What Your Musical Taste Says About You

They say that in life you should make a point of finding your ‘tribe,’ people who share your values and interests that you can be yourself with, in order to grow into the person you were meant to be. I am a firm believer in the saying that ‘everything happens for a reason’, so I do not believe that your tribe materializes by coincidence. Some cross your path to help you in your career, some teach you tough lessons; some offer a shoulder to lean on and some serve as a happy distraction.

Music, for me, can occasionally be as magical a force as love; so it is no surprise that a passion for music is high on my list of attractive attributes when meeting new people.  How indicative is a person’s musical taste of their character and compatibility with you? How can music help to guide you as an adolescent into the informed, opinionated adult you are today? Can your choice of playlist indicate mental issues that you didn’t realise were a problem? Stay tuned.

Researchers North and Hargreaves found that musical taste functions as a ‘badge’ people use to judge others and express their individuality simultaneously. Although your musical palette offers similarities to your peers’, people make a point of finding artists and tracks that are more niche in order to claim ownership and a deeper knowledge of the genre than their friends. This separate musical identity is something that comes with maturity, in stark contrast to the need children have to fit in.

Pop music for some is a sign of conformity to the mainstream and, in some cases, an indication of someone who is not comfortable thinking for themselves. Despite the effort modern pop music has made to broach controversial topics and speak out on the big issues, if you follow the crowd you lose street cred in the eyes of academics, rebellious teens and inquisitive 20 somethings alike. The messages are deemed over-simplified and ‘cheesy’, therefore it is a genre that many people associate with childhood and grow out of.

As a child, pop music is an integral part of your socialisation at school. You feel like you are part of something when you collect all the merchandise, memorise the lyrics and experience the concerts. In the 1990’s, when I was growing up, pop music was generally PG rated in terms of lyrical content. The hooks expressed ‘girl power’ and messages about love and friendship. These days everything might as well be X-rated, even the Disney Channel stars are half naked and behaving in questionable ways. Therefore most of the new generation is alienated from the experience of live music, as they can no longer relate to it, and this to me is so very tragic.

Content regulation before the watershed seems to be a thing of the past on the radio, internet and TV. Unfortunately, whether musicians like it or not they are role models to the new generation and their words can encourage premature sexualisation and even drug abuse in some cases. Although, on the flip side, lyrics can also help a confused adolescent find their way in the world and give them a sense of solidarity in their time of need. For instance, I remember listening to pop rock and identifying with that feeling of being an outcast, which they spoke about so frequently and it made me feel more positive about my own situation. Hip hop songs also gave me that escape from the interests of my parents and teachers, allowing me to explore topics usually kept hidden from me.

Scholars Rentfrow and Gosling carried out studies to analyse the effect music has on compatibility and found that blues, jazz, classical and folk music lovers were more liberal and open-minded. The Daily Mail went a step further and claimed that heavy metal fans were found to be more rebellious with a strong sense of social awareness. So people with similar beliefs tend to gravitate towards fans of these genres.

Musical therapist, Jennifer Buchanan, observed that people who tend to listen to music from a particular time in their lives seem to have unresolved issues related to their past that they need to address in order to move on and grow. Having negative association with certain songs that remind you of troubled times is unhealthy for your mental state and the tracks need to be avoided until the issue is dealt with, as they may cause you to stay trapped in that emotion. She advises substituting them with ‘happy playlists’ that remind you of better experiences.

As I have mentioned previously, music is a powerful stimulant for memories and for this reason Jennifer has found that her dying patients find solace in their ‘musical journey’. The songs that trigger happy memories and conjure up images of you at different stages in your life can help patients find the inner peace they are waiting for before death and give the world something to remember them by. At the end of the day, no one wants to be forgotten and your musical taste is part of your identity and mark on the world. Embrace your taste and the people that reflect it and enjoy your little slice of magic.

Did you enjoy this piece? Read more about the impact music can have on your health here.

Musical compatibility may be an important attribute for your romantic relationships, but take a look at some of the other ways music has helped us in our love lives here.

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