This post got Freshly Pressed a few weeks ago, and I found it incredibly fascinating because I’ve often wondered the same thing myself. My theory (not scientifically valid whatsoever) is that people’s favorite music tends to be what they listened to when they were growing up, so basically anything that came out in the first 20 years of that person’s life. That’s why parents often think their kids’ music is crap and vice versa — the parents didn’t grow up listening to it, so it has no appeal to them. For a song or an artist to stick in your mind, it has to have some kind of emotional weight or memory attached to it (another unscientific theory of mine).
Even today, I hear people my age complaining that today’s music “sucks.” Is it because we are aging out of popular music and what’s playing on the radio no longer appeals? Or maybe because we don’t have as much exposure to popular music as we did when we were younger — perhaps because we are busy with building careers and families and finishing school? I know that I don’t have the same connection with many popular songs, but when I do listen to the radio, I find myself thinking that I would have a loved a particular song if it had come out when I was in high school, probably because I could have attached it to a certain event that occurred at the time. But I have nothing to connect the song with, so it’s just another generic pop hit.
The author of the Freshly Pressed post analyzed data from Spotify and Echo Nest and came to the conclusion that “aging out” of popular music is in fact a true phenomenon, so there is truth to the theory that the older you get, the more “terrible” popular music is. You don’t have time to listen to it, and you don’t identify with it as strongly as you did when you were younger.