Recently I read a study that claimed people stop listening to new music at age 33. After that, people focus on their favorite artists from their teens and twenties and stop searching out new music.
I have no idea if this study is scientifically valid, and I doubt there is truly magic in the number 33. But nearly everyone has affection for the music of their youth. Call in nostalgia if you want, but the older most people get, the more likely they are to call the popular music of the day ‘noise.’
Probably this is inevitable. Popular music is tied up with celebrity and youth. Its themes center almost exclusively on falling in and out of love in dramatic fashion. As a person grows up, their life is filled with more responsibilities—a job, a home, a spouse, kids—and their time for an interest in celebrity wanes. And brooding about lost love takes a back seat to getting dinner on the table. And with talk radio, podcasts, and audiobooks, there are many more options besides listening to music.
Listening to music morphs from something you do to discover yourself to something you do to remember yourself.
This makes sense. But 33! That can’t be right. Maybe 53.
So I did an experiment. I’m 36, so I’m three years past my music expiration date. But I’ve bought plenty of music since then. I went back through it all and came to a rather unsettling realization: though I had bought plenty of music, it was all by artists I’d first discovered in my teens and twenties.
In the past three years, I had bought exactly one album by an artist I had not discovered before age 33—and that was The Blessed Unrest by Sara Bareilles, which I bought three years ago!
Which I love, by the way! But instead of searching out new music, I’ve been mostly buying new albums by artists I once loved who are, frankly, past their prime. Let’s all be honest—without any exception I can think of, an artist’s tenth album is not going to contain their finest work.
I love Mary Chapin Carpenter, Trisha Yearwood, Tift Merritt, and even Taylor Swift, but the thought of never falling in love with a new musician depresses me.
So I’m on the hunt for not just new music by my old favorites, but new voices as well.
So tell me readers, who should I be listening to?
(And just so we’re clear, this new resolution will in no way prevent me from snapping up the long awaited album of duets from Tim McGraw and Faith Hill that drops November 17.)