Know Your Earworm

Susan Rogers on figuring out why you love your favorite songs

Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs performing at the Tim Festival 2006 in Rio de Janeiro (Flickr/daigooliva)
Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs performing at the Tim Festival 2006 in Rio de Janeiro (Flickr/daigooliva)

Why does your dad love bluegrass while your sister moshes to hardcore? Why do you still have a soft spot for that cheesy rock ballad you danced to in middle school? The question of why we like the music we like is as eternal as it is maddening. In This Is What It Sounds Like, Susan Rogers and Ogi Ogas offer an answer. Today, Rogers is a cognitive neuroscientist and a professor at Berklee College of Music—but before that, she was Prince’s chief engineer for his 1984 album, Purple Rain, and remains one of the most successful female record producers of all time. She has spent decades learning to listen, and This Is What It Sounds Like is a primer for understanding the concept of our innate “listener profile”—the dimensions of a song that our brains respond to. The book is an invitation to tune into musical self-awareness, and a celebration of the music that makes us feel most like ourselves, whoever we are.

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Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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