January 18, 2014

How Napster Ruined A Favorite Song

I was fortunate enough to grow up in the era of Napster, as well as fortunate enough to not get sued. For those who are young or have short memories, Napster was a program that allowed people to download music for free, very easily. Its legality was questionable but it ushered in the modern era of online content and was a harbinger of our present day Anything-Anytime conveniences.

One of the things that people who used Napster still remember is the labeling inaccuracy of songs being traded around the web. You could download what you thought was a System of a Down song only to get a pop-punk band from New York, and similar sounding musicians would get mixed up all of the time (maybe on purpose). Many bands would record themselves playing and then label the file with a more popular band to get their song sent around the country. Music labels would flood the system with fake tracks labeled as their popular artists to try to beat the downloaders. You could download what you thought was a leaked Offspring album only to have it be three hours of high pitched squeeling.

One of my favorite songs I discovered on Napster came when I was searching for Frank Sinatra hits. I got recordings of "New York, New York" and "Mack the Knife" but I struck gold when I found "It Had to Be You". I loved his effortless vocals, the power in his voice on the high notes at the end, and most of all the blaring trumpets. The instrumental bridge with its up-tempo rhythm and brass made me roll the windows down and crank the volume up while I drove around the suburbs, expressing myself alongside Frank. I loved that recording, and I loved Sinatra for it. "Sinatra's recording of "It Had to Be You" is by far the best" I would tell everyone. I said that to a student this morning.

Minutes ago I listened to that recording again, dragging it out of the depths of my hard drive. "Huh," I thought, "Frank sounds really strange in this recording." So I went on YouTube to search for Frank Sinatra's rendition. I found it. I also found what I had been listening to for the last dozen or so years of my life.

Thanks to a combination of mislabeling by some other hack at the turn of the millennium, losing this recording on my computer, and my own young ignorance of the vocal qualities of different singers I had been mistaking HARRY CONNICK JR for Frank Sinatra. This is almost half of my life I'm talking about here. Not only am I now questioning the origins of nearly every song I downloaded in high-school, I'm not sure I like this song now. This mislabeling may have ruined the song for me and there's no good reason why

Napster, you may be gone and buried, but your dark tendrils of deceit and misfortune have extended far into the future. Kazaa gave me viruses, but you Napster, you have ruined art.

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