How I Plan to Discover New Songs on the Internet + Not Let it Kill My Love of Music

Music journalist Sophie Heawood wrote in the Guardian recently about wanting to free herself from the clutter of her music collection, and promptly disposed of her life’s worth of CDs, LPs, and tapes. She believed the internet, home to nearly every single piece of music ever recorded on the planet, would provide a far greater listening experience–the freedom to listen to anything you wanted, anytime. Instead she found herself listening to only Rihanna, streaming on Spotify, and soon realized that the internet actually killed her love of music. Fairly shocking for someone whose life was defined by music. 

It turns out her relationship with music is a bit more complex than the very black and white physical format versus digital debate, but I can empathize with the overwhelming choice available on the internet as a whole lot less liberating than one would expect. The idea of being able to listen to any song I wanted, whenever I wanted would’ve prompted an ecstatic fit from an 18-year-old me, but in reality, it’s proven to be more overwhelming than thrilling. And the attempt to listen to so much just makes me wanna run to my safe and familiar record collection. I’ve already written about the myth of choice and how so many music lovers like Sophie, have found themselves less interested in music as the result of such easy access to every damn song on the internet. But I wonder if there’s a way to manage the access so that those of us who love to seek out music can feel free enough to do so without going down the rabbit hole.

I’ve always stayed away from sites with lists of songs and youtube videos. It’s just too easy these days to scour youtube for say, country western songs from the ’50s and make a website filled with ’50s C&W youtube clips. If a music writer or fan whose taste I trust implicitly tweeted or blogged about a song that moved them, I’d head straight to youtube to check it out. But the insatiable desire for anyone with a computer to constantly fill blog space with youtube clips and endless music reviews just for the sake of keeping up, well, that’s exactly what drives me away. Blogs, ads, e-mails, tweets, and facebook posts are vying for my attention to check out this new artist and that new band, and as a result I end up just getting out my Jeanette records, and listening to what I know and love. But I don’t want to do this. I long to discover music that’s new to my ears. I’m beginning to think that the less is more approach is the only way to maintain your sanity and your love of music in the internet age.

Last christmas I was given The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, which I had planned to go through, page by page, and listen to anything that caught my eye. I never did. A few years before, I purchased Lost In the Grooves: Scram’s Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed, written by music journalists and fans who write about their favorite records you may have never heard. This is exactly the kind of guide I should be consulting for new music tips. But nope, it’s still sitting on my shelf. Every weekday I get an e-mail called Record of the Day, which is distributed to those working in the music biz, and offers a brilliant heads-up about up-and-coming bands. The newsletter begins with an actual record of the day, and a link to hear the record. I never click on the link. And the charts. I couldn’t name one song in the top ten today (okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration as I’m sure the Daft Punk single is in there somewhere). But I’ve basically given up on the charts.

I don’t believe any of this is due to my lack of interest or love of music. I’m just overwhelmed by too much choice. And I’m wondering if I put a self-imposed limit on digital music, will the eager-and excited-to-discover-new-music old me return? Is there actually a way to make the internet enhance my enjoyment of music? I have a feeling that the “less is more” theory may do the trick, and to test it out, I shall be embarking on a 30-day experiment. Using the books I mentioned above and the internet, I will select five new songs (as in songs I’ve never heard before) per day, five days a week. No more, no less. It’s a mandatory journey to re-discover the joy of discovering music within stricter confines. Even if my reasoning may seemed confused (it is, slightly), I’m just eager to hear new sounds, discover new genres, fall in love with new songs, and enjoy the music discovery process that I used to adore. So here’s the deal……

Songs will chosen from the following five categories.

1. The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits (the song will be randomly selected from a page I open randomly)
2. Lost in the Grooves (again, the song will be randomly selected from a page I open randomly)
3. My own curiosity (maybe a song I’d read about somewhere, or a friends’ recommendation)
4. Record of the Day e-mail (I shall click on that link!)
5. The current Top 40 charts (I have a feeling most of these songs will be shit, but who knows?!)

If I discover something mind-blowing, I’ll definitely let you know about it. If it’s mediocre or shit, I’ll say so. And I’ll only link to songs I think are worth my time and yours. I’m sure you’ve got your own massive list of youtube videos to watch, so no need to add anything that’s unnecessary.

I’ve actually just been through the process, and must say it has already made me quite giddy. Any of your recommendations would be HUGELY appreciated. I trust that if you’re reading my site, you must have fairly good taste in music ; )

The “How I Plan to Discover New Songs on the Internet + Not Let it Kill My Love of Music” list

Friday June 7th

1. From the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits…. 
Olivia Newton John: I Honestly Love You (MCA, 1974)
America was clearly swept up in Newton John fever when this was released in 1974, as I can’t see any other reason why this would’ve hit #1. 

2. From Lost in the Grooves….
Brute Force: Tapeworm of Love (Columbia, 1967)
Kim Cooper’s review of this comedic songwriter did warn of ludicrous lyrics and an absurd comedic slant, but I guess I was expecting to be a bit more wowed by the songwriter responsible for the Chiffons’ “Nobody Knows What’s Going On In My Mind But Me.”

3. My own curiosity….
Daft Punk: Horizon (Columbia, 2013)
The internet was ablaze with praise for this bonus track on the Japanese release of Random Access Memories. A shimmering synth-ballad with just the right amount of melancholy and kitsch. LOVE! 

4. From Record of the Day……
Watch the Duck: Poppin’ Off (Epic, 2013)
R&B vocal with personality. Check. Smooth bass line. Check. Catchy chorus. Check. Dubstep. AARRRGGGHH!!! I HATE DUBSTEP. Game over.

5. From the Billboard charts…..
Justin Timberlake: Mirrors (RCA, 2013)
I wanted to like this, but it’s all gloss and no substance, and sounds like a desperate attempt to recapture the glory of his mega-hit “Cry Me A River.”

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