The Revelations In One’s Taste Of Music

by / 2 Comments / 236 View / August 18, 2014

Author’s Note: This can apply to many forms of entertainment…but I’ve just decided to limit my scope to music for both its ubiquity and simplicity’s sake.

Music has been an integral part of our lives across the generations: it makes us emotional, it makes us reflective, and it makes us energised. It is with us while commuting, while doing our homework, even while in the shower. Meanwhile, we cannot deny the facts that no matter how music makes us feel, our tastes in music can differ greatly: some prefer classical, while others obsess over glam rock; some enjoy dubstep, and others find solace in the K-Pop…the combinations are endless.

Of course, there are various extremes too: some are extremely fanatic, insofar as their obsession is somewhat tribal, while others are more open to a variety of genres. Thus, we are inclined to dislike – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, once exposed to all these preferences, some are inclined to make judgments on not only which genre of music is better or worse, but also why that is so, insofar as this becomes ad hominem. You get bad grades because you listen to Justin Bieber. He’s annoying because he’s a fan of Judas Priest. Beethoven? Gee, you must be boring! It’s as if the entire person is subject to evaluation predominantly, if not solely, based on his or her taste in music. It may seem immature and junior high school-esque, but such judgments are still made time and time again.

As ubiquitous as music has proven itself to be in our lives, can it really be a means of evaluating a person in his or her entirety? In spite of what I have written above, I can still say this: yes it can, though perhaps in a way that you won’t expect or acknowledge.

So let’s talk perspective, shall we?

Imagine this: in a not-so hypothetical case, say there is a metalhead and a “Directioner” – let’s call them MH and D respectively for simplicity. When MH determines that because D enjoys listening to the songs by One Direction and similar artists, D is a “certified idiot” compared to MH’s “intellect.” Based on this, can we say that D’s taste in music makes him not merely intellectually, but generally inferior to MH? Does it really tell us anything? Of course it does, for judging one’s taste in music does actually reveal character, except it’s not as simple as it seems. Instead of so-called determining the character D being “an idiot,” it really does elicit that of MH’s, which, in kindergarten terms, is being an “inconsiderate asshole.”

Similar to linguistic elitism, our tastes in music, alongside our “loyalty” to them, can make us inadvertently believe that what we like as music is superior – a very subjective matter. This isn’t the problem; letting it go too far is, especially when it comes to a point of overtly judging whether there is a “superior” music genre. Even if certain Psychology studies are conducted to determine the personality or perceived intelligence of different listeners based on their favourite music genres, the results are ultimately not truly meant to categorise or label such individuals because at the end of the day, it doesn’t tell us anything comprehensive about the subject. Rather, the apparent need to evaluate others based on music tastes – usually for condescending rather than academic purposes – only backlashes on the “evaluator,” making the latter seem pretentious rather than intelligent. To put it simply: our tastes in music can reveal our character, depending on how we express the thoughts that follow such tastes.

Image Credit: Paul Hudson, Flickr Creative Commons

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  • Machew

    “Does it really tell us anything?”

  • Noam

    Our tastes in music can’t reveal our character. However: the music that we tell everyone we like can.