iTunes Genius – review

23 Sep 2008

While this kind of service is not exactly new, it is nice to see that Apple has finally joined the music recommendation game with the latest version of iTunes 8.0. The new Genius element can tell you what kind of music you are likely to enjoy, based not only on your own iTunes library, but on how it compares to other users of Genius and their musical tastes.

You see, when you switch on the Genius sidebar in your iTunes library, you are essentially sending Apple a list of all the music stored there. Apple then compares your collection with the thousands upon thousands of other user libraries, and based on songs, band, albums or genres you have in common, Genius basically guesses what kind of music you would like to add to your collection.

When I sign into my iTunes account and give Apple permission to put my music collection through Genius, I then click on a single song and the Genius sidebar throws up a few suggestions.

I picked Hello Dolly by Louis Armstrong, and based on this, Genius told me to check out a new album and a top-selling one, both by Armstrong. I’m only beginning to get into his music, so these are fair enough recommendations.

Under this, I was told about top songs from this particular artist that I’m missing: somehow I don’t own a copy of What a Wonderful World, but this service would encourage me to go off and download it – exactly what Apple would like you to do of course!

Finally, Genius gives me some recommendations of other artists I might enjoy. Debbie Reynolds? Perry Como? I don’t think so! Where’s Ella Fitzgerald and Sinatra I ask you? Still, this is obviously what other Armstrong fans are listening to.

But how does this stand up to online social music site, which has been doing this sort of thing for quite some time now? Funnily enough, as soon as I had wondered about Ella and Frank, recommended these artists to me straight after I logged in and searched for Armstrong, so I’m not sure if users would switch over but might use Apple’s service in tandem.

I think the niftiest feature about Genius though is the automatic playlist. Pick one song in your library that you’re in the mood to listen to and click on the Genius icon. A playlist of 25, 50, 75 or 100 songs is automatically generated based on similarities to this song.

I picked Daft Punk’s Harder, better, Faster, Stronger and I was given a selection of similarly fast-paced, upbeat electronica like Kraftwerk and Ladytron. This is something I would definitely use on a daily basis to set the mood for the day.

It is also a great time-saver for house parties. Pick a good rock tune like Ok Go’s Here It Goes Again, hit Genius and you’ll have the whole house dancing for a few hours. And if your library is looking a little bare, you can always snap up a few similar songs from the iTunes Store.

If your iTunes application does not automatically download, you can get iTunes 8.0 from the official Apple site.

Pros: A great way to discover new music

Cons: You might not like some artists that other users with a slightly similar library enjoy

By Marie Boran

Pictured: iTunes 8 features a new Genius music recommendation service