To me, my phone’s ability to identify the song that’s playing at a given moment is arguably the single greatest development in human history.
I won’t call it Shazam because I’m not a New Balanced white guy named Derek who just made a hook shot at the fucking YMCA.
I don't really want to call it SoundHound, either--because not only is that one of those phonetically vapid words which makes you sound stupid through mere reproduction (say "rural" out loud and tell me you don't feel dumber), but even Meryl Streep looks ridiculous saying it:
But I’ll gladly call it great.
Because it is.
Yes, from the white linen hellscape of Miami to whichever anagram-portmanteau-bullshit is currently winning the day in Brooklyn (Dumbo, SoBro, NoBro, JustStopBro) song recognition tech has helped me to reclaim my sanity more than once. You see, after violence and the name “Chet,” there’s nothing less tolerable than liking a song and not knowing what it is. It just eats away at your soul.
I remember a weeks-long search for a song from an old Top Gear episode. It was a long time ago: The Shrub was President, SoundHound didn’t exist, and I essentially dressed myself by nakedly sprinting through the aisles of an Easter-themed Kohl's as a security guard gave chase.
I emerged from my pastel cataclysm for just long enough to hear a sour, staccato sound that I'd later learn is a clavinet. The song is fun and weird and devoid of lyrics to punch into El Goog. Besides, it’s not like I could just hum and tap it out and someone would tell me what it was. First of all, the drum section--much like Walmart--is a no-fly zone for Air Crispin. Secondly, how do you mimic a sound that can only be described as Stevie Wonder Did Ketamine And Pretended To Be Bach?
So I went through forums for days--because there were multiple forums dedicated to identifying songs from Top Gear--before learning that the song was actually “Machine Gun” by the Commodores. You've almost certainly heard a clavinet-less sample lurking beneath the Beastie Boys' "Hey Ladies" (known to the world for its tasteful usage of the cowbell, but to your author for the laconic tour de force of "educated, no, stupid, yep").
Fast forward a decade or so and I’m not tearing my hair out over an unknown song, but happily blasting Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana.” I heard it at a very real and very progressive strip club in Hollywood called Jumbo’s Clown Room. I briefly stopped casting dollar bill paper airplanes onto the stage so that I could employ the services of Soundhound. Seven seconds later, the song was mine. Magic.
A Most Important Note About Jumbo's Clown Room
I find strip clubs to be uncomfortable and weird, but Jumbo's is fucking rad. It's also probably not technically a strip club because nobody gets nekkid. It's tiny, well lit, and the overwhelming impression is one of choreographed excellence set to Nina Simone (seriously) rather than cheap sexuality. It's art. For fuck's sake, a woman in a sweatshirt danced to this and I stood up and slow clapped at the end.
As Trumpty Dumpty and the ghost of Steve Jobs threaten to cart us into the postmodern abyss, it’s tempting to claim that technology itself will undo us--and to forget that it helped us to get this far. If the three-quarters of a second prior to the invention of the self-facing camera represent humanity’s apotheosis (prove me wrong), then SoundHound will be a glorious parting shot. Nice work, folks.
By the way, I’ve put together a small playlist of some of the better songs that I’ve discovered on my highly successful trip to nowhere. Not all of them came by way of SoundHound, but quite a few did.
Lastly, if you like this, please tell share it with other people. Please don't tell anyone I said this, but it would mean a lot to me.