Worldwide. Always On. One hundred countries. Listen to Beats 1 for more than a few songs and without fail someone will get on a mic to remind you the global reach of Apple Music's tentpole radio station. But while the ambition is there, does Beats 1 translate globally? Turns out, The Verge is also worldwide and always on. So we tasked some of our writers both in the US and internationally — specifically London, Tokyo, and Paris — to listen to the first 24 hours of Beats 1 radio. This is a running log.
Emily Yoshida, NYC
12:02PM ET It's just past noon on a beautiful sunny day in New York City, I'm at Verge HQ sitting next to a wireless speaker, and just two minutes shy of its scheduled launch time, Beats 1 is on the air. The station had been streaming Brian Eno's Music For Airports prior to its first broadcast, which I realized later was perfect for a pre-Beats world, due to its lack of lowercase beats.
BBC Radio vet Zane Lowe is our first DJ, broadcasting from LA, and he already sounds like he's been marathon pledge-driving for the past 24 hours. His first track is "City", a song from a UK band called Spring King that I have never heard of.
"And just like that, to one hundred countries around the world..." RADIO!!
12:06 Zane plays the new Beck song, "Dreams." "IS THERE AN ARTIST OUT THERE WHO MORE EMBODIES THE FREEWHEELING NATURE OF CREATIVITY THAN BECK?" Zane is very very VERY turnt.
12:14 Zane keeps talking about us, the listeners, being early adopters. It's weird to think of myself as an early adopter for listening to this; I'd assume everyone would want to listen to the first half hour of Beats Radio, but looking at my Twitter feed it's clear not everyone is as interested in live events and radio as much as I am.
12:15 Hey, weren't we supposed to be able to fave and save music directly from the station as it streams? I try with the current song, "Shutdown" by UK rapper Skepta. I can't do anything with it, not even heart it.
I am very amused at how British this global radio station is so far.
12:19 Now they're playing a weird, 15-second Apple Music hype track. It kind of sounds like when your local car dealership makes a cool and tough-sounding rap song to try to fit in with the rest of the rotation. Can I create a playlist from this?
12:22 AC/DC - "For Those About to Rock We Salute You." This time I can save and fave. Seems spotty, and not entirely dependent upon whether or not the song is on Apple Music.
The First Pharrell. It won't be the last
12:33 Zane is ready to premiere his "World Record." It's a new Pharrell song called "Freedom." I can't save or fave this one either, but that's okay, because as soon as it ends Zane runs it back again. "You know I have to do this!" he yells.
12:40 Zane shouts out his mother and his brother listening in New Zealand. Another new tag: "Zane Lowe breaking new music." The breaking new music is Courtney Barnett's "Dead Fox," which is not terribly new or breaking, but still welcome as the first Beats 1 song by a female artist.
12:56 I need to make a quick bank trip and take Beats away from my desk for the first time. It's very strange to have something live and mobile in my ears, even though I grew up with a radio walkman. As I cross Broadway, I look around, wondering if anyone else is listening right now. Then I remember how the speaker in the Verge office was a full minute behind my phone's stream on my headphones. There's something a little melancholic about that: as Beats listeners, we'll never be perfectly synced, at least not in the way you can be stuck in gridlock in LA and hear the same radio station playing in the car next to you.
1:00 Chet Faker - "Bend."
I'm in line at the teller. Zane says the only genre of Beats 1 is "great." It's interesting that this is somehow more monoculture than terrestrial radio — your local Top 40 station will of course say that its music is "great," but it's primary mission is not to play "good" music, it's to play music that serves a certain demographic. There's not really a demographic for Beats 1 besides "musical omnivore." It's internet person music.
1:17 "The chairman of the board!" Zane plays Dre's "Let Me Ride" and makes a big deal about The Chronic being available on Apple Music, the first it's been available digitally. It's crazy censored here, though. It should be noted that Zane is still talking — nay, yelling — in between every single song.
2:02 And that's a wrap on Zane Lowe's first set for Beats 1. He ends with Lapsley's "Falling Short" which goes straight into Jamie xx's "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)." This is the first time there have ever back-to-back songs without an interruption and OH MY GOD, what a relief.
