This past week millions of people around the world got their 2020 recap of their musical habits. Sharing to social media their most listened to artists and top played tracks, accompanying with it, insight into all of our minds this year.
Musical listening is typically done in private, but is a reflection of our true selves in these moments alone. In comparison, most of our lives today are filtered and elevated for public viewing. We put on our mask, our persona, our clothes, our filtered Instagram story, our click-bait LinkedIn posts; put simply, there is no show when listening to music; it wholly exposes your soul and satiates your needs.
We know from research that people’s musical preferences mirror their personality traits, and can be a reflection of their current circumstances in their lives. First, the traits of openness and extroversion are the strongest predictors of musical preference. The more open to experience in personality an individual is, the more they preferred classical, rock, and energetic music; and the more dislike they had for country and religious music. Also, highly neurotic individuals tend to prefer country, pop, and religious music; disliking rock and heavy metal. Lastly, conscientiousness did not influence musical preference (Langmeyer, 2012).
Interestingly, a person’s personality traits can be predicted by their musical preference and listening behavior; to a level of moderate to high accuracy. Meaning, based on your Spotify playlist; there are inferences of personality traits that one could imply based on these behaviors (Andersonal et al., 2020). Again, music is often the most congruent reflection and representation of whom we are internally at a given time. Therefore, an honest depiction about this behavior, genre choices, and frequency of listening can depict who you are on a deep level.
So, the above can shed light onto your genre preferences and what it says about your personality; but what about how we have used music this year to help ourselves through difficult times.
As we age our uses of music and how we utilize it changes; from going to concerts with friends in our teenage years to listening to an album solo as an adult (Bonneville-Roussy, 2013). However this year likely forced you to drastically alter your listening habits depending on your circumstances and how you were able to deal with the pandemic. For example, neurotic individuals were more likely to use music for emotional regulation whereas extroverts use music in the background or a distraction (Chamorro-Premuzic, 2009).
At the peak of the pandemic in March, legal cannabis purchases in Ontario, my home province, increased 600% and alcohol sales increased 54% in the USA. (Nielson, 2020; Bloomberg 2020).The pandemic has led to a great deal of depression, unemployment, divorce, and social isolation. That is a change in human behavior and I would intuitively infer a change in music listening behavior to many individuals. The reasoning behind this is that music is leaned on heavily during times of difficulty to adjust one’s mood or to amplify their current one.
For example, sad music is often played during grieving or mourning circumstances, but it is also used as a source of consolation. Specifically, sad music is sought out for its consoling effects wherein the listener interprets the lyrics as meaningful and applicable to their various personal situations (Ter Bogt, 2016). People also seek out music for emotional regulation and mood fluctuation too, that is; to change their mood when they are feeling down in an effort to raise their spirits. Think about a break up; studying for a test, working out, driving late at night; there’s a soundtrack to your activity and often it’s to create alignment with your current mood and emotional circumstance. For many, this year was beyond comprehension as it unfolded.
Do you notice anything different or a pattern about your musical habits this year?
A few new findings during the pandemic include: research on an isolated community found participants often listened to music for over 3 hours independently during the COVID pandemic as a source of companionship and leisure (Gazmer, 2020). Furthermore, doctors in Italy, among the worst hit countries in the pandemic, used curated playlists for music therapy to aid them to reduce fatigue, worry, and stress; depicting the assistive impact of music in these hard times (Giordano, 2020).
Personally during this past year, I was shocked to see how much Latin, UK grime, and David Guetta I listen to. Diving deeper into the music I played this year; the albums were often saddened, heavy topics, and had dark tone. This is surprising given I wake up and play an upbeat and euphoric electronic dance music set almost daily. Perhaps I had a more difficult of an adjustment than I realized. As I skim through my list, my EDM and Latin songs are prominent, but sprinkled among them are tracks of artists speaking about despair in their own changing lives.
I hadn’t lost my job or a family member to Covid-19; but I have been in a top metropolitan city locked down from March-July; opened for 3 months in the Fall, and now entered our second wave of lock-down for the foreseeable future winter months. I am sure in years to come we will all retroactively appraise this experience we were all a part of, and looking to emerge from.
Ultimately, the music I played this year; I used to pause, reflect, alter my mood, and ultimately look introspectively to what was happening around me. Maybe it was my source of escape, elation, and consolation at the same time; but these artists and their tracks accompanied me in this altered life that I’ve adopted. Take a look at your own list from this year and reflect upon what you had to endure these past 12 months; and remember; music will always be by your side through it all.