Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Django Reinhardt and the Spotify Phenomenon

Django Reinhardt was born on this date in 1910.  If not for Spotify, I wouldn't know any of his music, and I just might be happier for it.
In my lifetime of reading about music, I have come across the name Django Reinhardt many times, but I never knew anything about him.  He was one of those highly-respected guys with a name that was difficult to pronounce (c.f. Sufjan Stevens) who I had always meant to get around listening to, but never had.

But now that we're in the Spotify age, I just typed his name into the search bar and played his top hits.  And there, at Number Two, was "Minor Swing."  

Thirty seconds into "Minor Swing," I was able to contextualize Django Reinhardt and his music in a way that I couldn't after bumping into his name for fifteen years in essays about music.  More than that, I could enjoy it.  "Minor Swing" is a magnificent song.  It's fantastic.  If you don't know it, I encourage you to hop onto Spotify and pull it up immediately.  Hell, give it a star even--it's worth it.

But that doesn't mean that I love Spotify.  And I don't not love it, either.  I listen to Spotify at least a little every day, but our relationship, to take the parlance from another source of social media, is complicated.

The strengths of Spotify are obvious.  Spotify has democratized music in a way that iTunes can't even claim.  There's no question that iTunes democratized music listening when it got going around 2003.  You could hear practically any song you wanted to hear at any time, without the encumbrances of compact discs, but you still had to pay $0.99 for it.  Spotify is free.  

It wasn't long ago that sullen suburban teenagers had to get a ride to the other side of town to shop for records at the skate shop, as I did.  It is no longer necessary for young men to go to a certain bar in midtown Memphis because its jukebox had Elvis Presley's "You're So Square," as I used to do.  If there is something that you want to hear, it's there.

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