2:04 Our new DJ Emmie is out of New York for the first hour-long "City Block" set on Beats 1 NYC. Her first song is Alabama Shakes' "Don't Wanna Fight."
2:20 Theeere we go. The first Taylor Swift track of Beats 1 radio is on, and it is — what else? — the "Bad Blood" remix ft. Kendrick Lamar. In less than two and a half hours, this station has played Taylor, AC/DC, and a song entirely in French by Belgian artist Stromae.
2:25 Vic Mensa's "U Mad" is on and, as usual, is exactly what I want to hear. This set feels more like a hangout than Zane's did; more or less what your friends would play at a get together. It's not as urgent about being the best, most important musical moment of your life.
2:33 Case in point: Justin Timberlake's "Senorita" just came on. I'm pretty happy with this.
2:38 Pharrell produced "Senorita," so by means of transition, it's time to hear "Freedom" again. This is the fourth time this song has played since Beats 1 started airing, which is way more frequent than even the most overplayed songs on terrestrial radio.
2:56 Emmie signs off. I think she did a good job! The Weeknd's "I Cant Feel My Face" comes on, which debuted after the Apple Music announcement at WWDC. SYNERGY!
2:59 I have to go to a meeting, so I bring a wireless speaker into a conference room and listen at minimum volume as Julie Adenuga starts her first set out of London.
3:29 Now playing: Formation, "Hangin" (Radio edit).wav. Yes, that was an actual .wav file ending on that track. Julie's actually playing a ton of dance stuff that isn't on Apple Music, and a lot of which doesn't even have cover art. I wish I could actually listen to this right now!
Ross Miller, NYC
4:01PM ET "That is the sounds of the UK," bellows London-based DJ Julie Adenuga, now in the second half of her set. Current London time is 9PM; current time here is 4PM ET. For those looking for something more manic, I just found a playlist for Zane's first set. Right now it's Jamie xx - "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)," but Beats 1 is still saying it's DJ Zinc's "138 Trek." This has been a consistent problem all day, with the "now playing" metadata showing the next track too early or hanging on the last track way, way too long.
4:08 A full reset "fixed it" — Boogie's "Oh my" is playing (definitely censored), but now the app thinks it's "Feel (feat. Bahia)," which it turns out is the next track. Go figure.
Meanwhile, always a good reminder:
Today on Twitter, watch live as #millennials react to the idea of a radio station— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) June 30, 2015
4:24 Adenuga makes her pitch: "We are gonna be in the club every day in the show" even if you're not in the club! Even if it's breakfast for you, you'll be eating breakfast... in the club! Now playing: Foals - "What Went Down."
4:37 Around the time Melé's "Ambience" is playing, Adenuga starts painting a scene for the 100 countries listening. Ladies? "Imagine you're in a sequin bra thing, I don't know. Guys, you gotta have some bigger horns..." or at least that's how I heard it, and there's no way to back up and find out otherwise. "You're walking through the streets. You have to feel some ambience."
5:00 Adenuga finishes her set with Lauryn Hill covering "Feeling Good" and suddenly she's now my favorite person ever (also, these are feelings I'm having for someone who's probably just double-clicking on a song title, and honestly I could listen to this song whenever I want — I acknowledge that). Yet again, Beats 1 has already fav'd this song for me, and while I'm not sure why, this time I agree.
5:01 Beats 1 LA is on with... I have no idea who the DJ is, actually. But the first song is D.R.A.M.'s "Cha Cha" for the second time today, which samples the Star World from Super Mario World so I'm digging. Not a clue what this hour will be like, though.
5:08 An as-yet unnamed female DJ reminds us that Beats 1 radio is "on in over 100 countries," just to drive home the notion that we're all experiencing the same songs through various lenses of culture and sleepiness. "Thank you if you updated your phone today" is still the weirdest thing to hear in a "radio" voice. For all intents and purposes, this is classic radio with brief moments of app support.
