Songza App Review
The story so far
Digital music. Internet radio. Honestly, what is it good for? With more access by more people to more music more quickly than ever before, what has actually happened to our listening experience?
The last form of music playback that I really connected with was the CD. It was portable, durable, and futuristically shiny. There was the brief, beautiful mechanical sound as it was drawn into the slot on your car stereo. As handy as it was, you had to care for it – be mindful of scratches and not lose the jewel case. Though the music was digital, our interaction with the CD was a tangible, sensory experience.
Then we began to rip CD’s to the computer, load songs up on our iPods, buy music online with iTunes, and get rid of our old CD collections. We could take our entire music collection with us in a pocket sized device, and comprehensively categorize thousands of albums on the computer, psychedelic visualizer pyrotechnics firing away on our ever-widening computer monitors.
Music became fragmented
My own enthusiasm lasted until about that point. While I enjoyed the power of being able to back up CD’s into the neatly organized columns of regimented artists and albums, my own little army of music, music on the computer started to involve more and more steps. iTunes kept getting bigger, and bigger – adding more features and things to buy. New stores started popping up with different file types, there were restrictions on which audio files could be on which devices, with which programs. And as all these things were springing up, it became that the process, and talking about the process, of buying and listening to music became more important than actually listening. A recorded song, merely one piece of the puzzle whose potential is to hurl waves of pressure through the air and towards your ear, lays dormant behind a license agreement and DRM protection. Register and click agree for music.
Songza: (very) simple music
How Songza works
The critical feature of Songza is that you don’t really have to do anything. Your input into the program can be very limited. It tells you what day it is and what time it is, which is a pretty funny reminder that the program is all about dumbing down the music listening process. Push a button telling the program what you are doing and it prompts you for an appropriate genre, then this screen:
One more click and the music starts, and it is very, very good. Who knows what kind of process the team at Songza had to compile their playlists, I can only guess that competent music lovers got together with a competent design team and managed not to mess anything up in the process. In playlists fitting a variety of moods and genres, from “waking up” to “studying”, r&b to solo acoustic instrumentals, I was listening to great songs by great musicians (and many that were unknown to me). Another nice surprise is that there are no audio ads whatsoever in the app (and ad placement is limited to a small banner that appears on the “now playing” screen).
What’s the verdict?
No one facet of Songza makes it a great music listening app. Where the program excels is its ability to incorporate itself into how we have grown to listen to music on digital devices. It is free. It opens quickly. It presents you with a very simple set of choices, easily navigable with sleepy and uncoordinated fingers. Through 3 quick prompts it narrows the musical choices down to a specific station that you, importantly, chose to listen to. It does not disturb you with ads. It plays very good music, almost all of the time. Lastly, it offers the capability to, but does not require you to, delve further into depths of playlist exploration and creation.
And while I set about this month signing up for and using a number of different online music services with the intent to write about each experience, listening to music these past few days with Songza I wonder why I would even bother. I’m listening to more music now than I have since the old days spent carefully planning out which CDs made it into the car’s special CD sleeve.
And the best thing? I don’t care how I am listening to it.