I started this blog because I left Boston to live and work in London for a while, and I wanted to stay in touch with family and friends. I'm back now, but still have plenty of opinions on world news, politics, the media and the absolute craziness that comes from dealing with people. Bring it.

12 March 2006

Music Bias

I always feel like the US is somehwat unique in the way people just sort of pick a genre of music -- like hip hop, alternative, classic rock, whatever -- and simply identify themselves as fans of that particular type of music. Like as if the huge Pearl Jam fan you know doesn't secretly have a BellBivDevoe tape or cassingle of Young MC's "Bust a Move" left over from college that they listen to when no one is around.

Now I know that this is a huge generalization, so don't go writing comments saying I'm a "snob" or "generalizing" or whatever, or accusing me of having said BellBivDevoe tape. I freely admit to liking a bizarre mix of genres. I'm just setting the stage for what I have seen in many other countries I have travelled to, and which I witnessed during last week's trip to Athens and Budapest.

People in other countries just don't seem as constricted by music genre labels. A radio station abroad (let's say in Germany) could feasibly play Rage Against the Machine, followed by a song from Grease folowed by Air Supply followed by Ricky Martin followed by some song from Romania. And no one would think this was odd.

In the US, on the other hand, these songs would not cross over outside of their traditional "format" based on the station -- and some of them would never be heard at all.

Some examples from this past trip:

1) In a meeting, a Hungarian guy told me that his three favorite bands are Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and Black Eyed Peas. Seriously.

2) During a 15 minute taxi ride in Athens I heard the following on the radio: A Greek pop song (which was very cool by the way), INXS, "You're the One that I Want" from Grease, "Son of a Preacher Man", and Madonna.

3) I was told that the most downloaded music in Hungary comes from two genres: Hungarian Folk Music and Dance/Electronica -- and the demographics for these are virtually the same.

Are we just too self-concious in the US? Do we just feel like everything we do -- clothes, food, musical taste, etc. -- must make a statement and place us in our perceived "social sphere" at all times? Why do we make instant judgements about people based on the music they listen to? And why do we abandon so much music after a few months? I'm not saying everyone does these things, but it does seem uniquely American to say "I'm a 90s music person," or "That song is so Adult Contemporary." (OK, so I admit I've actually uttered the last one...)

I just can't imagine meeting an American who claims Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and Black Eyed Peas as their favorite bands. And sometimes, its nice to hear some random unexpected tune come on after the latest and greatest. It helps you to remember songs you really liked a long time ago, or the time back in 1981 you and your cousin developed dance routines to every song on a particular Abba album.


At 12:54 PM, Blogger a13xa9dr1a said...

I think the Hungarian dude was into color bands. I bet he liked Black Sabbath too.

I think everyone has a mish-mash of song genres they like and a mish-mash iTunes collection so I'm not sure why people identify themselves in one genre. Maybe people name the genre they best identify with and think best represents their image? Music is more about image here, I think.


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