“Siri, how do I cancel my Premium membership with Spotify?” That’s something I recently found myself asking after checking out Apple Music. That’s right: I’ve decided to ditch the most popular music streaming service in the world in favor of Apple’s newly launched competitor. Nope, it’s not because Taylor Swift’s albums, including her latest, are available on Apple Music. On the contrary, what has sealed the deal for me is someone who can hardly carry a tune: Siri.
While Siri is no singer, not even a passable one, it can tap into Apple Music’s catalog of more than 30 million songs to play just about whatever you want in an instant. If, like me, you’ve always wanted Siri to cater to your every musical whim and fancy beyond what’s on your local music library, then with an Apple Music subscription (beginning with a free three-month trial), your musical wish is Siri’s command.
Indeed, Siri works with Apple Music, which should come as no surprise seeing as both are products of Apple. This integration was demonstrated by the company when it introduced the service onstage at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) last month. But what was shown then and there was but a sampling of the many things you could ask Siri to play and do with Apple Music, things that we seek to highlight in this article.
(Note: You need to have enabled Use Cellular Data for Apple Music in Settings > iTunes & App Store to use Siri for Apple Music while on a cellular network instead of Wi-Fi.)
Even before the launch of Apple Music, Siri had been able to do things with what’s on your music library and iTunes Radio in the Music app. And these capabilities have been carried over to the new Music app, which, through the release of iOS 8.4, has been redesigned and revamped with support for Apple Music.
Play that tune
As before, with Apple Music, you can ask Siri to execute playback controls like “Play,” “Pause,” “Skip,” “Repeat,” and “Shuffle.” You can also ask Siri to play specific songs (“Play Born to Run”), albums (“Play Bruce Springsteen: Greatest Hits”), and artists (“Play Bruce Springsteen”), and it will serve up the tracks straight from Apple Music’s servers.
Tune into the radio
With reference to Apple Music’s free Internet radio component (née iTunes Radio) — which features the curated global station Beats 1 along with genre, news and sports stations like Pure Pop, NPR, and ESPN Radio — you can ask things like “Play Beats 1,” “Play alternative station” to start a station based on the genre, and “Play Norah Jones station” to start one based on the artist. You can also customize your radio listening by telling Siri to “Play more songs like this one,” “Don’t play this song again,” or “I like this song.”
Name — and buy — that tune
Imagine that a song is playing. You can ask Siri a number of questions, including:
- What song is this?
- Who sings this?
- What’s the name of this track?
- What song is playing?
After identifying music, you can tell Siri to “Buy this song” to purchase the song on the iTunes Store.
Now that Siri has access to tens of millions of songs to play on demand, the virtual assistant is now also a personal DJ of sorts as it can now recognize new types of requests and use its newfound musical intelligence to grant them.
Playing with playlists
Pre-Apple Music, you could already ask Siri to play your playlist by saying “Play my party mix” or “Shuffle my road trip playlist.” But now you can also have Siri initiate playback of playlists from Apple Music.
These include playlists curated by Apple’s editors based on artists (“Play Bruno Mars playlist” yields “Intro to Bruno Mars”), genres (“Play Best of Modern Indie Pop, Vol. 2”), and activities (“Play breakup playlist” plays “Modern Breakup Songs”), as well as playlists created by Apple’s partner curators (“Play Pitchfork playlist” brings up one of Pitchfork’s playlists, “Happy Drake Day”).
Top of the charts
Siri is so smart that it seems to have memorized all of Billboard’s top charts. Which is good, since it allows you to ask Siri to play the top tracks based on particular parameters.
You can order Siri to play the top songs in a certain genre, e.g. “Play the top 10 songs in Alternative.” You can instruct Siri to treat you to the most popular songs or albums by a certain artist, perhaps an old favorite of yours or a relatively new artist you want to get familiar with: “Play the top album by Backstreet Boys” or “Play the top songs by One Direction.”
Perhaps most interestingly, you can ask Siri to play the top tracks from a certain time in Billboard history, be it a year (“Play the top song in 1985”), a month (“Play the top song in November 1985”), or a specific day, say, your birthday (“Play the top song on November 8, 1985”). You can also ask Siri to play the album in a particular year, e.g. “Play the top album in 2012 shuffled” shuffle-plays Adele’s “21.”
What came first, the music or the misery?
Siri is also quite knowledgeable about the chronology of the discography of artists on Apple Music. Consequently, you can ask Siri to play the debut or latest single of a particular artist (“Play the first single by LCD Soundsystem” or “Play the latest single by Carly Rae Jepsen”) or an artist’s first or last album (“Play the first album by Dashboard Confessional” or “Play the latest album by Blur”).
Songs on screen
Have you ever watched a movie and liked its theme song but don’t know what it’s called? Well, you can Shazam or SoundHound it during the time it’s played on the soundtrack. Or, you can just bring up Siri anytime and ask something like, “Play the soundtrack of The Fault in our Stars” to play the entire motion picture soundtrack album, or “Play the song from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” to play “Into the West” by Annie Lennox (perhaps as a dirge for Spotify).
This works on TV shows, too. So you can rest assured that telling Siri to “Play the song from True Detective” yields “Far From Any Road” by The Handsome Family and “Play the theme song of Game of Thrones” gives you the iconic music by Ramin Djawadi.
Up next and on tap
In the new Music app, you can tap on the list icon on the Now Playing screen to view the list of songs in the order that they’re set to play. You can modify the list by dragging a song to a new playback position. In addition, you can tell Siri to play a certain song, album, or even some tracks by a certain artist right after the currently playing one by saying something like, “Play Love Me Like You Do after this song,” “Play the album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming after this song,” or “After this song, play Capital Cities.”
Note that should you instruct Siri to play something right away, you’ll be warned that doing so will clear your Up Next queue. Your call, of course.
Moreover, you can instruct Siri to add particular songs and albums to your library for quicker access and to make them available offline later. To do so, say something to this effect: “Add Hero by Family of the Year to my library” or “Add the album The Grand Budapest Hotel to my music” or “Add this song (or album) to my library” to add the currently playing song (or album) to your collection.
Being in its nascent stage, Siri’s integration with Apple Music is not without its flaws and limitations.
For one thing, Siri noticeably works better on higher levels of specificity: The more particular you can get with your commands, the more likely it responds with the correct tracks and actions. It certainly helps if you already know the exact names of songs, artists, albums, and playlists you want to play. This lessens Siri’s virtual legwork and enables you to get the music you want faster.
But even when you’ve given Siri an exact instruction, it still may not yield the desired results. Just recall that moment during the Apple Music demo at WWDC when Siri came back with “Selene” by Imagine Dragons instead of “Glory” by Common and John Legend when asked to play the song from “Selma.”
And then there are times when the content you’re asking Siri for is simply not available, as in the cases of streaming holdouts like Prince and the Beatles.
In any case, Siri can only become more intelligent as its integration with Apple Music evolves. Who knows? Perhaps pretty soon you’ll be able to ask Siri, “Play the Oscar winner for best song in 2014” and it will automatically play “Let It Go,” on the off chance that you haven’t let that “Frozen” song go.
As it stands, Siri’s integration with Apple Music already offers a great alternative to manually searching and browsing for music, which can be quite a chore when using Spotify and other streaming services like Rdio and Pandora. It’s particularly useful when you’re busy driving or doing something else that inhibits you from tapping this and swiping that to play the music you want. And even when you’re just lazing around, it’s fun to play with Siri and see — and hear — what it can play.
And remember, if you like something on Apple Music so much that you want to listen to it again, you can always say, “Play it again, Siri.”