For the uninitiated, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “I Know You Have A Girlfriend” is one of the best songs in her polished catalogue. The song was a bonus track on her album Kiss, and it's is the most obvious link between the cool '80s pop of her recent album EMOTION and the robotic perfection of her earlier work. The only problem with “I Know You Have A Girlfriend” is that it can be kind of impossible to find.
It’s not on Apple Music, it’s not on Spotify. It was on Rdio for a while, and then it disappeared for a while, but now I think it’s back again? So YouTube is the one place I've known I could always find it, in the form of various, fan-uploaded versions. This is one of the many strengths of YouTube’s new music app, simply called YouTube Music and released on Thursday. It harnesses Google’s biggest strengths—their enormous amount of content and data—to create a music subscription service that has surprising standout qualities, which actually feel fresh.
When you select a track to listen to on the app, it automatically creates an endless radio station based on that song, which is a very similar to what listening to YouTube on a web browser is like. From there, there are customization options: a sliding bar that lets the user decide whether they want to listen to that artist specifically, a mix of that artist with similar ones, or a playlist of new stuff to discover.
There's a free version of YouTube Music that's worth trying out, but a membership to YouTube's also new subscription service, YouTube RED, which costs $9.99 a month, offers more options that attempt to normalize using YouTube (a video service) for audio listening. In the paid version, you get an ad-free experience, the ability to play music in the background, and the option to listen to music offline (an offline playlist, called "offline mixtape," is sent to you every week with the option to download the whole things or just send select songs to your phone). Perhaps most novel of all, there’s an option for subscribers called “audio mode,” that lets you play the audio portion of a clip without having to load or watch the video, which saves data and battery.
But besides some intuitive features and layouts, the app gets a much-needed boost from Google's infrastructure. The app’s search functionality is great and the results are labeled to let you know which results are official versions, covers, lyric videos, and concert footage. (Also worth mentioning is that a subscription to YouTube RED includes a subscription to Google Play Music, which offers a more traditional music subscription experience and a very competitive catalogue.)
Based off a brief tour of the app, YouTube Music still has some organizational work to do—not all song selections are grouped neatly by album, but from what I could see, the songs are all there.
Pairing a paid subscription to YouTube RED with their new Music app won't get you the music that's uploaded early to Spotify, or the cool experience of listening to Beats1 Radio via Apple Music. But you will be getting what is probably the biggest music library that’s available online, and with it, custom experiences that other services couldn't offer—like creating a mixtape saved to your phone based off songs that aren't available anywhere else.