We experience all kinds of intense emotions during our teen years, from falling in love to loathing. In a sense, a type of awakening takes place and we become in tune with the world, to the people around us, and to our own emotions.
With this in mind, it becomes easier to understand why everything that we discover during our teenage years makes a tremendous imprint on us. Everything, including the music that we listened to. In fact, especially the music. Psychologists have long been perplexed by the fact, and have tried to dissect the elements of the phenomena, but the music that we listen to and love during our teenage years seems to have a major effect on our music taste for the rest of our lives.
Chances are, if you loved Jimi Hendrix as a teen, you’ll either still enjoy listening to him now, or when you hear one of his songs a wave of nostalgia floods over you, leaving you feeling very content. These days, music from the past has been used in just about everything to appeal to specific generations, and there are even slots games that feature stars like Hendrix, as well as TV series like Stranger Things that play songs that take us back in time in all the right ways.
Music is a powerful thing, and its impact is undeniable. Even if you are tone deaf, the chances are, if you hear a song from your teens that you loved, it brings all kinds of emotions flooding back.
Research suggests that our brains glue us to the music that we listened to during our teenage years. This binding process is more prominent with music listened to during our teenage years than any other time in our lives, even more so than young adulthood. What’s more, the connection with the music of our teens doesn’t who any sign of weakening as we age.
Irrespective of how we evolve and grow emotionally and spiritually during later years, we inevitable end up pining for the music of our youth. No matter what we do, the music listened to during the times of high drama and emotional awakening and turmoil will shape our taste in music for the rest of our lives.
In order to understand why this is so, it’s important to understand the brain’s relationship with and general response to music. When we first hear a specific song, an entire process is set into motion. The song will stimulate our auditory cortex and we will begin the automated process of organising the music, the rhythm, harmonies and lyrics into something that is rational and consistently coherent.
From that point onwards, the process branches out, depending on how we choose to interact with the music. Should we opt to sing along to the lyrics, the premotor cortex is activated. This is responsible the planning and co-ordinating of movements. Moving or dancing along to the beat, on the other hand, will stimulate your neurons and cause these to synchronise with the beat. Focusing on the lyrics or the specific instruments involved in the song will have the effect of the parietal cortex being stimulated and activated, which in turn governs the shift of attention to various stimuli.
The fact of the matter is, bar love and the use of mood-altering drugs, nothing stimulates the emotions quite like music does. Science has long been accepting of the fact that listening to our favourite music stimulates the brain’s inner workings, resulting in the release of feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin.
When looking at the matter from this perspective, it becomes easier to understand why the music that we listen to during our emotionally high teenage years, will shape our taste in music for the rest of our lives.
Besides for the emotional connection to music and the effect it has on our brain, there are also more physical changes that take place. Between the ages of 12 and 22 our brains undergo actual physical changes. These take place in a rapid multi-fire kind of way, perhaps accounting for the fact that we are catapulted into all sorts of emotions during this time.
The music that we listen to during this time seems to get lodged into the biological and physical development process, cementing those teenage-classics into our hearts and lives for good.