Stump Pandora Contest: At the request of several readers, I tuned into Pandora this week. For those not in the know, Pandora is internet radio courtesy of the Music Genome Project. They’ve dissected what gives a song its characteristic sound, and what other songs that sound is related to. You enter the name of an artist or song, and it’ll create a radio station based on its analysis of your choice. I’ve been outrageously impressed at how good it is. Light years better than what I’ve seen on Rhapsody radio. I tried to give Pandora every curveball I could find. Rebirth Brass Band? All the N’awlins second line funk you can handle. Machito? Not just Latin, but a steady stream of mid-century Mambo. John Adams? A respectable assembly of contemporary classical minimalism and its derivatives. Even fine distinctions: Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” turned up Tori Amos and Tom Waits, but “This Flight Tonight” off the same album, gave Stephen Stills and Ani DiFranco.
I’ve only been able to stump it once, which leads me to the contest. If you can find something that stumps Pandora, I’ll make you the guest reviewer for Casual Listening for a week. If you succeed, you’ve earned the tastemaker’s seat for a world of music lovers.
Here are the rules.
1. Results must be replicable. It can’t just be something that stumps it once, you’ve got to find an artist or song that stumps Pandora consistently.
2. Results must be un-improvable. It doesn’t count if the artist stumps it, but entering a characteristic song by that artist doesn’t (example: I got Ladysmith Black Mambazo to confuse it, because it used some goofy new age album of theirs as source material. Afterward, I built a station on their song “Nomathemba,” I got all choral harmony from around the world, exactly what I was hoping to hear).
3. Multiple-song stations are fair game.
Hint 1 – You won’t stump it with an artist who plays a variety of styles. I built a Miles Davis station with “7 Steps to Heaven,” “So What,” “Summertime,” “Bitches Brew,” and “Mystery” that rotated 4-song blocks based on each. Pandora won that round.
Hint 2 – The one time I succeeded was with an artist or song whose signature characteristic isn’t musical.
You’ve got 2 weeks – deadline May 9th. E-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck.