Last night I was off. I had a quiet house, and so I decided to listen to some new music by pianist Erik Deutsch that a friend had recommended approximately two months ago. In the email he sent to me, he asked me where I found the time to listen to new music. I told him I didn’t really, but would like to do more of it.
And so I enjoyed Mr. Deutsch’s playing and compositions, especially one called Funky Digits, but more in an analytical sense than an emotional sense, and it got me thinking about the last time I connected with a new song emotionally, in the way I would have regularly in my teens and early 20s.
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz wrote about this in the NY Times here earlier this year. He analysed the data on Spotify, and found that the year we are born influences the degree to which we are likely to like a song as an adult.
More specifically, on average, our favourite songs as adults are most likely to have come out towards the end of puberty (13-16 for men, 11-14 for women). For both men and women, their early 20s were half as influential in forming their musical tastes as their teens.
He took the example of Creep, by Radiohead. It is the 164th most popular song for men aged 38. But it doesn’t break the top 300 for men aged 10 years older or 10 years younger.
It struck a chord – I’m 38, and I remember when the song came out and all the lads in school playing it at full volume on their stereos. These were formative years in many ways, and the songs we listened to then stay with us for life.
This has a few interesting connotations.
Firstly, if you are an artist trying to impress your music onto a new audience, you are more likely to succeed if your music is aimed at younger rather than older people.
Secondly, it explains the oft-heard phrase – ‘they don’t write them like that any more’. We romanticise the music we listened to in our youth, and it’s difficult for us to find anything that will ever be as good as it again.
Finally though, I’m glad my friend recommended this music and sent it on to me. Even if I now know why I was never likely to connect with it emotionally, it opened up my mind, and gave me some ideas for next Monday night’s gig in Connolly’s.