REVIEW: Music-Based Dating App Tastebuds

It sounded like a great idea at first — then a stranger sent me a love song.

As a young adult in the age of the smart phone, dating apps are certainly not a new concept for me. I downloaded Tinder along with the rest of the millennials, but eventually the messages of late-night desperation became more of an annoyance than an amusement, and I decided the storage on my phone could be put to better use.

And then I happened upon Tastebuds. A dating site based in London and celebrating its fourth birthday on June 11, Tastebuds just became available for iPhones last month. The app, unlike the likes of Tinder with its looks-are-everything approach, selects a user’s matches based on similar tastes in music.

Sounds intriguing, right? A music-based dating app has the potential to be a success in ways that Tinder never could have. Amazed at the simple brilliance of the idea, I decided to give it a shot.

If you opt out of syncing the app to your Facebook account, Tastebuds asks that you provide your birthday, gender, sexual orientation and a picture to kick off things. After selecting a profile picture that I felt accurately represented what I look like (I firmly believe it’s cheating to use a heavily-filtered selfie in situations like this), I moved on to the music part.

And here is where I encountered my first problem with the app. Tastebuds, in an effort to help you compile the list of bands and artists you want to use to represent yourself, automatically selects every artist from your iTunes library. I can’t be the only person with a few songs saved from yesteryear that, for whatever reason, don’t necessarily represent my tastes as they stand today. Do I want to match with a bunch of Taylor Swift fans because my graduating class opted to sing one of her songs at our high school graduation? Not really, no. However, as there doesn’t seem to be an option to remove artists, T. Swift remains.

Embarrassing iTunes selections aside, it’s fairly easy to add artists to your profile. Tastebuds gives you recommendations based on your previously added selections that aren’t far off, so you can either scroll through their suggestions or search for your own. It took me about five minutes to compile a list that I felt represented my tastes fairly well.

My profile complete, I sat back and waited for something to happen. It didn’t take long; I had three messages within two minutes, and they kept rolling in. Most were fairly standard greetings of the “Hey, what’s up?” variety. The app apparently includes actions you can choose as well, like giving someone a “furry bear hug” or asking what the craziest thing they’ve ever done is. Personally I don’t think it’s all that flattering when someone selects a pre-written message to send on an app that’s supposed to be based on individuality, but it’s not a bad idea for less confident (or lazy) users.

About 10 minutes after I began using Tastebuds, I received what was initially a pleasant surprise: You can send songs on this app. A man with the username “deep_ended” sent me a YouTube link to “Tree by the River” by Iron & Wine, and before I could even finish listening to that, he sent the acoustic version of “40 Day Dream” by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros.

Now, I happen to love both of those songs. They’re slow and beautiful and can be magical if used in the correct context. In “40 Day Dream,” Edward Sharpe croons, “She got jumper cable lips / She got sunset on her breath now / I inhaled just a little bit / Now I got no fear of death now.” If someone that really knew me said that song made him think of me, I’d probably swoon — no, I’d definitely swoon. But this complete stranger had never heard so much as a single word from me, let alone been close enough to check out the spark on my “jumper cable lips.”

It was while analyzing the lyrics that I realized he was cheating — and Tastebuds was helping him do it. I couldn’t have put my finger on it before I downloaded the app, but a big part of the excitement of sharing music tastes with someone comes in the process of discovering that. You shouldn’t get a cheat code.

As excited as I was about the idea of Tastebuds before I downloaded it, I can’t say that I’m a fan after using it. Call me old-fashioned if you must, but there are some human interactions that lose meaning when shared between strangers on the internet — dedicating love songs is one of them.