Aca-scuse me? Pitch Perfect 2 has swept the nation, giving anyone with a pulse a capella fever. Since you can often find me getting my balad on with a pair of headphones and a streaming music app, I was inspired to share some of my favorites.
Whether you prefer to belt tunes with the car windows rolled up, or shamelessly burst into song during your morning jog (I, myself, sing at the top of my lungs while biking through my neighborhood), picking the right app can propel your musical moment to the next level. Each one is slightly different, but they will all supply the on-demand soundtrack to your vocal performance.
The app offers instant access to about 20 million tracks (though note that some artists have pulled their music from the service because of low musician royalties). For $10 per month, you can get a Spotify Premium subscription, which cuts out interruptive audio ads, offers hi-def sound, and lets you download tracks so you can listen offline.
Pandora creates “stations” based on the songs you like. Start by requesting an artist or genre, then Pandora will begin generating similar music. If you like a track, give it a thumbs up; if not, skip it and Pandora will make new suggestions (you get a limited number of skips per day). For $4.99 per month, you can upgrade to Pandora One, which is ad-free, comes with higher-quality audio and includes more “skips” per day.
Cost-free and without audio ads, Songza is another music concierge, but it offers an offbeat way to direct the player: choose from niche descriptors such as “music for drinking gourmet coffee,” “music for waking up happy,” or “music for cooking breakfast.” It’s a bit like streaming music-meets-personality test.
Jay-Z’s streaming service, TIDAL, sets itself apart two ways: by offering “lossless” high-fidelity tracks (meaning no song quality is lost through compression), and by being paid-only. For $9.99 per month, you get access to about 25 million tracks; for $19.99 per month, all those tracks become lossless. You also get videos, articles and special offerings like online meet-and-greets with performers. Critics say it’s too expensive, but Jay-Z (and a number of TIDAL’s celebrity co-owners including Beyoncé, Alicia Keyes, Madonna, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Usher and ten more) insist this service is different because it’s artist-created. That means it will include TIDAL-only releases, and that you’ll get to hear some artists who won’t play along with the other streaming services.
Another paid celebrity service, Dr. Dre’s Beats Music works a bit like OKCupid for music match-ups: fill in Mad Libs-style sentences to generate music that fits your mood. You can also select by genre, create and share playlists, and listen offline. There are no ads, and you’ll get access to more than 20 million tracks—to the tune of $9.99 per month.
Choose a genre to instantly find live radio stations you may like (it’s kinda like a shortwave radio with a concierge). You can also build your own station that’s ad-free. As with Pandora, you can give a thumbs-up or down to let the player know if you want to hear more of a song or less of it. iHeartRadio is free, but as with all free apps, take note that “free” is never exactly free.
Amazon Prime Music
Gratis with Amazon Prime, Amazon Mom or Amazon Student, Amazon Prime Music is kind of like a miniature of the other streaming services. It offers one million tracks, plus Pandora-like stations and custom mixes. The big draw: it’s ad-free.
With a massive 43 million songs, iTunes Radio has your track choices covered—but make no mistake, this “free” service is engineered for sales. Playing and downloading songs teaches iTunes Radio what you like, so it will give you more of that type of thing, and urge you to buy what you like. You can even tell Siri to “play more like this” or ask her to name that tune…so that you can easily purchase what you love. It works on both Mac and PC.
Boasting about 30 million tracks, Rdio offers free-to-you, ad-supported stations (again, styled after Pandora) or you can choose from two tiered plans. For $3.99 per month, cut out the ads and download up to 25 songs at a time for offline listening. Or for $9.99 per month, add unlimited downloads.
Google Play Music
Google Play Music offers a free 30-day trial, then it’s $9.99 per month for more than 30 million tracks, ad-free—plus music videos, design-your-own radio stations and playlists. You’ll also get access to your iTunes tracks and, because it’s teamed up with YouTube, you’ll get YouTube’s ad-free beta music service.
Which music apps rock your world? Tell me in the comments!