In a recent group discussion, some University of Mississippi freshmen shared music preferences. They say vibes and rhythm beat lyrics.
“I listen to music for beats, not really the lyrics,” Madison Crowell said. “For me music is background noise…I don’t really look to gain anything from it.”
Crowell said she mostly listens to music while she’s driving or while she’s writing to keep from getting distracted. She said over the years, country music has gotten too “poppy.” However, she believes rap, hip-hop, and pop, which dominate the radio, have, for the most part, remained the same.
University student Akim Powell disagrees. “All music was better in the ’90s and before that,” Powell said. “It had more meaning to it back then. Musicians like Tupac and Stevie Wonder had a purpose within their songs, whereas most artists today are just trying to make a hit.”
Powell’s friend, Macie Buza, said music today tries to shock more than it used to. “I think the quality of music is staying the same, but it is becoming more and more provocative,” she said. “You definitely can’t listen to it with your parents around.”
Most students said music has transformed in the last 10 to 15 years. For some like Crowell, this may seem less important since, to her, music is merely filler noise. But to others, the artistry of music is significant.
Erin Geist said music is an escape for her when she has “a lot to think about.” She likes music that tells a story or is inspiring.
All of the students’ reasons for liking music or considering it high quality varied. Their tastes in genre, however, were similar. Four out of five said they enjoy country, R&B, hip-hop, and rap, while two said they like classic rock in addition to those genres.
Students also seemed to show similar interest in certain artists, particularly in rap. Nearly all of them said they enjoy Grammy award winner Kanye West’s music. One student said he’s “poetic,” while another said, “He goes hard.”
Other artists who students said “go hard” are Gucci Mane and Kodak Black, two names that currently have songs on Billboard’s Top 100.
Students do not merely limit themselves to the music that is currently popular. Crayton Bowie prefers many genres of various eras, including 1970s and 1980s country, 1990s grunge, and the early 2000s punk revival. A few of his favorite artists are the Flaming Lips, Third Eye Blind and Oasis. Bowie said he appreciates all types of music and “loves to get funky.”
All of the students said they do not prefer getting their music from traditional FM radio, but instead like using satellite radio or apps like Apple Music, Pandora or Spotify. The general opinion was that the radio plays too many ads and a certain set of songs repeatedly until they become annoying.
Now that the radio is no longer the main source of listening to music, students have had to learn new ways to discover music. With the rise of the digital age, apps that let amateur artists easily upload their work, such as Soundcloud, YouTube and DatPiff have changed the game.
The students said they now rely on their friends, whose profiles they follow, to find new artists, unless they happen to stumble upon something they like themselves by chance.
The rise of social media has given both amateur artists and established professional artists a new platform to promote their work.
Bowie said he finds a lot of his music on musicians’ Twitter profiles. He believes artists like Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Dickie do a good job of utilizing the platform effectively.
Clearly, music plays a big role in all of the interviewees’ lives. Some said they listen to escape the stresses of daily life, and others said they listen to appreciate the art.
When asked how their lives would be different if music did not exist, all said the same thing – they couldn’t live without it.
Ole Miss students say music is a big part of their daily lives, and how they stream it varies. Some attribute their musical likings to their hometown or parental influence.
Freshmen McKinley Booth said she listens to music everywhere.
“I listen to my music in the shower, whenever I go out, when I’m in the car with my friends here, or when I’m just in the room cleaning or studying,” she said.
Most students like to stream their music through various media platforms because of the convenience Apple Music, Spotify and Pandora provide. Each website offers free trial or usage, however these tend to come with commercials. While one would assume most students use the free trial, many students pay for these subscription services because of the amenities that come with them.
Victoria Tracy, of Trophy Club, Texas, is a Spotify Premium user. She chose Spotify because, “A lot of [her] friends used it, and it has a lot of different options.”
Makenzie Cook, of Austin, Texas, uses Pandora Radio and does not have a paid subscription. Although Cook does not enjoy the commercials, she still uses the free edition of this site and likes how it “plays different artists all on one station so that [she] get[s] a variety of music.”
Sammy Watkins, of Little Rock, uses Apple Music to stream her music because of the benefits Apple Music provides. According to the Apple Music website, “Apple Music makes everything about music-listening, exploring, discovering, better than ever.”
Apple Music also guarantees new music before anyone else. This is one reason Watkins was drawn to this music streaming service over any other.
Many music platforms offer discounts for college students, such as half off the monthly fee for a year while enrolled as a full-time student. This is one of the reasons why Spotify appeals to students like Tracy and David Finamori.
Like Spotify, Apple Music also offers discounts to college students.
The benefits that come with paying for a music subscription service are commercial free music, access to thousands of songs, and the ability to make playlists of new and current music.
Every student has a favorite artist that they like to listen to through these sites and subscription services. Some music preferences are based off of where they are from or what their parents listened to.
“Country music, I did not like in the beginning, but my parents and everyone around me played country all the time,” Booth said. “So then I came to like it because I was around it so much.”
However, she said other types of music she likes aren’t based on her parents or hometown. She enjoys listening to artists like The Chainsmokers and Travis Scott.
Finamori, who is from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in a suburb of Nashville, said his favorite artist is Allen Jackson. When asked why Allen Jackson was his favorite artist, Finamori said, “Because he is from my hometown.” Being so close to Nashville, Finamori said he grew up around country music. He even has a banjo that he named “Darla.”
Watkins is a fan of classic rock, Aerosmith in particular. She also attributes this liking to her parents because they played this music often when she was younger.
Tracy said her favorite artist is Taylor Swift because she is played on the radio a lot.
Cook said her favorite artist is Sam Smith because he is her “spirit animal.”