In Praise of Spotify Ads

When my friends exclaim “DJ Frei,” the onus to select music/create a playlist for the evening falls on me.

I’m no Uncle Doogs, but my taste in music is pretty well-respected. You might hear Selena Gomez’s “Kill Em With Kindness” bumping out of my earbuds, my malleus, incus and stapes dancing along to the upbeat drum track and her  crooning (Selena is working her way up my list of celebrity crushes not because of her ethereal comeliness as much as her seemingly very genuine kind-heartedness). You might feel assaulted when I put Baaba Maal on full blast and his opening vocals to “Yoolelle – Maman” damn near max out my speakers. And you might be brought back to my favorite scene from Amadeus, when Salieri praises Mozart’s single and simple hanging note in “Serenade No. 10.” These are not intended to be humble-brags re: the fact that I have a grasp on a wide array of genres, though they might come across that way. I was a musician before I was a writer, and in my writing I try to employ the things I learned white sitting behind the drum kit, sweating over the marimba (not my forte), or falling into, over and around the Pythagorean fourths and fifths of Jamaican steel pans.

The preceding paragraph is a long winded and self-indulgent way of saying music is a big part of my life.

Yet I refuse to buy a Spotify premium subscription. It’s not that I think the $10 per month fee is exorbitant. I even have a .edu email address–I will for the next year and a half–so that price tag gets docked to a mere $5 per month for me. The cost of a Heineken (which sounds terrible right now). For somebody who claims to love music so much, why not just bite the bullet, cough up a wrinkly Lincoln and enjoy the ability to listen to commercial-free music on a number of devices with or without a wifi connection?

Because, in a strange way, I enjoy Spotify ads.

I’m not talking about O’Reilly auto parts–every time I hear the “Oh-Oh-Oh! O’Reillyyyyyyy! Auto Parts! (Horn)” I contemplate removing my belt from my waist and stringing myself up from the nearest doorknob.

But even some of the O’Reilly commercials (the ones featuring the voice of Kronk from Emperor’s New Groove) make me laugh. The SquareSpace commercials that encourage listeners to follow their passions and make websites were a driving force between my decision to start this blog. And even some of the commercials that promote new music and new Spotify playlists are helpful to me in discovering songs I never would’ve known about otherwise (I credit Spotify for introducing me to Miike Snow’s “Genghis Khan” before it was as popular as it’s become).

Mainly, the power of Spotify ads is in their ability to delay gratification and in their unpredictability. Sometimes it’s just one 30 second ad that breaks up songs. Sometimes it’s a bunch of ads that seem to take an eternity. You never know what you’re going to end up with, but you’re guaranteed once that ad starts that there’s something standing between yo and the song you want to hear.

Let’s say I really want to dance along to–back to Selena Gomez–“Hands to Myself.” I’ve got it lined up as the next song, ready to play right after the current song is done. The song reaches its closing moments and I brace myself for Selena–muscles loose and limber in preparation of three minutes and twenty-one seconds of uninterrupted and shameless dancing, my body prepared to wriggle in all sorts of pseudo-erotic ways. Just as I get ready for my signature body-roll, boom–a Spotify ad. This time it’s the annoying Bacardi one that opens up with high-pitched vocals. I cringe. My body is tense. I hold my breath, quietly irate. The ad comes to a close–then, boom–another one. This time for McDonald’s. Quietly irate James is usurped by outwardly furious James. Bacardi draws to an end. Finally, Selena will soon be serenading me as I move like water across the private dance floor that is my kitchen, gesticulating and gyrating before my invisible audience, probably Snapchatting the performance to my friends who will click through my 10 second videos in annoyance.

But wait–another ad! This time an ad for Spotify premium. They do this on purpose–providing the listener with the solution to the problem they’re currently dealing with.

“Sick of feeling the way you feel right now? That Bacardi ad really sucks, eh? Wanna boycott McDonalds, too? Probably do, I bet. How do you feel? Quietly irate? No, you must be outwardly furious by now! Buy Spotify premium and never feel this way again!” (This is an embellished transcript.)

Finally Selena plays! The warm refreshing wave of her sweet sultry vocals washes over my body as it’s loose again and billowing like an inflatable air-dancer outside of a Texaco station. I genuflect to the beat, dropping to a knee in thanks for the music that finally bumps loudly through my speakers. Oh how much sweeter this music sounds after enduring those Spotify ads! A cool drink of water after an arid trek through bone-dry commercial desert. It’s not a fata morgana–this is reality! A reality akin to being fully immersed in a hot spring of  phantasmagorical elation with the love of my life, Selena Gomez!

That’s how it feels to make it through Spotify’s onslaught of advertisements to the promised land that Selena Gomez represents. This joy can only exist as long as its foil exists–and its foil is “Oh-oh-oh-O’Reilly.” Thus, I will keep my wrinkled Lincoln in my pocket and put it towards a coffee–because ample caffeination is required for proper pseudo-erotic gyration after a prolonged wait to hear Selena Gomez to sing about her metaphorical gin and juice, which I like to imagine is a reference to the author of this post. t


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