Think back to when you were 16. What clothes did you wear? What car did you drive? What tape or CD did you have to have in the car everywhere you went?
For me, it was eighties rock, hair bands and Sunset Strip culture. In college, it was a steady diet of bass-thumping rap. Strangely enough, today, my musical tastes would have disgusted me just 15 years ago. I would never have listened to anything slow or mellow, but here I am listening to – enjoying even — an eclectic mix of bluegrass, folk songs and classical music. While I don’t hate my ‘old’ music, it doesn’t make me feel the same listening to it as I used to.
That got me thinking… Do our musical tastes change as we age?
Enter a massive 10-year study by the University of Cambridge that looked at a quarter of a million people across varying age groups. The results: The study showed that teenagers like intense music, and adults tend to gravitate towards more contemporary and mellow choices. This shows a clear break in musical tastes around the same time we reach out to make intimate connections, or for most people, in their early to mid-20s.
I know what you’re thinking… I’ve just become a bland and boring worker drone.
Before you place judgment on me, consider that few other aspects of my personality have changed all that much. While I’ve gotten married and have a child, I don’t feel like I’ve lost my edge. I still enjoy taking risks; they are just more calculated now. I still look and feel largely the same as I did when I was younger, but for whatever reason, almost all pop and mainstream music just turns me off. Instead of speaking to me, I feel like the artists have lost touch with my generation. I don’t think anything they’re saying is relevant to my life. I don’t hate my parents anymore. I haven’t maxed out my credit card at the liquor store in quite a while. I can’t really identify with going to rehab.
Another factor in my new musical tastes weighs in, too: instead of coming home energized, I’m usually tired and exhausted after work. If I’m going to listen to music, I’d rather it be relaxing. No, 80s rock doesn’t relax me; it does the opposite. Yes, the soaring guitar riffs are still cool, but not after an 11-hour day. The words seem a little violent now. The songs seem a bit destructive and, since I couldn’t resonate with the same tired old messages being put out, I turned to more reflective meditative stuff with a lot less words.
According to Dr. Jason Rentfrow, youngsters choose music as a cheap way of creating an identity. I certainly used to be reckless, self-destructive, and the music I chose to listen to really embodied that. I hope now I’m on a different path. Not better — lest I sound pretentious — just different.
What do you think? Have your tastes in music changed? Do you still love the same bands as you did when you were younger? Comment below!
University of Cambridge