An adaptation of this photo via Flickr.
First Spotify blew my mind. Now it wants to tap into it through the backdoor.
After resisting its pull for ages as a cratedigging Luddite, I finally downloaded Spotify last year. Within months I became a full-on helpless addict, paying my Spotify bill before all others and ruthlessly binge listening to artists I discover, come to love, and vow to someday buy the vinyl of.
I'm also a big fan of just poking around Spotify's library and seeing what's there, and have lost hours of my life to this hobby. There are conspicuous absences—just try to get the Led out, for instance—but why would you want to hear something that FM radio shoves down everyone's throat every day at five anyway?
Instead, via the massive Smithsonian Folkways library, you can listen to chants from "Music of the Waswahili of Lamu, Kenya" but there's so much on there to hear, why listen to music at all?
You can listen to Spotify's kind of narrow selection of poems or its wider variety of bird calls. You can even do as I've done and get into Spotify's massive selection of subliminal messages.
Now, the general consensus in the scientific community seems to be that subliminal audio messaging doesn’t actually do anything, but given that Spotify has several types of subliminal messages and hypnosis, how can I really be sure? And since I can load up on them and run as many as I want a month for the same price as one CD used to run, why the hell not?
The variety is pretty interesting. There are some tracks with what seems to be murmured speech behind sounds of rain or the ocean, or a crackling fire, or some general New Age ambience with occasional bird sounds or sounds of nature. The hypnosis has a gentle voice coaching you to relax and then affirming the hell out of you, which is nice.
The most hilarious and vaguely sinister ones are the “Lucid Induction Mantra,” which repeats, “The next time I am dreaming, I will realize that I am dreaming. Am I dreaming? Is this a dream?” in an echoey, but calm voice, over the sounds of the planetarium.
By far, the only unpleasant type of subliminal messaging is the “Silent Ultrasonic Track” which is not actually silent but instead steadily piped sharp digital frequencies into my brain and made my teeth hurt.
While I’m as self-critical as anyone, I had trouble picking out the brand new me. I don’t have a car so I didn’t really need to improve my driving. I don’t need help sleeping deeply, or alleviating knee pain; I certainly am not interested in “Breast Enlargement Subliminal Message Therapy.”
There are a lot of different routes to get to the same thing. Do I want the Spotify-Subliminal-New-Me to be thinner, stop eating junk food, or skip that and just be more attractive to women? If I wanted to attract a really positive woman I guess I’d have to listen to both “Attracting Positive People” and “Attracting Women.” What about potentially contradictory messages, listened to one after the other? Can I subliminally attract money and also be subliminally generous?
Forget about that. These are all conscious concerns; my subconscious will sort it all out.
Instead I put together a massive playlist, of everything I think I want.
A lot of the messages revolve around improving your physical appearance—and Lord knows I've got room for improvement—so I went ahead an got some of those: "Removing Dark Circles Around Eyes," "Get Perfect Complexion," "Subliminal Height Enhancement."
Given that I’m in my twenties, I’m horribly and irrevocably in debt, so I started with a “Become Debt Free.” Then I added on “Attract Money in Abundance,” which sounds similar in practice, but on the track sounds different—the ocean and relaxing rain, respectively. I also grabbed “Subliminal Day Trading” track just to round it out, which seems like an easy job, now that money is attracted to me. Just to help out that money I might attract, and since I can’t imagine any brokerage firms hiring someone whose only qualifications are subliminal, I also grabbed a “Lottery Winning: Increase Your Chance of Winning the Lottery.”
For personal improvement, I got “Learn French,” “Love Cleaning and Housework,” “Subliminal Conversation Skills” and “Overcome Racial Discrimination.” It’s not really clear if that last one is overcoming racial discrimination that you might face, or racial discrimination that you might be perpetuating, but I couldn’t see a downside either way.
Things were looking up, and began to wonder if I even would need this “Become the Alpha Male Subliminal Message Therapy.” But you never know when you might join a pack of wolves, I reasoned.
There are some tracks that I wanted the benefits of, but was warned against, like “Yeast Infections, I am Free and Clear and Resist Yeast Infections” track from the Women Only: Exclusive Hypnosis Portfolio for Today’s Woman, by Rapid Hypnosis Success. I guess I’ll have to just take my chances, or, you know, avoid yeast infections on some conscious level somehow.
There are a lot of subliminal therapy tracks for hobbies—horseshoes, backgammon, bowling—that seem to overlook the fact that practicing at these things is usually identical to just doing them for fun, and that being really awesome at any of them might actually lower your social standing, rather than improve it.
I don’t own a fencing foil, or badass mask, though, so I’m just going to get subliminally good at fencing, just in case. I’m also going to grab chess because I can tell my friends are getting bored with beating me all the time, and I really don’t think that I’m improving. I also grabbed “Subliminal Dance Mastery” because I can tell it’s more fun to be good at dancing than improving at dancing.
All of these things that I honestly could or should improve on really make you wonder. Not if subliminal therapy works—I had my conclusion before I began and the only effect I felt while working on this article came from the “Overcoming Paruresis (Shy Bladder) – A Rainy Day in the Forest” track, but I don’t think that had anything to do with subliminal influence.
Rather, scrolling through all the inadequacies that I could address while I slept made me think about how Aristotle claims the underlying goal of everything a human does is simply to be happy, and actually there are a number of subliminal and hypnosis tracks devoted to just that. Of course Aristotle also says that happiness can be impeded by any number of internal or external disorders like not having friendship.
So maybe I'll just grab a happiness subliminal enhancer, or maybe I'll just listen to The Kinks, which has the same effect, I bet. No disrespect to the RCA-era Kinks, but to hear their '60s classics, it's off of Spotify and back to the turntable. Should I get taller, or chance into more voluptuous breasts, I certainly will let you know.