There’s arguably no greater feeling than driving with the windows down on a warm, breezy afternoon as the sun warms your cheeks through the windshield glass, and a new song comes on the radio that you instantly vibe with, that you know you're about to listen to at least a dozen more times before the week is out. This might sound a little excessive, I know, but it’s normal to listen to the same song over and over again when the right sound strikes an emotional chord inside of you. You might start to miss the lyricist's voice, the whine of violins overlapping the base, and shortly after it ends, you can't help but listen to it on repeat again and again on Spotify. There's actually a technical term for this: It's called “extreme re-listening,” and TBH, we're definitely all guilty of doing this.
I know myself, and the second I came across that term, I immediately thought about my recent infatuation with First to Eleven’s cover of "Attention" by Charlie Puth. For the past few months, I’ve watched the music video on YouTube countless times, and I even downloaded the track to my phone’s music library. There’s just something about the lead singer Audra Miller’s voice that’s so original, and the band’s punk-y spin on Puth's piece is extremely catchy. I know my husband (and probably our neighbors) have to be sick of it by now, but it’s my jam.
Now, it could be that I’m just extra AF, but according to researchers at the University of Michigan, I’m not alone here. Music has the power to draw you in, and sometimes, the emotional adrenaline or calming sound waves leave us wanting more, so we cave and hit "replay."
Analysts issued a survey in 2013 asking men and women up to 30 years old how often they listen to their favorite songs, and why.
To begin, study lead Frederick Conrad and his team rounded up 204 participants, asking what type of music they were listening to most frequently at the time. Pop and rock genres were shown to be the most popular, but rap, country, jazz, and reggae also made the cut.
BPS Research Digest reports that the questionnaire found 86 percent of those surveyed would listen to their favorite songs once a week at the bare minimum, while almost half admitted to pressing play daily. What's more, once a song really resonated with participants, 60 percent weren't ashamed to reveal they'd immediately re-listen up to four times in a row.
It sounds like a lot, because it is. I mean, if you think about it, the average song lasts about three minutes, which means the participants in this research could easily spend upward of 15 minutes at a time absorbing the same instrumentals and lyrics until they’ve got it down pat. But, it’s not just a catchy tune that triggers that desire to listen again and again; it’s the emotional connection you have to a song that makes the once-, twice-, five-times over so satisfying.
When asked how to describe their favorite songs, the research participants' answers were divided into three categories: happy and energetic, calm and relaxed, and bittersweet.
According to BPS Research Digest, over two-thirds of Conrad's study participants favorited tunes that fell under the happy/energetic category. The beat of the music appeared to be what really drew them in, which isn't surprising, considering feel-good music has the ability to pump you up when you’re feeling anything but motivated, and it’s hard not to at least tap your feet or nod your head to the rhythm.
Soothing music was also popular, as it incited a sense of calm in the listeners, and helped them “put things into perspective,” but shockingly, bittersweet songs take the cake, with participants listening to these tracks 790 times on average. Metro UK reports this is because melancholy songs “evoked the deepest connections,” caused the participants to link sound to memory, and the fact that these types of songs are typically easily memorized certainly had something to do with it, too. Now it makes a bit more sense why, even in a very happy relationship, you might enjoy listening to breakup songs. Personally, to this day, Jessie James' "I Look So Good (Without You)" gets me every time, despite the fact that I'm in a happy and healthy marriage.
So you see, it's by no means abnormal to listen to the same stuff over and over again — even if it's a sappy breakup song. It doesn’t mean you have bad taste if you’re not into what’s trendy, or that you can't get with the times (aka me, because Phil Collins is definitely up there on my most-listened-to tracks). The reason why you constantly listen to one or a few particular songs is because that’s what speaks to you at the moment — be it a confidence-booster, something to put you at ease, or something that holds sentimental value. The music you enjoy is directly linked to your emotions, so rock on and on and on, friends.