5:26 I drop everything to watch the new Kendrick Lamar music video, and because of that, I'm missing Years & Years and Alabama Shakes and ... it's actually stressful that I'm missing out because I don't want to miss out on something else. There is no pause in Beats 1; if you stop, the metadata stops updating with the current track, so now I've got Beats 1 running on mute just to see the tracks.
5:35 Eminem's "Phenomenal" yet again (sigh), and after that someone "biked" to the studio to pimp tomorrow's interview and the play "The Real Slim Shady." Fun fact: "V-D" is another thing you can't say on Beats 1 radio.
5:42 From Eminem to Ibeyi to HAIM to... Jack Garatt? Okay, what is this block of music? The central conceit seems to be "let's just throw some songs in a playlist and see what happens." There is no voice here, both literally (in how little the unnamed DJs are talking) and in the curation.
5:56 Mumford & Sons' "The Wolf." I give up.
Beats 1 radio pre-liked the Skrillex / Diplo / Justin Bieber "Where Are Ü Now" song for me. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. Why. No. No. No.— Ross Miller (@ohnorosco) June 30, 2015
6:02 Here we go with Cam'ron's "Come Home With Me" to start Ebro's set. Jay Z alert!
6:05 The World Radio equivalent to a request line is now apparently a hashtag — in this case, #Beats1Ebro. Now playing: a radio edit of Nas' "NY State of Mind" that's so heavily censored it's not really that enjoyable.
6:13 Darden clarifies how the DJ-audience relationship is going to work here: he's bringing New York to 100 countries. GOOD MORNING, TOKYO! HAVE SOME NEW YORK! But for real, there's actual cohesion in this block, and it's great.
6:19 Beastie Boys' "Paul Revere" is cut short. The #Beats1Ebro requests are coming in and asking for more Hov, apparently, so Darden is going to play more Hov. I don't know how much of this is fueled by Tidal lulz, but "99 Problems" is a damn good listen.
6:34 Kanye West and Jay Z "Otis" — damn, there's a lot of Jay Z in here — followed by the actual song sampled, Otis Redding's "Try A Little Tenderness."
6:42 "... and the reason I'm transitioning [from Otis Redding]" is to get us to Leon Bridges, a lesser-known act with a great old school vibe. Darden is showing (or at least giving the appearance of) thoughtfulness in his selection and order, none of which was present in that awful "Live from LA" filler set.
6:50 Looks like we're getting a whole sub-block dedicated to Pharrell, starting with the new Puff Daddy track "Finna Get Loose" (he's Puff Daddy again, right?) and then into Ludacris' "Southern Hospitality," Snoop's "Drop it Like It's Hot," Future's "Move That Dope," and of course the song of the day "Freedom."
This is the part about human curation I like, with Darden adding relevant context around his picks (reminder: this is millennials discovering radio).
6:55 "Just reminding you what Pharrell gave us" is Darden's repeated mantra. "I play this record 100 times today if I feel like it" he says as he intros "Freedom" (to be fair, we actually haven't heard it in a couple hours, which is a new record). The difference this time is that we're getting Ebro's laugh interspersed.
7:02 We're now into a Borough Check sub-show, which seems to be a loose justification for playing songs somewhat related to the five boroughs of New York.
At this point, I've got an Amazon Echo set up in the kitchen (which arrived during the second half of Adenuga's set) and am now using it exclusively for Beats 1 radio. The experience has suddenly become more passive, I'm using my phone less to like / unlike / check the song title. It's just... radio, for better and for worse.
7:16 Brooklyn checked (MS MR's "Painted"), Queens checked (Nina Sky's "Forever"), and Staten Island checked (Method Man and Redman's "Da Rockwilder"), and now it's time for MORE Jay Z ("What More Can I Say?").
(When was the last time I heard the actual Black Album and not the Danger Mouse "gray album" mashup? This sounds wrong now.)
7:24 "Forgot About Dre" might be the most edited song of the day. I'm pretty sure a good 25 percent of Eminem's lines were cut. The album art even says CENSORED VERSION in big letters.
