(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Why do we love the music we love? Science has the answer, of course, and a number of factors come into play.


I got thinking about this after seeing this piece from the Washington Post: Why do you like the music you like? Science weighs in. (The piece was also reprinted in the Spokane, WA Spokesman-Review, so you can read it here if you don’t have a WaPo account). To start with, author Nayantara Dutta writes:

Many people tend to form their musical identity in adolescence, around the same time that they explore their social identity. Preferences may change over time, but research shows that people tend to be especially fond of music from their adolescent years and recall music from a specific age period – 10 to 30 years with a peak at 14 – more easily.


This tracks for me. I really started to pay attention to music outside of what my parents were listening to at around age 12. I turned 14 in 1991: the year of the grunge and alternative rock explosion. And I still hold the music I first heard that year dear. Hell, I play it on the radio for a living! And I’ll bet if you stop and think about it what you were listening to when you were 14, it’s music that you still love today. But why is that? And what else is going on?


Why Do We Love the Music We Love?

Duta continues: Musical taste is often identified by preferred genres, but a more accurate way of understanding preferences is by musical attributes, researchers say. One model outlines three dimensions of musical attributes: arousal, valence and depth.


Arousal: the energy and intensity in music. Valence: the spectrum of emotions, from negative to positive. Depth: intellectual complexity. So there’s a lot more going on than just “I heard this song when I was a teenager and I still love it today.” The energy, range of emotion, and intellectual connection all play a part and–here’s the kicker–so does our personality. So while I might be the same age as you, and I was a ’90s rocker, you might have been a ’90s pop kid because you have an entirely different personality than I do.


The science is interesting; I encourage you to check out the whole piece. And I encourage you to buck the trend. Keep embracing and discovering new music! Open that 30-year window up into 40 and 50 years! We’re helping you here at ROCK 92.9 by playing new rock. Keep scrolling for a half-dozen new songs you can weekdays with me.


  • Blink-182 "Edging"

  • The Killers "Boy"

  • Ozzy Osbourne "Patient Number 9"

  • Red Hot Chili Peppers "Tippa My Tongue"

  • Smashing Pumpkins "Beguiled"

  • Weezer "Records"

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