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Students connect musical genres to their own identity, personalities


Junior Caleb Kim loads his barbell with heavy plates. As he prepares himself for the bench press, he takes a sip of water before putting both of his AirPods in his ear. Turning up the volume on his phone, his ears begin to absorb the banging of drums and the twanging of guitars.

“Whenever you’re lifting heavy, you want to go for the heaviest metal or rock songs,” he said. “You want to time your lifts so it aligns with the most exciting part of the song. When this happens, I become a totally different lifter. There are moments in these songs that contain so much energy and all the power goes into you. Whenever I do a deadlift, bench press or squat, intense rock songs help a lot.”

Kim, who said rock music is his favorite genre, said this wasn’t always the case.

“My dad was actually in a band for a while,” he said. “And at first, I thought it was annoying and I didn’t like rock. But starting from the sixth grade, the more I listened to it, the more I felt a bond with the music. I don’t know, rock music just sort of became a part of me.”  

With the prominence of new audio devices like AirPods and software like Spotify, music has become more accessible than ever. In the third quarter of 2022, Spotify reported 456 million active users worldwide. With the release of the 2022 edition of Spotify Wrapped, a compilation of data about a user’s activity on Spotify, students like Kim reflect on their favorite music genres and apply them to their identity. 

For senior Catherine Byrne, rap music has been a long-time favorite of hers.

“I feel like I grew up listening to rap,” she said. “My parents usually listened to ‘90s rap. When I first got Spotify on my phone, the first music genre I went to was rap.”

Similar to Kim, rap music plays a noticeable role in Byrne’s everyday activities.

“I listen to rap music the most in the morning when I’m getting ready before school or driving to places with my friends,” she said. “I like to listen to rap in the morning because–I don’t know if ‘motivating’ would be the right word–but it puts me in a good mood and sets the tone for the day. It makes me want to go out and do stuff. With my friends, rap music makes us excited to do whatever we want to do.”

Byrne said she likes rap music because it is a unique genre.

“I feel like the lyrics in rap music feels more thought out and artistic than pop songs or stuff on the pop radio channels,” she said. “Those feel like the same thing over and over, but rap music isn’t (repetitive).”

Junior Matthew Paraboschi on the other hand is a country music enthusiast. 

He said, “In the sixth grade when I was moving to Indiana from Illinois, my dad started playing country songs during the long car ride out here. After that, I just kept listening to (country music).”

Paraboschi said the simplicity of country music, paired with relatable lyrics, makes country music his top musical genre.

“The appeal for me is not in the themes, because a lot of it is just trucks,” he said. “Country music always has a good rhythm, like simple beats. It’s usually not complicated, with guitar or bass. It just really allows me to think about the words. For example, Zach Bryan is one of my favorite artists. In his song ‘From Austin’, he says ‘people ruin people, I don’t wanna ruin you’. He stops playing the guitar to say this line, and it hits deep hearing that.”

For Paraboschi, he said he feels a deeper connection with country music. One that connects his relationships with other people.

“The songs I listen to and the lyrics mean a lot to me because I relate a lot to them,” he said. “I have songs that I associate certain moments with. There’s a song that my dad would always play in the car so I listen to that in the gym a lot. There’s another song that my friend introduced me to, which reminds me of my friend whenever I listen to it.”

According to Byrne, rap music plays a significant role in her identity in an emotional way.

“The type of music I listen to sets my mood or emotions,” she said. “I just like to listen to upbeat music like rap because it makes me feel better. It makes me feel more confident in myself. If I was a type of music, I would want to be rap music.”

Kim said his favorite rock songs had some philosophical effects on him.

“One of my favorite songs is ‘Free Bird’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd,” he said. “This song instantly changes my mood, especially the guitar solo. I think the lyrics resonate with me since the song repeats the idea of freedom over and over. It helps me let go of some of the stress in my life and just enjoy the present.”

For Kim, he said the rock genre will most likely continue to be on his “most played” list on Spotify for a long time. Rock music, he said, has fused into his identity. 

“In a way, rock music is part of my identity,” he said. “I’ve been listening for such a long time now, that rock music feels really familiar. If you listen to the same type of things over and over, I think your thought processes or outlook on life shifts. I wouldn’t say rock music defines my personality. Still, I strongly believe that I would be a slightly different person if I never listened to rock music.”

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