Pat Clark

Scene & Heard: Spotify’s midlife music crisis theory

Sometimes it’s the littlest things that really can bug a person.

Or maybe that’s just me. It could be that I have a critically low tolerance level, emphasis on “critic.”

Take, for instance, the current hit song from Ed Sheeran, “Thinking Out Loud.” It’s a beautiful song, one that likely will launch a thousand first dances this weekend alone at weddings across the country.

And I like the song, too, despite a lyric that irrationally makes me want to hunt Sheeran down and yell into his face “THINK ABOUT IT, DUDE.”

“And, darling, I will be loving you ’til we’re 70,” Sheeran sings in the second stanza of the tender love song.

Until age 70, huh? So, is this to say that immediately upon the object of his affection turning 71, she either needs to die or get out of the house because his love will have timed out? The jig will be up on the deeply felt adoration otherwise conveyed in the tune?

Think about it, dude.

Maybe this kind of inaccuracy gets under my skin because I write for a living and have a journalist’s brain for factual sentences. Or maybe it’s because I have a few decades on Sheeran and can see past such youthful lack of foresight. Whatever. I can’t be the only listener to wonder why he couldn’t have come up with a more accurate rhyme to convey the emotion. It’s the little things.

Again, I like the song. It’s otherwise lovely. And it’s one of only a handful of modern radio hits right now that I’ll listen to through to the end – sing along with, even, in the privacy of my car.

Oddly enough, three of the others are by Taylor Swift, which maybe I should find almost as disturbing as Sheeran’s shortsighted lyric.

“It girl” Swift is crazy talented and seems grounded and truly likable. But I’m certainly not in the target demographic for her music. This was never more clear than when her song “22” – extolling the wonders of being young and pretty and “happy, free and confused” – was a hit of its own.

I dislike that song on a deep and bitter level.

Oh, it’s a peppy little tune, full of all the things that make a song a danceable hit. But Swift’s “22” never made me want to jump up and dance so much as spoon buttercream down her mouth until she puked.

So, no, I’m not in her target demographic.

Nevertheless, Swift’s got three much more palatable hits currently making their way through the radio and Internet waves: “Style” (too cute), “Blank Space” (ruthlessly fun) and “Shake It Off” (impressively finger-flicking toward her critics ... you know, like some entertainment columnists who no longer fit so neatly into her demographic).

According to music-streaming service Spotify, while people my age might not be the demographic that “it” artists like Swift or Sheeran are targeting, we’re listening anyway.

Why? Because we’re going through a midlife music crisis, of course.

According to a story on the Spotify Insights blog page, research into age and listening habits found that: “Around age 42, music taste briefly curves back to the popular charts – a musical midlife crisis and attempt to harken back to our youth, perhaps?”

Great. Not only am I getting old and cranky at a rapid pace, I’m “perhaps” in the midst of a crisis, as well. Thanks, Spotify.

“During the teenage years, we embrace music at the top of the charts more than at any other time in our lives,” according to the Spotify post. “As we grow older, our taste in music diverges sharply from the mainstream up to age 25, and a bit less sharply after that. We’re starting to listen to ‘our’ music, not ‘the’ music. Music taste reaches maturity at age 35.”

And then people backslide, apparently, listening to Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift as they venture to get their gray hairs dyed out while driving flashy little red Corvettes and wearing the latest line from Urban Outfitters.

I reject Spotify’s notion – and not just because I have neither a Corvette nor any item from UO. I’ve listened to modern rock and classic rock interchangeably for as long as I can remember – long before I hit the “crisis” age of 42 – going into periods when I just want to hear the music of my youth, then others when it’s just new music (mostly when I can’t stand another second of Led Zeppelin). My husband listens to all kinds of music, from the 1960s up to modern rap.

And my 16-year-old son lately has been listening to Middle Eastern dance music and similar sounds from other cultures while doing his homework. No, I don’t know why. But those listening habits put him somewhere between age 25 and 35, according to Spotify’s research. I’m here to tell you, the kid is as 16 as it gets.

So, maybe we all just listen to what we like when we like it, based on individual tastes and preferences and moods of the day rather than age and crises.

Whatever. It’s all good. Unless I find myself in a room alone with Taylor Swift and a vat of buttercream.

Reach Scene editor Pat Clark at pclark@modbee.com.

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