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Why Do We Listen to a Song on Repeat? A Brief Explanation

“Drivers License” by Olivia Rodrigo has broken Spotify records for the most streamed song in a day.

“Drivers License” peaked at No. 1 on the Spotify charts in just one week of its release. On Tuesday, it was streamed over 17 million times according to Spotify. In fact, as of Friday, the song has crossed over 67 million plays.

The song also garnered the attention of some famous celebrities, including Taylor Swift, who then commented on Olivia Rodrigo’s Instagram post that showed “Drivers License” right next to Taylor Swift’s two bonus songs from Evermore.

But why have people been listening to this song over and over again? And Why do we listen to a song on repeat, in General?

Let’s try to find out!

What made Drivers License by Olivia Rodrigo explode?

Before we answer that or even do a “Drivers License” Review, we must understand why do we listen to a song on repeat and what effect does it have on our body.

How Music affects our body?

Music has been scientifically proven to affect over 10 different parts of the brain that control different motor actions and emotions that we, as individuals, exhibit. It has been clinically proven that Music therapy can help reduce brain seizures, improve your immune system, improve your creative ability as well as help you overcome anxiety and even depression.

Some of the benefits of listening to Music are:

✅ Improved motor skills
✅ Improved reasoning skills
✅ Improved social/communication skills

Some songs stay with us for a lifetime and some fade away from our memories within a few weeks, if not days. But what is it about a song that makes us want to listen to it again and again? And does listening to Music have any psychological effect on us? Let’s find out.

Some Background

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to conduct a survey as a part of my Statistics class where I had asked over 100 students (aged between 18 to 31) to tell me the names of their current favorite song that we were listening to, at that time. Though I don’t have the original report with me right now, the results were as follows:

✅ Over 70% of students were listening to Pop songs
✅ Over 40% of the students were listening to the song more than once (on repeat) during a single listening session.
✅ Most of the songs (about 75%) from the Pop category were the latest and trending songs.
✅ About 30% of students had the same song as their favorite (again from the latest/trending songs)
✅ Less than 5% of students were listening to hardcore/metal Music.

This tells us that most people listen to the Latest songs which are quite popular. But what is it about these songs that appeal to the masses?

Why do we listen to a song on repeat

Top 5 Reasons why we listen to a song on repeat

Below are my 5 reasons that I think affect the replayability of a song.

1. Repetitiveness:

As humans, our mind is conditioned to like things that are repetitive and predictable in nature. Every song has a repetitive verse/chorus structure that is painted on the memory of the listener. Without repetition, a listener would quickly forget the melody, and the song would lose its appeal. This is why music producers today focus heavily on writing a chorus or a hook that is simple, easy to remember, and packed with a lot of power. When listening to a song you often find yourself mouthing the lyrics or tapping your feet to the beat. This is because you are anticipating the lyrics and the melodies as you have heard them before and that makes it highly predictable.

2. Lyrics:

Another important component of a song is the Lyrics. Listeners can often relate to the lyrics and find themselves in a similar situation. This is the reason why some songs quickly become your favorite the moment you hear them for the first time. When in a certain emotional state, listening to an appropriate song can uplift you or even provide comfort in your moments of despair. People tend to listen to motivational songs when they are low in spirits, they listen to sad/emotional songs to process their feelings of sadness such as a breakup or the demise of a loved one.

3. Musical Composition/Richness:

This is one of the most important elements of a song, if not THE most important. People generally tend to like songs that are catchy, popular, and musically rich. A song (or Music in general) is made up of a pattern of chords/melodies laid out in a repetitive sequence that mesmerizes the listeners, something that they enjoy listening to and can connect with.

Since there are a limited number of chord combinations/patterns available, most popular songwriters are known to follow a PROVEN formula for writing their songs. The same chord progression can be used to compose 100’s of songs. Many of the popular songs today are known to have used the same exact chord patterns. Even the timeless classics from the 60s and 70s have used similar chord patterns. So, the thing to note here is that the way a song is structured greatly affects how listeners will react to it. Certain combinations of chords are known to produce sad/emotional music whereas some combinations produce upbeat and happy music.

