In all my preparation to study abroad in Switzerland this semester, one thing I did not figure out was how often the soundtrack of my travels would come to the forefront. From the first exhausted step into my temporary home, I began to see American music in a completely different light. I was shocked — nay, disgusted — by the popularity of the breathy voice of Paris Hilton when I first turned on the TV. MTV Europe is one of three channels in English we get in our apartment. I thought I was in serious trouble, musically speaking… but it hasn’t been that bad.
Shortly after I moved in, a town festival blasted 2 Live Crew only a street down from the Beatles, with the Swiss drunkenly milling about and mumbling heavily accented lyrics to “Pop that Pussy” and “Yesterday.” “Aloha Night” at a local club promoted “American surf music,” which turned out to be wedding reception favorites like “The Twist” together with some stranger selections: Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” mixed into Justin Timberlake. Even on the bus, I can usually pick up the faint sounds of Beyoncé or The Killers leaking out of the headphones of at least one fellow rider.
My favorite encounter with American pop music thus far has been in Hamburg, Germany. I had the intriguing opportunity to go to a karaoke bar, where I heard a passionate medley of Elvis tunes sung in a faux-American accent. That same night, I witnessed reasonably sober grown men singing along to the Backstreet Boys without any shame. (I sang along to ABBA, but that hardly counts; they’re Swedish.) A day later, I witnessed an extraordinarily amusing German hip-hop show, which, suffice it to say, deserves its own article.
Fortunately for me, the pervasiveness of American pop music here has been an advantage. My classmates know the perfect pronunciation of promiscuous thanks to Nelly Furtado, and they can drop it like it’s hot with the best of them. Getting away with listening to Justin Timberlake for the past three months has been fun, but it isn’t enough to satisfy my ironic hipster tendencies for much longer. I have to switch to something more disgustingly infectious to amuse myself, and Wham! is climbing up my Most Played list in iTunes.
I’ve got to cleanse my system and return to the too-cool U.S. of A. where this musical sacrilege isn’t tolerated on a regular basis — and listen to some ’80s-inspired indie remixes in somebody’s basement, stat.