Do you use a shuffle function when you're listening to music? I noticed a month or so ago that whenever I listen to music on my MacBook or iPod, I use the Shuffle option rather than listening to full albums. I tell myself that I am using it because it lets me get on with what I need to do without having to stop to think about what I'm listening to next, and that it allows for some great random connections between songs, but I've come to realize that I'm lying to myself. I think it's time I gave up on shuffle and went back to listening to music the way the artists intended.
While shuffle can yield some wonderfully appropriate transitions between songs (from this evening: Jamie Cullum's Wind Cries Mary to Travis' Flowers in the Window, the Kaiser Chiefs' Oh My God to Die Toten Hosen's Warum Werde Ich Nicht Satt, the B-52s Junebug to R.E.M.'s Stand), it can also create some jarring juxtapositions (Franz Ferdinand's Michael to Nothing from A Chorus Line, Rufus Wainwright's Gray Gardens to System of a Down's Toxic). Whenever I get a bad transition, I notice it, and hit skip or reshuffle, so using shuffle doesn't necessarily save me any time or thought. In fact, it can break my concentration, and it happens as often as not.
Furthermore, according to some of my friends, shuffling songs goes against the spirit of the music and intentions of the artist. I didn't use to agree, but I'm starting to see their point. Assuming an album was assembled by its musicians, there is probably a reason behind the placement of the songs, a way they interconnect. Particular songs may suffer by being removed from their environment, and the mood or message may be lost. I'd wager there are people who never listen to whole albums straight through anymore, and that is a shame, because how then can they truly judge a song's effect without its intended context.
I have decided to make a change: no more shuffling. I will only listen to full albums. In one month, I'll look at what I've been listening to and see if there are any songs I've developed a new appreciation for after having listened to them in their original context. Would any of you care to join me in saying goodbye to shuffle, even for a month, and seeing what happens?