If you were a "David Bowie," would you be the Thin White Duke or Ziggy Stardust? If you were a Michael Jackson song, would you be "Bad," or would you be staring at "The Man In the Mirror?"
Thanks to a deluge of incredibly popular online quizzes from pop-culture Web sites like Zimbio and Buzzfeed, you may already know the answers to these not terribly pertinent questions. While these sites and others like them generate more content than these Q&A's, the draw, at least of late, has been prefabricated quizzes that ostensibly tell us something about ourselves.
Here's how it works: you spot a quiz like "Which Classic Rock Band Are You?" on your Facebook feed. You're a huge Led Zeppelin fan and you have no doubt you are Page, Plant and Bonham melded into one singular badass. So you take the quiz, which is brief enough to be completed while waiting in line at the grocery store.
You answer eight or ten questions, some that seem as far removed from the subject as possible. You're unsure how the leafy vegetable you like best dictates which arena-rock band you are, but you gamely answer "radicchio." Then, when you're done, the quiz gives you a selection based on your responses.
If your answer was The Doors and not Zeppelin, you might be "Dazed and Confused" by the results. There obviously was a "Communication Breakdown." You might wonder if there's any science to any of this. At least, I did. The Doors? Uh,no.
So, I set out to find some answers, with the help of some Houston musicians.
"We don't use sociologists or psychologists when building quizzes, because I think they would be a bit dry. Instead we have experts in [their] respective areas come up with the quiz ideas and write the questions and range of possible outcomes," says John Newlin, vice-president of content for Livingly Media, which publishes the Zimbio site
"So, the 'Which Taylor Swift Song Are You?' quiz was created by one of our writers whose working knowledge of all things Taylor Swift is downright intimidating," Newlin explains. "She also happens to be quite smart and funny, which helps a lot, too."
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I decided to test the accuracy of this particular quiz by asking Whitney Flynn to take the test. She's Days N Daze's vocalist and trumpeter, whom I've known since she -- and T. Swift -- were both kids in high school. My best guesses for which Swift song she'd "be" were a) "I Knew You Were Trouble"; or, b) none. (Note: my son is also in Days N Daze.)
"Unfortunately, I think my results were pretty accurate," Flynn reports. "I got 'We Are Never Getting Back Together,' and that song is so goddamn sassy. I'm a pretty sassy lady, I must say, and rarely take shit from people who don't matter to me.
"Plus that music video is really goofy; I'm into it," she adds. "I initially thought I'd get "I Knew You Were Trouble' just because 'Dub Shift' holds it down in that song. Real talk, y'all."
Rhonda Roberts and Sherita Perez are Little Spear, a busy folk-pop act. Perez took time from running the band's current Indiegogo campaign and preparing for a May 10 gig with Kishi Boshi at Fitzgerald's to engage in these exercises. She took a Buzzfeed offering, "Which '00's Indie Band Are You?"
She learned she is Of Montreal. Each answer comes with a blurb explaining the selection, and hers read, "You're an extremely volatile person, and no one can predict when you're either going to be in an upbeat, excitable mood, or a depressed wreck. When you're feeling good, you're extremely fun and flirtatious. You have a very open mind, and are often up for really freaky behavior."
"It sounds about right," says Perez. "What's funny is, I was listening to blues artists in the '90s and Sarah McLachlan, the Cardigans, anything from the Lilith Fair. Also Sublime and some They Might Be Giants. I think Rhonda was way more hip."
Not every quiz churns out the expected results.
"I guessed Brad Paisley; I got Zac Brown and the description doesn't fit me in the least," admits Heath Childs, a country-rocker whose album, Falling Blind, is set for release this spring. He took "Which Country Star Are You?"
"The description said, 'You're incredibly chill, and that's only partly because you're a bit of a stoner. You have a romantic streak, but your one true love is Southern cooking,' Childs says. "Other than the fact that I may have a romantic streak, none of the rest of that applies to me."
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Newlin admits it's not a perfect formula. He says there's actually been feedback -- some of it quite vehement -- to quiz results.
"Oh yeah, we get that a lot, but it's almost entirely in good fun," he says. "Jason Alexander took our 'Which Seinfeld Character Are You?' quiz and got The Soup Nazi, which he joked about on Twitter. And the Star Wars quiz result cards became an internet meme, which is arguably the sincerest form of flattery."
Newlin says the quizzes Zimbio mid-January have already become a big driver to the site. About half of all its visitors in March came because of a quiz.
"For sure some of the authors who've created music-based quizzes for us, both in-house and freelance, have musical backgrounds in some capacity," notes Newlin. "Definitely. But first and foremost, they're huge fans of music and the subjects about which they're writing. You can't fake authenticity."
"The quiz 'Which David Bowie Are You?' is our most popular music-related quiz, but 'Which Beyonce Song is Your Anthem?' is a close second," he adds. "Since most of the entrances to quizzes come organically from readers sharing their results on Facebook, traditional patterns of clickability don't necessarily apply. I think the David Bowie quiz has been so successful because he has a timeless cool factor that lends itself nicely to Facebook sharing."
Newlin says the quizzes are fun, but they need some accuracy about them. Much more thought goes into building a quiz than taking one, he cautions.
"We have hundreds of quiz ideas we've not built, mainly because we haven't gotten around to them yet," Newlin says. "Our publishing platform is pretty slick and fast, but we recognize readers are spending a lot of time on these quiz pages, so we take a great deal of consideration producing them so they're done right and the experience is an enjoyable one."
As a content controller, he has obviously taken Zimbio's music quizzes. I asked if he'd been surprised by any results.
"Probably my result to the 'Which Michael Jackson Song Are You?' quiz," he admits. 'I got "Bad' when I fancy myself much more as a 'Billie Jean' sort of guy. Who writes these things?!"
Jesse tried his hand at building an original online music quiz, "Which Houston Music Venue Are You?" Try it and let him know if he was pretty correct or a clueless moron. If you've ever wondered whether your life is as exciting as an average 50-year-old's, follow him on Twitter.
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