Which is kind of odd given that several of these songs, like “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” by Elvin Bishop . . .
. . . and, especially, “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes (which implies it’s okay that both partners intended to cheat since it turns out they were unknowingly planning to cheat with each other) . . .
. . . made me cringe back when they were actually in the top-40.
So what explains my change in attitude?
Critics of pop music (as in people who do not like pop music as a form, not people who weigh the relative merits of pop songs and artists) often argue that pop music is not actually popular at all. It is just familiar. This idea goes back at least to Theodor Adorno‘s 1945 article, “A Social Critique of Radio Music.” It was a very common criticism of early rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s, often brought up in Senate hearings investigating the music’s role in causing juvenile delinquency. Basically, it says that repetition leads to familiarity, which evolves into acceptance and even embrace.
In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman (2011) explains that there is actually plenty of science to prove repeated exposure leads to favorable feelings (p. 67). And we don’t even have to be aware of the exposure (in fact, the less we are aware, the stronger the effect). So if we hear a song enough times, we will tend to, maybe grudgingly at first, learn to like it. We may even come to forget we ever disliked it.
Isn’t trying to resist one of these songs the same sort of denial heard in 10CC‘s “I’m Not in Love,” yet another track on the “Awesome Mix”?
Adorno, T. W. (1945, Spring). A social critique of radio music. Kenyon Review, 7(2), 208-217.
Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.