Since the rise of the iPod as a cultural icon, writers and music fans have written countless tributes to the random shuffle function. The argument goes that human curators are no longer needed, the random switches of style to style are bracing and interesting, and albums are absolutely a thing of the past.
Today at the barbershop, the house sound system played "21st Century Schizoid Man" by King Crimson, followed by some unrecognizable metal, followed by Alicia Keys, followed by some female-fronted punk that sounded a little like X but wasn't, followed by "No Quarter" by Led Zeppelin. I commented to the heavily tattooed guy cutting my hair that this was the most random shuffle assortment I'd heard in a long time.
His whispered confession: he had grown to hate the shuffle feature, and the fact that the employees running the sound system were using it was driving him crazy. "It's either black or white, there's nothing in between." He claimed he never used it anymore on his own iPod, preferring to pick songs or albums by hand.
I still enjoy the shuffle technique--including on my iPod Shuffle, which I set to suck a random assortment from all my music, rather than creating specific playlists or sub-categories of music for it to select from. But occasionally I do get a jarring transition from loud to soft or from favorite song to barely-makes-the-cut. Skipping the offending song usually gets me back in the groove, but sometimes it takes two or three skips to get another one I like. I can imagine that over time this might grow tiresome. Especially if I didn't take the time to sit in front of my stereo every weekend for at least a little while and listen to an album the old-fashioned way.
I wonder, is this the beginning of a backlash? Will longtime MP3 player fanatics tire of random shuffle first? Will they soon be preaching the joys of listening to albums straight through? Or was this a mere isolated incident? Let me know in the comments....