"You don’t know what fleek is? We don’t either, but it means good."
7:39 "The team in New York just run in SUPER HYPED because of Kendrick's video"... which, he says, is on fleek. Here's the explanation for all 100 countries: "You don't know what fleek is? We don't either, but it means good." They're now talking about the "Alright" video... so of course now we're listening to "Alright." Darden's show has really felt live. There's impulsiveness and interactivity.
8:04 LA-based Travis Mills takes over with the request show and it's D.R.A.M.'s "Cha Cha." Which, if you recall, is the song that kicked off the last Los Angeles set. You know, that really bad one.
8:06 Whereas Darden played up hashtags for sending requests, Travis is using an email address — specifically, firstname.lastname@example.org. Seriously! iCloud! He plays Blink 182's "What's My Age Again?"
8:10 I should note that advertising is at a minimum. There are no commercials, just the occasional voice saying "Beats 1 is made possible by [x]" — in this case a hotel chain. Nothing too crazy.
8:22 STOP EVERYTHING! JADEN SMITH HAS CALLED IN TO REQUEST THE BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER THEME SONG. This is a blatant abuse of the "100 countries" reach. It was also a chance for him to promote his show later this week. And they're playing it!
Breaking: Jaden Smith just called into Beats 1 radio to request the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" theme song to be played worldwide. And it was— Ross Miller (@ohnorosco) July 1, 2015
8:23 AND NOW THEY ARE PLAYING IT FOR A SECOND TIME. JADEN IS MY HERO.
8:30 ... annnnnnnd Jaden Smith broke Beats 1.
Ben Popper, NYC
8:30PM ET Welp, I'm here and ready for some tunes, but it seems like me and the rest of the the Verge crew is getting an error message. Beats 1 is still down. So yeah, Apple's still-developing skill with cloud services is being highlighted here. Not a good look for your first day.
9:06 We're finally back with Ariana Grande's "Love Me Harder." DJ Travis Mills is giving me flashbacks to my middle school days listening to Z-100. There is no small irony in a request show on a live radio station attached to a streaming music service where I can hear whatever I want with the click of a button.
A request show on live radio attached to a music-on-demand service
9:21 Zane is back in the studio plugging the "World Record" again. "We played the same Pharrell jam three times! It's hard to get your head around," Zane says, of being a single global stream playing in different time zones. He explains that he had a lot of coffee today. Now we get to listen to "Freedom" again! Not clear if anyone requested this, or if Travis is making an exception from his format for the World Record of the day.
9:29 The DJs are plugging an upcoming show, St. Vincent's Mixtape Delivery Service. People write in to request a mixtape about their lives, then St. Vincent chats with them and curates a mix. Sounds pretty fun! Or as Travis would say, "so ill."
10:00 Time for St. Vincent's Mixtape Delivery Service! Piper is the first guest — she's 11 and has singing parties by herself at night. She thinks St. Vincent is the coolest. I hope Piper was not listening to the last 45 minutes of raunchy rap! But it sure is sweet of St. Vincent to make her a mixtape. The first cut is "Enjoy the Silence" by Depeche Mode, which Piper probably missed when it came out, because she's 11. Next up is some Stereolab. This sounds like good college radio.
10:06 If I wanted to subscribe to this show and get a push notification when St. Vincent was on the air, could I do that? If so, I can't tell how.
10:23 In between songs there is an image of St. Vincent and the name of her show — but I can't share that out or start a station based on it. I can only share a generic link to Beats 1. I feel like they should be smart enough to let users fave, follow, share, and discover based on the DJ / show when the style and selection is going to be so varied across Beats 1.
10:37 Piper has a pet dog and pet cat and spends a lot of time playing and arguing with her two sisters. St. Vincent has two sisters, too!
Something tells me Piper is gonna be a lot cooler now that her episode of the St. Vincent show has aired on Apple's new radio station.
11:00 Piper and Vincent sign off, then we get a big Beats 1 drop and A$AP Rocky's "Wild For the Night."
