A New York Times analysis of Spotify data has found that the songs we listen to during our teen years set our musical taste as adults.
For men, the most important period for forming musical taste is between the ages of 13 to 16. Men were, on average, aged 14 when their favorite song was released. For women, the most important period is between 11 and 14, with 13 being the most likely age for when their favorite song came out. It also found that childhood influences were stronger for women than men and the key years for shaping taste were tied to the end of puberty.
The NYT analyzed every Billboard chart-topping song released between 1960 and 2000. Citing Radiohead’s “Creep” as an example, the NYT found the song is the 164th most popular song among 38-year-old men. These men would have been around 14 years old at the time the song was released in 1993, making that selection consistent with the analysis. “Creep” isn’t even in the top 300 songs for those born 10 years earlier or 10 years later. Meanwhile, “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure was released in 1987 and is popular with women aged 41, who would have been 11 at the time of the song’s release.
The data patterns certainly ring true for me. My favorite songs are Stereophonics’ “Dakota” and the Arctic Monkeys’ “505,” and both came out during my teenage years. I still also listen to Green Day and Linkin Park, which I constantly listened to during high school. (Don’t judge me). It’s also interesting to note that music women and men listened to in their early 20s were found to be only half as influential in deciding adult taste as the songs listened to during teenage years.
Most importantly though, the NYT reports that if you’re looking for some popular tunes to listen to on Valentine’s Day, (which is just two days away), it recommends Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” for 30-year-olds, Van Halen’s “When It’s Love” for 45-year-olds, and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” for those in their swingin’ 60s.