The Urban Sherpa - a blog by Christopher DeWan

(confessions of a dangling mind...)

Read Work and Other Essays, a collection of nonfiction by Christopher DeWan.

Pandora's (Boom) Box rating=2

File under: Aural Tradition

There was a short spell where I wasted some time (and blog bandwidth) trying to write music reviews. (I'd offer a link, but I've utterly destroyed all trace of this section of The Urban Sherpa.) To say I found it "difficult" to write about music misses the Pandora's Boomboxlarger point, which is that I sucked at it: no matter how long or elaborate, these little pieces never added up to anything more than, "I, uh, like this band."

Since I don't think I have a problem asserting my opinion about other subjects, and since I listen to a lot of music, I struggled with the idea that I wasn't up to the challenge of writing about this thing I care about so much. I read a collection of old essays by Lester Bangs, but really, they're of another time, and I didn't know exactly what to do with them. I also combed through the seemingly-sempiternal entries at, where the writing may be uneven, but there's no shortage of it—whereas I just couldn't think of anything to say, except, "This album is, uh, cool."

[What I enjoy about good critics is how, though they seem to be writing about a movie, play, restaurant, or record, really they're leveling an opinion about the world we live in: they're writing about us. And I suppose it's that much harder to bring such a broad opinion to bear, in the context of a three-minute pop song. Or, for that matter, a restaurant meal, or even a vacation...]

Point being, I don't much bother writing about music these days, though I still consume it like crazy, and though I still have this constant urge to recommend titles to people. Which brings me to ... Pandora, the high-tech offspring of the "Music Genome Project," an attempt to catalog and cross-reference SO much music. The idea behind Pandora is simple: express a few preferences, and the software taps into its giant database to find other music that you will like.

It does this (at least for me) with remarkable accuracy.

Once it's figured out what my tastes are, it offers me a steady stream of music I'll like, as a web-based "radio station." And then it allows me to recommend my radio station to others—saving them the trouble of reading my heinous music reviews. So there's hope, after all.