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October 5, 2009 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Caressing Jackson’s ego


A look inside the psyche of an editor via musical interpretation

They say the eyes are the window to the soul, but I believe a person’s iTunes library gives a better indication of their character and taste. Scrolling through someone’s music collection sheds light on both their personal preferences and the depth of their passion, while underlining the common ground between you (hello, instant friendship!). Viz: it’s unlikely that I’ll have much in common (at least in terms of musical interests) with someone whose library is comprised entirely of bubblegum pop and modern R&B—but if your copy of In The Aeroplane Over the Sea is preceded by Nelly Furtado’s Loose, as mine is, I’d suggest we talked tunes over a coffee or something. And if you’ve listened to Talking Heads’ ‘This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)’ more than sixty times, I’d call “snap!”, and make you a friendship bracelet or something, and it would be awesome.

And then there’s the very valid issue of presentation. An ordered library speaks of an ordered mind, as well as being one of the most immediate signs of music fanaticism/nerdiness. Do all albums appear with their correct artwork and release dates? Are tracks numbered, guest appearances duly noted, genres laboriously defined? Or, on the other side of the coin—are there hundreds of songs (‘Track 01’) by that most prolific and diverse of musicians, Unknown Artist?

Either way, I maintain that one’s iTunes library gives a more accurate representation of one’s character than any Facebook personality test ever could. To examine this theory, Jackson James Wood, media personality and Salient editor for 2009, has kindly granted me an all-access pass to his personal music collection, which I’ve been curious about ever since I started writing for the magazine in April of this year. A source close to JJW piqued my interest by describing his library as being “like all Weird Al and MC Chris”—and with that in mind, let’s take a look at the music behind the man.

JJW sent me a .pdf listing the albums that comprise his library, and the first thing that struck me was that there were a lot of them. A lot: 210.34 GB, 107.4 days’ worth. Like a person with 500+ Facebook friends, this suggested “a worrying lack of discernment”, to quote Kim Wheatley. Indeed, this did seem to be the most immediate challenge with reviewing JJW’s library. No one could ever find the time to know the ins and outs of 38, 405 songs—especially not someone with the hectic schedule of the editor of an award-winning weekly magazine. Even in my own modest library of 10005 songs, iTunes informs me that I have a fifth of that number still to listen to: who knows what proportion of his library JJW is even aware of possessing.

As for the music: well, my anonymous source’s statement was confirmed by the presence of fourteen Weird Al albums in his library, including the hard-to-find Polka Party! (points for obscurity). He also has Ultimate Manilow; the entire back catalogue of Richard Cheese; Aquarium by Aqua; The Bangles; James Blunt; and a ‘best of’ Frankie Goes To Hollywood. At first, I was taken aback that someone with such… well, awful taste in music was capable of dressing himself every day, let alone running a publication read by 16,000 students each week. However, among the crap, there are absolute gems (Flying Lotus’ 1983, Lemon Jelly, MF Doom) that I myself had to be put on to by cooler and more onto-it friends, as well as hipster favourites such as Lykke Li, M. Ward, Grizzly Bear, and No Age.

This dizzying range of quality is perplexing at best. It’s like a hipster and his tween-aged sister have combined their individual collections—or, as I prefer to imagine, a Jekyll-and-Hide-type scenario where a Pitchfork-reading twenty-something, and a child with a penchant for novelty records and The Edge, struggle for supremacy over one body and one iTunes library. Had JJW provided details of individual tracks’ play counts, I’d have had an idea of which persona was victorious most often—although I have a sneaking suspicion it might be the mainstream kid (seriously, no one needs fourteen Weird Al albums).

Although it’s impossible for me to verify his claim that he has “nine-tenths” of the album artwork in his library (no mean feat considering its size), his tags seemed to be largely correct, bar Bat Out of Hell rather amusingly being assigned to the artist ‘Meat Load’. When confronted about this, JJW tried to pass it off as an intentional witticism, to which I respond: whatevs.

In conclusion, therefore, JJW gets the thumbs-up for his diverse library (and for making the effort to maintain it with artwork and correct tags), but points retracted for both its grotesque size and its overwhelmingly terrible inclusions. JJW, if you’re reading, here’s my advice: have a clean-out, The Big Stuff-style. Keep the albums you love, the albums you like, the albums you intend to listen to, and albums by artists you’ve heard of—and delete everything else. Then, and only then, will we talk friendship bracelets.


About the Author ()

Elle started out at Salient reviewing music. In 2010, she wrote features and Animal of The Week, which an informal poll revealed to be 40% of Victoria students' favourite part of the magazine. Alongside Uther Dean, she was co-editor for 2011. In 2012, she is chief features writer.

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