From Then Til Now: How Our Taste In Music Has Changed

Sometimes when I’m out and about, I’ll hear a song playing that brings me back to a different time in my life. Whenever I hear “Beautiful Girls” by Sean Kingston, I feel like I’m a 12-year-old again at sailing camp. It’s funny how music can have such a powerful effect on us–it can plunge us into our memories at any time, completely without warning.

I’ve always been fascinated by what makes our taste in music change. I think a lot of it has to do with what we’re brought up listening to–what’s on the radio when we’re kids, what our parents play around the house, what our friends are into. Maybe the songs that stick out in our childhood memories the most are what mold our tastes for the future. Most of the music I listened to when I was in middle school is no longer in the rotation, but I can’t help but wonder. If I hadn’t listened to those specific artists, would I still have found the ones I listen to now?

I got the idea for this blog post over spring break when I was looking through some stuff in my room. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a rather embarrassing artifact of my pre-teen years–a CD whose title I prefer not to divulge for fear of being booed off this nonexistent stage. Later, I opened a drawer and discovered my old CD player. It was pink with little flowers on it and, at the time, was my prized possession. On many an afternoon of my youth, you could find me lying face down on my bedroom floor. Headphones on and CD player in hand, I was lost in my own little world.

Though most of the contemporary music I listen to has changed since then, I still find myself listening to a lot of what my parents played when I was a kid. Steely Dan, James Taylor and The Beatles are still in my top favorites, while Fergie has unfortunately been bumped to the bottom of the list. (Though I still know most of the words to Fergalicious.)

In order to try and understand this evolution of taste, let’s take a look at what was playing on the radio when we were kids. Assuming that the pivotal time in which we began to bond with certain artists happened when we were pre-teens, then we should look at what was popular in 2007–a memorable year for all of us. Perhaps taking a tour through what was popular at that time in our lives would remind us why we liked those songs in the first place. If we go back to our roots, we might be able to make some connections to what we listen to now.

Take a look at the Top 10 Songs of 2007:

1 Beyonce Irreplaceable
2 Rihanna feat. Jay-Z Umbrella
3 Gwen Stefani feat. Akon The Sweet Escape
4 Fergie Big Girls Don’t Cry
5 T-Pain feat. Yung Joc Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin’)
6 Carrie Underwood Before He Cheats
7 Plain White T’s Hey There Delilah
8 Akon feat. Snoop Dogg I Wanna Love You
9 Nelly Furtado Say It Right
10 Fergie feat. Ludacris Glamorous

If you’re curious, here are the Billboard Top 100 from 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

You probably recognize some of your old favorite songs from those lists, and even if they weren’t your favorites, they will no doubt take you back to simpler times. It’s interesting to look at how much tastes have changed from then to now. The evolution of Justin Bieber alone is fascinating enough. The evolution of pop music over the last 10 years has been a wild ride–I can only imagine how things will have changed by the time the next decade has gone by.

Every so often, it’s good to look back on the past. I wouldn’t be listening to Alt-J and Radiohead if I hadn’t been exposed to hundreds of artists before them who molded my taste into what it is today. I think the main force that decides our taste is what we are exposed to as kids, so we have our parents to thank for most of what we listen to. I’d like to personally thank my mom and dad for encouraging my love of James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, without whom I would not be who I am today. Whatever you grew up listening to, whether it was 70s soft rock, 80s pop, 90s grunge or something else entirely, those are the roots that have guided you into adulthood. Keep them close, and never forget where you came from.

Please enjoy this Throwback Playlist I made on Spotify composed of some classic middle school jams from 2005-2009. Happy reminiscing!

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