Childhood connection with music doesn’t wane as we age — in fact, it only gets deeper
I never liked Texas when I was a teenager — Texas being the Scottish alternative rock band from the ’90s, not the US state. You Can Say What You Want was a song by them that I wasn’t particularly fond of. It was released in 1997, back when I was a pesky teenager and MTV was my life-line.
Those were bizarre times. I hardly ever changed the channel and willingly endured each and every insufferable piece of music thrown my way, hoping for something better to follow. For some odd reason it was always summer back then, and there was nothing in the world that could rattle my resolve to spend my day watching MTV. Perhaps those were different times, or maybe I was just a teenager without a care in the world. Of course, it all made perfect sense back then.
Anyway, I digress. So last week, as I was brushing my teeth, I was hit by a massive wave of strange nostalgia; strange because at the centre of it all was the chorus of the very song by Texas that I loathed back when it was all the rage. I’d last heard this song decades ago, but I remembered the lyrics as clear as day.
Of course, it’s a different story when it comes to the collective nostalgia associated with the ‘90s’ boy bands or Nirvana’s iconic, much-frequented MTV Unplugged. That specific feeling is more like seeking refuge in the familiarity of the past when the present becomes too alien.
That said, what about the songs that we didn’t think much of in the first place but that have somehow managed to stay in our subconscious, only to re-emerge further down the road?
Perhaps it’s not the song that we are reminded of but the nonchalance of our teenage years that we secretly long for. There could be any number of reasons for this particular form of nostalgia but I am just happy that it exists.
Nostalgia can strike any time with no particular trigger to attribute the emotion to. But is it really about nostalgia, or is the music released today so depressing that even relatively forgettable songs from our teenage years sound more agreeable than anything we listen to these days? Could it be that our music preferences are just relative to a particular time in our life?
There has been much research in recent years showing that songs from our younger years hold an inordinate power over our emotions. This childhood connection with music doesn’t wane as we age — in fact, it only gets deeper. And it is not limited to the music that is released in that era. It extends to all sorts of music that we heard while we were young regardless of when it was released, which probably explains why someone born in the 2000s might revere the music of the Beatles or Bowie.
According to a 2008 research conducted by the University of Leeds, the period between the ages of 12 and 22 stays with us because that is when we become who we will be for the rest of our lives. Memories associated with that era become an integral part of our personality. To some extent that explains why we remember even the most nondescript songs from our younger years better than anything we listen to as adults.
So maybe, I am destined to stay stuck in my teenage years for the rest of my time. Maybe no kind of music will ever make more sense to me than the sweet songs from my youth — even the not-so-good ones. I mean, there are times when even Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up brings a smile to my face; and if you know what I know, that is a music emergency that calls for an immediate intervention of sorts.
Perhaps it’s not the song that we are reminded of but the nonchalance of our teenage years that we secretly long for. There could be any number of reasons for this particular form of nostalgia but I am just happy that it exists. After all, one does need a place to sometimes escape to when the adult brain becomes jaded, and what can be better than spending some moments in the sanctuary of a place that exists only in one’s memories. Almost sounds like music to my ears.
The writer is a staff member