Music Preferences by Personality Type
For many of us, our taste in music is an integral part of our identity – so much so that, to a certain extent, what we listen to is who we are. The songs of our youth, heard a thousand times, fill our headspace with stray lyrics and infectious grooves, creating a filter for the way we see, hear, and understand the world from then on out. And while some have a less conscious, more organic approach, others actively draw boundaries between the music they accept and the music they deny – and by extension, the people associated with those musical cultures, as well.
The link between musical preferences and personality is so strong that many of us feel a quick skim of one’s iTunes folder, Spotify playlists, or record collection would reveal a wealth of information about the owner, even if these supposed revelations are distorted by the lens of our own inherent prejudices. A punk fan may instantly dismiss someone with an extensive selection of country, assuming that possession of such music all but guarantees a certain provincialism on the part of the possessor. Of course, as with all stereotypes, hasty judgments are usually wrongheaded – genre, like one’s personality type, is more a guide than a straightjacket, and wisdom is more readily found in the hidden nuances than in the broad strokes.
Nevertheless, though there are genre-bending outliers to be found in every category of music, the general tendencies of each may cause certain personalities to gravitate more readily towards particular genres, while being repelled by others. Furthermore, as much as we might identify ourselves – and classify one another – by our choice of genre, our preferred medium (MP3 player, laptop, car stereo) might be just as telling.
This article is based on our survey of over 4000 respondents whom we asked about their music preferences. The survey has revealed the outlooks different personalities have on music – what we listen to, when we listen to it, and how we do the listening. The answers to each question, as you will see, illustrate the importance of decisions that may have long since become all but automatic.
The music genres that Analyst personality types tend to appreciate more than the other Roles – rock (80%), classical (76%), jazz (54%, tied with Diplomats), punk (46%), and metal (44%) – also tend to be the ones that are most often respected for the sheer technical expertise at work as much as for the more emotional qualities of these songs. Not to say that other genres are lacking in musicianship, but Analysts may nonetheless find these five forms particularly likely to prize efficient, precise virtuosity for its own sake. After all, the only thing an Analyst loves more than a good challenge is seeing that challenge bested through skill alone, whether the challenge is a dazzlingly intricate guitar solo or an entire movement of a tricky concerto.
In addition, Analysts were found to be the heaviest users of headphones (59%) of all the Roles, a characteristic that may be due to Analysts’ need to be “in their heads” as much as possible, shutting out the distractions of the outside world so as to better focus on the problems circulating within. Analyst personalities also have a tendency to feel like loners, and they may prefer listening privately rather than justifying their tastes to an unwelcome audience.
As the Role with the most typical affinity for technology, it may be unsurprising that Analysts were the Role most likely to listen using a PC, laptop, or tablet (42%), devices which are rarely far from most Analysts’ reach. The utilitarian appeal of a computer – useful for so many tasks outside of audio – may be more important to an Analyst than any fidelity lost to inferior speakers.
The pronounced Feeling aspect of Diplomats may partially explain their choice of music: blues (46%), soul (50%), world (49%), alternative (85%), and jazz (54%, tied with Analysts), all genres that are often characterized by great emotional intensity. Ambient (59%) music may also appeal to Diplomats’ poetic nature. Aside from passion, Diplomat personalities may also seek out these genres specifically for their borderlessness, their resistance to being confined by arbitrary categorization.
Quantity alone may not necessarily be the most accurate measure of appreciation, but nevertheless, the finding that Diplomats are the Role most likely to listen to more than two hours of music every day (48%) may still be significant. At the very least, this data may illustrate how readily Diplomats can become lost for extended periods in the alternate realities that music can conjure into being.
The depths of the devotion that Diplomat personality types have to their music may also be exemplified by the fact that they are the most likely Role to embrace MP3 players (14%). Where some Roles may see music as an afterthought, an added feature for their workstation or means of conveyance that is nice, but hardly necessary, Diplomats may feel that having their own tunes close at hand is absolutely vital. For a Diplomat, an MP3 player may take on almost talismanic properties, adored as much for its form – and its symbolism – as its function.
