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Why Are Our Favorite Songs Our Favorite?

The first three things I normally tell someone as I meet them besides my name, and things I like, is my favorite song. Not to ramble on, but “Taking Chances” by Céline Dion is that song to me, in other words, it is my favorite song of all time. 

But you may be wondering, why? Why do we label songs we like as favorites? Is it because of the number of replays, the significant lyrics or the sick beat? Or is it because of something more emotional tied towards that specific song? 

For starters, music in general is pretty tied up to our emotions. It is a way to feel understood with what is going on with our lives, our past memories, and most importantly, our emotional state. But there are two or more schools of thought in neuroscience as to why the songs we label as our favorite truly become that. 

First of all, one school of thought proposes that our songs are our favorite due to the emotional impact it has. You might be thinking about that time you heard your favorite singer or band play that song live and you felt something, chills perhaps. I personally did when Celine belted Taking Chances in 2017. You may guess what happens next. There is a reaction to what you are listening to. In my case, it’s that tremendously iconic F5 she hits at the climax, but for you, it might be the drumming, the chorus or anything else. The brain associates the song and what we are listening to through the emotional impact it has and processes that through the medial limbic system, a pattern in our brain that is activated, and it is still unclear if it registers new emotional pathways, or is reminded of pre-existing ones. 

But the other school of thought proposes that our favorite songs are our favorite not because of the song itself, but because of the emotional impact and the correlation it has to our past memories. You might have a favorite song that you recall listening to with that special someone, or with your best friend, or simply when you needed comfort. These are some of the instances that music presents itself and one of the reasons that songs can become our favorite. They can due to the emotional impact the song and memory created together. The brain encodes these specific episodes in our limbic system, which creates a pathway of emotion and associates it with the perceptual memory (a part of our brain dedicated to registering sensorial stimuli, and as music is something we listen to, it registers songs here). This linkage between our emotional limbic system and our perceptual memory creates the code of a particular song sticking to a particular memory in time. 

This is why songs become our favorite, because they stick to us over time. And whether it’s the music, the lyrics, or the overall memory itself surrounding it, we all know that these songs will always be there, time and time again in our playlists and our ears. 

Information taken from Psychology Today article, https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-neurobiology-wellness/201901/why-is-your-favorite-song


My name is Mariana and I am a contributor to HerCampus. I love creative writing, reading fiction, as well as music and everything in the entertainment industry. You can find me on Instagram at marywritingbooks, where I give my book reviews, opinions and rants.
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