Yes, this is a gross generalization and no this is not based a specific scientific study and yes, I was going for the catchy title. Taste is a matter of opinion, not something quantifiable. But guys can attest, most women have bad taste in music. Enough guys have bad taste in music, but over a large population, men tend to listen to more artistic, intricate, and authentic music than women do. Guys like The Police and women like Sting. Get it? Why is that? Let us explore.
First off: what the hell is music anyway? I mean, why do humans take different sounds and put them together in an organized whole? Answer: because we can. Some things in life are inherently impressive. Nature is impressive. The way the sun sets or the trees turn color. It shows organization and harmony, things we naturally like because of the “power” they symbolize - and we like power because without power there is no advancement. Whoever made it must be powerful and capable and someone we want to be friends with. Many people call this God which is why God is so revered. People also make impressive things. Buildings, art, weapons, food… Men, in particular, make things to impress women. It’s in our genes as well. “Show them what we can do and they’ll want to hitch up with us”. Music, like any other form of art of cultural creation, is symbolic of what we can do. It is a status symbol. The head of a deer in the entrance hall to your hut used to work fine some 100,000 years ago, but as humans developed, so did the things they did and made to impress women. Music, art, cuisine, and culture ensued and somewhere in the course of evolution, music got associated with sex.
The Non-Manly man
Men are natural born musicians. Birds make music for the same reasons - to attract females. It’s in the blood. Not all men are musically talented, but there is a tendency in men to be musical, or at least to appreciate music. And one can distinguish the more musical types of men. Like I said, the deer’s head worked well in impressing the ladies, but not all guys are the type to hunt deer. If they were, there would be nothing but brutish, dominant males running around engaging in continuous struggles with each other. Evolution had to find a balance and some men had to bow out of the fight. The testosterone-challenged men had to find other ways to impress the ladies, and art provided an opportunity. The trend is quite clear today - the gangly, the ugly, the slight effeminate, make the best musicians (again, a gross generalization). Want me to name some? Jimmy Page, Joe Jackson, David Bowie, John Lennon, George Harrison, (sorry Paul, you’re not ugly enough), Mick Jagger, Kurt Cobain, Rick Ocasic, Bill Corgan, Alex Turner, Keith Richards, Pete Townsend, Jack White, Craig Nicholls, Elvis Costello, Michael Stipe, Perry Farrel and so on… What other choice did they have in this world accept art? Over the course of thousands of years, evolution provided them with an alternative to brute masculinity.
How women listen to music
Many men seem to have “music friends” - other people with whom they share musical tastes. And most often these are other men. I personally have rarely found other women to really bond with musically. There seems to be something missing. And indeed there is. Women, by nature, are not into making music but are more into listening to music (yes, there are some great female musicians). And what’s more, they’re listening to it not for how well it is made, but for how it makes them feel - either through the sounds or through the lyrics, or both. The feeling they’re looking for is one of quiet comfort and total devotion. Jack Johnson and James Blunt provide this quite well. “Yes, you are beautiful. And that’s why it is you who will get the profits from my record sales”.
How men listen to music
Men might listen to music at times for how it is made - like they can learn something from it, or rip it off so they can make some music for the ladies. And though initially men made music for women, somewhere along the line men took it to the next level - not only out to impress women, but out to impress other men as well. Impress enough men, and respect, money, and women tend to follow. The tone of the music would then start to appeal to the male character and not the female character. Easy examples of this would be blues, heavy metal and grunge. Loud, a bit edgy, and not typically romantic. Relatively speaking few women like Buddy Guy, Metallica or Nirvana, yet these artists have been heralded by critics and earned their share of respect and money. That puts these guys in some primo positions for passing on their genes, not that they were ever consciously making music for that reason.
What the music says to a woman
Women tend to like the crooners - it’s in their genetic predisposition. Singers like Jack Johnson who aren’t really doing anything too interesting with the music, but sing a certain way or say certain things that women like. Things like “I’ll be with you forever” or “I love only you”. Which, from an evolutionary perspective may as well be “You can count on me providing a nice life for you forever” and “All my resources will be focused solely on you.” And it’s natural that women are turned on by this - whether it’s true or not. But we see from this example that women are slightly more focused on what is said and the complementary feeling of how it’s said rather than the detailed nuances of beat and melody behind it.
How it says it
Again, it’s a feeling thing. Women are often (subconsciously and indirectly) asking musicians to “calm me down and make me feel safe”. It can be a cut-throat world out there and it’s a natural tendency in women to look for someone to take care of them. The lyrics can imply this but so can the music itself through gentle rhythms and soothing melodies.
Power in the music
Not like “power-metal”, but more like capability. “You’ve promised all these things, but can you deliver?”. If he’s on the radio, he’s got a better chance. If he’s making good music, it shows he’s probably ahead of the curve in capability. It’s not often that women like no-name musicians or that guy playing on the street corner or you doing your best to impress her with your one-man-band routine. The music needs power behind it to make the promises in it believable. Sometimes there are no promises, just capability (and the success it leads to) and that’s good enough to turn the ladies on as well.