Of the four Roles, Sentinels only came first in their appreciation of two genres: country (43%) and religious music (40%). The strong sense of community that characterizes Sentinel personality types – whose work ethic and desire for order stems from their belief that life is fundamentally about maintaining the social fabric for the good of all – may explain their affinity for these two forms, both of which often contain messages in praise of service, whether to a higher power or to one’s fellow human being. The ambivalence that Sentinels tend to have for popular entertainment – so much of which strikes them as a waste of valuable time – may also explain why music must include at least a bit of didacticism to hold their attention for long.
Sentinels were also the Role least likely to listen to music for more than two hours per day on average (32%), and most likely to listen for less than five minutes a day (5%) – however, when they do listen to music, Sentinels are the most likely to use speakers rather than headphones (53%). Again, Sentinels may feel that music is an extravagance that must be kept in moderation, and they may dislike headphones due to their need to stay connected at all times with the people around them, rather than shutting them out.
Finally, Sentinel personalities were significantly more likely than any other Role to listen to music on a car stereo (13%). For many Sentinels, travel time may be the only space that they truly feel comfortable allowing music into their lives, because at any other time, music may be interpreted as a distraction from more pressing matters.
The genres that Explorers favor more than other Roles – namely, electronica (68%), hip-hop (49%), pop (74%), and reggae (35%) – may most frequently match the Explorer mood: energetic and in the moment. Whether it is a fast-driving techno beat or a reggae groove, Explorers may look for music that is more textural than intellectual, evoking an immediate, visceral response.
Immediacy may also be the reason behind Explorer personalities getting highest scores for the TV (2%) and the smartphone (47%) as preferred devices, both of which are tailor-made for snap decisions. An Explorer might have little patience for the lengths some music lovers go to in order to curate a personal library – researching, collecting, and categorizing all sounding like time better spent listening – but an Explorer might be perfectly satisfied with the serendipity of the sounds summoned forth by the flick of a remote or the tap of an app.
The quiet yet forceful nature of Confident Individualists is clearly reflected in their choice of music: these personalities scored highest for classical (76%), rock (79%, tied with Constant Improvement), and metal (42%) genres. One can easily imagine them finding something appealing in both harmonious and technically demanding classical passages, and intense rock or metal tracks. Some may even combine the two, embracing symphonic metal, for example.
Constant Improvers were similar to Confident Individualists in their preferences, although with some intriguing differences. The top three genres for these personality types were rock (79%, tied with Confident Individualists), punk (46%), and alternative or indie rock (84%). Given that punk is a subgenre of rock, we may as well call Constant Improvers the ultimate rock lovers.
Personality types falling under the People Mastery Strategy hold a number of top spots: blues (51%), country (40%), jazz (60%), soul (54%), and reggae (38%). These genres tend to feature fairly relaxed and melodic tracks, and People Masters’ preference for such music may be a reflection of their social and confident natures.
Just like their Assertive counterparts in the People Mastery group, Social Engagement types scored highest in quite a few genres: electronica (72%), pop (77%), rap or hip-hop (57%), ambient or new age (59%), world (47%), and religious (35%). All these genres are fairly distinct, so it is not immediately apparent what factors may pull Social Engagers toward them. We may get a clearer picture by looking at individual genres and personality traits in the next section.
Let’s now go through the main genres and see which personality traits and types they attract most. We’ll list the top 3 types in each case.
Logicians (INTP) (51%)
At first glance, the anarchic rhythms of punk might seem an odd fit for a Logician’s quiet, detached demeanor, but if one looks past the caricature of leather jacketed and liberty spiked moshers to the origins of punk rock itself, the affinity becomes far more understandable. Just as punk began as a rule-breaking reaction to overly polished studio rock, Logicians also tend to have little patience – or respect – for tradition. Whether rejecting the status quo in a political sense (as with The Clash, Dead Kennedys, or Gang of Four) or pushing the envelope more towards the avant-garde (art punks like Devo, Talking Heads, or Yeah Yeah Yeahs), the smart, transgressive qualities of punk may hold endless appeal for the Logician personality type.
Mediators (INFP) (49%)
For many of us, music can serve as an outlet for the feelings that we otherwise have a hard time expressing, and the aggressive, in-your-face style of punk may fulfill that function for Mediators, who so often find themselves repressing their negative emotions for fear of hurting those around them. Of course, angst is a key component of countless genres, but there may be something in the absence of artifice, the sheer rawness, of punk that appeals to Mediators, for whom bands like Minor Threat or Hüsker Dü might vocalize the anguish that they so often stifle. And while the term “emo” has become perhaps irretrievably stigmatized, Mediators might be particularly drawn to those punk bands that turn inward more than lashing outward, such as Jawbreaker or Jimmy Eat World.
