Have I Reached Peak Music?

Well I guess I should confess that I am starting to get old
All the latest music fads all passed me by and left me cold

-Frank Turner, “Photosynthesis”

A study came out a few months ago that suggested Spotify users slowly stop listening to more mainstream music before they are 25 years old, at which point the process dramatically speeds up before stabilizing at 33. It doesn’t suggest that you stop listening to new music completely at 25 or 33, just that your tastes solidify and you look for either more of the same or go in more esoteric directions. Unfortunately, I’m finding it more accurate for me than I would have hoped five years ago.

I have a list of 86 songs (narrowed down to 75 because I like my song lists in multiples of 25) from the past decade that, basically, I like enough to rank in a list. 37 are from 2010, 18 from 2011, 13 from 2012, 9 from 2013, 4 from 2014, and 5 (so far) from 2015. That means there are more songs from 2010 then 2012-2015 combined. Variety is incredibly lacking; 2/3 of the top 30 are from the same 5 artists.  The top song of on the list only ranks at #81 in my overall list, compared to #28 for the #1 song of the previous decade and #4 for the #1 of the 90s. In terms of albums, I haven’t heard one I’d put in an album list released since 2013. And no album in my personal overall top 100 was released past 2011.

I’ve mostly been listening to songs (sometimes in new and exciting orders) that I know I like recently, just to make sure that I like listening to music. The verdict was that yes, I do still derive enjoyment from organized sounds that I enjoyed before, so that was comforting. I have quite a large music collection, so I could listen for a long time before I exhaust it, although eventually it’ll get smaller as I stop enjoying different music as much as time goes on.

I do miss the thrill of finding a new exceptional song or album. When I signed up for RYM it introduced me to a wealth of albums that I still consider favorites in a very short period of time. But eventually I reached more and more limited returns in my searches. And now the taste of the RYM user base has gone in a different direction from mine, although not in the same way as the rest of the internet. Since my taste is mostly hilariously middlebrow socially awkward 28 year old white male American stuff, part of it is tastemakers trying to diversify what is considered “cool” in music circles that are traditionally dominated by socially awkward 20 something men.  Obviously this lead to websites I previously relied on mostly promoting music that has a lower hit to miss ratio for me.  At least it both opens up resources people with different tastes from mine and gets me to try albums I would otherwise had never thought listening to, but I hope that most of the change is a result of the websites hiring new writers and not the same white guys suddenly deciding they liked Contemporary R&B the whole time.  The real problem is that even when they recommend something new I should like, whether in genres that I enjoy or artists that sound like ones I already like or even new releases from artists whose previous work I enjoy, it doesn’t have any effect on me when I listen to a sample track or two.

You could say the solution would be for me to seek out more music on my own. But significantly more than ninety percent of music is, if not crap, unremarkable and unmemorable. And spending hours listening to mediocrity to find five minutes of pretty good isn’t a particularly valuable use of time (I have done it). Especially when there’s so much music I know I like. So I’ll just listen to what I’ve been… oh dear God. I’m old.

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