We all have bands or singers that we enjoy. They create music that might make us dance, make us think, or make us feel.
The particular musician or group, however, can help explain something about your personality. The style or genre that resonates with you can also be illuminating.
Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘What does your favorite music say about you?’ We also discuss another question as well, ‘Where does authority come from?’
What is your favorite music? And what does it say about you?
Related questions: Why does music evoke emotion? Why do we like what we like? What makes you you?
9 thoughts on “What Does Your Favorite Music Say About You?”
Besides reflecting that I practice the cliché of having “diverse musical interests,” most of favs express the needs and desires of the downtrodden or forgotten, or the songs are filled with uplifting messages of social justice. I like to think of others listening to this music as well and believing that it motivates us to take collective action for a better world.
(If you’re interested in some of my actual lists, ask away!)
I love classical music which I find calming and great fuel for the imagination. I like certain pop and alternative artists, though, I often just like a song or two and find the rest of the albums just so-so. I like rock, bluegrass and old hymns. I don’t like jazz as I find the sound of brass instruments harsh. Rap and hip hop have monotonous beats that give me a headache. Heavy metal and hard rock are mostly out because they are just too loud, though I do have a penchant for Guns ‘n’ Roses and AC/DC.
What does this say about me?
I really don’t know
Thanks for admitting that you don’t know what your music say about you. That was my first answer … when I included my several lists of favorites.
This got me thinking: What could a Sherlock Holmes with an encyclopedic knowledge of music, but no knowledge of me, deduce about me from my wall of CDs? I think he’d be able to guess:
(1) My approximate age. I have almost everyone’s greatest hits, but Sherlock will notice much more depth–obscure artists and individual albums–in the 1990s. And even the greatest hits go deeper in the 1980s, the music of my teen years, than in previous or subsequent decades. (Plus there’s the fact that the music is on CD in the first place, although I at least have Spotify now.)
(2) My race. I have plenty of music by African-American artists, but a lot of it is retro (early ’70s funk) or retro-styled (multiple discs by Bettye LaVette and Sharon Jones). The music from my formative years is much heavier in artists who appealed primarily to white audiences (lots of U2 and R.E.M.) than in influential black artists from the same period (only a best-of for Public Enemy, no N.W.A. or spinoffs thereof).
(3) My city of residence. I have many more obscure artists who are only known locally from Minneapolis-St. Paul than from anywhere else. Probably a good third of my hip-hop is local.
(4) My class background. Sherlock would note a disproportionate amount of folk music, particularly multiple recordings by artists like Dar Williams and Richard Shindell who write lyric-intensive songs that appeal to educated audiences. Furthermore, this folk bias goes back decades (a pretty good amount of Peter, Paul & Mary). There’s a lot of late ’80s collegiate rock to go with that U2 and R.E.M., but relatively little country or metal, particularly from my formative years. This would suggest an upper-middle class, intelligentsia-type background.
(5) My parents’ generation. There’s lots of folk from the ’60s (the PP&M again, early Dylan, and several more obscure names), but not the James Taylor and Carly Simon my friends with Boomer parents grew up with.
(6) My political views. Look at all that Ani DiFranco…and quite a lot of other protest music, whether it’s in classic rock or classic funk or alt-rock or hip-hop or Cuban music. And that I’m more into political discussion than partying; the ratio of albums with protest songs to albums without is pretty high, and there’s not a lot of music for mindless hedonism. (What there is tends to be ’80s nostalgia–the age clue again.)
(7) I like words. Instrumental music is a pretty small percentage; a sprinkling of classic jazz, virtually no classical. Even the world music tends to have lyrics, regardless of whether I can understand them. (And, in translation, a lot of it turns out to have political messages.)
What Sherlock may guess wrong is my gender. I probably have as many female artists as male (again, there’s all that Ani). And I don’t tend to listen to many male artists who disrespect women in their lyrics.
And, based on the size of the collection, Sherlock would probably guess that I have a lot more money than I actually do.
I really enjoyed reading this, Ben. And I learned a couple things about you as well.
Current favorites: Eva Cassidy, Eva Cassidy, Eva Cassidy. Next are Simon & Garfunkle, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary, Rogers and Hammerstein, Arthur Fiedler’s Boston Pops, Willy Nelson, Johnny Cash (sometimes), some of the Beatles, and last but not least, sacred music I hear and sing at church (I like it so much I recently joined the choir). Oh,I forgot Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughn, Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, the Carpenters, Barbara Streisand, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Ray Charles, Dianna Ross and Supremes, Nat King Cole, Carole King and on and on. Trying to get into classical but not much success so far. Michael (and Lee), great question!!
p.s. Today I received a picture of my two granddaughters, age 11 and 7 on stage with guitars at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. (just acting like tourists). Guess it’s in the genes.
Thanks, Tom. We tried to change things up this time.
I just realized I never answered your question – what does my favorite music say about me? It says that I like music from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. No apologies.