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In Kids & Family

Teen tunage: what drives teens' musical tastes?

Music is something that just about everyone enjoys, and teens are often more passionate about music than anyone. While they usually listen to completely different music than their parents do, more than a few enjoy the "oldies" their parents grew up with.

We asked some local teens why they like the music they do. Here's what they say.


Rock is a broad name for something that encompasses everything from classic rock to alternative to metal to screamo. Today in rock, many bands put out songs that fall into more than one of the categories.

You might be surprised to find out just how many teenagers love the rock 'n' roll tunes of the '60s, '70s and '80s that mom and dad were rockin' to decades ago. Jake, 16, says that he loves classic rock because it's the foundation for all today's new breeds of rock.

"My father always listened to it, so I was born and raised with this music. When I hear it, it reminds me of my inner child. I think that a lot of teens listen to classic rock because the topics are more upbeat, not dealing with death and despair as so many bands do today, and the music is advertised more. You hear all these old songs in movies and in commercials."

Dan, 16, on the other hand says he prefers alternative music to the classics.

"The beat is better, and is different from your run-of-the-mill rock. The beat gives me the sense that it is "rappish."

Screamo is a relatively new type of aggressive rock featuring guttural, shouted lead vocals. It's similar to heavy metal in some ways, but Mike, 16, explains a key difference.

"Metal focuses more on the drums, guitars, and beat while screamo is more about the vocals and the singer. They are similar, but sometimes with screamo, you can't quite make out the words."

Screamo originated as an offspring of hardcore emo rock back in the '90s, but has become especially popular lately. Many music fans claim that the media has thrust the term screamo onto many light-screaming songs and that true screamo is much more hardcore.

Mike adds that he enjoys this type of rock more than other types of rock and other genres of music because of the amount of skill involved with the music.

"Screamo takes more skill to make good music because you need to find a good vocalist that fits the particular sound of the band, and high-quality guitarists to back up the singer. In rap, you just need lyrics. With screamo, you need a dynamic singer that has the voice to be able to produce a particular sound. Another reason I like screamo, is depending on the mood I'm in, it helps make things better if I'm stressed out."

As always, many kids find themselves attracted to non-mainstream music; underground bands that aren't being paid the big bucks.

Steve, 16, says, "I like listening to these bands because they're unique and they play for their fans, not the money. They don't care if they make huge amounts of money or get an amazing record deal. They just want to please their fans. Plus, they're good!"


Rap began on the streets of urban America, but its appeal is now universal and students at Menomonee Falls High School are no exception in their love for hip-hop.

Rick, 16, says that he listens to rap because he heard it when he was little, and has grown up with it ever since. "I feel I can relate to what some of the songs talk about." When asked why he believes suburban kids like him listen to rap, he said it was their way of trying to "be black."

Dan says he thinks suburban kids listen to rap because it is offers insight into a different kind of lifestyle; one that intrigues them.

Nikki, 16, agrees: "It's stuff us suburban kids don't know about and we like to hear those people's stories." She also said that the reason she listens to Rap was because she heard it as a child and it brings back pleasant memories with her friends.


The dance music is another perennially-popular genre with teenagers thanks to its infectious, almost hypnotic, pounding beats and synthesized sounds. Songs may or may not include singers, but that doesn't matter too much as it is the rhythm that counts.

"The music has an interesting beat that resonates through your body and when it really gets going," says Heather, 16. "There is no way you can't get up and start to dance."


Country has long been one of America's most popular musical genres,too, and that hasn't changed much among today's kids, who point to Nashville's taste for inspiring, uplifting themes.

"I enjoy listening to country because its songs talk about life and are an inspiration to my life," says Heather. "The beats are more relaxing, and on songs that are more upbeat, the bass is not as heavy as in rock or rap, but it's still there."


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