Part of the joy of the St. Vincent show was knowing who it was for and what it was about. The rest of Beats feels very generic — if it's for a global audience and not really repping a city, it's just naturally harder to connect with. That has been what made radio great for me in NYC and Memphis.
11:05 Tove Lo - "Talking Body." Is there disease like narcolepsy that makes you completely deaf for a period of time? Because I would like to have that now.
11:07 Weird — it sounds like they are going to replay Zane's first show? Not a great look for your live radio station to start spinning re-runs after just 12 hours — We're still repping LA right now. (It's unclear where St. Vincent was broadcasting from.)
11:14 An ad! "Beats 1 is made possible by AlphaBetty Saga: play with words."
11:21 Our new DJ Brooke Reese says this is "Beats 1 broadcasting to 100 countries, whether you are winding down or waking up." That right there is why this station makes no sense. I would want completely different music for those two times and mental states.
I would want completely different music for those two times and mental states.
11:34 Oh, my. Boogie Brooke says that "T and I are just vibing on this. Straight Outta Compton. But can we do it up for the Mumford and Son fans out there? We gotch you!" Straight out of Compton, these sons of Mumford. She plays "The Wolf" from their new album Wilder Mind, then segues right back into a censored version of "Nuthin But A G Thang."
I can't think of a single person who listens to gangsta rap and Mumford and Sons together but maybe Beats 1 is onto something here.
11:55 I swear there was just a plug about how Beats 1 is "always live" right after the DJ said they were about to replay Zane's show. It's been a huge launch, says not-live Zane — incredible to think people in 100 countries are listening — and the first band of the day, Spring King, are back. It's always noon somewhere!
Sam Byford, Tokyo
12:02AM ET So here we are at 1PM on a rainy Tokyo afternoon, and I'm listening to a radio show that aired 12 hours ago.
12:14 The whole setup of Beats 1 is very Western hemisphere and Anglophone. Lowe keeps talking about the 100 hundred countries he's broadcasting to, but how many people can even understand what he's saying? At least his compatriots in New Zealand get to listen to him over lunch, just like Americans.
"The whole setup of Beats 1 is very Western hemisphere and Anglophone."
Of course, this is what you get with the Beats 1 concept — it is what it claims to be, a single radio station broadcasting to the world at once. It's meant to be as one-size-fits-all as possible, and there's no more universal language than music. Even if right now it's not going to be more than background music for most.
12:32 But really, while Beats 1 is in repeat city I'd like to diverge and say that I'm impressed Apple Music is in Japan today at all. There are no real streaming services here beyond upcomers like AWA and Line Music, neither of which have built up convincing catalogs or won over reluctant local labels. Sony didn't even allow its Japanese artists on iTunes until a couple of years ago. And while Spotify has been perpetually "coming soon" for as long as I can remember, Apple is here right from the start, even with a decent selection of Japanese music.
So while Japan might not care too much about Zane Lowe, Apple Music could still be a pretty big deal here.
12:40 This Courtney Barnett song is great. That probably marks the first time in over a decade that Zane Lowe has got me into something. But I do wonder why some songs are instantly "likable" and others aren't, as Emily pointed out. It's not at all transparent and is going to be pretty frustrating.
1:00 One hour into my Beats 1 shift and there's been nothing that feels specific to where I am — it's just a Zane Lowe radio repeat. Maybe there's something Apple could do based on location to customize each show, but I guess it'd detract from the "purity" of the idea.
1:20 The censored version of Dre's "Let Me Ride" sounds like a garbled Skype recording.
2AM The ghost of Zane is done, and we're back live in LA with a chart show meant to include the "20 biggest songs in the world," whatever that means. Tinie Tempah kicking things off. Brooke recommends checking out his pool parties in Ibiza.
2:05 Next we have Jason Derulo, a man I have never heard and feel like I have not been missing out on.
2:10 The Weeknd - "The Hills." I wonder if The Weeknd stipulated Beats rotation in the deal he made to appear on stage at WWDC — he's been on a lot in this first day.
