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The best features for any product tend to be the ones that work exactly how you think they should. You can add Yahoo’s newly revamped music artist shortcuts in its search results to that list — sort of. Simply do a Yahoo search for an artist and a card will show up along the top of the results page with the artists’ site, links to albums, lyrics, etc. That’s all nice, if old. But the new cool feature is that you can listen to entire songs right from the results page for free.

Yahoo offers this thanks to its partnership with the online music service Rhapsody. (Other services, such as iLike also have partnerships with Rhapsody.) When you click the play button next to a song title in the artists’ box, the Yahoo/Rhapsody player will pop open at the bottom of the search results window, allowing you to play the track. In this player you can pause the track, go to the next one, get more information about it, and head over to Rhapsody’s site to buy it.

Previously, Yahoo and Rhapsody offered 30 second clips of songs in this shortcut feature. With that limit removed it’s much nicer, but it’s still limited. You can only play 25 full songs a month for free. To get more, you’ll need to sign up for Rhapsody’s subscription service — currently $12.99 a month.

The other big limitation is even more annoying: Each artist only has four tracks that are available to be streamed for free. While I understand the 25 track a month limit, the four-tracks-per-artist restriction takes the service from awesome to almost useless. What if the song I’m looking for doesn’t happen to be one of those four? Does Yahoo think I just want a sample of what type of music the artist plays? No, I can get that elsewhere.

The way I search for music is currently fragmented. If I think I know what song I’m looking for, I’ll open iTunes and hunt it down. Once I find its preview clip and determine I want it, I’ll open AmazonMP3 to search for it again, this time to buy it. (I like AmazonMP3’s offering better than iTunes — more on that here.)

Sometimes I’ll search for music on a service like to hear it for free, but this process is still rather cumbersome. And I also still have a hard time finding full tracks of the songs I want there. Imeem works pretty well for this, but involves a bunch of clicks to actually get to the track you want. Pandora is great for music discovery, but you can’t search for specific songs.

Using a huge search engine such as Yahoo search, which millions of people already use everyday, for music discovery makes sense. It would seem that Yahoo could make a ton of money from Rhapsody affiliate fees alone. But for it to be truly useful, Yahoo should have an expandable box to show all the tracks by an artist and let you play them — even if it’s just 25 plays a month or whatnot. That would make my music discovery experience much easier.

Yahoo says that full music playback will soon be offered on Yahoo Music too. Let’s hope it’s less limited.

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