Why do songs work?

Thinking about old songs yesterday got me thinking about songs in general. Why do songs work?

If I were an alien being observing humans from outer space, it is not clear that songs would make sense to me. There is something odd and irrational about the appeal of a song.

The music that drives a song seems to be something parallel to emotion expressed in language, yet clearly different. Music is nearly universally appreciated, yet the exact nature and cause of its appeal defies easy analysis.

And the best song lyrics are often highly oblique. They suggest without defining, painting an impressionistic landscape of words and ideas that we the listeners are left to fill in.

Why does this combination of words and music have such an enormous appeal to us human beings? It clearly doesn’t have the same impact on cats and dogs.

And I suspect that those nosy aliens would be mystified as well.

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