Shuffle Killed Music
The way that we listen to music has evolved rapidly in the past 10 – 20 years. Looking back, it’s moved from vinyl, tapes, CDs, mp3s (.m4a, .flac, .ape, .ogg, .wav, yeah yeah shuut up), to the cloud. This is not something that is really that big of a deal to many people, and in many ways it’s been a fantastic shift. The biggest result of these technological advances is the sheer amount of music that you can obtain and control. The ability to hold thousands of songs in the palm of your hand is something that is insane and would have been unheard of a few decades ago.
The way many people (myself included) listen to music on their mp3 players or computers is vastly different than the way our parents would in our age. No longer do you have to get up and flip the vinyl over, no longer do you have to be restricted to one CD (or even 5 if you had a multidisc changer). All of a sudden you have access to hundreds of artists and thousands of songs. There’s no delay or no waiting but there’s also no commitment required in your choice. There’s nothing stopping you from listening to 10 seconds of a song and switching it to a completely different artist, no hesitation. This is where shuffle really hits hard. It sounds like a wonderful idea: 10,000 songs – why settle for one album at a time when you can hear a song from a different artist every time? The real issue, for me, is that you lose so much of the music when you listen to music on shuffle.
First, there’s albums that were meant to be heard as albums. I’m talking about Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Massive Attack’s Mezzanine, or Radiohead’s In Rainbows. Many artists don’t just write individual songs, and listening to them out of order or with other songs intermixed is practically aural suicide. Second, there’s no commitment required with shuffling music. You don’t have to really be into a song to have it come on, where as previously, you wouldn’t have put on a record if you didn’t want to listen to it. A perfect example of this was when I was listening to really mellow music and all of a sudden some melodic death metal came on. Instead of just listening to one of Plastik Joy’s albums, I decided to just keep playing it on shuffle, completely disrupting the mood that was created after one song.
This generation is the ADD generation. Over-stimulation is the name of the game, and technology is the biggest player. We’re not just satisfied with one song, one album, one artist. We need to have every song of every artist. We need to have 10,000 songs to the point where we don’t remember which albums we have and which we don’t. We need to play music on random because we are losing the ability to truly listen a piece of music.
Or maybe we just like a lot of music. Whatever.