Commentary

Spotify Goes After Novice Streamers With 'Drawn And Recorded'

I’m about to enter into a shotgun marriage with Spotify. My favorite, uh, “music discovery” site recently disappeared under circumstances that may or may not have involved INTERPOL, so I now find myself confronting the same stream-or-bust dilemma that has aurally emasculated fellow FLAC rats in recent years. This feels like the ultimate pivot point in my life as a music fan. It is the hill upon which I fear I shall perish.

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Of all the streaming services, Spotify is the only real option, right? Apple Music and Tidal have limited catalogs and interfaces that are about as intuitive as a first-gen Zune. As far as long-term investments go, Pono ranks right up there with oceanside real estate in Miami. I love me some Amazon Prime (and the limited musical goodies that come with it), but really, Amazon: You already control 90 percent of the content and commercial traffic in and around my house. Y’all gotta earn those last bits.

So Spotify it is. I’ve already started contemplating the less crucial aspects of a Spotify membership, like “will my Apple phone forgive me?” and “who is Drake?” What’s next is the stuff that will determine whether I become a true Spotifier (Spotifyian? Spotbot?): First, whether the usability bar has been lowered to a point that tech clods won’t trip over it; and second, whether the offering has been optimized for middle-aged wingnuts who believe popular music peaked in October 1992.

I can’t speak to my first concern just yet - the app seems to do what it’s supposed to do, which is to beam a steady stream of riffage into the dad-rock receptors embedded within my cerebrum - but I’m entirely sold on the second one. And that has less to do with the service itself than it does “Drawn and Recorded,” a Spotify video series that recasts popular-music lore in animated form.

Let me get right to the point: I love everything about “Drawn and Recorded.” I love that it doesn’t exist within the broad confines of the music-doc genre, instead focusing on isolated moments in the professional and personal arcs of some of popular music’s grandest talents. I love the musical diversity; the first batch of episodes features Louis Armstrong, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Merle Haggard and Kurt Cobain, among others. I love the primitive animation, which seeks less to replicate each artist’s distinctive physical features than it does to sketch them the way I would’ve on a Trap per Keeper binder in eighth grade.

But what I love most of all is the casual, super-stoned-friends-telling-stories-by-the-campfire vibe of the entire operation. The creators did Spotify users a solid by enlisting T-Bone Burnett, a fellow who’s produced someprettyokaymusic in his day, to narrate the series. His best deadpan moments (“capitalism is very resilient,” at the end of the Cobain episode detailing the provenance of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”; “by the time their clothes had dried, they were friends again,” during a retelling of a skirmish involving Brian Jones, Mick Jagger and a moat) can stand alongside anything in the Christopher Guest or Charles Grodin deadpan canon. That’s hallowed ground.

True, the “Drawn and Recorded” clips don’t address my borderline pathological need to achieve physical and digital dominion over the music I play. It’s also a bit annoying that several of the videos are only accessible within the mobile realm.

That said, short of hiring Ray Davies to show up at would-be listeners’ houses and deliver a personal sales pitch, Spotify couldn’t have come up with a better way to tout its hardcore-music-fan bona fides to skeptical, behind-the-times people like me. I’m excited about the brand and I’ve barely interacted with it. This’ll be fun.
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