The majority of the population that ignores classical music will shrug and go back to the new Jamie xx record. (I’m enjoying his track “The Rest Is Noise.”) Yet Apple’s unwillingness to accommodate—in this first iteration, at least—defining features of a thousand-year tradition is symptomatic of general trends in the streaming business. You sense declining interest in the particulars of genres, in the personalities of artists, in political messages, in cultural contexts. Differences are flattened out: music really does stream, in an evenly regulated flow. One zone of Apple Music offers playlists tailored to various activities and moods: “Waking Up,” “Working,” “Chilling Out,” “Cooking,” “Getting It On,” and “Breaking Up.” All that’s needed is one for “Dying.” As the Times critic Ben Ratliff recently said, on the subject of streaming playlists, “I always feel as if I’m shopping somewhere, and the music reflects What Our Customers Like to Listen To. The experience can feel benignly inhuman.”
The more time I spend with Apple Music, the more I feel like I’m being marketed to. That is, of course, the case with just about everything online, but there’s something kind of blatant about the whole thing. For one, my “For You” area is full of well-known acts. I’m supposed to discover the “Deep Cuts” of Tupac or Kanye or Van Halen or the Doors or listen to Jimi Hendrix tracks arranged in an exciting new way.
Are my tastes really so main-stream? Or is there something else going on? I like these performers, but I haven’t listened to so much classical rock or hip hop in years.
Btw, I have yet to receive a single classical playlist as a recommendation even with all my little hearts being appropriately applied.