Day 249: A Letter to Pandora

Dear Pandora,

You took the idea of the human genome project and applied it to music, right? Songs have a certain genetic code that allows you to group them together in various ways based on their attributes. Say I put in “Manic Monday” by The Bangles. Your algorithm will search the DNA of all the songs ever recorded, find the other ones annoying enough to fuel a genocidal dictator, and create a radio station containing just those songs. Then if you play “Everybody Wang Chung Tonight” by Wang Chung on that station, and I click the thumbs down icon, you’ll adjust your math so it doesn’t play any more songs by bands with fans who drive Fieros and carry nunchucks. That’s the basic idea, right?

If you’ve got this amazing scientific approach to predicting the songs I might like, start having some confidence about it. When I click that thumbs down icon and you say “Sorry, we will NEVER play that song again,” it feels too final. Are you really going to give up that easily? You’re the expert here, so act like it. Just because I don’t want to hear “Heaven” by Bryan Adams right now, doesn’t mean I NEVER want to hear it again. It’s not like that song gave me food poisoning or something. I love that song, so keep it in mind and throw it at me again in a couple weeks. I gave it a thumbs down because it’s just too much to take, given that I’m already crying about my lost youth. When I’m in a better place emotionally, I’m totally down for hearing it. How will you know when I’m ready? I’ll give a thumbs up to “Every Rose has It’s Thorn.” When that happens, toss Heaven back into the mix, and I think you’ll be happy with my reaction.

Also, you should know that most of the time I just leave you on in the background and forget to give you the constant feedback and attention you desire. So when you stop playing and ask me, “Are you still listening?” it makes you seem like an insecure college girl trying to convince her American History professor to let her write a term paper on Sex and The City. Relax, Pandora, even when I’m not actively listening, I can still hear you. No need to get all high school girlfriend on me, ok? I listen with my ears, not my eyes, or in your case, my curser.

The more I use you, the more I realize that maybe your insecurity is justified. Here are some of the gigantic mistakes made by your algorithm over the past couple of weeks. For your reference, I’ve included links to some of the lesser known artists.

My Station: “Dreams” by Van Halen.
You played: “Keep your hands to yourself” by The Georgia Satellites.
Why you were wrong: What do overly emotional midwesterners who can’t let go of their youth have in common with people who swallow their chewing tobacco and don’t bother to put on shoes while they mourn the death of the Confederacy? Nothing. That’s my point. Cut the shit.

My Station: “One” by Metallica
You played: “Honestly” by Stryper
Why you were wrong: Metallica fans aren’t Christian (I hope). Do you have Stryper adequately marked as “Christian Metal?” The only people who want to hear that already have a Stryper station. It’s impossible for someone who likes a band that basically invented modern metal to also enjoy a bunch of church goers dressed as bumble bees.

My Station: ” Dr. Feelgood” by Motley Crue
You played: “Kiss Me Deadly” by Lita Ford
Why you were wrong: I get it. This kind of makes sense, and it’s a typical mistake made by computers because they lack certain nuances. You think because I like Dr. Feelgood that I must also like any other artist from the 80′s that slept in the bathroom at the Whiskey a Go Go. Well, that’s generally true, but you’ve ignored the important variable of gender. I love listening to music made by MALE drug addicted degenerates. I can’t believe you don’t have the sex of the artist in your fancy equation. If you thought Lita Ford was a dude (not a crazy error to make), then I forgive you for this mistake. It was a confusing time for all of us. By the way, you could have gotten by with Lita Ford on this station had it been her duet with Ozzy.

Also, you appear to play copious amounts of Def Leppard regardless of the station. Maybe you should take a look at that. Is it a virus or something?

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sue says:

I love your blog. I have an almost 2 year old and a 5 month old and every time I read a parenting type entries, I laugh out loud much to the annoyance to my husband. I read it to him, but he is still annoyed at me because I laugh while I am reading it out loud. I share with all my "mommy friends".

However, I find fault in your statement "Metallica fans aren’t Christian (I hope)".I know quite a few Christians (including me!) who are huge Metallica fans. One of them is my dad. He also likes listening to, just to name a few, Marilyn Manson, Lamb of God, Gregorian Chant, Native American Drum music, Renaissance music, and Folk (think O Brother Where Art Thou). I owe to him my eclectic music tastes. And I thank God for that!

Other than that, keep up the incredible work. Thank you for all the laughs!

