shifting tastes

louderthanbombs What makes someone who loved "Louder Than Bombs" by the Smiths in the 80s listen to Madeleine Peyroux in 2007? 

Here is a proposal:  there are three types of music lovers.  One loves music in general, and their tastes evolve with the times.  Another loves a specific type of music, and sticks to that type of music over time.  The third starts out listening to popular music but drifts off as they get older into calmer music (shifting from Public Enemy to Kenny G would be an extreme example).

The first may have listened to the Beatles in the 60s, the Eagles in the 70s, the Smiths in the 80s, Pearl Jam in the 90s and now listens to the Killers (that would be a pretty amazing evolution for someone in their mid-to-late 40s).  The second type listened to the Beatles in the 60s, the Wings in the 70s…and then the Beatles again for the last 30+ years.  The third type listened to Cream in the 60s, but by the 90s they were put off by grunge and now listen to Sarah McLachlan or Miles Davis or even Vivaldi.

I suspect most people get stuck on the music of their youth OR slowly regress to calmer music over the years.  It’s fairly rare (although not impossible) to see someone in their 50s who is listening to Kanye West or Kid Rock.  At the same time, all you have to do is check out the charts to realize that there’s STILL a big market for the Eagles, or Bruce Springsteen – and while a lot of younger people may be listening to them, many of their listeners probably are a little older.

What does this listening behavior tell you about that person’s behavior in general? Does someone who listens to cutting edge music have a more risk-tolerant nature?  Would they be more likely to be single, or live in big cities or have more creative careers?  Do you think that people whose musical tastes soften become more conservative politically or in their behavior?  Is any of this reflected in how they treat their finances?

I really have no idea, but I suspect there is some correlation.  I have become much more conservative in my lifestyle over the last ten years – getting married, settling down, having kids and so on.  I know you might argue that none of that drives becoming more conservative in your attitude and behavior, but it does.  My musical tastes have shifted, too.  I used to listen to goth-kid stuff in the 80s:  Cure, Smiths, Depeche Mode.  In the 90s I listened to grunge but when it was time to go to a concert or buy a CD I chose REM and Dave Matthews (notice a softening)?  In the last 10 years I doubt I have seen 3 concerts or bought 4 CDs, but I listen to a lot more jazz and "pop-era" like Bocelli and Sinatra and whatnot.  I occasionally put on K-Rock (New York’s semi-hard-rock station) or load up some DMX or Prodigy, but for the most part I’m Softie McLight.

If anyone wants to chime in on this, answer this question:  what music do you listen to today that you are POSITIVE you will listen to til death do you part – and what music did you listen to years ago that today you can’t believe you liked? 

Comment and make sure you leave a valid email address.  I’ll pick one at random this Sunday and send the lucky winner a mystery CD.  Don’t expect anything good, either.  I have owned Stevie Nicks, Judas Priest and the Stone Roses music over the years, so my entire collection is filled with questionable music.

11 comments

  • I’ll second your opinion that NY radio is subpar, FFB. The music stations in other cities where I’ve lived have been far more diverse and interesting. NY seems to concentrate on cringe-worthy Top 40, “soft rock” and rap stations. I’m no fan of country music but I’ve always found it hard to believe a city this size doesn’t have a single country music station.

  • Iron Maiden!!! Will always listen to them. Live After Death is one of my favorite albums. Metallica’s 80’s albums as well. Beatles and Led Zeppelin are also always favorites (though technically they are before my time). My tastes have matured though and are quite diverse. Beethoven’s 9th is up there with Abbey Road. There were plenty of metal hair bands that I might cringe listening to now. Maybe some hard rap as well. I think for the most part though my tastes get added to rather than substituted. I’m glad to have discovered Elvis Costello and need to hear his introspection sometimes more than I need to hear Slayer (sometimes not).

    I find that I’m somewhat conservative with a tendency to do whatever occasionally. I also listen to K-Rock here in NYC but find myself listening to CBS FM a lot too (an oldies station that just came back on air not too long ago). NY radio also isn’t that good in general in my opinion.

    Can you judge someone by what they listen to? Maybe you can tell how open-minded they are? Other than that you can’t judge a CD by it’s cover.

  • Okay, so I was born in ’78, after most music I love today had already come out. I will always like the Stones and Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, The Beatles. I went through a Smiths, Cure, and Violent Femmes phase in high school. But you’ll also catch me listening to Sarah McLaughlin or even Celine Dion *ducking*. No idea what any of that says about me 🙂

  • I’ve kind of gone from mostly hard rock to mostly sports talk radio 🙂

    I have to say that I still enjoy everything I’ve liked in the past even if I don’t listen to it very often. Since I don’t really listen to a lot of music now, the second question doesn’t really apply.

