Why Your Girlfriend Has Such Bad Taste in Music

Yes, this is a gross generalization and no this is not based a specific scientific study and yes, I was going for the catchy title. Taste is a matter of opinion, not something quantifiable. But guys can attest, most women have bad taste in music. Enough guys have bad taste in music, but over a large population, men tend to listen to more artistic, intricate, and authentic music than women do. Guys like The Police and women like Sting. Get it? Why is that? Let us explore.

Music?
First off: what the hell is music anyway? I mean, why do humans take different sounds and put them together in an organized whole? Answer: because we can. Some things in life are inherently impressive. Nature is impressive. The way the sun sets or the trees turn color. It shows organization and harmony, things we naturally like because of the “power” they symbolize – and we like power because without power there is no advancement. Whoever made it must be powerful and capable and someone we want to be friends with. Many people call this God which is why God is so revered. People also make impressive things. Buildings, art, weapons, food… Men, in particular, make things to impress women. It’s in our genes as well. “Show them what we can do and they’ll want to hitch up with us”. Music, like any other form of art of cultural creation, is symbolic of what we can do. It is a status symbol. The head of a deer in the entrance hall to your hut used to work fine some 100,000 years ago, but as humans developed, so did the things they did and made to impress women. Music, art, cuisine, and culture ensued and somewhere in the course of evolution, music got associated with sex.

The Non-Manly man
Men are natural born musicians. Birds make music for the same reasons – to attract females. It’s in the blood. Not all men are musically talented, but there is a tendency in men to be musical, or at least to appreciate music. And one can distinguish the more musical types of men. Like I said, the deer’s head worked well in impressing the ladies, but not all guys are the type to hunt deer. If they were, there would be nothing but brutish, dominant males running around engaging in continuous struggles with each other. Evolution had to find a balance and some men had to bow out of the fight. The testosterone-challenged men had to find other ways to impress the ladies, and art provided an opportunity. The trend is quite clear today – the gangly, the ugly, the slight effeminate, make the best musicians (again, a gross generalization). Want me to name some? Jimmy Page, Joe Jackson, David Bowie, John Lennon, George Harrison, (sorry Paul, you’re not ugly enough), Mick Jagger, Kurt Cobain, Rick Ocasic, Bill Corgan, Alex Turner, Keith Richards, Pete Townsend, Jack White, Craig Nicholls, Elvis Costello, Michael Stipe, Perry Farrel and so on… What other choice did they have in this world accept art? Over the course of thousands of years, evolution provided them with an alternative to brute masculinity.

How women listen to music
Many men seem to have “music friends” – other people with whom they share musical tastes. And most often these are other men. I personally have rarely found other women to really bond with musically. There seems to be something missing. And indeed there is. Women, by nature, are not into making music but are more into listening to music (yes, there are some great female musicians). And what’s more, they’re listening to it not for how well it is made, but for how it makes them feel – either through the sounds or through the lyrics, or both. The feeling they’re looking for is one of quiet comfort and total devotion. Jack Johnson and James Blunt provide this quite well. “Yes, you are beautiful. And that’s why it is you who will get the profits from my record sales”.

How men listen to music
Men might listen to music at times for how it is made – like they can learn something from it, or rip it off so they can make some music for the ladies. And though initially men made music for women, somewhere along the line men took it to the next level – not only out to impress women, but out to impress other men as well. Impress enough men, and respect, money, and women tend to follow. The tone of the music would then start to appeal to the male character and not the female character. Easy examples of this would be blues, heavy metal and grunge. Loud, a bit edgy, and not typically romantic. Relatively speaking few women like Buddy Guy, Metallica or Nirvana, yet these artists have been heralded by critics and earned their share of respect and money. That puts these guys in some primo positions for passing on their genes, not that they were ever consciously making music for that reason.

