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Defeat The Spotify Algorithm With All Your Weird Emotions


There’s no new interview on this week’s What’s The Point,1 but never fear — there’s plenty for you to listen to and take part in.

For one, I’m excited to showcase a recent episode of the “Song Exploder” podcast, from Hrishikesh Hirway (who wrote the theme music for What’s The Point, by the way). In it, he talks to Rivers Cuomo, who is the lead singer of the rock band Weezer and has a very nerdy way of composing songs — spreadsheets, coding, the works. It’s fascinating.

Also this week, we’re following up on a conversation I had with New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff about music discovery, taste and algorithmic listening. Here’s part of our our exchange.

Ben Ratliff: There’s emotional programming [in digital music services]: music for sad moods or happy moods.

Jody Avirgan: There is a mood tab on Spotify.

Ratliff: Yeah. But in reality, emotions are paradoxical. For instance, you can feel a kind of defeated joy. That’s actually how emotions work. But the streaming services are not going to be able to sell that to you because that’s too complicated an emotion.

Avirgan: You know what? I bet “defeated joy” will be a tag on Spotify within the next five years.

Ratliff: Maybe!

The idea of “defeated joy” stuck with me, so this week, I spent $12 to buy

I made a Spotify playlist and added it to the site. And now I need your help. Head over there and suggest songs, build a playlist of your own for me to include, or simply listen and enjoy. Just don’t let my $12 go to waste.

There will be a brand-new show next week — I promise.

If you’re a fan of What’s The Point, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, and please leave a rating/review — that helps spread the word to other listeners. And be sure to check out our sports show Hot Takedown as well. Have something to say about this episode, or have an idea for a future show? Get in touch by email, on Twitter, or in the comments.

What’s The Point’s music was composed by Hrishikesh Hirway, host of the “Song Exploder” podcast. Download our theme music.


  1. I’ve been on jury duty. Back next week!

Jody Avirgan hosts and produces podcasts for FiveThirtyEight.