Trish says:

My band-virus is AC/DC. Don't hate me, but I really do not care for them. A few songs are alright, but when they started coming up about every 4th song, on my hair-band station, my 80s rock station and my Poison station, despite thumbs-downing them constantly, I decide to complete ban the band. AND I STILL GET THEM. I'm convinced someone at Pandora once banged Brian Johnson (or maybe Bon Scott and it's an homage to him?) and refuses to let anyone's life be AC/DC free.

FWIW, have you checked out grooveshark? You can make your own playlists there, which is cool in its own right but they also have stations like pandora, which is my preference because while I hate AC/DC I do still like surprises.

Jason Good says:

Yea, AC/DC can't seem to take a hint on my Motley Crue channel

spaceytracy91 says:

I just wanted to second this comment. Nobody ever needs to hear AC/DC ever again…I commandeer the iPod at every BBQ I go to once people get drunk enough to put that on…

Tere says:

This is so true. I often wondered if Pandora does racial profiling. Let's say I make a Michael Jackson station – then I am only offered black, male artists. I've noticed the same for other musical stereotypes.

Jeanne says:

you know, pandora does have a "skip" button that you can use instead of the "thumbs down" button, if you just aren't in the mood at that particular moment but don't want to banish that artist from your pandora station forever.

Holly B says:

Seriously…I still say we are twins separated at birth!!! But come on, Lita isn't that bad (okay, that one song anyway). And I WISH my Pandora would get a Def Leppard virus! I LOVE THEM!

You're just too funny…"crying about my lost youth" my new hobby. I relive it through this music!!!

CVTMommy says:

Also Pandora~it is interesting that you think someone listening to "Toddler Radio" would be interested in the local singles. Depending on whether my husband or I log on, the page is filled with pictures from a dating site of the opposite sex.

And I don't mind, but why are you suddenly adding so many "oldies" to the kid's station? Just curious.

P.S. I love your blog, it is my new favorite thing (after my new running/yoga pants from Wal-Mart.)

It's funny that you say that about Def Leppard, because Pandora seems to have a similar virus on ALL of my stations, but it's The White Stripes virus on mine.

Apparently ALL of my musical tastes indicate that I'd like The White Stripes. However, every. single. time. one of their songs comes on, I claw my eyes out with one hand while I frantically search through all my open windows for the Pandora window so I can quickly thumbs down that garbage before I have to listen to a whole song & it thinks that's what I wanted to hear!

Sarah says:

I have no idea what pandora is, but Dr Feelgood is awesome!

I really enjoy your blog, glad we have at least another 100something days of it.

Chur from a Kiwi reader in Istanbul!

Anna Nonamus says:

I try to be Zen with Pandora. I really do. But if I have one more shit fest song played, followed by another shit fest song, I may just take my anger out in an inappropriate way. Inevitably, I pull up a song I like, and then I hear 5 more songs, of which 3 I hate, 1 I'm indifferent to, 1 I sorta like.

Instead, I just use playlist and add the damn songs I want to hear, without having to be dragged through 9 pits of Pandora hell.

Mama23 says:

Took me four nights to read all your blog entries, but I am now current. Thank you for making me laugh repeatedly!

Jason Good says:

Wow. Thanks you! Did I repeat anything? :)

Jackijackjack says:

I have a love/hate relationship with Pandora. I'm happy that they made me realize how overly christian Dave Matthews is… it totally ruined everything Dave ever did for me.

CheyR14 says:

I have an irrational fear of giving the wrong 'thumbs up' or 'thumbs down' due to an unfortunate Michelle Branch incident that I'm not too proud of. I call the condition of being stingy with your responses "Pandora Nervosa" I'm pretty sure rehab centers around the nation will begin diagnosis very soon.

CheyR14 says:

I meant to leave a general comment, not a reply to this Dave Matthews post. Screw technology.

nicole says:

Have you read Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman? Whenever a metal fan discusses the "finer points" of metal distinction and other types of hard rock, I think of this book and recommend it. It was written pre-Pandora, so you'd think they could get the genome figured out if they'd read it too.

Jason Good says:

You're not the first person to specifically recommend that book to me. I only recently learned that he too believes Motley Crue to be the last good band. ha…

dana says:

Love it! I listen to Pandora a lot too and wonder why they throw some weird stuff in my Metallica station! I love how they describe the songs so scientifically.