When Pandora burst onto the scene 14 years ago, it quickly established itself as a terrific, and free, music-streaming website that could help you discover new music. Since its launch, however, there are quite a few other services (like Songza and Spotify) that promise the same thing, if not with more control.
That’s why Pandora’s custom genre stations have become a special identifier for the company. Pandora has used its musical identification software to collect and organize more than 600 playlists centered around a musical style, mood, or cultural trend –– many of which you’ve probably never heard before.
These genre playlists are created through a collaboration between the teams led by Pandora executives Michael Addicott, manager of curation, and Steve Hogan, who mans the company’s Music Genome Project, the patented, Pandora-specific system that analyzes around 400 musical attributes in order to categorize songs.
"We’re describing things like whether the song’s in a minor key or major key; how simple or sophisticated the harmony is; rhythmically what’s going on; qualities of the lead vocal, whether it’s a lighter, breathy, smooth, gritty voice; a high or low voice, male or female vocal," Hogan told Yahoo Tech. "Basically trying to get a musical blueprint of every individual song."
After it’s been run through the Genome, Addicott’s team sifts through the music and identifies the top ten percent, or so, that best matches a genre. Pandora recently used this process on a new John Philip Sousa-themed list (called Sousapalooza) that’s set to be released before the Fourth of July.
Until then, you should know that the list of little-known Pandora genres is longer than you think. Below, here are some of the more niche genre stations you can listen to in your Web browser, with descriptions from the experts themselves:
Yacht Rock: ’70s, light beachy vibe; light rock for boating and about boats. Artists include Hall & Oates, Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers, and Michael McDonald.
Bro Country: Has acts like Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton, and Eric Church.
Viking Metal: Scandinavian, pagan worship themes; beer drinking/beer hall types of rhythms.
Ridiculous Relatives Comedy: Comedians talking about their families, including comics John Mulaney, Kevin Hart, Louis C.K., and Joe Matarese.
Lowrider Oldies: Polished R&B; smooth and classic. Includes artists like Smokey Robinson, Al Green, and The Temptations.
Freak Folk: Avant garde, artsy folk. Music that sounds like Devendra Banhart.
Drone: Artsy techno, ambient art music; non-New Age side of ambient. Includes artists like Brian Eno and Steve Roach.
Boogaloo: Funk, Latin, popular in the ’60s. Includes artists like Ray Baretto, Ricardo Ray, Willie Cologne, and Pete Rodriguez.
Pride Party: Feel-good, pop songs about being fly. Confidence boosters, good dance beats. Lady Gaga, David Guetta, etc.
Film Scores: Plays “epic” soundtracks. One comment from a person is that this station makes you feel like your life is a movie.
Go ahead and try a few.