Boomers vs. Zoomers: Which one is best at recognizing each other’s music?
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How well do Zoomers & Boomers know each other’s music? [Survey]

Last Updated on November 9, 2022 by hilary bird


When it comes to generational gaps in society, music divides us pretty consistently. Older generations tend to say things like, “back in my day,” followed by a list of complaints about current pop music. The youngest tend to scoff and put their earbuds back in.

But these days, listeners young and old have more in common than they think. Online streaming reigns, but CDs and vinyl sales trend upward for the first time in 25 years. TikTok songs go viral at the drop of a hat, some by today’s pop darlings and others by nostalgic pop music artists that the Gen Z user base wouldn’t hear otherwise.

Our team couldn’t resist exploring these contradictions, so we surveyed two of the most talked-about generations today—Zoomers and Boomers—on what they think of each other’s music. Here’s what we found.


First, we referenced the Billboard Hot 100 charts and hand-selected 5 pop hits from each of three eras—the 1960s–1970s, the 1980s–1990s, and the 2010s–now.

We then played clips of these songs for 500 American Baby Boomers (ages 54+) and 500 American Gen Zers (ages 16–24) on Pollfish, asking about their familiarity with each one.

Baby Boomers heard 5 songs from the 2010s and 2020s, Gen Z heard 5 songs from the 1960s and 1970s, and both groups heard the same 5 songs from the 1980s and 1990s. We gathered this data in August 2022.

Generational gaps and overlaps in recognizing pop music [Infographic]

Interesting findings

Zoomers on pop hits from the ’60s and ’70s

  • TikTok songs know no generation, apparently—88% of Gen Z recognizes “More Than a Woman” by the Bee Gees, and 40% of that group say they heard it on social media. A further 16% say they’re obsessed with the song.
  • The 1960 pop hit “The Twist,” recognized by 65% of Gen Z, ranked #1 on the Billboard Greatest of All Time Hot 100 Songs when the chart was first published in 2008. The song stayed at #1 until 2021, when it was dethroned by The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights.”
  • Despite the popularity of Baz Luhrmann’s film Elvis this year, only 59% of Gen Z recognize the song “It’s Now or Never” by Elvis Presley.
    • The song is also the most strongly disliked by Gen Z—16% hate this style of music and would listen only if forced.
  • 36% of Gen Z doesn’t recognize “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by the beloved Beatles—the #1 greatest artist of all time according to Billboard.
    • Hold on to your hats—Gen Z hates this song almost as much as they hate the Elvis song. A 15% slice of respondents say they’d have to be forced to listen.

Baby Boomers on pop hits from the ’10s and today

  • The recent pop hit Boomers recognize most, “Uptown Funk!” by Bruno Mars, ranks #1 on the Billboard Decade-End Hot 100 Songs from the 2010s.
    • 67% of Boomers would consider listening to the song in their free time—or already do.
  • Despite the #1 status of “Blinding Lights” on the Greatest of All Time Hot 100, 39% of Boomers say they’ve never heard the song.
  • Just 34% of Baby Boomers recognize “As It Was” by Harry Styles, which was a massively popular TikTok song and Spotify’s most streamed song of summer 2022.
    • After hearing the song, the majority of Boomers (55%) say they would listen in their free time. Only 5% actively dislike the song.
  • Boomers still keep tabs on Elton John—67% recognize “Cold Heart – PNAU Remix.” Of that group, the majority (54%) say they heard it on the radio or in public.

Boomers and Zoomers on pop hits from the ’80s and ’90s

  • More Zoomers than Boomers recognize Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” clocking in at 93% and 47% respectively.
    • Of Gen Z listeners, 39% attribute TikTok as their mode of discovery for the ’80s hit, with 26% citing TV and 24% citing a preexisting obsession.
    • Thanks to a cameo on Stranger Things season four, this song circled TikTok for months and demolished its original record for sales and airplay. Peaking at #30 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1985, the song climbed to #3 on the Hot 100 in July 2022—and #1 on the Global 200.
  • Despite being Billboard’s #1 song of the 1990s, 48% of Gen Z has never heard “Smooth” by Santana ft. Rob Thomas.
    • 44% of Baby Boomer listeners recognize it from the radio or public airplay.
  • Both generations appear open to music made before or after their youth.
    • 62% of Baby Boomers say they would listen to Gen Z’s music—or already do.
    • 55% of Gen Zers say the same about Baby Boomers’ music.
    • 66% of Gen Z and 73% of Baby Boomers say they would listen to pop hits from the ’80s and ’90s in their free time.


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