While minding my own business scrolling through Spotify a couple of days ago I was interrupted by one of those rude ‘in-app’ pop-ups. Usually I ignore them, but this time the playlist simply said ‘DJ’. I admit, I was curious. And when I clicked on it to be greeted not by music, but by an AI generated male voice that somehow managed to be even more irritating than Siri… well, I had to check it out.
“Hello, I am Xavier, but my friends call me X, and from now on, I’m your personal DJ.” I’m not gonna lie. The highly-Americanised drawl did nothing to endear me to this new feature and I almost shut it down before it even had time to do its thing.
But in reality, Spotify’s personalised services aren’t usually half bad. Their Discover Weekly playlist is one of my music bibles and I’ve discovered many a new artist adjacent to my tastes through that. And the Daily mixes are as comforting as a warm cuppa in cold weather, feeding me music I already know and love, pre-grouped into my favourite genres without me having to lift a finger.
So I wasn’t about to press the kill-switch on Xavier without a genuine trial. Turns out, Xavier has quite a few good points. According to a press statement by Zaid Sultan, Spotify’s vice president of personalization, the idea was to help listeners discover new artists and also to present them with playlists featuring their favourite tracks.
Does X actually achieve this? I kept him on loop for a couple of hours, during which he threw everything he had at me, from previous entries from my Spotify Wrapped to new artists that I hadn’t yet listened to. Before kicking off the music for the first time, X gives me a very detailed walk-through of what he can do. To be clear, he can’t be programmed to switch off the lights – he can only play music.
If you don’t like his choice, all you need to do is click on the small DJ icon at the bottom of the screen to change the vibe. This took me from Joy Division – not because I wasn’t enjoying that, but because I wanted to see what X can do – to The Weeknd. So yes, that’s switching up the vibe all right.
I enjoyed X’s music selection more than I enjoyed his voice, which apparently is modelled on that of an actual Spotify employee called – no prizes for guessing this one – Xavier. I’m sure that in real life, the real human has a lovely, warm voice. Although Spotify claim that they kept the AI voice as close to reality as possible, this isn’t the vibe I got. DJ X is still in beta version, so maybe this is something that Spotify can experiment with. The voice was created using Spotify’s recent acquisition of the voice platform Sonantic, which creates human voice from text.
Despite needing some fine-tuning at the meet-and-greet stage, X gets a definite thumbs up. After all, I’m on Spotify to discover and enjoy music, and if X helps me achieve this I can put up with an annoyingly AI drawl for a couple of seconds.