Review: Beats Music proves it has some heart

Jan 29, 2014 by Ryan Nakashima
Review: Beats Music proves it has some heart
This screenshot shows a frame grab of Beats Music. Beats Music comes from Beats Electronics, the headphone-maker backed by hip-hop mogul Dr. Dre and former music executive Jimmy Iovine. (AP Photo/Beats Music)

There's no shortage of music subscription services that offer unlimited streaming for a monthly fee. The conceit of the latest offering, Beats Music, is that its playlists and other recommendations are curated by warm-blooded humans, not robots.

As CEO Ian Rogers proclaims, "Algorithms can do 'sounds like.' They can't do 'feels like.'"

Beats Music comes from Beats Electronics, the headphone-maker backed by hip-hop mogul Dr. Dre and former music executive Jimmy Iovine.

For $10 a month, you get unlimited streaming and song downloading for offline listening. Downloaded songs expire once you cancel the subscription. AT&T customers are also eligible for a $15-a-month family plan for as many as five family members. You can sign up for a 90-day free trial, but there's no free, ad-supported version like some of its rivals.

Beats Music has its roots in the MOG streaming service, which Beats Electronics bought in 2012. Beats Music has a more playful interface than MOG, which was mostly utilitarian. Beats also introduces a few ways to discover both new and old material.

Apps for Apple and Android devices are available now, with a Windows Phone version promised soon. Computer users can listen through their Web browser. And like other streaming services, you can choose specific songs, albums or artists on your own. Beats Music has a catalog of more than 20 million songs, which is comparable to its rivals.

I began by going through a get-to-know-you sequence for new users, picking a few genres and artists I like. Somewhat flustered by the scarcity of choices, I picked "Sting," ''Katy Perry" and "Harry Connick Jr." and the genre "Pop." I'm glad I was discerning about these choices (redoing them several times), because eventually I was presented with something I liked.

The Beats Music app tries to take the information you enter in order to present you with a variety of albums and playlists that are "Just For You."

Another section for recommendations, dubbed "The Sentence," prompts you to fill in blanks to establish what you'd like to hear, but you end up with silly sentences like "I'm in the shower & feel like ordering in with my family to Indie." It's reminiscent of Allrecipes' "Dinner Spinner" except I'm not sure what ingredients I'm adding in. I mostly skipped this game because I found the resulting choices to be far too random.

Another "Highlights" section made more sense, like a playlist of the "2014 Grammy Winners."

One recommendation I liked from the "Just For You" section was a playlist called "Young Lovers Heartbreak Mix." If you have a rainy day—or in drought-plagued Los Angeles, at least a few hours with nothing better to do—it's worth a listen.

The 25-song, 96-minute playlist starts off slowly with the piano ballad "Say Something" by A Great Big World. It builds gradually, ramping up with the rise-from-the-ashes fourth song "Skyscraper" by Demi Lovato. It hits a crescendo between songs 13 and 14, when "Don't Speak," Gwen Stefani's 1996 hit with her band, No Doubt, crashes into Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" from last year. Somewhat appropriately, the playlist ends with Taylor Swift's power recovery "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together."

The app says the playlist was created by "Beats Pop," but the curator was actually Arjan Timmermans, the popular blogger behind ArjanWrites.com. Hired as the head of pop and dance programming at Beats Music last year, Timmermans is one of nine real people who put some 5,000 playlists together for Beats Music. (Neither Dre nor Iovine are among them).

The playlist was designed for "a teenager who got their heart broken for the first time," Timmermans said in an interview. The songs—a mix of hits by current teen idols and breakup classics like "Don't Speak"—are meant to work together emotionally, he said, telling the listener, "It's OK to be sad, but I can move through this."

The playlist has a beginning, middle and an end and runs about as long as a movie. And I found that some songs' lyrics work together back-to-back, like the way Stefani's line "don't tell me 'cause it hurts" runs into Cyrus' "don't you ever say I just walked away, I will always want you."

That's a link I don't see a machine making these days. For people, it's probably a subconscious connection buried deep down there somewhere.

I am no teenager anymore, am happily married and am not the 's presumptive audience. But as a sampling of what Beats Music has to offer, it shows me this app has a soul.

Explore further: Digital music service Beats Music to launch in Jan

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Beats headphone maker buys MOG music service

Jul 02, 2012

(AP) — Upscale headphone maker Beats Electronics is buying music subscription service MOG in an attempt to improve what goes into playback devices as much as what comes out of them.

Google's music plan part of fresh wave of upgrades

May 16, 2013

Google Inc. unveiled a streaming music service called All Access that blends songs users have already uploaded to their online libraries with millions of other tracks for a $10 monthly fee. The service puts the Internet ...

Spotify doesn't quite hit the spot

Sep 16, 2011

Subscription services have been touted as the future of music for the past decade. But at least in this country, they've never taken off.

Review: Google music plan solid, serendipitous

May 23, 2013

Google's new music service offers a lot of eye candy to go with the tunes. The song selection of around 18 million tracks is comparable to popular services such as Spotify and Rhapsody, and a myriad of playlists ...

Recommended for you

US warns shops to watch for customer data hacking

11 hours ago

The US Department of Homeland Security on Friday warned businesses to watch for hackers targeting customer data with malicious computer code like that used against retail giant Target.

Fitbit to Schumer: We don't sell personal data

Aug 22, 2014

The maker of a popular line of wearable fitness-tracking devices says it has never sold personal data to advertisers, contrary to concerns raised by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

Should you be worried about paid editors on Wikipedia?

Aug 22, 2014

Whether you trust it or ignore it, Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world and accessed by millions of people every day. So would you trust it any more (or even less) if you knew people ...

How much do we really know about privacy on Facebook?

Aug 22, 2014

The recent furore about the Facebook Messenger app has unearthed an interesting question: how far are we willing to allow our privacy to be pushed for our social connections? In the case of the Facebook ...

Philippines makes arrests in online extortion ring

Aug 22, 2014

Philippine police have arrested eight suspected members of an online syndicate accused of blackmailing more than 1,000 Hong Kong and Singapore residents after luring them into exposing themselves in front of webcam, an official ...

Google to help boost Greece's tourism industry

Aug 21, 2014

Internet giant Google will offer management courses to 3,000 tourism businesses on the island of Crete as part of an initiative to promote the sector in Greece, industry union Sete said on Thursday.

User comments : 0