Nautilus

Some Music Is Inherently Bad—But People Can Be Convinced Otherwise

Artistic appreciation is a deeply subjective process, perhaps the most essentially personal thing that humans do. But are there some explanations for why we like what we do? Why, for instance, does a particular song get popular?

Some of it has to do with the quality of the music—and by quality, I mean that there’s something about the music itself the resonates with people and makes them want to listen to it. 

One thing that people seem to like in music is when it addresses themes we care about—particularly songs that involve romance. There is a debate over what kind of meaning is conveyed by instrumental music, but music with lyrics usually involves human themes: 92 percent of the most popular tracks from 2009 had “reproductive” messages (pdf)—involving

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