Virtuosos (ISTP) (48%)
The DIY ethic epitomized by punk may have a kindred spirit in the Virtuoso personality, a group of people who believe that a hands-on approach is always preferable to hours of purely academic study. Namely, the stripped-down, no-frills punk of The Stooges, The Sex Pistols, and The Ramones has a visceral feel that a Virtuoso has no need to intellectualize or rationalize – only to experience.
If we look at individual trait scores, punk is clearly more popular among Intuitive and Prospecting types than their Observant and Judging counterparts:
Commanders (ENTJ) (64%)
The genius of jazz may be in improvisation, but it is an improvisation born of absolute mastery of one’s instrument, lending an uncanny prescience to one’s movements, ensuring that each will be in service to some unwritten sonata. Unpredictable yet unerringly precise, the bebop stylings of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, or Thelonious Monk may remind Commanders of the same qualities that they prize in themselves.
Protagonists (ENFJ) (64%)
As a personality type that is positively brimming with enthusiasm and confidence, Protagonists might very well seek out music that is equally brassy and bold, such as that of the big band era of jazz. Exciting and infectious, the swinging sounds of Duke Ellington or Glenn Miller may be all the excuse that a Protagonist needs to turn their living room into a ballroom.
Campaigners (ENFP) (62%)
Campaigners have a habit of stretching themselves too thin, which tends to happen when one attempts the sort of all-encompassing, paradigm-shifting projects that are a Campaigner’s passion in life. Fortunately for the personality type, Campaigners understand the value of down time, and cool jazz performers like Dave Brubeck or Chet Baker may be just what they need to do after a hard day of saving the world.
Jazz seems to attract Extraverted, Intuitive, and Assertive types, all of which have scored significantly higher than Introverted, Observant, and Turbulent personalities:
Commanders (ENTJ) (79%)
So much depends on the thin baton of the maestro, the focal point for the storm of instruments filling a concert hall – this sense of power, and responsibility, may be something that Commander personalities can readily identify with, as they too see themselves as the linchpin without which some great enterprise would quickly collapse. The precision by which an orchestra can execute the works of Beethoven or Wagner may be an inspiration to Commanders, who seek an equal degree of control over the forces marshalled underneath them.
Architects (INTJ) (78%)
To the ears of an Architect, even the catchiest popular tune may be intrinsically dull, when compared to the byzantine compositions of the Baroque age. As an Architect appreciates any creation that contains a wealth of hidden intricacies, so too might they marvel at the works of Bach, Handel, or Vivaldi.
Debaters (ENTP) (76%)
For Debaters, the intellectual challenge of comprehending the complex tonal structures of classical music may be a key part of their enjoyment of the form. As with everything else, though, Debaters might particularly love those composers who push orchestral music in strange directions – even at the risk of unsettling an audience – such as Igor Stravinsky or John Cage.
Intuitive personality types are much more likely to enjoy classical music, scoring 12% above their Observant counterparts:
Debaters (ENTP) (84%)
Perhaps it is the hybridized nature of rock music, the myriad influences that have melded to make the form, that lends itself so well to debate – Stones vs. Beatles, Beatles vs. Elvis, garage rock vs. arena rock – but nevertheless, it may be this aspect of the genre that most appeals to the ever eager to argue Debaters. Or it could simply be the inherent contentiousness of rock as a whole, the rebellious spirit that defies categorization even as finer lines are drawn – either way, people with the Debater personality type may have an elaborate set of justifications for why their bands are worthy of inclusion in the pantheon of rock, while others should be condemned forevermore to the bargain bins of history.
Mediators (INFP) (82%)
From Springsteen to Kings of Leon, there has always been a rough poetry to rock, a rawness of feeling, that may hold great appeal for the innately, and intensely, sensitive Mediators. Indeed, while some might find the authenticity of rock suspect, Mediators may be quick to take the earnestness of the form at face value.
Logicians (INTP) (82%)
Recklessly experimental and fearlessly rebellious, rock music has always had an outsider appeal – even when one subgenre has been tamed and replicated, another (prog rock, new wave, or indie rock) has turned the prevailing rock paradigm on its head, making the unthinkable the new commonplace, and what was once popular, now passé. Logicians, who have a similar disregard for the status quo, may see the world of rock as being populated with kindred spirits.
