June 22, 2018 / 12:43 PM

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Spotify Tries...and Fails...to Analyze "High-Energy" Music at Final Four Universities; Who Qualifies as "Exciting"?


Music Times has already made its attempts to predict this weekend's Final Four using musical alumni—University of Kentucky versus University of Wisconsin, Duke University versus Michigan State—but Spotify decided to be a tad less ambitious and use its fancy Echo Nest technology to discover what song students at each of the respective universities use to get amped.

Yes, Echo Nest has come up with an actual formula for determining the energy level of a song. The calculation involves considering the track's volume, beats, structural changes and "sounds of the instruments" (a concept they don't flesh out very well). In other words, Skrillex is probably off the chart and Sarah McLachlan is on the opposite side. Spotify then took that information and applied it to each university, taking the 500 most popular songs at the school and then ranking them by the energy output.

The results are, needless to say, disappointing. It's apparent that either something is broken in the formula, or members of the respective universities don't listen to exciting enough music. We didn't expect Slayer's "Angel of Death" to make an appearance in anyone's Top 500, but one might think that Jack White's "Lazaretto" or similar might be hip at uni.

Instead we got:

Duke University: "Elevate" by St. Lucia. A great song by a great performer. It does indeed elevate, but not in the same way that the Jock Jams collection raised the roof.

Michigan State University: "Thunder Clatter" by Wild Cub. Another song that follows the same formula. It's indeed upbeat but the vocals are so quiet, it actually tempers aggression, not encourages it. Play this at an arena and your job as music programmer is done.

University of Kentucky: "Timber" by Pitbull (ft. Kesha). Okay, not our first choice of work out song but we get it. There is an honest thrust to this song, and Pitbull never takes the passive route. It's a worthy exercise song, if not a "go undefeated in the NCAA basketball season" song.

University of Wisconsin: "Bad" by David Guetta (ft. Vassy). At first we thought this might be a winner, as even house music can feature a healthy bass drop every now and again. The lead-up led to disappointment here however. If you want to get the adrenaline flowing, you need something more crushing, of the dubstep or trap variety.

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