Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Revisiting The Music Genome Project: Follow The Thousand Different Ways Road


Yeah. A Thousand Different Ways has been added to the Music Genome Project! Now I can set up a new Clay Aiken station and follow the path his new CD sets out for me --discovering new music along the way!

A while back I wrote a blog The Music Genome Project about Pandora.com, which is a website where you can create your own music stations. The foundation is built on The Music Genome Project and the founder, Tim Westergren, talks about how it was created and why:
Together we set out to capture the essence of music at the most fundamental level. We ended up assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or "genes" into a very large Music Genome. Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song - everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony. It's not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records - it's about what each individual song sounds like.

I was so excited to find that A Thousand Different Ways has been analyzed and added to the database - so I thought it was time to create a new station for myself and see where Pandora took me this time. Rather than using a song from ATDW, I decided to simply start once again with Clay Aiken. Pandora has a new section called Backstage where you can get additional information about albums, artists and songs. Similar artists listed on Clay's page are: Traveling Willburys; Scissor Sisters; The Samples; Survivor and Marti Pellow. I love the Willburys and have just started listening to some Scissor Sisters. I am familiar with some of The Samples and Survivor but know nothing about Marti Pellow. I'm intrigued by the listing.

When I click on ATDW album - the list for simiilar albums includes: Ta-Dah by Scissor Sisters; Two Lights by Five for Fighting; Alex Lloyd's self-titled album; the Howie Day Live album and Jesse McCartney's Beautiful Soul.

I'm very intrigued to see what Pandora's first suggestion will be for me - so I start my new radio station. First up is Land of A Thousand Words by Scissor Sisters. I click to see why this song and Pandora tells me:

Subtle use of harmony, acoustic rhythm piano, use of string ensemble, mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation and major key tonality.


These are the same elements that are noted when I started my Clay Aiken station. When I check the Backstage area for similar songs – they suggest: Clay Aiken – A Thousand Days; Robbie Williams – Better Man; Five for Fighting – Johnny America; Marti Pellow – Close to you and Jon Bon Jovi – All About Loving You.

I know this Scissor Sisters song - and like it. So I give it a Thumbs Up - so it will incorporate their elements into my station. Next suggestion is Five For Fighting’s The Riddle – I like this as well – so it gets a thumbs up too.

Pandora's next suggestion is Yellow by G4. Not feeling it – something about the lyrics – and the rhythms – so thumbs down. It's really not bad, but I want to see what other direction this station can go in. After all, that's the whole point to Pandora . . . give it your musical tastes and see what happens!

Don’t Want To Miss A ThingAerosmith. Big ballad - but today I like this. Checked to see why Pandora was playing this song and in addition to the elements noted above, they also included the vocal-centric aesthetic. So I gave it a thumbs up and wait for the next song.

Here’s My Song by Nicolai Dunger. I've never heard of him but I really like this song. Pandora makes it easy to download from iTunes – so I do that. I also checked out Amazon.com to find out more about him.
The Swedish music scene has brought the world many great pop acts over the years and has recently been a hotbed for edgy indie rock. But Sweden has not been known for introducing amazing singer-songwriters to the world. Until now. Enter Nicolai Dunger, a former professional soccer player who was discovered by a producer while he sang on a balcony in his hometown and gave up his sports career to pursue his passion for music. We're glad he did, for Nicolai is a tremendous talent whose voice recalls the joyful pastoral soul of vintage Van Morrison and the melancholy crooning of both Tim and Jeff Buckley.

Well – that explains it. Since I’m a huge Van Morrison and Tim and Jeff Buckey fan –as you can see in my previous blog Haunting Voices. Very cool.

Next up -- Clay’s A Thousand Days. Why? Same as the elements above including the vocal-centric aesthetic. Checked Pandora's Backstage for information on the Song and Pandora lists these as the features of the song:

pop rock qualities
a subtle use of vocal harmony
acoustic rhythm piano
use of a string ensemble
mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation
a vocal-centric aesthetic
a clear focus on recording studio production
major key tonality
a dynamic male vocalist
acoustic rhythm guitars
upbeat lyrics

Thumbs up - well naturally.

England Dan and John Ford ColeyWe’ll Never Have To Say Goodbye . Nothing bad – just nothing special. So I gave it a thumbs down just to see where Pandora would take me next. That was to Backstreet Boys and Drowning. I think we’re getting “too romantic” – so I decided to add some more music to the mix. You can do that in Pandora. Just click on I want to add more music. So I put in Lonely No More and Broken Wings by Clay Aiken.

Next up was Tracy’s Song/Only Time Will Tell by Nelson. I've never really listened to them. I kind of liked this. Clicked on Backstage to hear about the Song and it showed similar songs as A Thousand Days by Clay Aiken; Little One by Beck; Love & Regret by Deacon Blue and November Rain by Guns N’ Roses. Interesting grouping – I love Pandora for finding similarities in stuff that is unexpected. Thumbs up.

Creed was next – with Human Clay. Well even with Clay in the title and many of the same elements – I'm not a Creed fan -- just don’t like Scott Stapp’s voice – so thumbs down for me. Sorry Creed-fans.

