iTunes Genius - Mix Tapes for the Lazy and Overworked

In the week since its release, I’ve read a lot about the new Genius feature in iTunes. The reviews I’ve read have been uniformly positive, but hidden within at least one of them was a jab about how smart playlist creation is killing the art of the mix tape. The criticism went something like this: “People who love this feature don’t (or can’t) remember the simple joys of creating a mix tape.” But see, that’s not true. I remember all too well the pleasure of creating a mix tape (even if I was never all that good at it). And I miss that pleasure immensely. The truth is, I just don’t have time to create mix tapes anymore. And I don’t think I’m the only one with that problem.

That’s why Genius appeals so much to me. It brings the pleasure of listening to mix tapes back into my increasingly busy life. Select a “root” song, click the Genius button, and voila: instant mix tape. The program does everything I used to spend hours trying to do, and, because I’ve got a much more extensive library than I did when I was sixteen or seventeen, it actually does a much better job. It even manages to throw in a few curveballs here and there, just like I used to do. Some may call these bugs, but I call them features.

So far, I’ve built Genius mixes out of “One of the Three” by James, “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” by The Smiths, and “Crushcrushcrush” by Paramore. Each has delivered up for me exactly the sort of mix that I was looking for at that particular moment. The James mix was mellow and soothing. The Smiths mix was sad and nostalgic. And the Paramore mix was energetic enough to get me through my three mile walk to work this morning. In each case, I’ve stumbled across songs I’d long since forgotten were in my library. In some cases, I’m even discovering songs that I’m pretty sure I’ve never even heard before. And that’s been a truly cool experience, because too often in recent years I’ve stuck to my “Most Played” playlist and ventured outside of the box only infrequently.

I’m not sure if any of these mixes will ever become as regular a staple in my life as, say, The Rausch Mix, but I have a feeling that some (the James mix, in particular) will be sticking around for a while.

How about you? Have you had any good (or bad) experiences with Genius yet? How does it compare to the classic mix tapes of your youth?

And if you’re not an iTunes user, and you’ve actually made it this far through the article, please feel free to chime in with some favorite mix tape memories of your own. What’s the best mix tape you ever gave someone? The best you ever received? Let us know.