Rock seems to attract Intuitive and Prospecting types more than Observant and Judging ones, with clear differences in both cases:
Debaters (ENTP) (88%)
Alternative rock, as a genre that defines itself in large part by what it is not more than what it is, might have intrinsic similarities to the Debater personality type, whose identity also resides much more in opposition than in allegiance. Just as Debaters tend to favor the abrasive over the harmonious, so too might they be drawn most readily to bands that revel in distortion, like Sonic Youth, Pavement, or Dinosaur Jr.
Mediators (INFP) (86%)
Alternative rock has its roots in punk, and Mediators seem to have an affinity for both. Much as with punk, though, Mediators might tend to favor the more viscerally emotional music on the alternative spectrum. Bands like The Cure, The Smiths, or Weezer, each in their own way, may also speak to the outsider feeling that comes so easily to Mediators, one of the rarest personality types in existence.
Advocates (INFJ) (84%)
Advocates are a highly cause-oriented personality type, and as such, they may be attracted to insurgent musical acts, bands that herald a revolution in their respective genres. Alternative rock in general, then, may hold great appeal for Advocates, for whom groups like Nirvana, Radiohead, or Arcade Fire are more than simply artists – they are symbols for vast cultural upheavals, simmering just beneath the surface.
Scores for alternative rock showed some intriguing differences across three out of five scales, with Intuitive, Feeling, Prospecting, and Turbulent personality types scoring higher than their Observant, Judging, and Assertive cousins:
Adventurers (ISFP) (46%)
For an Adventurer, life often feels like a frenetic scream just outside their window, and the relaxing, soulful sounds of reggae may be the perfect antidote to soothe their jangled nerves. The sense of “one love” expressed through the lyrics and voices of reggae singers like Jimmy Cliff or Gregory Isaacs may provide Adventurer personalities with the harmony that can be sorely lacking in their everyday existence.
Entrepreneurs (ESTP) (42%)
Although much of reggae consists of slow jams and chill beats, the music that was born in Jamaican dance halls boasts more than its fair share of jittery, revved-up tunes as well. Groups that veer more into ska – like The Maytals or The Specials – may be more to an Entrepreneur’s liking than the more laid-back varieties of the genre.
Campaigners (ENFP) (42%)
Performers like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, or Burning Spear can certainly be enjoyed primarily – or purely – for their talent, but the political undercurrents are hard to ignore entirely. For many fans of their music, reggae is a force for revolution, and Campaigners may fall squarely into this camp.
Reggae attracted significantly more Extraverts than Introverts. We can also see a gap, albeit a much smaller one, between Thinking and Feeling types.
Campaigners (ENFP) (65%)
Music more intended for backgrounds than for active listening – without ruling out the possibility of the latter – ambient music may appeal to personality types who have difficulty concentrating when too many things demand their attention. After all, when you are absorbed by the fabric of the universe, it is hard to notice tiny details in the weave, a condition that befalls Campaigners more than most.
Entertainers (ESFP) (62%)
Entertainer personalities may love to entertain, but they hate it when something steals the spotlight, as is often the case with most musical genres. Ambient music, however, exists more to accentuate than dominate, highlighting the performance of the Entertainers, rather than distracting from it.
Adventurers (ISFP) (64%)
The searing ball of stress that often erupts in an overstretched Adventurer’s life may be soothed by the gentle sounds of new age. When even the most melodic guitar solo hits the ear like a discordant wave, the dulcet drone of ambient tunes may set a calmer stage for the recovery time that Adventurers so frequently need.
The dominant traits among ambient music lovers were Intuitive, Feeling, and Prospecting:
Campaigners (ENFP) (52%)
Of all the personality types, Campaigners may be among the quickest to reject borders, whether those lines are drawn around nations or around music. Though world music can be a difficult genre to define, Campaigners may not only tolerate this ambiguity, but welcome it, seeing the world fusion of Afro Celt Sound System or Peter Gabriel as an expression of the inherent oneness that musicians – and people – share, regardless of their place of origin.
