Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Melody of the Stars

Here's something off the normal path for this blog: music ratings. I frequently rate my digital music collection as I play it – click one of the five stars in Windows Media Player* to rate a song. For various reasons (mostly a combination of laziness and indecision), only about 20% of my collection is rated at this moment. Probably the best part of having a body of rated songs is the "five-star playlist" that is enables, which can be a really easy way to get a lot of variety and quality in a somewhat random (and always growing) playlist.

I did a survey of my ratings the other day and found this:

song ratings

The trend is clear: the part of my collection that is rated is skewed towards songs that I like a lot. On one level this makes sense. Why should my music collection contain songs that I don't like? Or does it mean that my rating scheme is skewed towards high ratings? Or that I'm more likely to rate a song that is four- or five-star worthy?

If I was being honest with myself, setting three stars as the true average rating, the rating distribution should be bell-shaped, with the peak at three stars. It’s too late to change now, but if Media Player ever loses my library, perhaps I’ll try the bell curve approach.

On my home PC, where there is tons of storage space, I keep the one-star songs around. But on my portable player (the highly flawed but usable Cowon D2 with 16 GB of storage), I've deleted them even though it can mess up the flow of an album (which I think is important, as the artists had a reason for putting the songs in that order). So songs that horrify me, like Aimee Mann's "She Really Wants You" on the uneven but often superb The Forgotten Arm, or “Matrimony” on Whiskeytown’s frequently amazing Faithless Street**, get the boot from my portable player.

* Of the three big music programs for the PC (Media Player, Real Player and iTunes), Media Player is by far my favorite and iTunes by far my least favorite. IMHO, iTunes has a horrible design and I find it almost unusable, which is surprising, given Apple's reputation for simple, intuitive design.

** One of my favorite songs from the album is the rollicking "Hard Luck Story," which includes lyrics that are hard not to love:

Well, I was thinking about a heading to Mobile, Alabama
And that was just last Saturday night.
I can leave you if I wanna, little baby and I'm gonna tonight.

Cause I got a bucket full of tears and a hard luck story
There's a bad moon rising behind
And I swore it to your daddy that I loved you, but I changed my mind.

Well, I'm a fast talking, hell-raising, son of a bitch
And I'm a sinner and I know how to fight
Well, I can leave you if I wanna, little baby and I'm gonna tonight.

(source: the very busy and animated website of

Random link from the archive: Buckwheat Noodles Baked with Savoy Cabbage, Potatoes, Cheese and Brown Butter

1 comment:

Ellen said...

For me, those lyrics are very easy not to love.