I’ve always thought a person’s individual taste in music can reveal something deeper about who he or she is as a person.
From my experience, there’s always been a connection. I mean, if you’re fascinated by different types of music, it’s likely that you’re fascinated by different aspects of life.
Then again, if you approach music with a sense of apathy, you probably tackle matters of life with a similar mindset -- it’s all connected.
But I think it’s even deeper than that -- music is an art form, a form of expression. Your taste in music will not only reflect your own style, but also your views.
In his early work, Hunter S. Thompson often made mention of the importance of certain rock and roll lyrics.
In one essay, he wrote, “The most significant, if not the best by older critical standards, literature in America today is to be found, not in books, or even in the established literary magazines, but in poetry readings, in mimeographed broadsides, in lyrics for rock groups, in protest songs -- in direct audience relationships of the sort that prevailed at the very beginnings of literature.”
He’s right. Music does create a direct relationship with its audience. And, on that account, the person who has developed a more complex, diverse, taste in music over the years has, in effect, created more “relationships” -- musically -- than the next.
Ultimately, music is a reflection of who you are, of where you’ve been.
Granted, music means something different for everyone, but when push comes to shove, you’ll listen to whatever resonates with you the most. If you’re constantly listening to uplifting, positive music, it’s likely that you’re a positive person yourself.
If you listen to music with abstract composition and abstract lyrics, it’s probably fair to say you’re an abstract thinker, in general.
Musical preference doesn’t just manifest accidentally; it’s a progression that reflects whatever you’re currently dealing with and whatever you might’ve been dealing with in the past, too.
From an artist’s perspective, this concept is pretty obvious. The best songwriters are usually the best storytellers, too. Guys like Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen -- all of their music has resonated with me on a level far deeper than just something to listen to in the car.
As Hunter S. Thompson alluded to, it’s a direct relationship; I feel like I know them, personally.
And for those people who constantly listen to music, this relationship should, theoretically, leave an impression.
I mean, if you hang around the same types of people in college or the workplace, it’s really only a matter of time before you catch yourself starting to act in ways similar to them, as well.
According to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, PhD, for Psychology Today, it seems there might actually be a substantial link between musical preference and personality. As Chamorro-Premuzic goes on to explain, the significance of music -- and its relation to personality -- revolves around three important factors:
Firstly, as Chamorro-Premuzic explains, music can improve your performance across a variety of different tasks. Think of how you might use deep tech to get you through your cardio sessions or some bossa nova to help you unwind in the evening.
Secondly, music can help improve your own “intellectual curiosity.” By simply seeking out annotated lyrics, whether you know it or not, you’re stimulating your own mind.
Granted certain types of music -- and lyrical content -- will stimulate minds more effectively than others, almost all music will provoke thought, to some extent.
Lastly, and most importantly, according to Chamorro-Premuzic, music can “manipulate or influence [your] own emotional state with the goal of achieving a desired mood state.”
This is pretty straightforward. Clearly music has an effect on your mood.
This is why you have your own special “Turn-Up Playlist” that you’ll pop in while pregaming for a night out. Others might have a “sad playlist” on Spotify for rainy days. Everyone has his or her own thing.
According to Chamorro-Premuzic, “given that mood states are closely related to our personality, and given that people use music for emotional regulation, a scientific understanding of musical preferences should provide the perfect window into a person's soul.”
And while many of us won’t ever get the chance to capture a “scientific understanding” of someone’s musical preference -- I still think we can gauge certain aspects about people through whatever they might have stored in their iTunes library.
A study, conducted by PhD student David Greenberg of the University of Cambridge, explored the link between musical preference and five different personality traits: neuroticism, extroversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness.
The connection was unmistakable. According to Greenberg, test subjects who appeared to have the most empathetic temperament also enjoyed mellower, more emotional music.
Test subjects who appeared to be the most “unpretentious” tended to identify with country, folk music and jazz.
People who Greenberg gauged to be the most “systematic” people in the experiment generally gravitated toward songs with musical composition that was also systematic -- songs with depth and complexity.
And while these findings are certainly important for music industries, when developing different means of reaching their intended audience, it also bears importance to us when trying to get a better understanding of the people around us.
You don’t always have to look too deeply into people’s pasts to get a better impression of who they are -- sometimes all you need is their iTunes.