2:13 Number 15 in the chart is "Eyes Shut" by Years & Years. Still not sure how this chart is calculated.
2:20 Now we're hearing from Miguel, whose Lenny Kravitz-featuring "Face the Sun" takes number 13. "It's the hope and desperation that keeps me going," he says. "Because without desperation, it'd be too easy." He wants you all to "have a bit of ****
2:26 "Bad Blood" takes 12, but Brooke plays literally 20 seconds before switching to number 11, "Lean On" by Major Lazer. I can get behind that, I guess.
2:29 Silento's "Watch Me (Whip / Nae Nae)" at 9. They're really blowing through tunes here — I missed 10 completely.
2:34 Number 8 is "Shut Up And Dance" by Walk The Moon, which I have never heard, but which is not good. A recurring theme on this show, I have to say.
2:41 Justin Bieber is number 6, but Brooke skips it after about 10 seconds. Now playing number 5: Selena Gomez ft. A$AP Rocky, "Good for You." Guess we know which side she's on.
2:44 Rachel Platten's "Fight Song" is number 3, and seriously, how did I miss number 4? I am admittedly doing work beyond just staring at my speakers for four hours straight but this is a very difficult show to follow if you're not paying absolute attention.
2:47 Peter Robinson of Popjustice, who I trust on pop music like no other, says the Beats 1 chart show is "quite strange" and I am inclined to agree. Meek Mill's "All Eyes on You" is number 2. Of what, I still don't know.
2:51 Meghan Trainor and John Legend take the first ever Beats 1 number one spot with "Like I'm Gonna Lose You." I almost kind of maybe miss Zane Lowe.
2:55 Wait, Omi's "Cheerleader" is apparently number 1? One of us, Brooke or I, is confused. Maybe both of us are. Anyway, this certainly isn't the Radio 1 Top 40 I grew up listening to on Sunday evenings. Bring on Julie Adenuga.
Amar Toor, Paris
3:14AM ET Good morning from Paris, which along with much of Europe, is in the middle of a major heat wave. It's 9AM here, and I'm already stuck to my couch. I've just tuned in to a repeat of Julie Adenuga's show, and I really need music to keep my heart rate low.
3:14 Julie says her show is "All about sounds of London" — up now is "London Living" by Plastician ft. Jammz. So far, so good. A nice slinky beat to drink my coffee to.
3:17 "Pride" by Adesse Versions. Julie: "I got something that will surely set your stuff on fire." NOPE. TOO HOT.
3:24 So far there's not a ton of editorializing from Julie, other than reminding us that this is the first day of Beats 1 and that she's going to play the best music ever. She shares an anecdote about the first time she met Zane Lowe. "Probably one of the most inspirational people I've ever met."
3:40 Nao's "Zillionaire" is on now. I appreciate what they're trying to do with 24/7, always-on radio, but part of me wonders whether it would've been more interesting if it was more US-centric. I was kind of hoping to hear more of the offbeat / stoner late-night stuff you would typically hear during the overnight US hours, rather than just a straight repeat. Wonder how much of the "radio experience" we'll lose with a radio station that has no real clock.
3:47 Julie says she's going to call some shots. First shot called, first official anthem: "Cha Cha" by D.R.A.M. This is perfect for right now. Island beats mixed with Super Mario coin sounds. Heart rate returning to normal. Favorited. This guy agrees:
@Beats1 Thumbs up for the Cha Cha!— der_sowa (@der_sowa) July 1, 2015
3:55 Julie keeps reminding us that this is the first day ever. "This is a very, very huge day. This is big." It all kind of loses its weight knowing that this isn't really live.
4:16 I should note that I'm hearing a lot of this music for the first time, which I take as a sign of good DJing. But it still kind of sucks knowing that I'm listening to a repeat.
If @Beats1 is going to bill itself as 24/7 it shouldn't be repeating shows 12 hours later.— Caspar Aremi (@caspararemi) July 1, 2015
4:23 "We are going to be in the club every day on this show," says Julie. I'm not sure I want that at 10 AM on a Wednesday.
