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33 and Life

A few years ago I wrote about the fact that I no longer had a voracious appetite for new music. It was difficult to admit, seeing as how I'd previously been so determined to avoid becoming the cliche guy-who-gets-older-and-stops-keeping-up-with-what's-popular. (This is, of course, only a step up from the guy-gets-older-and-believes-all-music-made-after-he-left-high-school-is-shit.)

But the reality was impossible to deny. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out reasons for my decline, and ended up blaming various culprits: Mp3s, marriage, fatherhood, brain research, the fact that several of my favorite artists put out their least compelling work in the mid-2000s. In truth it was probably a combination of all of these things with no single one deserving the whole of the blame.

Today I came across a report about a study that concludes that people tend to stop paying attention to popular music at age 33. Guess what? I wrote the aforementioned essay in 2010, two months after my 33rd birthday.

I'm sure there are people who enjoy being exactly average, but I am not one of them. The idea that I might be playing out some preordained lemming-like march to obscurity is anathema to me. So I take some comfort in the two causation factors the study cited. The first is the discovery of genres outside of popular, top 40 fare. The other is a tendency to return to music you loved when you were young.

I tend to see myself in both factors, with modifications. I loved most of the music that was on the radio when I was ages 5 - 18, but from there I started to take on a historian bent while also looking beyond the mainstream, which led me to the discovery of some of my favorite artists, like XTC and Jimmy Eat World. I still kept fairly current with popular music up to the mid-2000s, but now I haven't even heard most of the songs that are on the iTunes top 10. And I don't especially care.

And I have definitely specialized in my listening. I still buy new music, but it's 98% likely to be from an artist that is one of my favorites, not an artist I've never heard before. And even the list of artists I'd consider favorites has rapidly dwindled, as I wrote about recently. The way I look at it is this: I'd rather spend more time revisiting albums and songs I know I already love than looking for new ones to love.

Maybe that makes me exactly what I always hoped I wouldn't be. Maybe I really am a walking statistic. But. I have to say, even if that's the case, it feels like that's a result not of the laziness and apathy that I once feared, but instead from hard-earned self-knowledge. Yeah, I'm going with that.

Now it's time for me to go give a spin that new They Might Be Giants record.

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