I Can't Get Behind That
There’s been some hubbub in my newsreader today over Microsoft’s latest attempt to stay relevant to whatever generation I’m in. This one came from Microsoft Research, a division happily exempted from producing anything immediately useful in lieu of creating fun proof-of-concept technology like Surface. We warmly welcome Songsmith, a music creation app presumably in response to GarageBand. And only a couple years late!
Don’t get me wrong. The concept is very cool. You sing along with a drum track to your computer’s audio in, and Songsmith writes a backing track for you, complete with verse- and chorus-like structure and drum fills and a coda and everything. I’m not sure if it attempts to match your key or if that’s just determined by the “Mood” and “Style” settings. Either way, it’s a pretty easy way to record some music by yourself on those cold, lonely nights…
But seriously, the tracks end up sounding like something out of that two-octave Casio keyboard I had when I was seven. It’s bad. Real bad. Real real real bad. Honestly, I can’t tell if those last two links are supposed to be proper demos or if they’re parodies. It’s a burden Microsoft has borne before with their awful Springsteen-esque Vista promo and ill-fated advertising run with Jerry Seinfeld.
Seems to me that when the audience doesn’t get the punch line, the joke’s probably on you.
Naturally, I don’t know all the details behind Songsmith or why they limited themselves to corny MIDI instrumentation. I probably wouldn’t be able to make fun of it if I did. But I do know that in a couple of hours, an utterly talentless hack like myself managed to throw together a sweet dance track in GarageBand just using some looped samples and an onscreen piano:
Yes, it’s at least 50% samples, but I layered those bitches like a pro. And to Apple’s credit, they actually sound good.
So chalk it up as another example of Microsoft blundering the execution of a fun idea. Call me an Apple fanboy — since I am — but as long as Microsoft continues to ignore the importance of polish in their work, then in the words of the inimitable Henry Rollins, “I can’t get behind that.”
Actually, that might’ve been William Shatner…