[Cultural Attachment]

A relationship with Apple sours when musical codependency goes bad

Smith Galtney

Ever since 2004, when I bought my first laptop (rest in peace, iBook G4), I have happily handed my will over to the care of Apple. I’ve dumped thousands of CDs into iTunes. I’ve bought iMacs, iPods, iPhones (no iPad … yet), pledging longtime allegiance to the all-encompassing iLife. “It’s sexy,” a friend said a few years back. We laughed at how ridiculous we sounded, but yes, we actually thought Apple was hot! What’s sexier than something that archives all your jumbled stuff—mistreated photos, ignored home movies, disorganized music collection—and makes you believe it all amounts to something?

But 2015 was marked by an increasing sense that Apple doesn’t care about my stuff anymore. And like an idiot who married quickly just because he/she made me feel special, I’m wondering how and if I can get out.

It all came to a head this summer, with the launch of Apple Music. Given my Mac love, you’d think a service that augments my iTunes library with streaming perks would be heaven, right? But Facebook friends’ horror stories made it sound like registering for Apple Music summoned a hologram of Tim Cook that broke into your house, tossed out your hard drive and replaced your library with nothing but U2 and Dr. Dre tracks. I’m joking, but not entirely—users who failed to check the proper boxes found their mp3s replaced with alternate versions, or encoded with rights-management thingamajigs that prevented iPhone play, or, in one unfortunate case, copied over with 6 million Lorde songs.

I’ve always known the purpose of iTunes was to lure me to the iTunes Store. For years, each upgrade redesigned the interface for maximum impulse purchasing. They also introduced the iPod Touch and killed off the iPod Classic, because why the hell would anyone want a device that doesn’t let you buy sh*t? I was okay with all that. But now the primary function of iTunes is to push you into Apple Music, and Apple Music’s primary function is to suck your music collection into the cloud. And that’s not cool. Not for me, at least.

Call me old-fashioned, but I still like having digital copies of my music stored on 4-terabyte hard drives. I’ve been streaming new releases for years, but the whole “lifestyle” ideology behind streaming services—how they’re like a cool friend who’ll introduce you to new things—is malarkey. My brother-in-law recently got me into Spotify’s Discover Weekly, a playlist that updates every Monday based on your profile’s activity. I thought it was the coolest thing ever at first, but like anything driven by an algorithm, it was obvious only some of my activity was getting analyzed. Excuse me, but I do check in with 21st-century stuff like Azealia Banks and Kaputt and Butterfly Child, so why does it keep feeding me Van Morrison and Echo & The Bunnymen? Am I just “old guy” to you?!

Remember that scene in Her when he tells his device, “Play a melancholy song”? That seems to be where all of this is heading, I guess. But that movie left me feeling really sad. And when I feel sad, I’m the kind of person who likes to choose and play my own melancholy song. Even more depressing, reports have surfaced that the new iPhone won’t even have a headphone jack, so it looks like my Apple relationship woes will continue to flourish in 2016. Happy Codependent New Year!

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