When people listen to a particular song they can quickly sense the theme of the song even if they have little or no knowledge about Music theory. In Music therapy, this is particularly important when treating patients to improve their cognitive skills through musical responses.

4. A walk down the memory lane:

Often people associate songs with a time in their lives. Listening to an old song can bring back good old memories from someone’s childhood. While for others it can remind them of a sad/heartbreaking event from their past. Nevertheless, people always have a go-to song for every situation and it is their way of escaping from the monotony of the real world. Certain songs have a magical ability to stir up emotions and make us a little bit more empathetic. Music therapists often use such songs when they talk to their patients. This helps them to extract deeply hidden thoughts from the minds of their patients.

5. Identity:

We often have a certain style of music that we fancy more than the other. We identify ourselves with that Genre of Music. ‘We are what we eat’ is often true in the case of Music too. It is possible to predict the nature/personality of an individual based on his/her musical tastes. It can reveal a lot of information about a person such as their creativity levels, value system, the general attitude towards others, and level of self-esteem. This is a very important factor that Music Therapists use to gauge their clients even before meeting them

Why people are listening to Drivers License by Olivia Rodrigo repeatedly?

Drivers License is in the realm of sad/emotional music packed with relatable lyrics and beautiful melodies in the verse/chorus which resonates with today’s pop culture.

The opening line of the song “ I got my driver’s license last week, just like we always talked about” can instantly get your ears glued and ready to take you on an emotional and heart-thumping journey after a sad breakup. The lyrics are highly relatable, and it’s not just a driver’s license, but it signifies anything that someone has achieved/changed that they used to talk about with their lover before the breakup. I have found that such songs click with the youth and instantly become a hit!

Musically, to my ears, this song gives the same vibes as Shawn Mendes’s ‘In My Blood’ and Billie Eilish’s ‘I Love You’ (Some parts).

Musical Analysis of Drivers License

The verse starts off slow and quiet with fewer instruments, but the chorus gets loud before the bridge of the song which captures all the feelings perfectly and the singer admits to still being in love with her ex.

The I-vi-IV-V is one of the most common chord patterns that a lot of songwriters use. (Uppercase indicates a Major chord in the key whereas the lower case indicates a minor chord.)
This song follows an I-vi-IV-I chord pattern for the verses. The last chord which is a ‘V’ has been replaced with an ‘I’ chord which adds a slight sense of unpredictability.

The chorus throws in a minor 7th and a major 6th chord which provides that extra topping and makes it pleasing to the ears.

The bridge follows one of the most common chord progressions which is the vi-IV-I-V. It is perhaps one of the most natural chord progressions in music. It is pleasing to the ears and can support different melodies. The Beatles, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Toto, Lady Gaga, Maroon 5, etc. have all used this exact chords pattern to write some of their classic hits!

But none of it would have worked if it wouldn’t have been performed so well by Olivia Rodrigo. Her voice is magnificent on this track and it perfectly captures the emotions of the songs. In some parts, I felt like I was listening to Billie Eilish. Maybe because of the musical similarities of the track.

Below is the chord/scale chart for your reference.

Degree ►
Scale ▼
C MajorCmajDmEmFmajGmajAmBdim
C# MajorC#majD#mFmF#majG#majA#mCdim
D MajorDmajEmF#mGmajAmajBmC#dim
Eb MajorEbmajFmGmAbmajBbmajCmDdim
E MajorEmajF#mG#mAmajBmajC#mD#dim
F MajorFmajGmAmBbmajCmajDmEdim
F# MajorF#majG#mA#mBmajC#majD#mE#dim
G MajorGmajAmBmCmajDmajEmF#dim
Ab MajorAbmajBbmCmDbmajEbmajFmGdim
A MajorAmajBmC#mDmajEmajF#mG#dim
Bb MajorBbmajCmDmEbmajFmajGmAdim
B MajorBmajC#mD#mEmajF#majG#mA#dim


Do songs help you to process emotions like sadness?

