As it turns out, we choose for ourselves, but we’re often heavily influenced.
Most of the time I don’t put a lot of thought into the music I’m playing. I have fairly broad tastes and an expansive library of CDs, LPs, and MP3s to back up that claim. When I go to turn on something I am looking for music that will go with what I’m feeling or will brighten up my mood. Often, I simply reach for one of my favourites.
But recently I’ve started to wonder how those albums actually became my favourites. Why do I like one particular genre over another, and why do I turn up one vocalist while I mute others?
A few weeks ago I was on a drive with my dad and I noticed we share much of the same taste in music. My dad likes a lot of Neil Young, Rolling Stones and Jackson Browne, and so do I. We can comfortably listen to each other’s soundtracks without cringing (too much). Similarly, my mom was a fan of classics like Leonard Cohen and Rod Stewart, and I can say without embarrassment that I took her to see Cohen on one of his recent trips to Toronto, and it was one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.
This doesn’t mean I listen exclusively to the same music as my parents. In fact, most of my personal favourite albums and tracks are from current or more recent artists, but I’d argue that they’re often from similar genres or styles.
So where do we get our musical tastes?
I know my predilection for the same music as my parents isn’t necessarily a common theme among millennials. So how did I develop my unique tastes and did my parents have anything to do with it?
This might be a good time to bring up the (mostly) terrifyingly accurate infographic from Sonos that shows how your father’s favourite music indicates what you listen to today.
In all seriousness, a 2012 article from BBC Magazine asked the question: “Can you shape your children’s taste in music?” The article found that parents, whether they are very musical or not, tend to want to pass down their musical tastes in the same way they pass down advice, but ultimately it concludes that children can choose to either follow that advice or take their own path. “It seems that the musical environment at home does not necessarily influence what a child grows up to enjoy.”
Identity through music
Having our parents’ taste in music might not just boil down to “dad knows best” advice. According to an article on Psychology Today our particular music choices are “driven mostly by our social identity.” If you tend to see yourself as an intellectual, the chances are high you’ll like classical music. And in this case, our parents definitely had an impact on our musical tastes — just indirectly.
Interestingly, your peers and environment might also be directly impacting your musical tastes — and not just because your friends have their Rdio accounts linked to their Facebook profiles. Since our musical preferences are so closely linked to our personalities, we may choose to listen to a certain style of music simply because we want to be perceived a certain way.
In the end, wherever your musical tastes come from, chances are, your cat isn’t impressed.
Do you share the same musical tastes as your parents or do you cringe when they turn up the radio?