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Why do we prefer artists’ hits of the past?

By Katie Tarnutzer

Graphic By Florence Wang

There’s a special feeling that builds when you listen to your favorite artist’s first album. Although we still appreciate the latest releases, you can’t budge that first album feeling. Some people go as far as to say, “I used to love that band, but I don’t really like their new music.” I’ve found myself muttering this about a few different artists – so, what is it that makes us so unwilling to accept creative change?

One key reason someone may prefer an artist’s old album is nostalgia. Some songs may be connected to precious memories; music has the unique ability to transport us back in time to these moments. For example, you may hear the first notes of “Vienna” by Billy Joel, and suddenly, you’re seventeen again and screaming the lyrics with your entire soul as you struggle to figure out your future. When we listen to music from pivotal periods of our lives, we not only hear the sound but relive all the experiences attached to it. 

Additionally, there’s a certain comfort in the familiar. An artist’s established sound becomes part of their image, and fans become attached to that image. When an artist deviates from this established sound, it can be a difficult adjustment for some fans. Humans are creatures of habit and tend to stick to what they know and love.

However, it’s unfair to expect artists to remain static in their sound. Music’s never-ending, boundary-pushing exploration is one of its main draws. It’s to be expected for an artist to grow tired of creating the same type of sound and to push themselves to create something even more profound. Or, they may simply want to experiment with other types of music. Think about the Foo Fighters and their Dee Gees Project – a lighthearted tribute covering the band’s most iconic songs just for the fun of it. This type of experimentation is crucial for artistic growth and the never-ending innovation of music. 

The Beatles are among the most famous bands whose sound changed over the course of their music career. Over the years, they experimented with several genres of music and constantly changed their sound, pushing the boundaries of what was possible in popular music. While some preferred the band’s more straightforward pop tunes, others fell in love with their later, more experimental work.

While it’s natural to have an inclination towards an artist’s earlier work, it’s important to appreciate their journey and accept that even if their new music is not for you, it is necessary for their growth as an artist. Artists should be encouraged to experiment with their sound and explore new creative possibilities, as this is where the most exciting and imaginative music arises. 


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