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What I learned about music from guys on dating apps

| Thursday, February 11, 2021

Maggie Klaers | The Observer

I learned that Bob Dylan’s lyrics don’t make bad pick-up lines — especially when you put a picture of yourself reading his memoir in your profile. I also learned how to resist answering the message, “You should check out the Grateful Dead,” with “You mean John Mayer’s — Taylor Swift’s ex’s — band? I’ll give them a listen.” (Though, next time I might.) I can only laugh at the men on Tinder trying to put me on to one of the most popular bands of all time. I also learned that having heard of the Arctic Monkeys makes me cool and Phil Ochs is way more popular than I thought.

I love to talk about music and the profound ways it connects us; I just don’t like talking about it on dating apps. There is nothing I dread more than receiving the “What music do you listen to?” question three messages into the conversation. It’s always so artificial. We already judged each other based on our music tastes when we swiped or liked, and I was able to reinforce my toxic opinions on how people look with my toxic ideas about who listens to what kind of music.

Looking at people’s music taste on Tinder or Bumble reminds me of listening to music in high school, a time where the discussion around music was so toxic I would claim I didn’t know my exact taste even though I did. During Tinder conversations, listing off my favorite artist just to move on to the next message leaves me feeling empty as if the opportunity for connection is already lost. This thing I love so much gets brushed off quickly just so a boy can impress me with the indie band he’s into or the cassette label his friend started. 

Dating apps are a question of volume over quality; in the end, conversations about music are just another level of that reality. For every boy who says he listens to 70s rock and roll just to agree with me and then asks, “Who is George Harrison?” there is one who says, “I like music, but I don’t know that much about it. What’s your favorite moment in music history?” Or maybe it’s more of a three-to-one ratio with the former boys outnumbering the latter.

Sometimes music offers the last push a relationship needs for two people to bond. One conversation I had was going poorly. I was on the edge of not responding, and I would suppose he was too. Then came the question, “What kind of music do you listen to?” A call into the void. I shot off my usual answer: “Vampire Weekend, The Lumineers, Talking Heads, Bob Dylan.” A list I expertly curated, and one that usually gets shrugged off. This time it didn’t; instead, he told me a story about the time Vampire Weekend played at his frat house because he volunteered for Bernie Sanders in college. In an instant, we opened up three different incredible conversations: talking about politics, Ezra Koenig and what this guy thought about Greek life (Spoiler alert: He wasn’t a fan.). We became friends, and he still texts me every time he plays a Vampire Weekend album at work — a branding feat I’ve been working on for over a year.

Asking the dreaded music question is often disappointing only because it has so much potential. Ask more than just that question: “What got you into that artist?” “Have you ever seen them live?” “If you could see one band that’s no longer together perform, who?” “What’s one song you would want to live in?” Then, offer your own music stories. Music is so much more than trading suggestions — it’s a part of who we are. That and men who think women don’t know anything about it.

Well, good luck out there. If you need more dating advice or want to talk about music, my email is always down below.

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