Does a musical match mean a couple is in sync?

Katrina Clarke | February 28, 2017 | Toronto Star

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Pictured: Katie Nestor and Gareth Williams. Photo credit: Bernard Weil/Toronto Star

On Katie Nestor’s first date with Gareth Williams, she gushed about the bands she’d see perform at the WayHome music festival just north of the city that weekend. Williams stared at her blankly.

“I was like, ‘Who is this guy who doesn’t know WayHome?’ ” Nestor laughed, recalling the few dates later when she first learned Williams had no songs on his phone and was indifferent to music. “I was like, ‘Oh god, this guy is a loser.’ ”

Yet, a year and a half later, they’re still going strong.

Dating apps have started capitalizing on musical connections. Last year, Tinder partnered with Spotify to allow users to post their favourite artists and their own “anthem” on profiles, and dating app Happn allows users to post songs on profiles and send music to other users. Tastebuds.fm and Mix’d are apps specifically for music lovers looking to connect with fellow music lovers.

But does being in sync in musical taste translate to being in tune as a couple?

 

Relationship and musicology experts say that while liking the same music can create an initial spark between daters, it’s not necessary for maintaining a happy relationship. The deal-breakers are when one person can’t accept the other’s different taste, or when they try to force their musical taste on another person — both cases usually signs of bigger problems, they say.

“Quite often at the beginning of relationships, couples are often looking for things they might have in common,” said Kip Pegley, associate professor of musicology at Queen’s University. “If you share certain similarities in music … that can also speak to a shared history. ‘Oh, you were at that concert? I love them too.’ ”

For some singles, musical taste matters big time. Nickelback, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga topped a poll of musical turnoffs conducted by Tastebuds.fm in 2011.

Pegley compares reading someone by their music collection to reading them by their book collection; it can give insight into what their other interests are.

But there’s still hope for couples like Nestor and Williams, who have a love connection but no musical one, relationship experts say.

“It’s perfectly OK to be on different pages about music,” said Natasha Sharma, a Toronto-based therapist and author of The Kindness Journal.

Sharma said music can be lumped in as a “surface” interest with things such as taste in movies and food. It’s more important to agree on big-picture stuff such as goals, values and outlooks on life, she said.

It’s only when one person disparages the other’s taste or when one tries to force music on the other that Sharma sees red flags.

“Any time you push anything on a partner, it’s not good — whether it’s music or marriage,” she said.

“The problem is, the person who is forcing it down their partner’s proverbial throat isn’t respecting them as an individual.”

But if one person doesn’t initially like the other’s music, they shouldn’t give up trying, she said. Showing an interest in your partner’s interests — be they music or sci-fi movies — lets them know you care. Completely shutting down someone’s music can be particularly hurtful since it’s so personal, she said.

When it comes to liking the same music, there are scientific reasons why it may be help you bond.

“We know from some brain studies that music can bring up autobiographical memories … memories for events that have happened to you,” said Laurel Trainor, a professor of cognitive neuroscience and director of McMaster University’s Institute for Music and the Mind. “For example, the first date you went on, you might remember the music that the band played.”

Trainor said researchers don’t know if, or to what extent, that shared connection impacts a relationship.

As for Nestor, 29, she said if she’d been younger when she met Williams, 33 — who said he only likes Oasis — his musical indifference might have been a deal-breaker.

“When you’re younger and you’re trying to figure out, ‘Who would be my ideal dream man?’ you picture a partner who has all the same interests as you,” she said. “But that’s really not realistic. That’s really not what makes a good relationship.”

Nestor said she now attends fewer concerts, knowing Williams won’t go with her, but that the two bond over shared closeness with their families, Netflix binges and being active.

And they did eventually find music they could agree on: the Frozen soundtrack.

“The songs are catchy,” Williams said. “Plus, when you (Nestor) sing, you butcher it and it makes me laugh.”

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About Katrina Clarke

Katrina Clarke is a Toronto- and Vancouver-based freelance reporter. Her work appears in the National Post, the Toronto Star, CBC Life and J-Source. Reach her at katrina.clarke24@gmail.com or on Twitter at @KatrinaAClarke.
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