So from Scott’s grizzly voice Pandora switches to smooth Peter Cetera’s voice – but still – not feeling it. So thumbs down on this one as well.

Next up – The Samples with Sad World. Now this is more my kind of thing. Still many of the same qualities we started with but I really like Sean Kelly’s voice and this is truly touching. Thumbs up for sure. Now we’re cooking.

Marti Pellow and Close To You comes up now. I really like this and when I check the Backstage area – it shows me that A Thousand Different Ways is a similar album to Marti’s Smile. I wanted to buy this from iTunes – but unfortunately, it’s not there. But it goes on my list of albums to check out somewhere else. Smile is from 2001 and was recorded when Marti left Wet Wet Wet (who had the big hit from Four Weddings & A Funeral – Love Is All Around).

Howie Day’s Live album – Collide is next. I can see where Lonely No More’s qualities are kicking into gear with Sad World and now Collide. Thumbs up and I’ve never heard this Live album – so off to iTunes to download this version.

I like where I’m heading now on this Clay Aiken station – next up is U2’s Original of the Species. I never get tired of this so thumbs up. But I’m curious to check the Backstage Song info – sure enough it says:

pop rock qualities
acoustic rhythm piano
use of a string ensemble
mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation
a vocal-centric aesthetic
major key tonality
a dynamic male vocalist
acoustic rhythm guitars

Yup – much in common with Clay Aiken’s A Thousand Days (excluding those damn spinning balls *g*) . . .

How Can I – by Mike and the Mechanics & Paul Carrick. This is new to me but I really like it. I take a trip to iTunes but unfortunately can’t find the song. So I look up the artist in Backstage - Well that’s interesting. . . Under similar artists – Clay Aiken is included along with Deacon Blue and Pet Shop Boys. No wonder I liked this.

David Pack is next with Tomorrow and Forever. Really like this and a trip to iTunes is successful – downloaded this one.

Shelby Lynne is next – and I’m a fan of Shelby’s and I like Wall In Your Heart. Matt Kearney is up next – I love Matt and Nothing Left To Lose is one of my favorite songs – of course it’s already on my iPod and on repeat a lot. I think the Shelby and David Pack moved me into an area where there’s additional elements not in Clay’s stuff. Here’s what’s listed for this particular song:

mellow rock instrumentation
folk influences
a subtle use of vocal harmony
extensive vamping
meandering melodic phrasing
mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation
major key tonality
melodic songwriting
acoustic rhythm guitars
subtle use of acoustic piano
upbeat lyrics

I decide to experiment and add Here You Come Again by Clay Aiken to the mix to see where that takes me.

Barenaked Ladies is where . . . Peterborough and the Karwarthas. I’ve always enjoyed this song. Here’s the backstage elements of this song:

mellow rock instrumentation
a subtle use of vocal harmony
mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation
major key tonality
a breathy male lead vocalist
acoustic rhythm guitars

I guess the HYCA addition gave me the breathy male lead vocalist. Fun!

Tides’ Tell Me comes up next. This is new to me. I like it but unfortunately can’t get it on iTunes. Don’t Let Go with Bryan Adams and Sarah McLachlen – is lovely. Never heard it before. Really liked this duet.

Next up is Five for Fighting with Freedom Never Cries. I love this song – it’s already on my iPod. But I’m curious about the features so I check backstage:

acoustic rock instrumentation
a subtle use of vocal harmony
acoustic rhythm piano
acoustic sonority
use of a string ensemble
major key tonality
acoustic rhythm guitars

Similar songs includes Clay Aiken’s Here You Come Again. Remember they aren’t analyzing actual words in the lyrics for similarity – just the musical elements and yes I can hear what they are hearing.

Well I've been following this path for quite a well and really enjoying myself. But it’s time to stop. My Clay Aiken station will be there for me to pick up on another day. And look at the new artists I discovered - very quickly: Marti Pellow and Nicolai Dunger – and I’ll be downloading more of their stuff for sure. Also found a few songs I never heard before like the Bryan Adams/Sarah McLachlen duet.

All in all, not a bad trip down the Clay Aiken Pandora path. What a fabulous way to discover music. No “too cool for school” critics telling me what I should like. No music suggested by radio play or popularity. Just music that touches my emotions – through the sound and lyrics.

Right now I’ve got 5 radio stations on my account at Pandora. One starts with Eric Clapton as the initial choice. One begins with Danny O’Keefe. Another starts at Peter Cincotti. And the fouth begins with Eric Andersen. I’ve got my blues, jazz, rock, pop and folk paths all taking me in on a road trip – discovering music that’s tailored to my tastes. What a great concept!


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2 comments:

Casper said...

I LOVE Pandora. I've been listening to it since March and I was thrilled when they recently added ATDW.

~ YSRN ~ said...

Thank you so much for this link and the descriptions you provided - helped me to understand the site. I'm listening and "rating" the songs while I work. LOVE it! I was tricked by Collide (Live)... I thought it was starting HYCA. I'm really liking some of the recommendations! And Robbie - Better Man... one of my favorite songs.

Thanks again... this is going to be a staple in my life, I can tell!