4:25 Now it's Foals' "What Went Down." It makes sense that they would kick Beats 1 off with a London focus, but I really hope they branch out in the future — at least if they want to make this "global." I'd love to hear a Berlin hour. Also, all of Africa / the Middle East / Asia is awake right now.
4:30 Jesus, it's hot.
5:00 Julie closes with Lauryn Hill's cover of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good."
5:04 Aaaand we're back to Pharrell's "Freedom." It's only the second time I've heard it, and I think that's enough.
5:06 Justin Bieber, Skrillex, & Diplo's "Where are U Now" comes on. Where are you now, I wonder, because Julie's gone and there's a new guy who just kind of mumbled his name in the intro.
5:22 "You don't own me" by Grace ft. G-Eazy. There's very little interjection here from the DJ. Hard to discern any sort of curation, either.
5:29 "Good for You" by Selena Gomez, ft. A$AP Rocky. Another Beats 1 favorite, apparently.
If the goal was to create non-offensive background music then I think Beats 1 succeeds. (Maybe that's the point of radio in general?) But for this segment at least, there's no sherpa guiding me through, which I thought was going to be a major component of Beats 1. Kind of miss the narrative and picture-painting of Julie's set.
5:56 BBC 6 still does a much better job of engaging on Twitter.
Beats 1 hasn't tweeted in three hours.
6:02 "We're live from New York," said Ebro, yesterday. We're still in replay mode.
6:07 A world that censors the word "cocaine" is not a world I want to live in.
"We're live from New York," said Ebro, Yesterday
I'm still really disappointed to be listening to America's leftovers, but the DJs do a pretty good job of masking that. Nothing in their speech really timestamps their shows, aside from Ebro occasionally mentioning that this is the "first day" and the fact that it's still 6AM in NY.
6:19 This seems like a pretty good Day 1 intro to NYC hip-hop, but I'm interested to see how themed the programming is going forward. You can't do a New York history show every day, right?
6:26 Another plug for Zane Lowe's Eminem interview "tomorrow," which is actually today. Followed up by Em's "Lose Yourself."
6:35 Now it's Jay Z and Kanye with "Otis" from Watch the Throne.
It is pretty cool to think that X number of people in the world are also listening to this song right now, but that's also something you can do on any BBC music show as well. But I would still really like to know what X is, and how that X is distributed. Feels like there's a missed opportunity to add a more social experience to this.
6:51 It is still very hot in Paris right now.
7:02 I'm sort of surprised they haven't transitioned to live programming yet as the US begins to wake up.
Ebro's set has been pretty great (I like hip-hop), but it still sort of feels like I'm listening to Hot 97, not a "global" station.
7:07 It's been a while since I've heard Pharrell; hope he's okay.
7:09 Ebro says St. Vincent's mixtape thing is coming up in three hours, which is, again, super confusing because this is a replay and time doesn't exist anymore.
7:15 Jay Z's "What More Can I Say" is followed up by Rihanna's "Bitch Better Have My Money." "Everyone is friends of Apple Music," Ebro says, jabbing at Jay and Rihanna's ownership stakes in Tidal. "We don't play no favorites."
7:36 Biggie, finally, with "Juicy."
James Vincent, London
8:02AM ET It is two minutes past 1PM in the UK, and I am thinking intense, sandwich-related thoughts. I am not thinking about club classics or dance floor fillers, but obviously Beats 1 has a more ambitious approach to my social life than I do. I've looked back over my colleagues' comments, and I'm honestly not sure if I'm in the middle of a repeated set or not. Welcome to the confusion that is Beats 1.
8:07 Shamir - "On the Regular."
For some reason the app isn't updating either the album art or the track details. Twitter tells me I'm not the only one with the problem. Beats 1 has a tedious amount of teething problems.
8:09 Nine minutes in, and it's my first ad break! Someone purrs that "Beats One is made possible by Aloft hotels," before being quickly faded out. Almost as if they're ashamed.
8:13 Skepta - "Shutdown."