Protagonists (ENFJ) (52%)
Because Protagonists see something to celebrate in all people, it perhaps follows that they see something to cherish in all music. From the son cubano playing of the Buena Vista Social Club to the Ghazal poetry of Ghulam Ali to the Tuvan throat-singing of Yat-Kha, Protagonists find a unique and irreplaceable beauty in them all.
Advocates (INFJ) (46%)
Much like Campaigners, Advocates have a belief in the universal unity of humankind that may extend to their choices in music – in contrast to Campaigners’ more positivist outlook, however, Advocates see this unity as something born of struggle, rather than being a simple, inevitable truth. As such, Advocates may prefer world music that speaks more directly to the trouble that comes from attempting to transcend the demarcations around us – the revolutionary Afrobeat of Fela Kuti, for example.
World music seems to attract Intuitive and Feeling personality types:
Entertainers (ESFP) (88%)
If clever lyrics or canny musicianship are at the heart of some genres, pure showmanship may be the prime mover behind most of pop music, where the pageantry of performance is as important as the performance itself. The elaborate costumes and intricate dance routines of Lady Gaga or Katy Perry insist that music be an all-encompassing experience, visual as well as auditory, a sentiment that Entertainers are likely to share wholeheartedly.
Consuls (ESFJ) (80%)
Pop music can be thought of as the soundtrack of society, and Consuls never want to be left out of the chorus. Whether it is Michael Jackson, Madonna, or Justin Bieber who currently dominates the charts, Consuls are quick to share the tastes of their peers, and loathe to be ignorant of the songs on everyone’s lips.
Adventurers (ISFP) (78%)
Personalities whose lives are fueled by powerful – but often powerfully repressed – feelings, Adventurers may have a soft spot for the big voices and bold emoting of pop. Artists like Beyonce, Mariah Carey, or Christina Aguilera may be particular favorites, as pop singers who infuse intense passion into every note of their performances.
Ironically, pop music seems to be one of the most divisive genres, sharing that title with only one other – metal. It also has the largest gap among all traits and genres, a 15.50% difference between Thinking and Feeling traits. Besides this dyad, pop also attracts significantly more Extraverted, Observant, and Turbulent types than Introverted, Intuitive, and Assertive ones:
Entrepreneurs (ESTP) (50%)
Fast, loud, and heavy: attributes as easily applied to Entrepreneurs as to the brand of music that comes roaring out of their speakers on a regular basis. Although people with the Entrepreneur personality type may steer clear of some of the more extreme elements in metal, few can deny the simple headbanging pleasures of Motörhead, Guns N’ Roses, or Metallica.
Logicians (INTP) (48%)
Testing boundaries has always been a core aspect of the metal experience, and Logicians may particularly appreciate artists that take the genre in new and interesting directions. The thematic and instrumental innovations of bands like Tool, System of a Down, or Mastodon may excite Logicians in ways that are as cerebral as they are visceral.
Architects (INTJ) (42%)
Virtuosity is a key component of metal, with some groups going to formidable lengths to achieve dizzying symphonic complexity in their compositions, a trait that Architects may admire greatly. Artists like Yngwie Malmsteen, DragonForce, or Meshuggah may leave Architects awestruck, thoroughly spoiling them for music of lesser technical sophistication.
Metal fans are a nearly perfect opposite of pop lovers: Introverted rather than Extraverted, Intuitive rather than Observant, Thinking rather than Feeling, and Prospecting rather than Judging.
Entrepreneurs (ESTP) (58%)
Perhaps no other genre of music is as personality-driven as rap, a milieu that more often than not consists of one mouth and one mic, battling for verbal supremacy. The impulse to be – and the bold assertion that one simply is – the Greatest of All Time is a common element for countless rappers, from Nas to Notorious B.I.G., Tupac to Jay-Z, and this brash and boundless confidence comes just as easily to the Entrepreneur personality type. In particular, rap music that extols the pleasures of material success may reflect an Entrepreneur’s own lifestyle – or aspirations, for those whose ventures have yet to turn as lucrative as they might like.
Entertainers (ESFP) (57%)
Hip-hop artists are often stereotyped as either cold-blooded criminals or rapacious capitalists – often, both – but while thuggishness and greed is a facet of the genre, they hardly tell the whole story. At its heart, hip-hop is about communicating one’s love of language to an audience, as demonstrated by the undeniable mastery the greatest MCs have over it. In short, rappers are entertainers, so it should come as no surprise that the Entertainer personality type might be drawn to hip-hop, especially the playful, party mentality of groups from The Sugarhill Gang to A Tribe Called Quest and Outkast.
