It’s in the ear of the beholder

If you’re no older than 20, it’s likely you live with your parents or spend a large sum of time around them. It’s also likely that you are a fan of new wave rap music, and if you’ve ever tried to play a rap song around anyone older than a millennial, you know it’s almost always a challenge. This goes for my own father too, who has staunchly defended his hatred for the relatively new genre. Since I’ve been able to drive and had access to a car radio, it’s a consistent argument over what music gets played. After a few minutes of banter, the usual argument comes out:

“It’s not even real art”.

But who are we to decide what’s art and what isn’t?

Does being older give you an innately more refined taste in art and culture?

Why do older people hold such a unique disdain for the new and modern? Furthermore, why do old people have such a unique, one-sided hatred for rap music?

Is it a hatred for the “gang lifestyle” trap music supports? Is it their “back in my day” complex in action? Is it just another instance of casual racism, a disdain towards a medium that has helped lift minority populations out of poverty?

Of course, I’m being slightly cynical (though not entirely irrational). We see this exact pattern repeated with every new style of music that emerges. For Gen X it’s rap, for the Greatest Generation it was rock and roll, for Baby Boomers it was the 90s alt-rock wave, and for the 1700s elderly it was probably Mozart. But is the reason for this hatred entirely social?

As it turns out… well, mostly. It’s no wonder that when bitter old people see young people enjoying themselves, their first instinct is to tear them down. It’s simply how humans are wired, we tend to love the old, and we tend to hate the new. However, there’s a uniquely psychological factor in action that causes this cycle to repeat every generation.

Simply put, old people don’t understand new music, because they mentally can’t.

Music taste begins to form around pubescence, and by the time you’re 20, the music you like for the rest of your life is usually not going to vary too far from what you’re listening to in your college dorm. Furthermore, a psychological effect called the mere exposure phenomenon proves that as we are exposed to something more, we tend to like it more. Here, the pieces truly begin to fall into place. Does it make sense?


Does it really matter?


Will I too be old and gray in 60 years, hating on the new robot music that the cyborgs are putting out? Probably. After all, I’m human, and just like the elderly people I speak of as I write this.