    Mike

  • My musical tastes have definitely broadened as I’ve gotten older. Mostly I think that’s due to the net – I love services like pandora and last.fm and podcasts, and even the free downloads on myspace, which have certainly exposed me to a wider range of music than when I was strictly an indie kid with a CD budget in my teens. I only started to listen to reggae this year, for example, and a lot of Canadian acts. I’ll listen to most anything that’s well regarded, and that’s been true forever. I’ve given up on radio. Music radio is garbage, in my opinion, although I do listen to news and some Irish phone-in shows when I’m at work.

    To answer your specific questions, I’ll probably be listening to U2 until I die, not because I love them more than other acts (I don’t) but because they’ve been background music to my entire life. And Dubbilin pride, of course. I don’t think I’m amazed or embarassed by anything I listened to when younger, maybe stuff like MC Tunes and the Happy Mondays, but a LOT of the music I owned and bands I followed round have held up since I was 15. I just own it as mp3s now.

  • As a child, I listened mostly to pop/rock. But in my teenage years (90’s), I listened to an increasing amount of softer “alternative” music. I went completely the opposite direction when I joined the Navy and within a year was rockin out to hardcore metal. I don’t listen to straight vacuum-cleaner metal as much anymore (that was a short phase), but over the last 5 years I’ve dipped more and more into emo with a heavy focus on screamo (Underoath, Killswitch, Autumn to Ashes, As Cities Burn, etc.) Since I’ve been married, my tastes have gotten a little heavier, and I’ve gone to more concerts than I ever did single.
    However, I have to agree with Free From Broke. I still have very diverse tastes, and can be caught listening to Bach, Beatles, Zeppelin, Guns n’ Roses, or (more often lately) NPR. Thanks to services like Yahoo! Radio and Tony Reno’s Dragon Radio (with a fantastic selection of bands from all over Asia), I think my tastes continue to broaden. At the least, there is not a small set of artists I keep to like the average Clearchannel radio listener. What gets me interested isn’t really the style of music so much as the quality and the emotional allure. Underoath is still my favorite band, however. Killswitch Engage comes in a close second. Not simply because they are heavy, but honestly due to the quality of music they produce. I find it fascinating that several of the band members have music degrees. One plays in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It’s a very well-orchestrated (if I may use the word) form of music despite it’s weight and velocity.
    I also consider myself relatively religiously, politically and fiscally Conservative, given my profession (hehe…)

  • And to answer your question, I believe there are some generalizations you can make based on someone’s music preferences. But you can’t get too specific. The music preference may indicate a personality that, while not traditional, may not be too outlandish and in fact merely end up achieving the same result, just with different methods.

  • Wow…. How do I answer this one!?! I love it all! I have a 400 disk changer that is full, and I have more CDs that don’t fit. Then we have my wife’s CDs… I’ve got everything covering grunge, alt rock, jazz, pop, hard rock, soft rock, folk, classic rock, blues, prog, ska, and even a little Latin, R&B, classical, musicals, and country. To top it off I have some local bands and some CDs I helped produce/record for some friends (we’re talking living room and beer, not professional studio!). My wife bought me some Sinatra for Christmas, and right now I am listening to Coheed and Cambria. Loudly.

    Overall, I am a child of the 90’s music scene, but I appreciate almost everything. (I just shy away from opera and violent gangsta rap – not my style).

  • I have noticed that as I am getting older that I prefer calmer music. Just thought that my tastes were changing, now I am beginning to think that it is just another age related change.

  • I can’t believe I liked the techno/dance music of the 90s. I find myself backtracking towards the synth pop/rock of the 80s, but I will probably listen to SID or modtracker music (Turrican!!) until I die if it’s still around at that time.

  • Great question.

    My tastes have actually become harder as I’ve aged, though that’s probably more due to freedom from my parents’ tastes and the influence of Hubby than anything else. I used to listen mainly to the Beatles, REM, Classical and 80s stuff like Madonna. Now I tend more towards harder rock like Nickelback or AC/DC, even occassionally liking Eminem (much to Hubby’s dismay), though the Beatles still rock, of course, and Vivaldi and Bach are still my first choice when mellowing out with a glass of red wine. Oh, and I’ve loved the Barenaked Ladies since they started. I doubt that one will change much.

    Not too much I used to listen to embarrasses me now, though I suppose if anyone came forward with a video of me doing the macarena in university, I might have to crawl under a rock and die. Oh, and I knew all the lyrics to Walk Like an Egyptian. Does that count? And, er, there was that Milli Vanilli phase…