The Streaming Alternative I Didn’t Know I Needed

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The lease on my car ran out over the holidays, and I had to get a new one. Thanks to my lease broker, Israel, the process was painless, and within 24 hours of me choosing my new ride, it was dropped off at my house and the old one was whisked away, never to be seen again. Before he left, Israel gave me a crash course in the car's new technology and features. I wasn’t super curious about the interior lighting options or paddle-shifting, but the free trial of SiriusXM piqued my interest.

Growing up, radio was a lifeline, the only place I discovered new music. The DJs were often crass, “edgy” and unfunny, but as a utility, radio was unmatched. And then we entered the streaming era. Now I only hear radio in the back of an Uber ride across town or when I rent a car and can't get CarPlay to load.

I naively always assumed SiriusXM was, for lack of a better term, boomer shit. A place for upper-class Dads in the suburbs to listen to Don Henley, old-school style sports talk, and, of course, the king of all media and the star of the platform, Howard Stern. I love Stern; he is a legend and master of the craft, but I don’t love him enough to sign up for another paid service. But thanks to the fine people at BMW of Sherman Oaks, I have been able to kick the tires on SiriusXM, and I am all in.

People never stopped listening to music—in fact, we’re less inclined than ever to be left alone with our thoughts. But streaming has forced us to constantly DJ for ourselves or surrender to soulless algorithms. These are the same reasons I find streaming television so laborious, too. Sifting through the thousands of movies, documentaries, and television shows is a full-time job. By the time you choose something, it’s bedtime. The freedom of getting into my car, turning it on, and hearing music I actually like was a feeling I had not experienced in years.

The options on SiriusXM are endless but, crucially, manageable. As I have spoken to friends about my newfound love for the service, I have found a tribe of fellow heads who have shared their tips and advice for how to use it. If you want an unplugged, mellow vibe, “The Coffee House” is the station for you. You are in luck if you want to live in John Mayer, Kelly Clarkson, Pitbull, or Andy Cohen’s worlds; they all have stations that play music they have selected, with some personal anecdotes thrown in for good measure. “SiriusXMU” mimics college radio, allowing me to hear some of my favorites like Momma, Slow Pulp, and Hovvdy (it also taught me that Cold War Kids and Local Natives are still popular). “TikTok Radio” makes me feel extremely old, but I now know what Tate McRae actually sounds like. “Lithium” is a carbon copy of the alternative station I grew up listening to, so you can hear Bush, The Sundays, Oasis, and R.E.M. all in one place. “Flex2K” plays a lot of 50 Cent, which is perfect. There are also stations dedicated to single artists: Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, The Grateful Dead, The Beatles, and Pearl Jam.

It might sound overwhelming, but you can flip through these stations and hear music you like chosen by human beings. It’s the opposite of our “lofi beats to relax/study to” culture. Decision fatigue is real, and I am as surprised as you are to find out SiriusXM Radio is the solution I didn’t know I needed.

Originally Appeared on GQ