Nobody is going on that second date unless the first date meets the necessary criteria.
Your date’s extensive (and expensive) knowledge on the food at the table may have been impressive, but maybe it was their table manners that kept you from calling them up again. For some, it may be the topics of conversation that you can’t help but judge. For others, it may just be how much someone talked about themselves. For many, however, there is that inevitable inquiry that we hold as the most important assessment:
“what kind of music do you listen to?”
Of course, all of these standards, especially the latter, can have answers adjusted to cater to the vibe felt from across the table. You may find yourself wanting to earn a few extra brownie points from slating the name of an artist you found from your swift Spotify stalk before of your date before saying yes in the first place. Or, more commonly, we may all keep it safe with a, “I love all music, except country of course.”
But, cut to weeks, months, or years later, and now you’re still with that person that you took on date #2. You remember you made it clear that you’re so not a country person because, well, you just know that’s the right answer. But on your tense road-trip up to meet their parents, you can’t help but turn to Kacey Muscgraves for some scenic solace. (I mean, c’mon, she is America’s sweetheart).
Or, what about when it’s getting hot and heavy and homeboy sets the mood by directing Alexa to play “Young Money” or something of the sort?
The point here is, whether you’re just hooking up or you’re starting to settle down, music taste matters. It can make, or break, the relationship. But my question is, just how much?
I recently moved into a tiny studio apartment with my boyfriend of 3 years. We first fell in love at a music festival- New Years at Snowglobe, the whole sha-bang. Driving up from LA to Tahoe, he let me AUX due to my obvious (and obnoxious) eagerness for what we were about to hear. It was the intoxicating energy of electronic music that first brought us closer, and we give thanks to the festival gods forever for getting what we got first going.
Less than 6 months into that year, I went full swing into music journalism, which meant concerts became our type of date nights. But you see, as we have grown with each other, we have grown into our own people as well. Where I shamelessly admit that I found “god” at the rave, he discovered his strong sense of spirituality through yoga, meditation, and the righteousness that is Ram Dass. Although our relationship has continued to grow stronger, our taste has steadily stretched further and further away. Where I vibrate higher to the futuristic funk of house, he lives, breathes, and needs 60’s rock.
In our studio apartment, we have both a speaker and a record player. We agree on Sam Gellaitry when we’re doing our at home workouts (if you’re my downstairs neighbor, I’m sorry), and we both love a good “Mama’s & The Papa’s” vinyl and wine moment. But our car ride scuffles and yucking each other’s yums’ have been an undeniable offensive that always burns a little more than it should. So, through lots of lamenting and also taking to my instagram, I’ve realized that it may not be simply music taste but rather the age old idea of “cool” that makes us all a bit sensitive. “Coolness” is learned, “coolness” is sacred, and it is also a definitive means of relationship success or failure.
Millennials and Gen Z’s have become pretty protective of our opinions. We have access to every song or movie or TV show that we could ever want, and we have personal platforms to share our opinions loud and proud on as if people actually trust our taste. This ability to believe that we are all experts has been the rise and fall of society, and our social media statements of coolness is present now more than ever.
With a make or break election just around the corner, many are shamelessly (or performatively) sharing opinions to state which side of society they exist on. It has become clear that there is no room for overlooking the opinions of the people in our lives. “Break up with your boyfriend, he’s a racist” has been an applicable call to action for far too many. With this societal shift that platforms average people as experts of culture, does your idea of what is cool in music matter as well?
As I took to instagram to survey the masses, this idea of coolness kept coming up. Some gave me some horror stories of dating musicians, others explained that sharing their favorite music was a very intimate moment that brought them way closer to their lover, and some explained that they can never listen to certain artists again as it triggers dark memories of an ex.
One friend put very simply, “I don’t always want to fuck to “Pursuit of Happiness by Kid Cudi.” Word…
This all said, the major key to this insight is that taste is not innate to one’s identity, it is taught to us. An old friend of mine enlightened me on this, explaining that her father put her onto the likes of Billie Joel to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, while actively telling her that rap and R&B was trash, from the moment she exited the womb. This specific lesson plan has caused countless tumultuous car rides with her now boyfriend of 5 years. She made it clear that she has come into herself and found love in all types of music, but when her boyfriend hates the stuff that was introduced to her by her first pillar of coolness (dad), then arguments are sure to arise.
That which we see as cool is far more subjective than our personal taste. It is a nod to the nostalgia so deeply embedded in us all. Coolness is special, as it comes of memories of better times with better people. Finding music that deeply connects with us can miraculously shift our sense of style and simultaneously messing with our self-esteem. The implications of your musical judgement cuts deep into your skin.
When I write about music, or watch a show performed by an artist that I think I know everything about, I feel fucking cool. But in the same vein, I’m liable to act like a poser. My tiny studio apartment is decorated with Led Zeppelin posters/paraphernalia. Even so, I am totally guilty of turning the volume down when my boyfriend turns on Zeppelin at all. I’m not totally dim- I know that in comparing the coolness of the likes of Disclosure to The Grateful Dead, I will absolutely lose the battle. But, at times when I’m sitting shotgun listening to Neil Young singing about “shooting his baby down by the river,” I feel the need to take a firm feminist stance against the white male voices that dispropotionally represent the 60’s and 70’s musical movement.
We use music to feel connected, yet our taste can divide us. So when you love someone, everything gets turned upside down. You have to recognize what warrants judgement (I’m talking to you again, y’all with racist boyfriends) but you almost must realize that opening your heart means opening up your horizon of cool as well. Without exposure to my partner’s music preferences, I would have never pressed play on the 60’s psychedelic sensations that have softened parts of my spirituality. And without my love and devotion to the house and the pressure, my partner wouldn’t have found a succinct love of being a plus one at the club.
Okay, okay, all jokes aside, taste is sometimes as sacred and special as the love we have with our significant other. We are all navigating how to be in love, how to love ourselves, and how to unapologetically profess our love for music and things that define our taste and identity. So, what do you do when your music taste differs from your partner? I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out. In the meantime, I’m slowly but surely adding classics to the car playlist and I’m asking questions about not only what my boyfriend thinks is cool but what makes it cool to him. It is okay to agree to disagree and sometimes it’s better to keep an artist or a sound to yourself for safe keeping. In conclusion, regardless of what I said about country music on the first date, my love for Kacey Musgraves is non negotiable…