5G iPod music navigation bug?

Q: I just got the new fifth generation iPod and love it, but I noticed a weird software issue. When I go to listen to an artist and have songs with an album name and then ones with no album name, the ones with no album name do not show up in artists. If I navigate using “Songs,” the missing songs are definitely there. Do you know why this happens? Can I change this behavior back to the fourth generation style?

– Erik

A: We’ve noticed this too, and we too are a bit annoyed by it.

Here is the precise behavior we’ve observed:

For any artist with for whom there is only one album, the fifth generation iPod skips the intermediate “Album” screen used by previous iPods, going straight to the track listing. Cool!

However, for any artist that has one non-empty album tag that also has tracks with empty album tags, the tracks with empty tags are indeed omitted from this quick menu. In our opinion, such a case should yield the intermediate “Album” menu with the single album and the “All” option, as it does on previous iPods.

Note that if the artist has songs with empty tags and two or more unique, non-empty album tags, the “Albums” menu appears as normal, complete with the “All” option.

It seems as though Apple was attempting to simplify the navigation process for those artists for whom you only have one album, but in doing so they’ve neglected to count an “empty” album title as a trigger for the extra menu. We’re pretty confident that this is a bug introduced by a rushed “feature,” and that it will be fixed soon. However, only Apple knows what will get fixed, and when.

Here’s a work-around that one could easily implement (and easily remove, should the bug get fixed):

Give all of your album-less tracks a placeholder album title. To do so in the easiest way possible, begin by creating a new smart playlist that collects all songs for which “Album” “is” “(empty)”. Next, select this playlist in the source column, choose “Select All” from iTunes’ “Edit” menu, and choose “Get Info” from the “File” menu.

Now, change the Album field to something other than (empty)… like perhaps the text “Empty”, or something more discreet like a simple dash character (”-”). This will trigger the iPod’s intermediate menu, where both the “All” option and the “Empty” album will be available.

Granted, this is clearly not the best way to operate, but it is a solution that will allow you to access all of an artist’s songs from the “Artist” menu.

Want to reverse this change? Simply change your smart playlist so that it collects songs whose “Album” “is” “Empty” (or “-”, or whatever you chose). Then use the Get Info window to once again empty the album titles.

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