If you ask me, yes, listening to such songs when processing an emotion like sadness after a breakup helps. Listeners can connect with the singer, and can learn that they are not the only person going through the same set of emotions. It can make them empathetic and can also help overcome their sadness. All they need to do is talk to someone they are comfortable with. This can be their Music therapist or a close friend.


Music can affect our mental and physical health. Some songs can uplift us and soothe us, some can take us down memory lane.

Drivers License by  Olivia Rodrigo has got all the elements that make it a re-playable song. You can’t listen to it just once. And if you are dealing with heartbreak or just trying to remember a relationship from the past, you are going to love it.


Below are some of the frequently asked questions:

1. Why do we listen to a song on repeat?
A: Because a song connects with you at an emotional level and can also help you reflect on your past deeds. It can give you a sense of identity and at times even uplift your spirits.

2. Is it normal to listen to the same song over and over again?
A: It’s absolutely normal. People listen to the same songs for decades yet they never get tired of listening to it.

3. What happens if you listen to the same song on repeat?
A: According to, by listening to the same song on repeat, you are altering your physiology. Over time the song starts to fade into the background. That’s when you begin to transcend from actually listening to just feeling the music.

4. Can listening to too much music make you depressed?
A: According to discoverymood, the teenagers who listened to a lot of music were 8 times more likely to be depressed than those who didn’t listen to music very often. The amount of time that some depressed teenagers spent listening to music was the obvious concern. Too much time away from others can lead to feelings of isolation.

5. What do you call a music addict?
A: Audiophile/Melomaniac/Melophile/Musicophile

6. Is Music good for your brain?
A: Research has shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory.

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. 'Tod'

    Well reasoned and nicely written post, thanks. I’m a elderly student electric bassist playing for 3.5 years. I’m strictly a bedroom bassist and nobody is going to ask me to fill in for the Sex Pistols but I crave it physically when I don’t have one of my axes to play so I guess I’m on the music addicted scale somewhere. My music is one of my best therapies.
    I like your breakdown of the intervals in the song. I’m not very advanced and my tunes are more scale based than chord based. I love the 1 to 3 flattened interval and I’m stuck on the blues. Most of what I improv and neck noodle are 12-bar I-IV-V progressions and turnarounds. At my stage anything else is too complex for me. But I need to expand my thinking if I’m going to advance and your post is informative and what I need in my playing and song creation. You are a talented writer and thinker so I look forward to more posts like this. Thanks for viewing my blog.

  2. Jordan

    I love how you so clearly described, in a scientific and straightforward way, something that I’ve felt for a long time. A good song connects with people, and musically it’s about finding that magic ‘sweet spot’ where the tune is catchy, but musical, and somehow fresh, even though as you mentioned it’s going to be using one of those good ol’ chord progressions that comes up again and again.
    I’m always amazed at how when you look at all of the best, catchy, long lasting, chart topping songs, they all have usually the exact same chord progressions, and even the melodies too. After all, there’s only so many permutations of rhythms combined with musical pitches. But somehow there’s that special element where it becomes new and fresh.
    My belief is that it’s the human element, the presence of the person who wrote and/or performed the song. That combined with a deeper presence beyond the physical, the place where the song arose in the first place before it took the form of a song in the songwriters mind.
    I can also totally relate to what you said about the type of music a person listens too being an often predictable indicator of their personality, way of interacting, etc. I see this all of the time with my guitar students-depending on the type of music/songs they want to learn (sometimes even depending on whether or not they want to play acoustic or electric), it’s amazing how easy to tell what their personality will be like. Now that I think of it, I can’t think of any exceptions to that, including myself! I can see how as the music I listen to has changed it has been directly related to how I have changed as a person.
    It’s so clear how who we are and the state of mind we have on the inside, becomes expressed in the music we write and/or listen to on the outside. What an awesome interconnectedness.

    Thanks again for this post!

  3. music

    WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching for piano

  4. Romaine

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto
    a colleague who had been conducting a little research on this.
    And he in fact ordered me dinner simply because I discovered it for him…
    lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending some time to discuss this issue here
    on your website.

  5. BlessedOut

    Thanks for creating such an in-depth and clear article about music! I look forward to reading more in the future!

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