I vividly remember that one time when my Filipino friend texted me out of the blue about a song he stumbled upon on their Spotify, and that song was Kangen by Dewa 19. Not only was it an experience for him, it was also a proof that music transcends language barriers.
Music is a very intricate form of art. It generally consists of a set of rhythmic noises that (often) goes in harmony with one another, including vocals. That's why we can simply bop to the song despite the language differences.
Everyone experiences music differently from one to another. As someone who listens to music as a way to feel the energy of the tune, how each sound resonates with another harmoniously is what I usually seek, whereas other people might find the lyrics and the message that the artist is trying to convey to be the main driving force.
How is it even possible?
Study shows that different parts of the brain are responsible for that. In a research conducted by Philippe Albouy at McGill University in Canada, he created 100 unique a capella songs by crossing 10 sentences in French or English with 10 original melodies. The research was conducted to 27 French speakers and 22 English speakers, manipulating different elements of the songs to understand how the participants perceived the words and melodies.
Later, it was discovered that the ability to recognise lyrics is heavily reliant on a song's timing patterns. Speech contains multiple syllables per second, making it more difficult to not only remember it, but also understand the lyrics. Whereas melodies tend to be more fluid, the participants were still able to identify the melodies when the researcher distorted the time element in the songs.
While the experiment was conducted, the participants' brains were scanned using functional MRI. It was then revealed that the left half of the brain detected the timing information that allowed word recognition, while the right half detected the frequency information required to identify melodies. In other words, some people are more dominant on one thing than others.
What does it mean?
There hasn't been any proper research on this matter yet, but Reddit users have been expressing what it's been like for them. "I don't listen to lyrics when I'm listening to music. Sometimes I'll catch a line here and there. I don't even know the lyrics to my favorite songs. Everyone I've talked to IRL (in real life) thinks it's odd," says one Reddit user.
If the first thing you register when listening to a song is its lyrics, you're more of an analytical thinker. It is also noted that bad lyrics can actually ruin a song, no matter how good the music is. You tend to take the world as it is and see things through a logical point of view, which allows you to easily and quickly weigh the pros and cons of a situation to draw conclusions.
On the other hand, if you easily hear the music of a song but have to really focus to pick out the lyrics, you're more intuitive. As one Reddit user explains, "I can listen to the same song for 10 years and not pick up more than a few words. I get distracted by basslines, melodies and beats." You tend to absorb the meaning from feelings and nuances rather than what may be directly in front of you. You are more likely to embody many empathic traits such as the ability to understand what other people are feeling without them saying it outright.
The intricacy and the impact of music is nothing to be fiddled with. It may take you to places and gives you a nuance that you never knew existed before. With that being said, which type of listeners are you? A melody person or a lyric person?