Executives (ESTJ) (57%)
The past few decades have seen hip-hop grow from underground phenomenon to niche market to omnipresent juggernaut, listened to around the globe and influencing music of every genre. Where once rap may have been too outré for Executives to tune in, it has now permeated culture to such a degree that, for all intents and purposes, rap music is pop music. And while Executives may have little knowledge of or interest in old-school rhymes, artists like Kanye West or Drake may be simply too popular to ignore.
As far as traits are concerned, rap and hip-hop attract Extraverted types more than Introverted ones, with minimal differences between other traits:
Entrepreneurs (ESTP) (79%)
For many DJs, electronica is all about using technology to amplify the sonic intensity of music to heights that analog instruments simply cannot match, and this faster, louder, harder philosophy may be perfectly in tune with an Entrepreneur’s own sensibilities. Dubstep, trap, and other club banging varieties of electronica from artists like Skrillex, Diplo, or Lil Jon may get an Entrepreneur’s blood pumping like nothing else in the realm of music.
Campaigners (ENFP) (75%)
While Entrepreneur personalities may enjoy the propulsive properties of electronica, Campaigners may tend to go for the other end of the spectrum, music designed more for relaxation than excitation. As a result, harried Campaigners may prefer mellower strains of electronic music, such as that produced by Daft Punk, Goldfrapp, or Portishead.
Commanders (ENTJ) (70%)
There is an inherent and inescapable glitchiness to the movements of live musicians, and while this chaotic human element has its own appeal, Commanders may be drawn more to the machine efficiency and microscopic control of electronic music. Electronica impresarios from Brian Eno to Aphex Twin to Autechre offer up alien soundscapes that nevertheless make Commanders feel right at home.
Electronica fans are significantly more likely to be Extraverted and Prospecting than Introverted and Judging:
Executives (ESTJ) (48%)
Much of popular music, regardless of genre, is a celebration of transgression, an expression of the excess that so many listeners must keep in check, whether because of conscience or circumstance. For Executives, though, anarchy – even sublimated anarchy – is nothing to be venerated, so much so that even their musical tastes may tend more towards songs of devotion than songs of upheaval.
Defenders (ISFJ) (42%)
As with Executives, Defenders may identify with the sense of tradition and order that comes from religious music. Moreover, the natural humility of Defenders may make the outlandish posturing of so many popular performers – the self-promotion that is often as much a marketing decision as it is a facet of the artist’s own personality – seem even more ridiculous and discordant than it does for most.
Consuls (ESFJ) (39%)
Whether we join our voices in song or only acknowledge the sentiment we share with the singer in silence, music has always had the power to instill a sense of belonging, of fellowship. Nowhere is this more true than in religious music, which may explain – at least in part – the enjoyment that Consuls derive from it. Even when listening alone, Consuls can still partake in the communal spirit that such music has to offer.
In this case, the most obvious difference is between Thinking and Feeling traits, with a gap of over 11%. Extraverted personality types were also slightly more likely to prefer religious music compared to Introverted ones.
Campaigners (ENFP) (52%)
Although the songs of Robert Johnson, Son House, or Lead Belly have been covered by countless artists, their original lonesome, stripped-down howls contain an authenticity, and depth of feeling, that Campaigner personalities may find unmatched in other music. Prone to bouts of melancholy in reaction to failures both real and perceived, Campaigners may find that listening to the blues may often prove to be a cure for their own despondence.
Protagonists (ENFJ) (52%)
There is an epic quality to the figure of the blues singer, reinforced and reiterated through the hyperbolic boasts and laments of their songs. Loving broadly and sorrowing deeply, Protagonists may well relate to the larger-than-life blues stylings of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, or John Lee Hooker.
Consuls (ESFJ) (47%)
The elemental purity of the blues – the wellspring from which so much of modern popular music flows – may explain the love that Consuls have for the blues. And while Consuls may not be the type to dig through crates of old vinyls in search of hidden treasures, the smooth virtuosity of radio-friendly blues guitarists like Bo Diddley, B.B. King, or Stevie Ray Vaughan may nevertheless hold a timeless appeal.
