery dies, the iPod resets itself with charging. So, if I had shuffled up to 100 songs and then the device’s battery died, after charging, I’d have to start shuffling from the beginning with whatever popped up as song number one. This meant that I had to keep an close eye on the iPod’s battery pretty much at all times when I was using it. As long as I didn’t let the device die completely, it’d keep shuffling songs in order. I eventually ended up having to set a weekly reminder to charge the iPod. (It’s remarkably sad just how easy it would have been for me to forget this without the reminder.)
But I’m not here to drone on about the poor battery life of a 10-year old iPod.
Though, here’s a fun fact. When I got this iPod in 2008 — it’s a 6th gen “Classic” model — it retailed for $349. In today’s dollars, it would cost nearly $500.
Well, I thought it was interesting. Could you see yourself, today, paying $500 for an non-Internet device that you can only use by downloading content to it?
Dollars and duckets aside, I’ve gotten myself totally sidetracked from my purpose here, which is to reflect upon my (almost) two-year musical expedition. Because it did provide at least a few moments of personal enlightenment.
- Many of my past musical choices were more purposeful than I thought
The most obvious example of this is my compendium of Christmas music. It serves a very specific purpose for a very specific time of year. While I tried not to be too grumpy when the songs popped up at random, especially when I had to write about them, truth be told, I don’t like listening to Christmas music outside of Christmastime. I don’t suddenly hate the songs in July, but having to listen to them then deflated their meanings. Less obvious examples include my groupings of classical/choral music, jazz, and downtempo/chillwave. Classic music, jazz, and chill beats aren’t things I listen to or want to listen to on a daily basis, because each genre serves a its own purpose for me. Classical music helps me wind down from being wound up. Jazz is great for motivation and creativity, so I often use it when I’m doing chores or working on some sort of DIY project. I listen to chillwave only when I’m doing some sort of rote computer task, like data entry, because the sounds helps distract the portion of my brain that prevent me from being focused. While these are things that I’ve always held as personal truths, this shuffling thing really reinforced the notion that my music choices are far less random than I thought.
- I don’t like every song on my iPod
Guys, I cannot tell you the number of times I rolled my eyes whenever a Körn song appeared, or the Black Eyed-Peas, or anything from the 90s/00s swing era. The same thought always passed through my head at that point: What the hell was I thinking? I suppose this is more to say that my aural tastes have changed over the years, and if I was putting together a list of 5,000 songs to place on a music-playing device today, I’d likely skip the nü-metal era. But there were also time when a song rolled through for which I wish I could get my 99 cents back from iTunes. “Blister in the Sun” by The Violent Femmes is a good example. I actually don’t like it, but for some reason, when I was jamming through iTunes a decade-plus ago looking for stuff to buy, I thought having “Blister in the Sun” permanently would be a good idea. The same goes for my most regretful iTunes purchase, “James Brown is Dead” by Void, which, I’ve concluded, is the world’s worst rendition of this particular song. I will admit that when I was heavily into exploring music in iTunes, I often went in with the notion that, in order for me to consider myself a well-rounded purveyor of popular music, I had at least try to like songs that others had deemed as “great.” So I tried exploring sounds and genres that were less familiar. Sometimes it paid off — my love for Atmosphere came out of it — and sometimes I got stuck with “Blister in the Sun” for all eternity.
- My music still surprises even me
When I started this project, the thought that I might not make it through all the song on my iPod remained constant. Battery issues aside, I thought that I might really become bored with my finite list of music. After all, I’d heard it all before. And when I started, I was really getting into Pandora and Internet radio, which offered infinite musical choices. And the process actually revealed a number of surprises that stemmed from my original CD collection, which is what makes up the very basis of my iPod’s collection. (Can you still even do that? Rip songs from a CD and place them on your…phone?) That’s to say, since I haven’t looked at my CDs in years, I had forgotten about a number of personal hidden gems. Like Jimmie’s Chicken Shack, an alt-rock, ska-ish band that hit in the late 90s and early 00s. And how about the industrial metal-ness of gODHEAD? I totally forgot that I had picked up their 2004 album 2000 Years of Human Error based solely on their cover of “Eleanor Rigby.” I also completely overlooked N.E.R.D’s Fly or Die, which always makes me think of that time I first heard of Pharrell Williams. That kid’s really going places! So for every eye-rolling moment of thinking “oh god, why did I get that?”, a happier “oh hey, I remember that!” moment soon follows.
- I can finally admit to myself that I’m okay with pop
With age comes wisdom, as they say, as does the ability to finally come to terms with the fact that you’re really okay with trashy, overplayed, and overproduced pop music. Yes, I have to admit that my musically-enlightened self (haha) once publicly sneered at the mere thought of tuning into that one radio station that blared “TODAY’S BEST HITS!” Puh-lease. Now, I should warrant that my pop music may not be the same as your pop music, but the sentiment remains the same. It’s the stuff you might hear while waiting in your dentist’s office or at your car repair place. And before I really cut ties with iTunes, most of the songs I bought were from your Maroon 5s and Lady Gagas. The stuff is easy to listen to, kinda boppy and fun, and reminds me not to take life too seriously. I’m not sure that it came out much during this project, but honestly, I’d say that a good 2/3rds of the songs on my iPod can be classified as pop.
- I may not be done with my iPod yet
After the final song on my iPod played, the first thing I did was reconnect with iTunes, a site I hadn’t visited in at least five years. I expected that I might have to recreate my account, but oh no…Apple remembered me, and it was immediately ready for me to buy, buy, and buy more! I won’t lie, since I still had some change left in my old account, I was tempted. It was nearly the same site I remembered, only different. Most of the “popular songs” were unfamilar but not wholly so. iTunes readily threw at me a number of “songs I might like based on ‘recent’ purchases,” and the selection wasn’t terrible. And a bunch of stuff popped up under some sort of “you might have missed” heading, and…yeah…some of the songs were once that I legitimately had missed and wished I hadn’t. It was kind of okay being in iTunes again, exploring, discovering, and rediscovering. It brought back those old feelings of being in a music store, flipping through albums, and finding a little bit of gold among the rocks. After all this time, I thought the days of placing music on my iPod might be over — who knows for how much longer Apple will support my device, anyway? — but being back in the “store” made me think otherwise.
Will 5,067 songs someday become 5,068 songs? Well, as I said, those pennies in my account ain’t gonna spend themselves, so it’s a strong…maybe. Also, why don’t I have more Prince? And David Bowie? And Bad Religion? And early Metallica? And…and…and…??? Yeah, I’m probably not done, yet. (Or maybe I am, since Apple is going to be done with iTunes.)
My thanks go out to everyone who followed this series. While I might resurrect it in some form in the future, “Five on Shuffle” is over. I’ll have other things posted in it’s end-of-the-month slots through the rest of the year. In the meantime, I’m always up for song recommendations; if there’s anything I should be listening to, let me know in the comments! If I receive enough ideas, maybe I’ll even make a brand new playlist. I’m sure Apple would be thrilled to have me back. 😄