Lyric Display, or How My iPod nano Decoded Twista

Once in a while, Apple adds something seemingly small to the iPod and/or iTunes and barely mentions it – like support for storing and displaying lyrics within any song. This mightn’t matter much to some people, but from where I stand, the iPod has just evolved into something new: a way to learn music, and potentially more.

Take Twista, the Chicago rapper who spits lyrics so fast that you have basically no idea what he’s saying. Thanks to the magic of iTunes 5 (and the iPod nano), you can insert the lyrics to his songs inside of the song files within iTunes (ctrl-I or command-I, flip to Lyrics Tab), then view them on the iPod nano when the song’s playing back. Just press the center button twice for a song with no album art, or three times for a song with it. All of the sudden, his rapid-fire rhymes make sense. Mostly. And you can read them while you’re listening. It’s awesome.

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It’s also handy for slower songs, just in case you’re preparing for 50 Cent, Kanye West, or Barbra Streisand (it’s “you don’t bring me flowers any more?” really?) to ask you to holla back at a concert, and want to know what to holla. Other potential applications – guided tours with embedded addresses and other information, eventually linked to photos, and so on. If properly cultivated, text embedding in iTunes music with complete iPod display support could be the start of something big.

It would be great to see this feature appear in full-sized iPods – I suspect that it will, soon – and I’m hoping for an iTunes 5 update that’s smart enough not to create duplicates of iPod tracks every time you insert lyrics, album art, etcetera into an existing song and manually synchronize. That would make PearLyrics, the automatic “grab lyrics and insert them” tool all the more useful.

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