First, take note: The folks who own and operate Deezer Radio are French, as you will be reminded many, many times, should you explore this interactive radio service for the web and smartphones. [Update: Deezer is no longer available in the United States.]
Deezer’s English-language version is still scripted largely in French, so Flash elements, buttons, and other elements are not translated, and your experience on the site may suffer somewhat from your inability to decipher what “Plein écran” means.
Daniel Marhely founded Deezer in 2006; those who’ve been around that long may remember its prior incarnation, Blogmusik. The service now provides a purported seven million tracks to four million users around the world. Its most interactive component is the smart radio feature, which you can access by searching the library by artist or song.
Altogether, Deezer’s a pretty low-frills entity that’s designed to get you listening to music without a lot of fuss — but so do lots of other services. How else you can use the service remains a mystery.
Station Creation Options
We found this aspect of the service, bare-bones and boring, frankly. Deezer provides you with a page of recommendations: Top Webradios, Top 10 Playlists, and hit charts arranged by country. If you look at some of the recommendations (like Franz Ferdinand for The Black Crowes), it’s obvious that Deezer’s music suggestions are pretty basic.
As such, you can understand why the service’s Smart Radio feature would be so elementary. Certain stations — say Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings radio — work because they are able to pull from a very defined group of songs, but broader entities have a much harder time. A search for Spoon, for instance, yielded two Spoon songs, two Walkmen songs, one Stephen Malkmus song, a Wolf Parade song, and the another Spoon song — not exactly a vehicle for music discovery, because most Spoon fans already know those bands.
A search for the Black Keys proved even more disastrous, as the duo’s side project Blakroc preceded a Dan Auerbach song, insinuating that the only criteria for this particular radio station was that bands included a member of the searched-for group.
Mobile App Options
Deezer’s mobile app leaves a lot to be desired. Maybe simplicity is the name of the game, but that game is pretty frustrating when you can’t even locate results for a well-known band like TV On The Radio.
Deezer mobile is split up by track, artist and album. If you search for Bob Dylan on the track setting, you’ll by directed to their entire Bob Dylan library rather than Dylan the artist, so make sure you know which setting you’re on before you start searching.
You can also start a radio station by searching through Deezer’s list of pre-fixed genres, though this is fairly useless for serious music fans. After looking through a site like Pandora’s extensive options for a hip-hop radio station, it’s difficult to turn to picking one of four “Urbain” stations: R&B, Rap, Rap Français, and Urban Style.
Once you’re in the player, the only options are play/pause, skip, and to favorite the song. Tapping the album art lets you choose to add a song to a playlist, buy the track through iTunes, or look up album/artist information, but even the artist information for the famous Bob Dylan includes only a picture. Dylan does get a biography if you click through enough buttons, but for lesser-known artists (even the relatively well-known Donovan), that option disappears.
On the web, Deezer runs a player at the top of the screen with navigational options underneath. You can always control what you’re listening to using the main banner control at the top (including equalizer, playlist creation, downloading, volume, and search), but it’s unclear how navigation works when you’re browsing the site below.
Part of the reason for this is that there are buttons on Deezer’s site that don’t seem to move you anywhere. They’re just there. When you press them, nothing happens. It’s truly a wonder.
Other suspicious components include the tabs at the bottom (Discographie, Artistes Similalres, etc.), which don’t contain any information even for a band as well known as the White Stripes.
You can share stations with Deezer friends, but there’s no option to create a smart radio playlist and then email it, text it or tweet it outside of the Deezer platform.
Do You Get What You’re Looking For?
Probably not. Again, the language barrier may be an issue, and French-speaking users will surely have better results, but Deezer doesn’t offer features comparable to what you get with Pandora, Slacker, or Last.fm. Even though it claims over seven million songs, finding what you want to listen to grows harder with each query.
Deezer offers Deezer Premium for 10 euros a month (or about $14), which is a whole lot of money compared to the other radio stations, but it may be worth it for what the Premium service provides you: namely, the opportunity to download individual songs and play them back when you’re offline, as one would with an on-demand music subscription. You can also use Deezer Premium to play the app via AirPlay on various stereo systems. Lastly, as is usual with subscription packages, Deezer Premium removes all ads.