I love learning the history behind some of my favorite songs. I find that knowing their backstories adds an extra layer of nuance as I listen. Vice’s “The Story Of” series is fascinating for that very reason.

I’ve noticed something interesting that’s present in almost every episode. Let’s see if you can pick up on it (if you have time, you should watch all of these from the beginning. They are definitely worth your time).

Here is producer Ron Flair talking about the first time he heard Vannessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles”:

Let’s try another… (technically this is from The Defiant Ones, but give me a break)

And again.

Once more, with feeling.

Wait, there are still more examples?

Sometimes, you just hear a song and you know it’s a smash. And sometimes, you use an app or a new technology for the first time, and you know your life will never be the same. I call this “the Smash Test.”

Here are some products I vividly remember passing the Smash Test:

  • Uber (2013)
  • Detour (2016, RIP)
  • Lupa (2018)
  • Tesla (2019)

But increasingly, it seems like these eureka moments are fewer and further between. Why? Is the rate of innovation slowing down? Is it a natural byproduct of our industry maturing? Has my risk appetite decreased dramatically? Is it because I’m older and more jaded, meaning I fail to comprehend the potential of technologies like web3 and the enthusiasm behind it? Is it because I’m more experienced, so like Dorothy peeking behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz, I can see through the gimmicks laid before me? Is it because my social circles have evolved so I have less exposure to innovative people and products?

I’m still thinking through this. Have you used a product or service recently that passed the Smash Test? Do you know of places (either virtual or real-life) where I could hang out to increase my exposure to these types of products and the people building them? If so, please drop me a line.