Depending on when you tuned in to the 54th Grammy awards Sunday night, you may have seen one of four shows: One was stately and appropriately low-key in its remembrance of the late Whitney Houston; another was unabashedly celebratory; a third was full of the usual awkwardly-forced collaborations; and the fourth one had way too much Chris Brown.
The 2012 Grammy Awards, faced with the unexpected death of a pop idol, simply didn’t know what it wanted to be. Performances ranged from awesome to awesomely bad, and they were almost all entertaining, but the show — understandably, given the circumstances — lacked a coherent tone.
The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (the organization behind the Grammys) released a free iPhone app called We Are Music to coincide with the awards, and the app suffers the opposite plight. Where the awards show performed well but couldn’t focus, We Are Music knows exactly what it wants to do — it just isn’t very good at it.
The app purports to be a social visualizer, which is pretty cool, even if it does look and act conspicuously like Apposite Labs’ Microcosm. It lets you take a picture (or choose one from your library) that gets manipulated in time with whatever music you’re listening to. The image gets broken into little fragments that zoom around in time with the song, and you can interact with them using touch-screen gestures. If you have an iPhone 4 or 4S, the camera flash will strobe to the pulse of the music as well.
That’s all well and good. It’s on the social side that We Are Music falters.
Users on the same Wi-Fi network can link their phones through the “Connect” feature, and whoever’s selected as DJ picks a song from their library for everybody else to listen to. Ostensibly, the music is then streamed to the other iOS devices, so that everyone can play with the interactive visualizations at once.
However, we attempted to link together an iPhone 3GS and 4S in this manner, and results were less than spectacular. The phones connected within the app only after several failed attempts — and when they did, nothing really happened. At best, the phones continued to work as they had before connecting; at worst, picking a song would crash the app. Not once did we get the Connect feature working properly.
We Are Music‘s Twitter sharing capabilities leave a bit to be desired as well. A link to a video of the visualization would have worked nicely, but all the “Share” function does is tweet a text advertisement for the app to your followers. Not only did this keep us from truly sharing the fun aspect of the app with our friends, but we can’t imagine it would inspire many people to try the thing out.
The concept behind this app are worthwhile; it’s just a shame they weren’t all executed properly. Had more care gone into making sure the ‘Connect’ feature worked as it should, NARAS would have an app that stood on its own, beyond its association with the Grammys. For now, it’s a relatively solid entry into the mobile app market, and sort of fun to play with on one’s own. But in addition to the buggy Connect feature, the Twitter sharing feels too much like an interactive advertisement.