What the music says to a woman
Women tend to like the crooners – it’s in their genetic predisposition. Singers like Jack Johnson who aren’t really doing anything too interesting with the music, but sing a certain way or say certain things that women like. Things like “I’ll be with you forever” or “I love only you”. Which, from an evolutionary perspective may as well be “You can count on me providing a nice life for you forever” and “All my resources will be focused solely on you.” And it’s natural that women are turned on by this – whether it’s true or not. But we see from this example that women are slightly more focused on what is said and the complementary feeling of how it’s said rather than the detailed nuances of beat and melody behind it.

How it says it
Again, it’s a feeling thing. Women are often (subconsciously and indirectly) asking musicians to “calm me down and make me feel safe”. It can be a cut-throat world out there and it’s a natural tendency in women to look for someone to take care of them. The lyrics can imply this but so can the music itself through gentle rhythms and soothing melodies.

Power in the music
Not like “power-metal”, but more like capability. “You’ve promised all these things, but can you deliver?”. If he’s on the radio, he’s got a better chance. If he’s making good music, it shows he’s probably ahead of the curve in capability. It’s not often that women like no-name musicians or that guy playing on the street corner or you doing your best to impress her with your one-man-band routine. The music needs power behind it to make the promises in it believable. Sometimes there are no promises, just capability (and the success it leads to) and that’s good enough to turn the ladies on as well.

This article has no objective other than to further the understanding of the sexes. Understanding ultimately acts as the foundation for acceptance and tolerance and finally: blissful harmony.

24 Comments

  1. BEGIN THE OPINIONATED DISCUSSION!

    most of the girls I know listen to fantastic music; the girls who don’t, are the sorority girls who want Timberlake and the gay guy from American Idol 24/7, and the fraternity men on their level just want similarly uncomplicated generic radio-rock; women get their superficial happiness, and men get their superficial everyone can growl along “rock”; men don’t seem better off here.

    you mention power; you could substitute every word about music, for voting, working, nascar, IT/computing etc., as these and every other area is dominated by men(and we can’t say we’re better at voting simply because we’ve done it longer); through the history of the world have pushed women out; simply because we dominate the music field doesn’t mean we are predisposed to making music. Just because we are men doesn’t mean it’s natural to wear pants and not skirts (scottish did it); it’s just socially imbued information/drive/desire, though I realize there are plenty of differences between men and women that make them better at different things.

    Also, when you say “this is not based a specific scientific study,” do you mean it’s based wholly on your own observations and not on a study at all? :D

  2. Hi Ovid, thanks for your comment. What I’m saying is based on evolutionary psychology. I’m not saying they are right and I’m not trying to prove what they’re saying – I mean, they still haven’t proven evolution itself, it’s still just a theory. But if what they’re saying IS right and our personalities and actions are largely dictated by subconscious drives which nature has built into us over the course of millions of years, then this is an explanation of this little phenomenon I’ve observed over the course of my life, namely that men and women like music for different reasons. Those reasons have to do with the inherent differences between men and women. Now, the title implies that women have bad taste in music. I’ll admit, that’s crap – it was just a catchy title and something I say ironically (ie. “any taste different from mine is bad”). I mean, who says Sting is worse than The Police? But the big point is, many (probably most) of the differences between men and women have a real natural basis – they’re not just something learned because our society treats men one way and women a different way.

  3. I agree totally. It’s kinda taboo to pick on differences between sexes where it favours men though. Ever noticed how there are a lot of female classical pianists, but very very few top composers? My opinion is that women are good at processing the information and completing tasks but they lack the creativity of men. Same with cooking, i would guess more women cook casually than men, but the innovative, pioneering chefs tend to be men.

    But in general, yes i agree that women tend to have a tacky taste in music. I feel it is purely because they are less creative. I have studied music with men and women, and i only ever really had fundamental and deep debates about music with other men. Women always seemed satisfied just to play a piece perfectly, rather than understanding the piece.

