Everyone likes music. I can honestly say I have never met a person who doesn't like some form or genre of music. Now, not everyone likes the same kind of music, and often our mood dictates our genre of choice. So, why do some people like rap and hip hop, while others despise it? Why could some of us happily live in a musical while others find the thought of merely watching one cringe-worthy?
Well, for one thing, there is such a thing as musical nostalgia. Studies show that the parts of our brain that are stimulated by music (particularly music we enjoy) are much more active in between ages 12 and 22. So, the music that is popular during that time of our lives has a permanent impact on our musical taste. For me personally, I grew up listening to, and loving, classic rock and musicals. While those weren't the most popular during my teen years, my musical taste was shaped more around my home life and choices. YouTube, Pandora, and Spotify have largely impacted the realm of musical taste, allowing listeners to choose what to surround themselves with.
2. Life Style & Status
While exposure during our teen years plays a role in our musical taste, there have also been studies of correlations between traits and musical taste. According to a study of 10,00 volunteers by the New University of Leicester, our musical tastes are often reflective of who we are and where we come from. For example, members of the middle and upper class were more likely to enjoy classical and opera music, whereas the lower class preferred hip hop and dance. Those defining class characteristics also lined up with stereotypes associated with those musical tastes.
For example, of those that preferred hip hop and dance, 56.9% admitted to having committed a crime, as opposed to only 17.9% of musical fans. This may have more to do with socioeconomic status. It just so happens that those on the lower end, and who are therefore more likely to be involved in crime, prefer that style of music. Whether the music is the cause of the lifestyle, or merely a reflection of it, remains to be seen.
Music goes deeper than a lifestyle. In fact, listening to music involves something called synesthesia. Synesthesia, to put it simply, is when one sense is activated, like a smell, and this triggers another sense, such as sight. For example, sometimes returning to your childhood home and catching a specific scent can trigger a memory you'd forgotten. When we listen to music, multiple parts of our brain are activated. In Music & How It Impacts Your Brain, Emotions, Professor Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist, and composer, unveils the mystery of the emotion in music by explaining how the brain's emotional, language and memory centers are connected during the processing of music – providing what is essentially a synesthetic experience. Some songwriters are very adept at finding these connections, and so produce beautiful and emotionally moving pieces. Now, what does all of this have to do with you and your music choices?
4. Our Musical Choices
Everyone has particular musical tastes, much of which is formed as we grow up. The connections formed in our brains during the synesthetic experience of listening to music play a role as well. Often our musical choices change as we grow. For example, growing up I hated, nay, despised, rap music. I continued this view until I was introduced to Lin Manuel Miranda's musical, Hamilton. Even then, I initially disliked it. Then, I heard the first Cabinet Battle between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. It was rap, the style I typically disliked, but this time I could hear what they said, and I loved it! I realized that what I despised about mainstream rap wasn't the style, but the content. I couldn't stand the music that was only about sex and full of cursing, because it was stupid and crude. Well-written rap and hip hop though is something I can get behind.
What our musical choices really come down to is how we want to represent ourselves. We like music that we can connect to, and want to be associated with. This is due in part to our upbringing and stereotypes. Some people despise classical music because it's associated with the wealthy and nerdy. Others, as in my case growing up, despise hip hop because of it's associations with gangs and crime. Music is one of the best forms of expression out there, and there is something for everyone. It's okay to like different music from your friends because that just means you have a more diverse group. It's also okay to expand your musical horizons as you grow because that just shows a willingness to connect with more people. Music and all that it involves is truly amazing.