The Most Timeless Songs Of All-Time

Matt Daniels for Polygraph:

Until recently, it was impossible to measure the popularity of older music. Billboard charts and album sales only tell us about a song’s popularity at the time of its release.

But now we have Spotify, a buffet of all of music, new and old. Tracks with fewer plays are fading into obscurity. And those with more plays are remaining in the cultural ether.

The interactive charts Polygraph put together from the Spotify data are really interesting. If you’re anything like me, you’ll blow another 10–15 minutes above the time you spend reading the article playing with them.

As Daniels pointed out, we don’t really have data to support interactions that might change the trajectory of popularity, but I’d point out that some of the less popular but surprisingly long-lived songs were featured in movies or on TV programs.

Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” may owe its current place at the top of the longevity chart to Glee, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” would most likely languish in obscurity without the 20 year trailing consciousness-boost from Wayne’s World. Aerosmith’s “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” also stands far out in the 1998 track list, which is probably due to being a featured song in Armageddon.

It’s a classic chicken-egg problem. Were these songs featured in films and TV shows because they had a lasting impact on people, or did they get a new lease on public consciousness because someone involved with making the show liked the songs and used them?

But if the songs aren’t “good” in some sense, they won’t have lasting attention. You’d have to make a damn compelling show to bring back something like “Ice Ice Baby” from (its rightfully consigned) place in 90s obscurity. After a playcount blip, I’d expect that to go right back down to baseline, unless it got meme-ified or otherwise co-opted and used ironically.

'Smooth Criminal' Arranged for Koto and Shakuhachi

This has been posted in a few places. I tracked down the original upload and my link goes straight to the account for what I believe is the original video creator.

[Update: the original has apparently been removed, so here’s a link to the Digg version. I’d rather support Digg than the other people who freebooted the video in the first place.]

Two things immediately struck me: the arrangement for the instruments is superb, and Jackson’s original melody is so strong that it holds up under extremely divergent treatments.

Alt-metal band Alien Ant Farm did a cover in 2001 that was obviously a less drastic change from the original than this. I can easily imagine an orchestral version being made someday.


琴(箏):伊藤江里菜) Koto: ITÔ, Erina (personal blog, links to professional sites)

尺八:辻本好美 Shakuhachi: TSUJIMOTO, Yoshimi (official site)

十七絃箏:渡部祐子 17-string koto1: WATABE, Yûko (official site)

Criminally, the original video has (at this writing) only 3,821 views on YouTube. The Digg imbed that brought it to many people’s attention, and whatever source they linked from — which is definitely not the original given the watermark on Digg’s version of the video — must have many times that by now, if not hundreds of times more. It’s terrible that the original creators of content that goes viral often don’t get properly credited.

  1. A traditional koto has 13 strings. The much later variant “bass” 17-string koto added strings and construction elements for a different pitch, and has a different playing style.

Streaming Music Services Aren’t a Thing in Japan

Why I can’t really get excited about the streaming music services that seem to be all the rage with kids these days:

  • Pandora: not available in Japan
  • Spotify: not available in Japan
  • iTunes Radio: not available in Japan
  • Beats Radio: not available in Japan
  • Google Play Music: missing from the Google Play Store
  • Rdio: not available in Japan

The two streaming services that are available are solidly Japanese-oriented: Sony Music Unlimited and Recochoku.

Sony Music Unlimited

Sony Music Unlimited

レコチョク (Recochoku)

レコチョク (Recochoku)

Yeah, I know, I’d never heard of them either, despite living here.

In an article from last year, Recochoku was featured in the Japan Times in an article about streaming services. It was originally only available for Japanese feature phones from the surprisingly “ancient” (in ’net terms) time of 2001, per The Bridge. Recochoku is an affiliate of Avex Group, a holding company for multiple entertainment subsidiaries (Japanese-language page).

Sony and Avex alone represent roughly 18% of all Japanese music sales, and I wouldn’t expect either organization to voluntarily participate together in a unified streaming service unless there was an enormous upside for them. And they’d still probably insist on running their own competing services.

Given how the Japanese market usually works, and particularly how Sony chooses to operate, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for any foreign incumbent to make inroads in the market. The only one that might have a chance is Apple, and that only because of the popularity of the iPhone and existing deals with distribution through the iTunes store to provide leverage. Beats music alone would have been a total non-starter in Japan. With Apple’s support? It probably still won’t be available for years, if ever.

Japanese Fusion Blues

George plays Blues guitar like he grew up in the south, and Noriko plays Blues shamisen like … Wait, Blues shamisen? Yep, and she’s damn good! Here’s a YouTube clip of them playing on Australia’s Got Talent last year.

I tracked down George’s web page and Noriko’s Facebook page. There are more video clips and music links there.