Friday 14 December 2018

OMG, Spotify thinks I am an old duffer

Liam Gallagher's new album isn't actually too bad
Liam Gallagher's new album isn't actually too bad
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

I mainly listened to Liam Gallagher's solo album out of curiosity, to hear how rubbish it is. I'm over Liam these days. Liam is like this mad bastard you hung out with briefly when you were young. You enjoyed it at the time, and then you moved on, but he never did. He still wants to go slogging apples. There's something uncool about a man, heading for 50, still wearing his parka indoors and giving people the fingers.

So I was pleasantly surprised that the album isn't bad. Look. It's not amazing. But you'd put it on in the car. I don't think, on two or three listens, that it contains anything that's in danger of becoming my, or anyone's, favourite song. But the many big producers and songwriters they got on board to polish up Liam's turds haven't done a bad job. I actually think it might be better than Noel's last album, which doesn't really make sense, given that Noel wrote all the classics.

But then again, most people don't write good songs any more in their 40s. So it's like things have evened out a bit more. Liam's limited talent has plodded along. While Noel's talent, which was slightly more special for a time, has come down to meet it. But I have to admit it's freaking me out a bit that I find myself liking having Liam Gallagher on in the background.

Does this mean I'm an old man now? And am I listening to old man's music?

How do you know when you become old and naff and uncool? You can't see it yourself. So for example, I eschew the newspaper and televisual stylings of Jeremy Clarkson because to me he is the worst of middle-aged maleness. Therefore I am safe in the knowledge I am not some sad old codger.

But does the fact that I increasingly like the writings of people like Declan Lynch and Brian Boyd mean that I am becoming an old codger, just an old codger of another kind, another generation? To me they seem more witty and with it, but to young people are they, and me, just grumpy old men, as out of touch as Clarkson seems to me? We may not wear bootcut jeans any more, but presumably Clarkson and the guys who wear bootcut jeans think they are just as cool as the narrow trousers we wear. And maybe we will keep wearing narrow trousers even when they become as naff as bootcut ones are now, our aesthetics frozen in time.

The bottom line is I think I am still cool and with it, but I'll be the last to know when I am not.

They say that algorithms don't lie, and based on algorithms, Spotify definitely thinks I'm an old man. I like to think I listen to a broad church of music and that I keep up with new music. But Spotify knows exactly what music I do listen to rather than what I like to think I listen to. And Spotify reckons that I like '80s and '90s music. I can see how this confusion has arisen. If a new album comes out by the slightly left-of-centre old bands that I liked when I was younger, I will tend to give it a listen, and once that album is over, Spotify will tend to then default into an alternative '80s or '90s playlist. And I tend to leave it on, as I enjoy hearing old gems I haven't listened to in years. So Spotify concludes that I like 80s and 90s music, that I am an old duffer.

So when I have a listen to the new Liam Gallagher album out of curiosity, Spotify will then default into some old Oasis music, and then segue into a broader '80s and '90s mix, indie and dance initially, and then before you know it I'm getting bits of A-Ha and American soft rock. Because Spotify doesn't see the lines as I see them. It doesn't realise that what I am into is alternative music and electronic music. It just thinks 'this dude is old and he likes old music, let's line up some Depeche Mode for him; he likes New Order after all". Because Spotify doesn't realise that liking New Order is not the same as liking Depeche Mode, who are a pop band and are not as deep and authentic as New Order.

While the algorithms might have me down as a generic old codger, I need to keep believing that I am an individual, who is defying the ageing process by staying hip and trendy. We'll never know who's right, but I'm sticking with my take on it. I'm hip to the groove, baby.

Brendan O'Connor's Cutting Edge continues on RTE 1 at 9.35pm on Wednesdays

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