As Valentine’s Day approaches, we salute the therapeutic intervention of those countless musicians who bring justice to the joyless jilted. They range from the sad (Without You must have the most tragic back story in pop), to the defiant (such as floor-filler I Will Survive) to the borderline pathological (You Oughta Know by Alanis Morissette is the clear winner in this category).
This column is dedicated to all the current and future ‘Dear Johns’ out there, with a few pointers on what the music that you and your current/former partner listen to can tell you about your live life. I should warn you now that if you’re of an insecure disposition then this might be a good time to hit the ‘Back’ button on your browser.
American media researcher Dolf Zillmann has found that your relationship status really does affect what you listen to: those dissatisfied with their love-life really were more likely to listen to love-lamenting music, whereas those who are satisfied with their love life listened to love-celebrating music. (I’m ahead of you here: the easiest way to do it is to look at the ‘Top 25 Most Played’ playlist in his/her iTunes library). Zillmann has also found that revealing your musical preference influences your attractiveness to others. He showed people a video of a prospective date, in which the latter revealed a love of classical music, country, soft rock or heavy metal.
The results showed that if you like Tammy Wynette then you should probably keep this to yourself, whereas male devotees of heavy metal can talk about this safely, as can female classical music fans. Males were particularly interested in a prospective female date who shared their musical taste, whereas women were less likely to blame it on the boogie, showing little interest in whether their male date shared their musical taste.
More recently, I surveyed over 2000 fans of different musical styles to look for a relationship between relationships and musical taste. The respondents most likely to be in a romantic relationship at the time of the survey were fans of blues (a massive 86.2% - probably explains why they can withstand such gloomy lyrics), whereas in one sense the most lonely respondents were fans of dance music since only 57.8% were married and only 25.5% lived with their romantic partner.
I say ‘in one sense the most lonely’ because a whopping 29.1% of the dance music fans claimed to have had five or more sexual partners over the past five years: ‘sex’ did not equate with ‘relationship’ it seems, or perhaps they were just trying to show off.
In contrast, the most monogamous respondents were fans of 1960s pop: if your partner is a fan of Manfred Mann you can expect to get something nice in the post on the 14th, whereas if you met him/her in a nightclub it might be more a case of ‘Wait a minute Mr. Postman’ (which has a truly surreal video incidentally).
You can also use music psychology to your advantage on Friday the 14th, however. Another piece of research played heavy rock and avant grade music in the background while female respondents were asked to judge photos of males. The rock music was liked more, and when it played the respondents gave more positive assessments of the personal character of the men in the photos as well as finding them more attractive.
To put this in concrete terms, when you prepare that romantic candlelit dinner don’t try to impress him/her with your love of experimental jazz and instead play something he/she will like.