  4. Hi John,
    I agree with your statement about creativity. Creativity can maybe be looked at as the ability to solve problems – and that is the traditional role of men. Women approach cooking more as a means to provide for their family, while men cook from the standpoint of solving a problem, namely “how can I cook this to make it taste the best”. One way is not better than the other…

  5. Interesting article. I think its true. Since when do you hear women talking about basslines, tempo shifts, dynamics? Guitar solos? It seems that women arent really interested in technical details (say for instance, complex drumming). Whereas I cannot wait for a technical part to come along, especially in heavy metal. I totally agree about the more “authentic” music as well. I like to listen to the bands that started a style , not the lame rip-offs. Women probably couldnt care less.

  6. The majority of viewers of US TV’s American Idol and the UK’s X-Factor are female.

    Considering that the music associated with shows like these are generally plastic and superficial throwaway pop for the masses, perhaps this is further proof that it’s the emotion of the whole package (the singer, the image, the hype and the song) that drives womens musical tastes rather than the musical structure of the song and the creativity in the playing of the instruments etc…

  7. I think I agree with you.

    I mean, it’s not that women are less musically inclined than men. That’s not what I’m saying and I don’t think that’s what you’re saying. It’s just that women (as a whole) seem to be content with less than men (as a whole) are musically. Of course, there are also those men who seem to be content with whatever comes on the radio. But they don’t count. :)

    I will say though. I carpool with a girl in the mornings who is really impressing me with the things she’s noticing. She picks up on harmonies, counter melodies, dynamics, and even little nuances like panning left and right. She’s really into instrumental stuff, and has a general distaste for what’s on the radio. So as far as I’m concerned, she’s one of those rare gems.

  8. This is a great article on a taboo yet undeniable opinion. The vast majority of women I know listen almost exclusively to whatever is on the mainstream charts, i.e. music that is formulaic, uncreative, and devoid of any artistic value. If they’re into less commercial music, they’re often into it for the scene or the image, not the music.

    I think one of the most revealing examples is in Metallica’s documentary “A Year and a Half in the Life”, documenting the recording of the Black album and the subsequent tour. During the tour, Lars Ulrich notes that the audiences are now split about 50-50 gender-wise. For some reason, the watered down, commercialized version of Metallica’s music appealed more to women than the more complex, more intricate, and more revolutionary version.

  9. It is a mistake for young men to listen to what girls like to try to impress them. Always know women listen to music based on what their first boyfriend or two liked. If you see a punk rock girl she has a punk rock boyfriend. They don’t make these decisons on their own. They are a blank slate, and the only living reason Beyonce has a career.

  10. I’m a woman and one of my favorite bands is Tool. I have like progressive rock, world music, and jazz since I can remember. I studied percussion in college and wanted to be a professor of ethnic music.

    I have to agree that most women have awful taste in music. I went to a party recently where the other (drunken) women were offended that I would not dance to Lady Gaga. Do women really stop to hear how moronic this music really is? It was almost like watching monkeys at the zoo, the way they so enthusiastically responded to this crap. When I requested my own music (some old -school industrial just for fun, I figured even these girls might like old Ministry?) You would have thought I just walked off a spaceship. It’s one thing when women have bad taste in music, but when they force you to dance to it, that’s torture. You poor guys.

    Women like rock, but only if the beat is very basic, there is no harmonic complexity or changes in meter, no real dyanamic changes, (your basic ababa pattern) and a singable melody line. Basically, they like whatever is fed to them off the radio. There is a glimmer of hope- Coldplay is OK, a few women are getting into them.

    Jack Johnson? That whole genre of music is starting to sound like a commercial to me. For products that (most)women buy.

  11. great topic, i’d like to mention how women rule the night life with their music taste. Men are out to meet women and mostly don’t care what music is playing at the time (even if the listen to real music on the regular) So this leads to clubs just playing top 20 mud.
    Playing it safe with music is so boring and I don’t think half these girls even really care about the music I think its more of a comfort thing and feeling acceptance “oh cool they’re playing this song I know/heard wow i must be kinda cool and on to it in this scene”
    basically I haven’t shared any real musical moments etc with a female and this is very interesting to Me as to why not ??

