Boil the Frog – the unreleased Spotify Version

Update – You are probably looking for this web-based version of Boil The Frog and the blog post about it.

Screenshot 1:2:13 5:54 AM-3

The rest of this article is about the unreleased Spotify Version of Boil the Frog.

I’m at Music Apps Hack Weekend doing my favorite thing: hacking on music. I’ve just finished my hack called Boil the Frog.  Boil the Frog  is a Spotify App that will create playlists that gradually take you from one music style to another.  It is like the proverbial story of the frog in the pot of water. If you heat the water gradually, the frog won’t notice and will happily sit in the pot until it becomes frog stew.  With Boil the Frog  you can do the same thing musically.  Create a playlist that gradually takes your pre-teen from Miley Cyrus to Miles Davis, or perhaps more perversely the Kenny G fan to Cannibal Corpse.

To build the app I built an artist similarity graph of 100,000 of the most popular artists. I use The Echo Nest artist similarity to connect each artist to its four nearest neighbors. To find the path between any two artists I use a bidirectional Dijkstra shortest path algorithm.  Most paths can be computed in less than 100ms.

The Spotify Apps API is the perfect hacking platform. You can build a Spotify app that has full access to the vast Spotify music catalog and artwork, along with access to the listener’s catalog.   Since the Spotify Apps run in an embedded browser all of your web app programming skills apply.  You can use jQuery, make calls to JSON APIs, use HTML 5 canvas. It is all there. Spotify has done a really good job putting together this platform.  The only downside is that, unlike the web, it is hard to actually release Spotify apps, but the Spotify team is working to make this easier.    I’d love to release Boil the Frog because it is really fun to make playlists that bring you from one music style to another. It is interesting to see what musical neighborhoods you wander through on your way.  For instance, I made a Kenny G to Cannibal Corpse playlist. To get there, the playlist brought me from easy listening, to movie soundtracks and then through video game soundtracks to get to the heavy metal world.  Cool stuff.  If you want to see a playlist between two artists let me  know in the comments and I’ll create and share the playlist with you.

I made a video of Boil the Frog in action.   Check it out:


Update: I’ve just pushed the client code out to github:

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  1. #1 by Marni on February 26, 2012 - 3:20 pm

    How about Feist, “Mushaboom” to Bowie, “Under Pressure”?

  2. #3 by svshepherd on February 26, 2012 - 8:06 pm

    korn “narcissistic cannibal” to r.e.m. “shiny happy people”

  3. #5 by Jeff on February 26, 2012 - 11:05 pm

    Franz Liszt to Katy Perry?

  4. #7 by Kris on February 27, 2012 - 7:32 pm

    Lil B to Mozart

    • #8 by Paul on February 27, 2012 - 7:43 pm

      Lil’B To Mozart

      • #9 by Jesper on February 28, 2012 - 1:07 am

        There is only one track in this particular playlist (Lil’B)?
        Because there is no path to Mozart in your artist graph?

        Cool app though.

  5. #10 by jeremy on February 27, 2012 - 10:48 pm

    Your concept here, underlying Boil the Frog, reminds me of the driving home playlisting tool that you and Stephen G. showed me in 2005. It is a really, really cool concept.

    • #11 by Paul on February 28, 2012 - 10:08 am

      Jesper – looks like there was a bug in creating the spotify playlist from the list of tracks. Try this one:

  6. #12 by David Raedy (@DaveRaedy) on February 27, 2012 - 11:27 pm

    Glad to have been at the hackathon to see this. Great hack and the crowd loved it.

  7. #13 by machty on February 28, 2012 - 2:34 pm

    This was the best hack of the weekend, by far. Well done!

  8. #14 by oliolioli on March 19, 2012 - 8:32 am

    Fantastic. Would love this as a real app as other services just get stuck on one style based on the seed track – which is pretty boring.

    Could you do me one that goes from:

    Alpha Centuri by Excision and Datsik


    4th movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony

    Many thanks in advance!



    • #15 by Paul on March 19, 2012 - 2:50 pm

      Hi Oli

      The Boil the Frog playlist works at the artist level, not the song level, so I made a playlist that goes from Excision and Datsik to Beethoven. You can substitute the songs as you see fit. The playlist is here:


  9. #16 by oliolioli on March 20, 2012 - 8:07 am

    Super awesome, cheers!!!

    I do hope you release this as an iOS app. I’ll be first in line and would pay anything up to £1.29 ;-)

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