I have a friend who’s had the same hundred (or so) songs on his iPhone for a decade now. Before that, they were on an iPod. Before that, they were on cassette tapes.
But they’ve been the same hundred songs all these years.
He can’t imagine why anyone would want more music than that. And he certainly can’t imagine why he would want to find new music. He heard everything he wants to hear 20 or 30 years ago, so he’s set for life.
What do you listen to? Are you like the typical person whose music-listening is still dominated — partly or completely — by the music you first heard in high school or college? Does the music you choose — consciously or unconsciously — say something about who you are and how your mind works? I think so.
When it comes to music, there seem to be two basic types of people.
One type has already heard about 99.9 percent of the new music he ever wants to hear by the time he gets out of his 20s, maybe earlier. This person will spend the coming decades mostly listening to music that he first heard in high school or college. He thinks that pretty most everything made since he left his 20s is awful.
The other type of person is just as interested in new music at 35 or 45 or 55 as he was at 15 or 25. He might sometimes listen to music from his youth, but it doesn’t dominate his music-listening. Most of the music he listens to at any point didn’t exist a decade before that point.
I’m describing the two types as black and white, but there are clearly many people who are shades of gray. (I’m an extremist of the second type.) I find it interesting that the closer you are to the extreme of one direction or the other, the harder it is to understand those on the other end.
I have trouble understanding people who listen to the same hundred ancient songs over and over again. And my friends who do that can’t imagine why I would ever seek out new music beyond the old familiar songs they already know.
I tried an experiment this past weekend. I found a playlist of the top 100 Billboard hits from the year I graduated from high school and I listened to all of them. What did I find?
A lot of the music was pretty good. Some of it was great. Some of it was awful. I can see why someone still stuck in the past could enjoy listening to it. But there was one bigger and unexpected result of my experiment.
Listening to that old music put me back into the mindset I experienced when I was 18 years old. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t awful. It was just different. My emotions when listening to this music felt a lot like the way I felt back then, for better or worse. It made me feel like the person I was back then.
My experiment gave me some insight into why people listen to old music so much. They might think they’re doing it because “the old music is better,” but they’re really doing it because it allows them to escape back into who they once were — in an era when they felt young and alive.
But here’s the thing. I’m not that person I was when I was 18. I’m not living in that age. I need to think and feel and act in very different ways to do well in 2019 and be ready for 2020.
If I keep myself in the mindset of the people from the past, I’m not going to change. I’m going to be locked into a narrow slice of history — personal history, too — and I’m going to spend the rest of my life living there and defending that as “the way things ought to be.” That’s a terrible way to live.
If I keep growing and changing — adjusting my ideas and mindset to the new realities I find — I’m going to need new music. Why? Because music is very important to me and it helps me to find new ways to express my ideas and emotions, but the same old music would prevent me from being open enough to change.
If you’re still listening to the same old music you grew up with — what you got hooked on in high school or college — you might want to consider whether that music is helping to make you stagnant. Is it keeping your mindset in the past? Is it making it harder for you to seriously consider the major changes which the coming days are going to throw at us?
If you’re still listening to everything you heard in 1978 or 1988 or 1998 or whatever, you probably won’t know the effect it’s having on you. So I’m going to suggest an experiment for you to try.
For 90 days, listen to nothing except recent music — let’s say from the last three years or so. Don’t listen to any of your old music. Seek out new music that you have haven’t bothered to sample. Don’t listen to the pop on the radio — which is mostly bland junk manufactured by some pop-culture factory. Find great new music in genres you’ve ignored until now.
You might find that there’s some great music you’ve never heard.
Even more importantly, you might find that it helps you to get out of the mindset of the past. You might find that it helps you to look to the future instead of constantly escaping to the past. Even if you’re not consciously living in the past, I would submit that your “same old music” is keeping you there without you seeing it.
Until you try it, you probably won’t believe me. But if you change your music — by giving good newer music a solid chance — you might find yourself thinking and feeling like a younger person again.
The alternative is to join your friends who are becoming prematurely old and gray as they whine about how nobody makes good music anymore.