Ask the iTunes Guy: Limited options for viewing music, album repeat, and duplicate tracks

Got questions about iTunes? Kirk McElhearn has the answers.

The iTunes Guy

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Sometimes it’s the little things. Sometimes you just want an app to display your content the way you want, but with Apple, it’s not always the case. Take the Music app; you can no longer view a list of albums and songs, and this annoys some users. Some people want to play an album on repeat; it turns out there’s a way to do this, but it’s not obvious to everyone. And here’s something iTunes does well: it alerts you when you add duplicate tracks to a playlist.

Just the songs, please

Q: I want to see a list of all the songs by an artist on my iPhone. In the past, I could select an artist and see a listing sorted by albums with all their songs visible. Now when I click an artist, I see all the albums, and I have to tap one to see its songs. I have a lot of Springsteen on my iPhone. I do not remember which album each song is on. Do you know of any easy way of letting me just see songs by an artist, not sorted by album? Everyone is like “Make a playlist!” That’s obnoxious, and I shouldn’t have to because the functionality used to exist. “Tap the image of the artist to play the songs!” I don’t want to shuffle all the songs by the artist. I want to see a list! Got anything for a floundering fan who just wants to see artist’s songs listed?

I feel your pain. Your exasperation. And your frustration. In iOS 8, you could tap an artist’s name, then, as you say, see a list of albums followed by their songs. I was able to find a screenshot in my archives, which shows how albums and songs displayed when selecting an artist in iOS 8:

ios8 music app

The Music app in iOS 8 displayed each of an artists' albums, then their songs.

Compare that to the way it displays now:

ios9 music app

iOS 9's Music app shows you albums, not songs. If you want to see more, you need to tap each album.

In addition to the app not displaying the albums’ songs, it also displays them in reverse chronological order, rather than in alphabetical order. This highlights one of the biggest problems with the Music app: it offers you no options for viewing your music. For a long time, people were used to viewing the albums in alphabetical order, then songs. Then Apple pulled the rug out from under us and switched to a simple album list in reverse chronological order.

There aren’t many options to accomplish what you want. You could make a playlist for each artist for whom you have a lot of music. You could tap the search icon at the top right of the iPhone display, then type the name of the song you’re looking for. You could display your music by Songs, and scroll to find the song you want. But I have a feeling that none of these would fully satisfy you.

I would love to see options for the way the Music app displays albums and songs. Some people are happy with this reverse chronological order, because they see the most recent albums at the top of the list. But others, like you, and me, would actually prefer to see albums in alphabetical order—because if I’m searching for an album, I look for its title, and don’t remember when it was released—and with the songs on the first screen.

While we’re all used to Apple imposing their “best way to do something” on users, it can be annoying. Not only because we often have no options to change the way things work, but because Apple changes some of these things from one version of iOS or OS X to another.

No dupes in this playlist

Q: I’d like to import all my songs of a particular genre into a specific playlist. However, some of the songs are already in the playlist. Is there an easy way to import all of the genre list without duplicating entries?

This is something that iTunes actually does very well. If you add a bunch of songs to a standard playlist (not a smart playlist) iTunes displays a dialog explaining that some of the tracks are already in the playlist. It asks if you are sure that you want to add them to the playlist. Your choices are Skip, Cancel, and Add.

add to playlist

iTunes is good at warning you if you're about to add songs to a playlist that already contains those tracks.

In your case, click Skip; this tells iTunes to skip the duplicate tracks, but to still add all of the others. If you did want to add the duplicates—if you wanted certain songs to be in the playlist more than once—then you would click Add. And if you made a mistake, you click Cancel and iTunes doesn’t copy anything.

Over and over

Q: How can I make an album loop continuously on my iPhone?


Tap the Repeat button (in the red square) to play an album over and over and over...

Sometimes you want variety, but sometimes you want to hear your favorite album over and over. I often listen to new albums several times when I get them, to fully immerse myself in the music.

To play an album until you get tired of it, find the album (it’s best to do this in Albums view) and tap its artwork to start playing. Tap the now playing bar just above the bottom of the window to display the Now Playing screen. At the bottom of this window, you’ll see a little Repeat button; it looks like two arrows chasing each other. Tap it and the Music app will play the album until you tell it to stop, or run out of battery power.

Don’t forget to tap it again to turn off Repeat when you want to listen to something else.

Have questions of your own for the iTunes Guy? Send them along for his consideration.

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