  12. Interesting thoughts. I like the fact that you have dared to be (as John puts it) “taboo”. Too many people are afraid to say what they are thinking in fear of offending someone (paradoxically there also seems to be an excess of people who feel they have to be heard whether their opinion is valid or not. Work that one out). I have also noticed this, but I have a few other ideas as to why it is like this. Have you considered the possibilty that it could be cultural perceptions influencing behaviour? Maybe the cultural perception of the kind of music girls “can” listen to is more narrow than the “acceptable” choice of music for men. Also, on a similar note, is it possible that the “bad music” is more aggressively marketed towards females (prehaps for the very reasons you have mentioned above)? Just realized how old this post is :o But I have typed this out now, so I am going to post it anyway! ha

  13. Haven’t any of the commentators listened to Marnie Stern before?

  14. Fantastic posts … I also have to agree, that most women especially the younger ones don’t have any taste in music and just like what they get from the top20 or anything they feel emotional comfortable to. For me it’s especially hard, since I’m a DJ and have quit a width music taste and love to discover new music or old stuff I never heard before… I share this passion with some mates, but I don’t know of any women who is deeply interested in music…

    I also hate going to clubs or discos, since most of them only play the mainstream crap I can’t stand listening to and I feel like I landed in the circus from hell… But if I suggest to a chick to go to a real cool underground party, the most of them are not interested…

    But I also have to say in all fairness, that their are chicks around with good music taste, but from my experience, it’s the exception!

    BTW. I got the same impression with movie taste… If you look at the IMDB top250 movies, you can see that the majority of males rated the top250 movies higher then females. In contrast the bottom100 movies are higher rated by females then males… For all you who want to check up the stats, just check a movie on imdb and next to rating, click on the votes number, then you will get the demographic details…

  15. I am a 34 year old woman (and a MOM of 2 baby boys) and I would rather throw myself out of a moving vehicle than listen to crap like Celine Dion and John Mayer. I have a WIDE range of tastes from Hardcore to Techno to Alternative to Folk, and I personally think I have good taste in music. Most women like mainstream crap because it is mindless, shallow and fake and many women and girls are mindless, shallow and fake. Even in high school I was listening to Faith no More and Suicidal Tendencies with some Tori Amos thrown in there. Why do women and girls like crappy TV shows like JERSEY SHORE and all those stupid shallow “Housewives” shows? SAME REASON.

  16. I’m not like most women and proud to say it.
    I love Miles Davis,John Coltrane,Return To Forever,Jethro Tull,Steely Dan and lots of other music girls don’t usually like.
    Keri is right on about most women being shallow,mindless, & fake.
    I also love to talk about basslines,the drums,guitar solos,etc.
    Women are encouraged to be bimbos,and the music is just part of the problem….girls obsessed with Louis bags,getting fake boobs and posing half-naked aren’t usually going to be able to appreciate jazz.

  17. While there is some truth in this, I think it’s really just true within the dumber women. My girlfriend likes a lot of the same music as I do (David Bowie, Bauhaus, Grizzly Bear, etc.)and her Mother’s a huge jazz fan. I think taste in music has less to do with gender than it does brain development. We’ve figured out that we can remove a certain protein from a female rat and it’s brain will develop as a male rat’s brain, so something similar to this may also occur in humans naturally (To account for homosexuality, gender issues, etc.). What I’m saying is that more things have a role in shaping someone’s taste in music than just gender. It’s your upbringing, the culture you live in, your peers, etc. If a woman is taught that they need to rely on other people for support and that they should remain superficial, they will. If they are encouraged to be introspective and think for themselves, they will. Hell, I’ve known women that listen to Harsh Noise, Power Electronics, and Industrial like SPK, Foetus, and Whitehouse for their own enjoyment. This could probably be explained by the fact that she was schizophrenic though…

  18. A lot of you guys seem to over-think music, breaking it down to the technical. Don’t get me wrong, I AM a musician so all of that is my language … but that’s only because it’s my craft. A listener shouldn’t be concerned with dynamics/panning/riffs … just the music itself. They don’t need to know WHY it’s good, other than if it’s genuine or not.

