Just a few months ago, I realized that my musical diet hadn't changed much since the early 1990s. The XM satellite radio in my new car featured dozens of ad-free radio stations, but I only listened to two: I usually played the station playing hits from my college years (named Lithium, after the Nirvana song), and occasionally tuned into one playing songs from the '80s.
It was a sad and sudden epiphany: I had evolved, but not the music I listened to, with the exception of a few happy discoveries like The Dresden Dolls and Lily Allen. I immediately thought back to an old Margaret Cho comedy routine, when she imagines Generation X'ers in a nursing home in the future, listening to oldies on the radio. "Turn up 'Hungry Like the Wolf'," she says.
I set out to discover new music. I called this my Five-Year Plan -- to begin focusing on singers and bands that had been around for less than five years. These were my tools:
- Sirius XM (née XM), which plays music that I've never heard on mainstream radio stations
- Shazam, a free app for the iPhone that helps identify any song that's playing. Once the song is tagged, you have a handy list of songs you like, which comes in handy when you go home and want to check out songs and build a playlist in ...
- iTunes and the iTunes store.
- my iPhone.
I didn't set out on the Five-Year Plan to regain my youth or replace my favorite bands from the early '90s. I'll remain an R.E.M. fan for life. I merely saw a place in my life where I was getting stale, and I shook things up. I'm glad I did.
1 Yes, I know it's not a dial anymore.