I like it when I get a story from something I’m listening to. Sometimes the story is told by the lyrics themselves, like with a good country ballad. Even better, though, is when there is a backstory. It makes everything much more meaningful knowing, for instance, that Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors album was recorded while both couples in the band were breaking up, or that Beethoven wrote his latest and greatest works when he was completely deaf and could no longer make his living as a performer. There’s a lot more impact when you don’t just know the what and the how, but also the WHY of a piece of art.
To this end, Spotify just rolled out a new feature called “Behind the Lyrics.” They’ve teamed up with the site Genius.com to provide lyrics, interviews and commentary while the song is playing. When I checked out their first playlist - “Behind the Lyrics (Hip Hop)” - “These Walls” by Kendrick Lamar was the first song to come up. I’ve always liked the song, but the sadness of the lyrics became much more real to me once I learned that it is a true story of murder, sex, betrayal, revenge and regret. Reading my iPhone allowed the song to move me in a much deeper way.
I’ve had the opinion that digital streaming has diluted our musical experience. There’s a detachment that happens - a loss of identity and ownership - when we can’t touch and see and display our collection. But as much as I feel this way, I have to say that anything that can add a layer of relevance to the music we listen to is a work of… genius.