    My issue is that most of the sheeple can’t spot the difference between generic radio-rock and something a little more authentic. Whether it be something crafted with the cerebral sophistication of Radiohead’s OK Computer album or something crude, simple, unrefined and honest like Kurt Cobain’s brief but genius contribution to music.

    The bottom line is, you shouldn’t have to dissect music in order to appreciate it, other than perhaps the song meaning or what it is that makes the song great. Getting too technical sucks the life out of it … and is it any wonder that all of the technically trained musicians I’ve played with over teh years can’t write a decent song to save their lives? and when they do it’s just techy dribble?

    where as the technically incompetent tend to be WAY more profound with their output? whether it’s good or bad is a whole other story ..

    food for thought.

  19. As a woman, I have to agree that I’m quite disappointed in my gender, yes, women do generally have crappy taste in music.

    I belong to a gym where it is almost impossible to avoid hearing yet another Lady Gaga song- women think that she is just the greatest thing that ever came to this planet- after all, she’s a strong woman who “beat the odds” and rose to the top of the charts, etc.

    Too bad that her music sucks. Ok, objectively speaking, it’s very very low-quality. But if I dare say it, I’m labeled a “hater” and all the 25 year old girls (notice I didn’t say women) give me the dirtiest looks…

    I’m very very tired of the fact that the standard for musical quality according to most women- is a “catchy” tune with the same 3 chords (I, IV, V)- a prefab percussion and base track that I could lay down in 5 minutes, and a singer with a gimmick that needs to rely on pitch-correction software in order not to sound like a bad karaoke singer. I wish I could enjoy this kind of music- I have tried, but it’s just bloody awful.

    I did grow up listening to jazz, maybe that did help. I spent my cash on new music when I was a kid, and in high school, when the rest of the girls were getting into Duran Duran, I was mesmerized by Rush- and wished I could be like Neal Peart.

    Some guy above said that you have to show women where the good music is. Again, he’s probably right, and again, I must say that I’m embarrassed for my gender. But I could probably show you some interesting music- it would be a fun exchange.

    Another poster says that getting too technical with music takes the fun/life out of it. I disagree. Sometimes it can be fun. Take the time signature to Lateralus- 987? It’s fun to play with stuff like that. Transcribe the drum part to a song and play it. Figure out the chord progression- these technical explorations become the foundations for making your own music. Develop your ear, learn intervals and pitches. Take a theory class for fun.

    Then let the intuition/right brain take over- drum circles, dancing, jamming, enjoying Thom York’s spooky voice…

    Lady Gaga? It’s like trying to drink a wine cooler when you have already tasted the best pinot noir. It’s not a snob thing, it just is. :)

  20. sorry I posted here before- I apologize, not trying to rant. I guess I’m still a little frustrated by this- but getting better with it. Love to hear from the guys, I’ll just kick back and listen now.

  21. thanks for the posts from the women here… have not had my coffee yet, really, I should have read the previous posts first! Cheers!

  22. Fascinating read. In addition to the gender discrepancies, I think quite a bit of this also has to do with generational issues. The vast majority of mainstream accessible music has little-to-no artistic merit. In the last two decades or so there has been a dumbing down of mainstream music and as a result I think many individuals (i.e. not just woman)are simply unaware of the alternatives that are out there.

    That said, I can’t deny that this is probably my biggest pet peeve. To me the music a person chooses to listen to is a direct reflection of their insight, persona, and basically their level of thought. So, at the risk of seeming callous, I can honestly say that if a person exhibits no thought about the music they listen to, we most likely have nothing to gain from one another. I’m aware this comes off as judgmental and elitist, but to me it is a profound indicator of what is going on upstairs.

  23. Darn. My boyfriend listens to some epic awful music, and I was hoping for some advice from the other side.

  24. Bitches man.

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