One of the scariest things about living abroad is hearing the frightening English-language songs in bars and coffee houses that pass as music overseas.
That’s not the scary part. No, scary part’s having to wonder if they’re playing these songs because they’re popular back home in North America.
I envision my future self returning home—like Frodo and Sam returning to the Shire in LOTR—only to find the Shire’s become as bad as Mordor.
Right now as I slurp my noodles, the hostel cafe is playing a repetitive ditty that implores its listener:
Shut up and sleep with me, come on, why don’t you sleep with me/
Shut up and sleep with me, come on, uh-huh, and sleep with me/
Shut up and sleep with me…
Then comes the chorus: “Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up…”
You have to wonder, did the lyricists struggle with that “uh-huh” in the second line? You know, to make you think you know where he’s going and then, WHAM! He springs an “uh-huh” on you. Where did that come from!
My friend Tanya went to England when Cher’s “Do You Believe In Life After Love?” song came out. It was the first song I recall that featured noticeable computer-aided pitch alteration to keep the singer’s voice in tune. Tanya said it was all the rage in the clubs. She told them that Americans would laugh if a DJ tried to play this crap at home. Then she came back and not only was the song a bigger hit in the United States, the computer-aided voice track would become an accepted staple of pop music, an innovation that would allow good-looking teenage dancers to finally take their rightful place as seemingly competent pop singers.
Speaking of which, about ten years ago I went to Germany right as American Idol was getting popular. The Germans were crazy over their incarnation of the talent show, called something like German Superstar. I told them, sure we had American Idol, but Americans weren’t stupid enough to fall for it that hardcore. After all, Americans couldn’t be manipulated quite as easily as the Germans. (This was before the Iraq War.) Then I come home to find all of primetime television had been replaced by a slew of second-rate talent shows. It was like Ryan Seacrest was screaming at me, “Hi Frodo! Welcome back to the Shire! Oh, by the way, while you were out…”
All I hope is that my North American comrades keep strong and do as this upscale Shanghai department store implores its independent-minded consumers…