Beats Music wants to make streaming music cool. Released in January, its’ creators have been trying to do everything to get you to shell out $10 a month for another music app (no free version, sorry). The result? The best streaming service on the market, yet with plenty of room to improve.
Let’s start at the beginning. When you first download Beats you’ll be greeted by the familiar “Enter Your Password Here” page. And then…you find something different. You’re asked to select your favorite music genres, then artists. I chose rock, punk, and folk for the former, then Bob Dylan, The White Stripes, and The Rolling Stones for the latter. Before long, a “Just For You” page popped up, suggesting a playlist titled “Coffee Shop Folk” and an album by the Black Keys. Wow, I thought.
What sets this app apart most are the playlists, which are carefully selected groups of 10-15 songs. There’s thousands of them, so, naturally, the quality ranges. The “Best of 60’s Rock” mix manages to be both by-the-book and weirdly obscure, a disappointing combination. The “Influences” playlists, meanwhile, dissect specific musicians’ idols with phenomenal results; “R.E.M.: Influences” serves up The Velvet Underground, David Bowie, The Beach Boys, Patti Smith, and Talking Heads.
Another swipe will bring you to the much touted “Sentence” feature, which asks where you are, what you feel like doing, who you’re with, and your preferred music genre. “I’m At The Mall and Feel Like Sleeping In With Rock Stars To Punk” brings up The Jam and Bad Religion, while “I’m In The Desert and Feel Like Dancing with My Co-Workers to Jazz Vocals” plays Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald. Creative as it may be, this feature seems useless when you can select from 20 million songs on demand.
One more swipe and you’ll find “Highlights”, a curated selection of playlists and albums updated daily. After that, you’re brought to “Find It”, which let’s you scroll through genres and activity-centered playlists. Within “Find It”, there’s a “Curators” section where Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Ellen DeGenres, and more share playlists.
Beats’ design, meanwhile, is pretty and sleek but too often feels confusing where it should be simple. Simply searching for a song turns into an elaborate pain; probably because you’re supposed to listen to suggested music and not find your own.
There are other flaws. Early glitches have been (mostly) sorted out but the app is painfully slow when loading songs. Even the recommendation system starts to show its faults after a few months. (After listening to every Arcade Fire album multiple times, I was met with an “Intro to Arcade Fire” playlist. Really?).
It’s important to remember that Beats is at the beginning of it’s journey. If users are willing to let it strengthen it’s rhythm, you’ll be rewarded with the best streaming app on the market.