This Throwback Playlist Has More Than 8 Million Followers On Spotify — & There’s Science Behind It

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With a month of self-isolating under your belt (and a month or so to go), it might seem like you've exhausted all your sources of joy: heart-pumping indoor workouts, solo walks around the block, a calming glass of wine, a lively rom-com binge session, and finally pouring through that tome of a novel you've been wanting to get to for the past year. If you're fresh out of mood-boosting ideas, there's an obvious method to try that's not only incredibly popular at the moment, but also backed by science: a good ol' throwback music playlist.

Yes, according to data released by streaming music service Spotify, between April 1 and 7, there was a 54 percent increase in listeners making nostalgic-themed playlists and significant increases in individual streams of songs from the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, and early millennium. For context, these tunes range from upbeat, foot-tappers to crooning, odes of love: Think “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley, “At Last” by Etta James, “Africa” by TOTO, “Take on Me” by Aha, “Mambo No. 5 (a Little Bit of...)” by Lou Bega, “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas, and “Danza Kuduro” by Don Omar, Lucenzo.

And, the musical pièce de résistance? Spotify's own throwback, the "All Out '00s" playlist, which is the most popular compilation, garnering some 8.1 million followers to date. (A close second is the brand's "All Out '80s" collection of songs, with more than 7.1 million followers.)

This resurgence of old-school tunes that trigger happy memories or just joyfulness in general is not surprising in the least — it's actually scientific. "A growing number of studies in both younger and older adults suggest that listening to preferred or favored music (including nostalgic music) can reduce stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms, increase positive emotions and well-being, improve sleep quality, and enhance resilience to stressful events," says Kim Innes, PhD, a professor of epidemiology at West Virginia University’s School of Public Health, in an emailed interview with The Zoe Report. "Old, familiar music can also invoke nostalgic feelings about the past which can provide a respite in times of duress and uncertainty; moreover, some studies suggest that nostalgia can enhance feelings of social connectedness and render the present more meaningful."

Innes has actually conducted her own research on the impact of music on mental health. "In our first trial (results now published in four papers), participants were assigned to either a 12-week beginner meditation or a simple music listening program, and asked to practice 12 minutes a day for 12 weeks, seated in a quiet place with eyes closed, then as often as they liked for the next three months," explains Innes, who says the participants in the music listening program chose from among six classical composers (Bach, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Debussy, Pachelbel, and Mozart). "Those in the music listening group showed marked improvements in both memory function and cognitive performance at both three months, along with reductions in stress and improvements in mood, sleep, and mental health quality of life; these benefits were sustained or further strengthened at six months."

Although the music being widely embraced on Spotify is not necessarily of the classical realm, it's still includes some classics — and can prove powerful in boosting one's mood. David DiSalvo, a behavioral science writer and author of What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite says nostalgic music (even more recent songs produced in the past decade or so) can bring one back to a time when their life felt simpler or more in control. "While it often has a way of putting a ‘rosier’ view on our memory, music has more of a direct link to our memory so our brain is actually recollecting those memories of music instead of reconstructing them," says DiSalvo in an interview with Spotify (shared via press release). "Nearly everyone can remember a specific song that takes them back to a special memory — whether it was the song playing during your first kiss or when you walked across the stage at graduation."

It's not surprising then, that upbeat '80s pop gems like Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" are seeing some of the highest streams in recent weeks. “Every artist’s dream is that their music can be a sense of comfort, of joy, of inspiration,” says Lauper, whose female-focused tune had more than 2.3 million streams from April 1 through 7, in an interview with Spotify (also shared via press release). “That's why we do what we do; to connect, to tell shared stories that people can relate to, cry to, laugh with, dance (to) and be joyful with, to comfort."