Finally, some continuity announcements. Jordan Stevens tells me he's DJing live from "London town" (a location that's pretty much only mentioned by cockneys in musicals and rappers) and that he's just had a "really good" brownie. He doesn't mention that the UK is currently suffering through its hottest July day on record ever, which would surely be natural color for a local broadcast. For once the weather is actually worth talking about and Beats 1 flubs it. Ah well, at least we're listening to some good grime. Boy better know.
8:28 Rolling Stones - "Gimme Shelter."
More proof that Beats 1 manages to swing wildly from genre to genre without ever leaving the middle ground. Which is fine! This is a commercial radio station, you don't want to blast people with B-sides from Their Satanic Majesties Request.
"Is there a name for Rolling Stones fans?" asks Jordan. "A stoner? I'd say a lot of me and my friends are stoners." Lol @ Jordan. He follows up "Gimme Shelter" with "Paint it Black." Fine, I've got 100 percent on Guitar Hero on that, so a lot of great memories.
Also, I think radio DJs are not allowed to have any chill. Contractually obliged, even. I guess one way around the idea of trying to play music for different timezones is to be just constantly hyped instead. I blame capitalism. Being relaxed is a moral failing! Excitement Constantly! Work Forever! Fono's "Real Joy" is playing.
9:00 St Vincent's Mixtape Delivery Service
Named after the Ghibli film surely? It's a repeat, but it's brilliant. St Vincent interviews listeners and builds playlists for them, with the first show dedicated to new-wave synth classics and an 11-year-old who might have been genetically engineered to be suuuuper cuuuute. Kicks off with Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" and is pretty much gold until it ends with Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime."
The thing is, this is great, but is it what Beats 1 is for? Apple could (relatively) easily build a lineup of great, diverse, structured shows like this, but it would mean that it's harder to drop in and drop out of Beats 1. It would kill the whole commercial radio vibe which — infuriating as it may be to listen to for four hours straight — is a successful formula. Don't know what to play? Stick on Beats 1, they'll probably have some alright tunes. That's probably not a bad way to funnel people into a paid service, but it means being generic — not curated like St Vincent.
10:02 Tinie Tempah - "Not Letting Go."
Oh look, it's the Beats 1 countdown chart. Woo. Everyone loves charts. They go wild for them. Nothing gets the party started like numerical sequences. Sigh.
Who am I supposed to feel connected to right now?
My question is now: who am I supposed to feel connected to right now? The point has been made that the reach of Beats 1 somehow makes it special. That because all these people are tuned in (worldwide), the music has that intangible extra something. It's not just music, but a medium of connection. Well, in the words of disappointed clubgoers the world over, I'm just not really feeling it. It might take time for more people to talk about Beats 1, for the DJs and shows to get a buzz around them, but even if they do, not everyone will listen to them at the same time.
Anyway, that was the Chart Show. It will happen everyday. It is unlikely to ever give people a thrill. It is very transactional and that's probably fine.
11:07 Courtney Barnett - "Pedestrian Best."
Okay, well, this woke me up. I mean, I'd completely forgotten that I loved buzzy, slangy rock songs with loose bass lines and lead singers that don't sing but just grumble depressive / aggressive monologues about how how everything's grim and yet still worth destroying. I might actually be discovering new music, as they say in the advertising copy.
11:40 Leon Bridges - "Better Man."
More wild swings of the genre dial back to soul. Bridges apparently records all his tracks on vintage gear and therefore "sounds straight out of the '50s." Amazingly, his attempts at period authenticity even extend to gender politics, with his song cheerfully dividing women into "jezebels" and that one girl with a "golden smile." Eh. FKA Twigs next, who wouldn't stand for that bullshit.
11:56 Not sure if this is a reflection of Beats Music or simply my personal feelings about this experience, but it does feel like everything has slowed to a bit of a crawl. Songs keep on skipping about, dipping back 30 seconds or so (sometimes even into the previous track) before regaining the stream. I never thought I would be looking forward so much to hearing Zane Lowe speak, but here we are. And what does he have to say about things? "Beats 1 is hopefully now established as your go-to," says Zane.
Not yet, no.