Pandora: your own personal computerized DJ.
Shout-out to Susie Bright for the link. Since I'm lazy tonight, I'm going to just cutnpaste her summation of how it works:
"It makes a unending playlist of songs based on your ear.
When you go to their page, they ask you to name a song you especially like. Pandora looks up that song, and runs it through a serious of musicology formulas they've devised.
A personal "radio station" pops up that delivers streaming songs based on the temperament of your original choice. It's rather uncanny..."
It is uncanny. It's actually quite brilliant. More often than not, it's right: the pick will find you sliding into your own personal, elusive groove. Even if you've never heard of the song or the artist before. And chances are good that it will play stuff you don't know, thus expanding your horizons. And if you don't like it, you can click a "thumbs down" icon, and it not only won't play that song again (it even apologizes that you didn't like it, which i found oddly touching, somehow), but will factor it into its next choice. A "thumbs up" ensures that it'll play that song again. You can also create a new, spin-off station based on a choice you like. You can simultaneously create other stations: you're allowed up to a hundred with your free registration.
Surprisingly, it often crosses genres. One of my lists was based on "Squirrel Nut Zippers," (you can ask for a song or an artist). I expected mostly more hot jazz, maybe with a "quirky" tinge. So far it's given me, among others:
Red & the Red Hots, "But Baby" (the sort of thing I did expect, then:)
Violent Femmes, "Country Death Song"
Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Don't Look Now"
Leon Redbone, "Sugar"
Sam Phillips, "How To Quit"
Tom Waits, "All the World is Green"
You can ask it why it picked what it did, and it'll give you technical terms like "acoustic sonority" as well as more layperson-identifiable stuff like "romantic lyrics." Clearly whatever list of common denominators they tell you is just a fraction of a huge database, intelligently designed by people who know their music as well as their computin'.
Pandora's aptly named. Open it, and you may never be able to shut the damn thing down and go to bed already.