You think you know what songs you love—but do you, really?
We’ve all been through this. “This song is so good, you gotta listen!” Your friend enthusiastically recommends a song to you. You listen for a bit, and decide you don’t like it. “Nah, this isn’t my cup of tea.” Persistent, your friend keeps playing the song around you constantly. Your opinion doesn’t change; you don’t like that style of music. Next thing you know, you’re playing that very song in your head over and over. Why? “I don’t like this song!” you tell yourself. In the end, you decide to follow your heart and obediently go and listen to the song “you like.”
But why? You can’t help but wonder. How could someone’s taste in music be influenced so easily? To answer this question, we should understand why we like any song in the first place. Some people say they like the lyrics or the melody/rhythm of the song. Some say they like the singer. But this doesn’t explain why they like the songs. Whether you “like” a song or not has to do with your past experiences and future expectations. You like a song’s lyrics because they remind you of something you’ve experienced in the past. You like a song’s melody/rhythm because it’s well-suited to a specific night or situation. You like a singer because you know what to expect from their new songs based on their old ones.
From experience, we know what to expect—that’s how our brains work. Our brains don’t like uncertainty; we like things we can predict. That is why even the bravest warriors don’t fight unfamiliar battles. We’re all about “familiarity”. Spotify, the music streaming app, used just that to dominate the music-streaming market, by collecting user data and using that to discern their users’ tastes. It then recommends songs it thinks users will like. But Spotify doesn’t just spit random songs out at you, it matches songs up with different situations and emotions so you have an idea of what to expect. Then, Spotify plays some songs you’ve heard before, followed by some new songs. As a result, you subconsciously begin to like the songs. Spotify has mastered the art of “familiarity”, and they used it to conquer the music streaming market.
But can “familiarity” itself fully explain why we are “forced” to like a song? Of course not. If it were that simple, each person would only like one type of song; it wouldn’t be so easy for us to be fazed by newcomers. The thing is: people want what’s “fresh”. And “freshness” is deep-rooted in – you guessed it, “familiarity”!
Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? Familiar, yet new and fresh? Yes, familiar, yet new and fresh! Just imagine: no matter how great a song is, if you listened to it and nothing else for a month, it would inevitably become “old”. When a song becomes ubiquitous, people get tired of it. As soon as they hear the beginning notes of the song, it plays in their heads like Groundhog Day. But are you willing enough to make an effort to find an entirely different genre of music to listen to? Probably not. After all, people are wired to stay within their “comfort zones”.
When your friend forces you to listen to a new style of music, that is pretty much the “best time to find freshness” because you’re “forced” to leave your comfort zone. When hearing a new style of music, it’s natural to resist, especially if it’s not your standard genre. After all, it’s something you’re not familiar with. But listen to the song for a second and then a third, and so on, it becomes familiar without losing all of its freshness. Familiar yet still fresh—this is the magic formula for the ultimate catchy song. And consequently, how you are “forced” to like a song. You can try and decipher the meaning behind the song, to justify your stance, which consequently turns you into an actual fan. After all, liking something is actually a process of learning.
So… what was the last song you were “forced” to like?
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