For too long, I disregarded Google Sheets as a poor man’s Excel. I’d grown up with excel – from making tables in 5th grade to learning advanced linear programming in my Supply Chain degree courses. Google Sheets didn’t have the processing power, the features, the familiarity. And in some respects, it still doesn’t. There’s no way I could’ve used Sheets for my supply chain classes – it doesn’t have the plugins that allow for time series forecasting or optimizing a result with multiple variables. But Sheets has gotten a lot better since my first time using it back in high school – back then I’m pretty sure it could only use sum/add/divide formulas. So, I decided to put it to the test.
A running joke with my friends is coming up with weird band names or album titles. Some of the best only make sense if you were there, some of them transcend humor and end up as pure nonsense. My current favorites are Foghat Leghorn (a Foghat/Looney Tunes tribute band) and Mike Rowe’s Dirty Deeds. So when I saw an article of Spotify’s weirdest genres, an idea was born. At 12 o’clock at night, I sat in bed thinking how funny and random the combinations of words that make up these genre names are, and an idea struck me. Music Genre Generator. Combining two of my loves – vlookups and music – I was in such a fit of creativity that I launched out of bed and began typing. I started off in excel, writing a formula that would pull random words from two lists and concatenate them together. I finished by 1 and popped back in bed for a blissful 4 hours of sleep.
The next morning, I realized that I really couldn’t share my masterpiece on excel. Honestly, their online version is hard to use, and you need an outlook account to even view it. So, I decided I’d see if Sheets could handle my (at that time) pretty un-complicated formula so I could share with my friends. And it worked! It took a little bit of a workaround to get the recalculation to work – I had to put in a checkbox to get the formula to spit out a new genre, but otherwise it was a pretty direct port over!
Now, I wasn’t satisfied with my midnight idea of what was funny. Firstly, the article I’d pulled from was pretty incomplete, and my formula could only do two words, while most of the funniest entries were four or more. So I found a super comprehensive list from everynoise.com and set to work building a better formula that would feel random, but with some pretty defined rules for that random-ness.
The original formula worked like this: generate 2 random numbers, look those up within a single list of words, and spit them out in a concatenation. My current iteration of the formula works in a similar, but much more complex, way:
- Does the genre get a first word?
- Random number between 1 and 3, If the number is even, yes
- Generate a random number for the first word
- Look up random number in the First Word list
- Does the genre get a second word?
- Random number between 2 and 4, If the number is even, yes
- Generate a random number for the second word
- Look up random number in the Second Word list
- Does the genre have neither a first or second word?
- If the genre has neither, then still put in the first word
- If the checkbox is checked
- Generate & Look up random numbers in Prefix Core and Genre Core lists
- These are genres like dubstep, cybertronica, and electrobeat where there is no space between the prefix and root
- If checkbox is unchecked
- Generate & Look up random number in the Genre list
- If the genre is one I’ve identified as normally having a modifier, generate & look up random number in the Modifier list
- These are genres like Folk, Pop, and Rock that usually have a modifier
- Concatenate it all up into one phrase!
This is constantly evolving as I dive into how to add more random qualities to my formula. Obviously the majority of genres we see are just 1 word, while my formula has a minimum of 2, but my original goal was absurdity so the more the merrier! Another thought I had would be to connect these fake genres to real artists – though how I’d do so is still a mystery to me. Maybe catalogue all the genres their music has been linked to and then vlookup words within their… Anyways, it’s always changing as I learn more!
So, Google Sheets – I’m sorry I underestimated you for so many years. You’re more than enough for my silly midnight ideas and very important client communications. As Microsoft Office declines from reigning superpower in the corporate world and Google Suite becomes more prevalent, I’ll need to use you more and more anyways.
Here’s a link to the Google Sheet if you’d like to generate your own music genres, and links to my source Every Noise at Once, as well as a link to spotify’s official analytics site and obscurify spotify analytics where you can see how your musical tastes stack up.
I also have a fun Easter egg of one of my favorite real-life album titles that you have a 1 in 100 chance of seeing! It’ll spit out the artist’s name too, so comment below if you find out who it is!