Music to Your Ears


Whether it is professing feminine prowess with Shania Twain, rocking out with the Rolling Stones, or revisiting Calle Ocho with Pitbull - we all have a favorite pump-up song - the one that makes us feel like we can move mountains.

However, few of us are aware that there is a biological foundation for your go-to song and how it makes you feel.

Music has been scientifically proven to stimulate the brain - almost the entirety of it.

From the intake of sound, to the possible release of dopamine, both hemispheres and many parts of the human brain are required to not only hear music, but to process its rhythm, melody, and lyrics.

In recent years, neuroscientists have worked to pinpoint  exactly why music has the power to evoke such emotional responses. Recent studies, including that of neuroscientist Valorie Salimpoor (McGill University), link an individual's experience of music to the stimulation of the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental areas, often referred to in lay terms as the "pleasure center" of the brain. 

And so we can attest to the deep, biological, and often subconscious links between music and emotion.

How can you harness this connection?

Think about your favorite songs in terms of colors (another element deeply rooted to emotion). Try categorizing your playlists into colors that can be associated with primal emotions.

The big three to consider are RED, YELLOW, & BLUE song choices, as outlined below. Some examples of the author's own go-to songs are included as a sample.


Include fast, powerful songs that connect one to the release of energy or emotion. These songs are appropriate for cardio exercise or venting anger/frustrations.

Have a bad day and need to let it out? Need an up-tempo song to motivate your cardio? Play something RED.

  • You Shook Me All Night Long - AC/DC
  • Drink In My Hand - Eric Church
  • Remember the Name - Fort Minor


Should include a medley of songs that spans the genres, yet you know all of them almost by heart. This should be an on-going playlist that you collect throughout your life.

That classic rock your parents always played, the song you & your best friend blasted in high school, or something familiar from church. Whether you are doing housework, on a long car ride - play something you can hum along to, play something YELLOW.

  • You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby - Bobby Darin
  • Blue Clear Sky - George Strait
  • Tell Me Ma - The Dubliners
  • Bad Blood - Taylor Swift


Include slower, more reflective songs that help you connect to the deeper emotions of sadness, disappointment, or loss.

Need to cry it out? Put life in perspective or get into a contemplative mood? Play something BLUE.

  • Crazy Love - Van Morrison
  • Colder Weather - Zac Brown Band
  • Stars - Les Miserables Soundtrack

While many might enjoy the same music, everyone will experience a song differently. What is a BLUE song for one person, might evoke a positive YELLOW memory in another.

Not to mention, there will be many songs and emotions that would fall in-between these three categories! Colors blend, as do human emotions.

Your go-to pump up jam should be in its own ORANGE category of music - between the energy of RED and the familiarity of YELLOW. You should know all the words, but still feel the motivation.

Try it, take note of how music makes you feel!