Artists today are releasing their own apps, but are they anything more than an easy way to promote themselves? I went ahead and downloaded all of the ones I could fit on my 16 gig iPhone and started my research to figure out if any of these were actually worth downloading.
Apps specifically designed to be used at concerts such as Childish Gambino's “Deep Web” app or Drake and Lil Wayne's “Drake Vs Lil Wayne” are less common since the demographic is cut down from potential fans to people attending one of their shows and the risk/reward isn't guaranteed. If done right they are awesome new ways to interact at concerts with the artist and other concert goers which I would say is worth the time and effort. I am a huge fan of what Gambino did with the Deep Web app at his shows with the twitter-like feed scrolling along and the polls voted on throughout the show. Sadly I missed the Drake/Wayne tour so I never got to tryout the app minus this terrible selfie I edited with it.
A few of the apps I was excited to check out such as The Roots “Undun” (appeared to be a nice in depth look at the concept heavy album) and Passion Pits “Gossamer” (screenshots showed a nice visualizer to go along with the album) would not even install on my iPhone 5s, neither have been updated in the last two years so I wasn't really expecting them to work.
I wrote a short review for each app I tried out:
Soulja Boy's “SOULJAWORLD” looked like a solid contender to replace all my needs with news, music and even a chat feature, I was ready to uninstall Twitter and Spotify but after 4 tries to make an account with the app having none of it, I cut my losses.
Jaden Smiths “Experience” is more or less what I expected most of these to be, an easily understood interface that plays a few songs (in this case 8) released in a different manner than the typical album or mixtape release. It's not very exciting or unique which is odd coming from someone who usually questions if our eyes are real.
Lil B's “BasedEmoji” was an emoji app that would work better if it was redone as a 3rd party keyboard now that everyone supports them. While it has no music available to play it does link to his social media accounts but I think anyone downloading a based god emoji app knows who they're supporting. TYBG
Radiohead's “PolyFauna” is right along the lines of what I would expect from Thom Yorke and Co. You are floating through an eerie 8 bit cave that you can maneuver around in while some ominous yet calm music plays. If you touch the screen colorful lines dart across the screen and other than some white circles of light floating in the abyss that I couldn't figure out how to interact with nothing else really happened. It reminded me of games like Flow or Journey almost. Would love to see something like this pursued further.
Jay Z's “Decoded” was pretty disappointing to be honest. What was described as an in depth look behind his lyrics from various songs throughout his career was really just an interview and rehashed parts from the book of the same name. For one dollar it's not overpriced but to unlock all of the songs it comes to a pricey 25 bucks. Only the most hardcore Hov fans could rationalize that one.
Mur's “Hip Hop Trivia” is my honorary mention not because it is a good app but because it is what I imagine a public access version of Jeopardy hosted by Murs would look like. Like a good B movie it was so bad I loved it.
Animal Collective's “Painting With” didn't seem too impressive at first glance but quickly I was proven wrong. Open up the app and it asks if you want to be matched with another user to paint with or go solo, I chose to find someone and was quickly paired up. Much like Snapchats interface you could just pick a color and paint along with your newfound friend while AnCo's new single “Lying in the grass” started to play. The lines you draw pulse frantically as you continue to draw over the other persons lines and together create a blur of colors and terrible draw somethingesque doodles. I loved it, I think it was an incredibly unique way to experience a new song and would love to see more stuff like this.
John Lennon's “Lennon Tapes” WAS EXACTLY THE KIND OF APP WE NEED MORE OF. The app focuses on the story of Lennon's trip to Bermuda which is where he wrote most if not all of his “Double Fantasy” album. The main course of the app is a series of interviews from the captain of the boat he sailed to Bermuda with to members of The B52's (it makes sense trust me) and recordings of Yoko Ono and Lennon's phone calls where they played early demos of songs to each other.
The demos and interviews are easily accessed from the home screen if you want to cut out all of the artwork and interactive aspects of it as well if that doesn't sound interesting to you. The artwork is right up my alley and it gives you many opportunities to look around and appreciate it. My biggest complaint with this is that it wasn't longer. While most artists wont have the funds to make an app of this calibre it is the star example of what can be done with this new media.
After trying all of these out I certainly see that regardless of the obvious trash-ware apps out (looking at you “Fall Out Bird”), there are undoubtedly reasons to keep an eye out for more apps musicians create.