As people get older, they listen to less hot music: the "Coolness Spiral of Death"


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Hey, there’s only so much Olly Murs I can take…

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In other news:

  • bear defecates in woods
  • Pope admits to Catholic tendencies.

I may be weird, but I mostly avoid listening to music I liked when I was young, because I’m terrified about freezing in place. Mind you, I also am way on the outside edge of the death spiral, here- I have never been good at keeping up with what’s popular these days.

Plus, there’s always something new to discover out on the fringes.


The reason is obvious to me. Pop music is a substitute for a personality. As we mature, we need it less - well. most of us. There’s still that one guy with the grey ponytail.

Also, somebody needs to have a talk with the author about cliches.


As some of you’all will discover, when you get older you often can develop tinnitus.

Listening to loud music while you constantly hear clicking, buzzing, pure tones (if you’re lucky) isn’t pleasant and it makes your tinnitus worse.

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Looking forward to the mid-life crisis “cool” bump around age 42.


I listen to more esoteric music now that I am older. It’s probably mostly less popular (as defined by poptacular poptastic popularity) but I don’t think I listen to less contemporary music.

Popular music seems a lot less “new” when you heard that particular style the last time around and if, when you are older, you still crave novelty in art, pop music is not that likely to provide it in general.


When I was a teenager, the pop charts were pretty much all I knew. In Alabama, it was either that or the Country music station, which is what Dad subjected me too. BTW, thank you Dad for forcing me to listen to Hank Williams and Johnny Cash!

I went to college in New Orleans. I know it seems especially dense of me, but despite the fact that I was out listening to music every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night on an average week (Zydeco on Thursdays, Blues on Friday, the big band of the moment on Saturday, and something mellow on Sunday), it didn’t dawn on me until after I graduated and still obsessing on a guy I’d dated who had great taste in music that I realized I actually loved his music more than him.

I got really sick of the “moldy oldies” in my twenties and forced myself to learn to listen to Nirvana and all the alt music stuff going around in the 90’s, just so I’d have something new to listen to.

Nowadays my daughter listens to pop and I listen to WFUV which plays a huge mix of new music and old, though very little of it is Pop. They even have a Big Band music show that plays the hits from the 20’s and 30’s… Occasionally they will break an artist like Adele who will end up top of the Pop charts, but usually I hear that artist on WFUV two years before the artist blows up. We also go to a New Orleans music festival each year, where we sometimes discover new acts coming out of New Orleans. The one thing I can’t stand to listen to is anything Auto Tuned.

My daughter likes to play the pop station when we are in the car, but it seems like it’s more because it’s all she knows. She doesn’t do much “music exploration” - in general she doesn’t seem much interested in music.

If I’m playing my iPod or listening to something, a lot of times it’s either something old like - surprise! - Johnny Cash or Hank Williams - or someone out of New Orleans.


I hardly ever listen to anything that charted in my high school or college years (late 70s - early 80s).

And my guess is that a number of my peers have genre-hopped entirely out of the top 40 pathway.

What I (and several of my friends) listen to and share with each other is a lot of newly recorded music, but in traditional genres - for example, I have a lot of Eleni Mandell, Kelly Joe Phelps, Pokey LaFarge, Lucinda Williams, Donna the Buffalo, Neko Case in my current rotation. Plus the roots artists who are still cranking out good tunes after a few decades - Ry Cooder, Jorma Kaukonen, Dan Hicks, John Hiatt.

I’ll give most anything new a listen, although no techno or dubstep without a Geritol chaser.

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I do still listen to techno, though at this stage I consider it almost to be a roots music which has practitioners still making some fine tracks three decades on as well as newer people making music in that established genre and renewing it to some extent…

“dubstep” means so many different things, and to us on this side of the atlantic I think the main meaning is quite different to the big room US version.


As it happens, I have listened to music of identical(perhaps even monotonically increasing) coolness for my entire life.

It’s just that kids these days wallow in unlistenable noise(and not the right kind of unlistenable noise, from the heyday of lo-fi post-grunge chiptune electroglitch, either) and wouldn’t know cool if it bit them in the ass. They won’t get off my lawn, so I’ve been able to test that.


Alternative explanation: as you get older, you stop caring about what other people like and start caring about music that you like. To the idea that one should pay attention to what’s popular, or that being popular makes it good, I’d like to offer a big hearty middle finger.


Same thing goes for books, music, and food. Political opinions, too!


Define “oldies”-- if I’m listening to one of the thousands of newly rediscovered and reissued rare LPs that were ignored 30 years ago, is that an “oldie” even if I’ve never heard it before?

My first impression of the headline here was that as you get older you listen to slower music (which would make sense), but I have known kids who only listen to ambient music, so even that doesn’t follow.


Disco forever

So in other words, older people are cooler but less hot. As a 40-something, I agree happily with the former and sadly with the latter.


I’ve simply learned that most people listen to terrible music and am immediately suspicious of anything most people like.


Let me add to the oldie jadedness (early 30s here). Maybe the “hot music of the moment” is a slick but hollow, endlessly rehashed product and people simply figure this out after a couple of decades of exposure? I mean, eventually the futility of chasing externally mandated novelties will become apparent if you pay enough attention.

I’ve seen older people who don’t mind listening to whatever the industry wants them to instead of developing some sort of personal taste, but those were never the same people who really seemed to care about music.


I’d sympathize with this theory more if it weren’t for the eerie tendency of people to fossilize on the music(and even the mode of musical reproduction; damned kids will probably be producing 'artisinal 64kbs CBR MP3s one of these days) from approximately the time that they either got their drivers license or first got laid.

If they just became less conformist, you’d expect markedly wider skew.