Every time I get in my car and plug in my iPhone, the same exact song plays: “All of Me” by John Legend. But not the John Legend version, which would be much less embarrassing. No, the very first alphabetically sorted song in my Apple Music library is a cover of “All of Me” by the Dartmouth a cappella group The Dartmouth Aires. It’s not that I hate the song, or this version. It’s that I’ve heard the first 15 seconds of the song approximately 438 million times, blaring through my speakers as I open Spotify or Pocket Casts and play something I actually want.
Every iPhone user has a song like this. Maybe it’s “A-Punk” by Vampire Weekend. Or “A-Team,” Ed Sheeran’s whispery ballad. “A.D.H.D” by Kendrick Lamar seems another popular choice, or, if you’re WIRED social media head Natalie DiBlasio, you get the all-time classic “Aaron’s Party (Come Get It)” by Aaron Carter, which is not the one about how he beat Shaq but holds up just as well.
I could go on a whole bender here, ranting about how my phone should know what I want to listen to when I get into the car (probably whatever I was listening to five seconds before I got into the car!) and how annoying it is that the phone instead just plays the song in my library in the alphabetical pole position. You’d think it would at least recognize that I don’t subscribe to Apple Music and how incessantly replaying one of the few albums in my iTunes from years ago doesn’t make for a great user experience. I could write paragraphs about how music has changed and ought to be smarter. But I won’t.
Instead, I’ll just tell you about Samir Mezrahi, the former BuzzFeed and the Dodo social media guru, and his new song, “A a a a a Very Good Song.” The song consists only of nine minutes and 58 seconds of glorious silence, because apparently if you go over 10 minutes iTunes charges you for a full album. It’s more than enough time for you to go find what you actually wanted to listen to. The album art, on the off chance you see it, just says “have a wonderful day” in lowercase letters.
Mezrahi released the song for 99 cents on August 7, seemingly as something of a joke. His first-up track? “All You Had to Do Was Stay” by Taylor Swift. “I don’t hate the song, but it was really getting to be too much every time I plug my phone in,” Mezrahi says. He’d always known these auto-playing songs annoyed people, he says—he actually wonders how artists with A-titled songs feel about that position—and thought he could help himself and others all at once. As far as he can tell, it’s not against any iTunes policy.
Four days later, as I write this, “A a a a a Very Good Song” sits at number 50 on the iTunes charts, right between tracks by Macklemore and Midland. Both of whom, we can safely say, didn’t just make songs out of nine minutes and 58 seconds of silence. Musicians have tweeted their support of Mezhrai’s idea, and the song has a five-star rating on iTunes. I found only one naysayer: “Too many a’s,” said the one-star review, missing the point like Shaq shooting free throws against Aaron Carter. “Way too many.” Mostly, it appears Mezrahi tapped into something of a universal iPhone-owning frustration: that your phone knows it should play music in the car but can’t figure out what to play, so it just plays the first song in your library.
You could, of course, do this yourself and save the 99 cents. But what an amazing signal it would be to Apple’s music and product teams if a song full of silence, made in protest of a terrible product decision, became an unstoppable chart-topping machine. Either way, it’s the best 99 cents I spent today. It’s a small price to pay for a moment of blissful silence right after I turn the key.
One word of warning: The song seems to immediately jump to the top of everyone’s library, except in one case. If you’re the proud owner of the Barenaked Ladies’ Maybe You Should Drive, not even Mezrahi can unseat the song “A” from the top of the list. But hey, at least it’s not “One Week.”
UPDATE: This story was updated to include comment, and song choice, from Samir Mezrahi.