When it comes to blues, Extraverted, Intuitive, and Assertive personalities are clearly in the lead:
Consuls (ESFJ) (53%)
Once the province of humble balladeers from the southeast and western regions of the United States, country music has now become one of the most popular genres around the world, making it a perfect match for Consuls, one of the most popular – and popularity-seeking – personality types around. And while country music has its share of outlaws, rebels, and rabble-rousers, Consuls are likely to gravitate more towards artists like Taylor Swift or Garth Brooks – fun-loving, widely relatable acts as eager to entertain as they are reluctant to court controversy.
Entertainers (ESFP) (52%)
Much of country music has a strangely dichotomous toe-tapping melancholy that Entertainers well understand, sharing a propensity for turning private heartbreak into a public performance. The sad beauty of songs by Hank Williams, George Jones, or Patsy Cline may be exactly the catharsis that Entertainers need in times of trial – and after they’ve sung the pain away, they may be more than happy to stick around for the more rollicking tunes in the country music catalog.
Protagonists (ENFJ) (46%)
The larger than life, Byronic heroes that populate country music – both in songs and on stage – may hold great appeal for Protagonists, for whom the impulse to “be somebody” runs more strongly than for many other personality types. Protagonists may have little trouble seeing themselves in the strong narratives surrounding the cowboys, truckers, and assorted other archetypes of country music, not to mention the mythical personas of figures like “Man in Black” Johnny Cash.
Country seems to be a fairly divisive genre, with Extraverted, Observant, and Feeling types scoring significantly higher than their counterparts:
Campaigners (ENFP) (58%)
As soul music developed in parallel to the African-American Civil Rights Movement, it was all but inevitable that soul artists would address more politically conscious subjects in their songs. For people with the Campaigner personality type, art is often an adjunct to activism, and they very well might appreciate Marvin Gaye or Curtis Mayfield (or more recent soul singers, like Lauryn Hill) as much for their aims as for their musicianship.
Consuls (ESFJ) (57%)
While some genres of music can have more insular appeal – punk rockers or metalheads, for instance, may actively seek to separate “true fans” from mere poseurs – soul and R&B artists are often unabashed about reaching as wide of an audience as possible; indeed, the mere notion of insularity may strike soul artists as antithetical to their craft. The easily relatable themes and undeniable talent of soul singers from Ray Charles to Diana Ross to Adele have made them household names, reaching levels of crossover popularity that Consuls – who prefer tried-and-true entertainment to bold experimentation – can readily embrace.
Entertainers (ESFP) (56%)
If the object of music is to communicate one’s passion as powerfully as possible to an audience – as it may be for Entertainers – then soul music may be hard to match on the scale of pure performance. Nothing seems to be held back in the performances of soul singers like Little Richard, James Brown, or Stevie Wonder, for whom showmanship is as much a part of music as the song itself.
Soul is clearly preferred by Extraverted and Feeling personalities, with the latter trait scoring nearly 13% over its Thinking counterpart:
At times, the modern ubiquity of music can deafen us to the beauty of sound, the often subtle interplay between voice and instrument communicating a feeling that no other medium can quite match. Moreover, with limitless availability, we also have limitless variety, a much-celebrated blessing that carries with it the curse of the “tyranny of choice,” the idea that, when faced with too many options, we become overwhelmed with the number of variables at play, and end up choosing none of the above. Awash in an ocean of music, our identities, so closely bound to our sonic preferences, may sometimes feel in danger of being drowned out by the noise.
On the other hand, the songs that cut through this static may be cherished all the more, and define us ever the more clearly, than if we had less of a surfeit at our disposal. Rather than molding ourselves to fit a small selection of niches, we increasingly have the power to carve them out anew.
Still, just as two personality types may enjoy the same genre – or an artist, or even a single song – for different reasons, it is important to remember that music must not necessarily foster division and tribalism, though it can certainly be turned to those ends. Music is a mode of communication, a means of bridging gaps in our understanding when mere words fail.
We decide who we are in part by what we listen to, but it is when we partake of the musical tastes of others, or share what we love in return, that the power of music as a vessel for ideas becomes realized. Much as our personalities are defined by how we fit with the temperaments that others possess, our musical interests are always in flux, contingent on the views, conflicting or complementary, of those we come in contact with.
How did you come to love the music you love today? How have your musical preferences changed over the years? Do you see music as being a core component of your identity? Let us know in the comments!