Pandora the Music Explorer
If you're tiring of porn or perhaps just rightfully worried that the U.S. government is watching you while you are watching naked elderly women roll around in clam chowder, there's a cool new Internet distraction that shouldn't get you into too much hot water. Just as TV recording system TiVo offers suggestions that the machine feels are in line with your personal tastes (for example, if you record The O'Reilly Factor, TiVo is sure you love propaganda, so it will also record the latest Hitler documentary on the History Channel), the Web site pandora.com offers scientifically-selected music playlists based on user input. The site is built around extensive research that began in 2000 when a collective of musicians and "music loving technologists" launched the Music Genome Project, which analyzed thousands of songs and broke them down based on specific attributes (danceable beats, political message, rhythmic syncopation, extensive "vamping," etc.). At pandora.com, users simply enter the name of an artist or song and the system creates a little online radio station with tracks that fall in line with similar characteristics. The site also encourages your inner musical snob by allowing you to offer feedback (like "I don't like it") to better shape the playlists.
The interactive nature makes the experience a lot of fun, as you indignantly inform the site that, no, most people who like The Afghan Whigs don't necessarily care for Third Eye Blind. Ultimately, the site is an intuitive, personalized microcosm of soulless, overly market-researched FM radio. But, in this case, you'll never have to hear a Black Eyed Peas or Hoobastank song just because some radio programmer got a new plasma TV to play it to death. The site is free for now, but ads will be worked in gradually; users can opt to pay for a "commercial-free" version.
David vs. "Big 5"
Former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne has come out on the side of the music consumer in a recent posting on his Web site about some major labels' drastic actions to prevent customers from copying their products or even making MP3s out of them. "If I need to carry around a list to know which CDs I can safely buy it's getting out of control," Byrne writes, referring to the recent scandal involving several music congloms and their copy-protection software placed on CDs which turned out to limit consumer use and, in some cases, harm their computers. "These guys deserve to go out of business, they obviously don't love music, and they don't understand their own customers," Byrne continues. "They must have a deathwish or be run by ... who? FEMA? Rumsfeld? Bin Laden?" Byrne calls for a boycott and offers a list of CDs to avoid at all costs (discs alleged to contain the software), including new releases by everyone from Foo Fighters to Babyface. Read the whole journal entry at journal.davidbyrne.com.
If you are a rapper looking to filch a few lyrics from another MC, there's a wealth of classic lyricists from which to cop -- KRS-One, Rakim, Talib, Jay Z ... Luther Campbell? The former 2 Live Crew figurehead -- known for his free-speech battles, popularizing the Miami Booty Bass sound and making horrible, horrible music -- is at the center of a lawsuit claiming only-slightly-more-talented megastar 50 Cent stole lyrics from the Luke solo song, "It's Your Birthday," for his hit "In Da Club." Campbell -- who knows something about borrowing hooks, having (legally) used everything from a Bruce Springsteen chorus to Full Metal Jacket movie dialogue in his own work, and (illegally) adopting "Luke Skyywalker" as a pseudonym -- is not involved in the suit, having lost his publishing upon filing for bankruptcy in the mid-'90s, but he has been quoted as saying he feels the Fiddy hit bites heavily from his non-hit. So no one even think about using the phrase "Face Down Ass Up" in a song unless you're ready for a court battle.