The company behind lyric annotation website Rap Genius has officially launched its first mobile program on Apple’s App Store
. Rap Genius’ website helps users decode rappers’ cryptic wordplay and references to other artists, songs, or pop culture via crowd-sourced annotations. With the new app, users can now also check out annotations on various others texts, including rock song lyrics, poetry and news.
The main function of the Genius app is to display song lyrics, but it does it in a fairly groundbreaking way that certainly beats any YouTube video: it integrates with the music that’s stored locally on your iPhone to deliver the corresponding lyrics and annotations, which you can read as you listen. Another feature gives you suggestions for new music to look into based on your existing playlist. The most interest aspect, however, is a music recognition feature that uses the iPhone’s microphone. The app listens to what’s playing around you, identifies it (much like Shazam) and shows you the lyrics in one smooth step.
On the downside, it’s plagued with problems consistent with any of the new, seemingly incomplete apps that we’re seeing with regularity these days. For one, you can’t add your own annotations using the app—you can still only do it via a web browser (although this function has been confirmed for a future update). You also can’t skip forward in a track, and music playback sometimes stops abruptly as you navigate through its menus.
There’s also the relatively vague concept of eventually allowing the app to annotate “everything.” The company’s founders have promised to keep adding new categories of crowd-sourced annotations (Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech is already up) until it becomes a sort of cultural encyclopedia. This sounds like a great ambition, but without administrators to ensure useful and informed annotations, Genius has the potential to devolve into a collection of defaced WikiPedia pages.
So why an app? Rap Genius originally launched back in 2009, but it has since grown to a whopping 30 million unique monthly visitors. However, more than 50 per cent of its traffic came from mobile devices, turning the founders’ attention to creating a mobile app after its mobile-optimized website turned out to be too clunky.
Another piece of the puzzle is the company’s recent public falling out with Google, who discovered that Rap Genius was artificially boosting its web rankings. After admitting wrongdoing, it appears Rap Genius’ mobile app is an attempt to sidestep Google entirely, bringing the experience directly to the user and cutting out the middleman.
An Android version is in the works, according to a recent tweet from the developers.