Thursday, October 15, 2009

Italians Do The Stanky Leg, Too

We did it again.

Considering there has not been a new post in well over a month, some people might consequently deem this blog “lazy,” “effortless,” “unintelligent,” “defunct,” “stupid,” or other derogatory descriptors.

Well, that’s not nice. Stop it.

Three-fifths of the current writing staff are currently studying abroad, whereas the other two are assuredly busy at work doing what college students do. Needless to say, this is reason enough for the abrupt and probably inevitable stoppage in posting.

Until now. (Cue the fanciful fanfare.)

Having been more or less immersed in Italian culture for the past five-plus weeks, I thought it would be an opportune time to answer the most burning question that everyone wants to know about my experience in Italy: How’s the tunes, brah?

It was certainly a mystifying topic that I pondered before departing for my semester abroad in Italy for four months. To be honest, I really was unaware of what to expect to hear over here. I mean, did this semester spell the end of all English-speaking tuneage for a whopping (almost) four months? Would Italians share America’s penchant for overplaying to-be-classic American tunes like “Poker Face” and Flo Rida’s ubiquitous “Low”?

No and um, yeah, sort of, respectively. Surprisingly, there has been an overwhelming amount of American music being played here. Perhaps it is the limited number of public locations with music that I have been to that has skewed my perception. However, just like with my lovely previous employer, here is a novel-sized dissertation on what I have discovered thus far.

In essence, the most adequate summation of the music here would have to be some combination of a small sample of recent, popular songs, coupled with arbitrary, sometimes forgotten pop gems from the past, spiced up with a dash of left-field gems to provide some pizazz. Let me explain.

The music should probably be divided into two categories: Nightlife and Not Nightlife. In the smaller Not Nightlife division, we have “21 Guns” by Green Day. That’s about it. Seriously, I must hear this song every place I meander around here. It could be a lot worse, but “21 Guns” is 21st Century Breakdown’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”: Melancholy, extremely crossover, beyond over-played, and, um, not what I would call “Green Day’s magnum opus,” to put it über-lightly.

The award for “Most Pleasantly ‘Popular’ Song of ‘09” may have to go to “Daniel” by Bat for Lashes. Not only did it infiltrate the otherwise stagnant Kohl’s playlist, but I have heard it in three different locales here in Italy, including the supermarket of all places. I always thought the song was just one degree away from being just another pop song with a female singer, but “Daniel” is still one big degree away from being lumped in with the rest of the scrap heap. Two Suns, and especially “Daniel” in particular, are some of my favorites of the year, and if weren’t for those pesky instant classics by those other hyped indie darlings, “Daniel” could have a shot at Song of the Year. It is such a strange feeling to hear such a good song in such a bizarre place (that is, anywhere but your iPod or iTunes.) I’m not going to complain, because it could be (pick your favorite Top 40 female pop artist), but it is almost like the song loses its extraordinary aura when it is played at a supermarket with the utmost nonchalance.

One of the cool things about living in Italy is I live with a host family, including a college-bound host brother and a 10-year-old one. On several occasions, the 10-year-old one has sung some American songs, despite knowing basically no English. The reverse situation would be kind of funny: What if your 10-year-old American brother started singing or was simply bombarded with all Italian music? Here, it is kind of expected, considering America’s surprising influence on almost all forms of media (a lot of the TV is just dubbed versions of American classics. I Simpson, for one.) Anyway, Katy Perry’s “I’m not just a one-hit-faux-lesbian-wonder” follow-up to “I Kissed a Girl,” “Hot N Cold”, has been uttered by my little host brother, as has the inescapable “Poker Face” by the ambiguously hermaphroditic Lady Gaga. It is a shame that this is the music that gets imported, but did I really expect Dominico to be humming “My Girls” by Animal Collective? Alas, only in a perfect world.

Most of the other instances of music in Italy have come at a variety of bars and clubs throughout the country. The trend seems to be the same, however: It’s the same shit you would find at a typical American bar or club. You’ve got your Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, you’ve got your Flo Rida and Soulja Boy, and so on and so forth. And that God forsaken new Pitbull song. If it was “Bojangles,” I’d let it pass, because it has a sick beat. But, instead, every 19.3 seconds, he feels compelled to count to four IN TWO LANGUAGES. How talented! Fuck Pitbull and fuck that song, especially because it has an infernal capacity to remain stuck in one’s head for hours. Also, for whatever reason, almost every place I have been has been treating DMX’s 1999 pop crossover classic “Party Up (Up in Here)” like it is going to go out of style. A random aberration among the otherwise typically recent music played, but it is definitely noticeable to a meticulous music nerd like me.

True story: One of the more popular rendezvous points for nighttime bar hopping is one bar that plays its music from a 24/7 music video channel. I have seen some videos multiple times in only a few visits (despite the song, Shakira’s “She Wolf” video is hot as shit) but most of them are “meh” at best. One time, Daft Punk’s “Around the World” came on, though. I was super-stoked. No one else seemed to have a clue who they were or what the song was. I died a little on the inside. True story. This is a microcosm of why Flo Rida will always be on the airwaves and a catchy-as-fuck band like Passion Pit will not. I might as well make this my college Honors Thesis.

I have cracked the 1,000-word barrier, which probably means I should stop furiously clacking away on my laptop. Whatever, this is the first entry since August. Savor it, because at this point, no one knows when the next one could be. Don’t think of us as “dead”, we prefer “consistently hibernating.” Until next time (?), stay golden, Ponyboy.


  1. I won't lie: I've been waiting for one of you to make an international post. When I visited France I was a bit disappointed by the same situation: they listen to shitty, mainstream American music too. :[

  2. i was intending on breaking the lack of posting seal.

    i hate seals

    you got lucky, gary sir.

  3. by the way, important question.

    did nickelback make it over there?

  4. Fortunately, one bright side to the musical situation over here is no Nickelback has yet been uncovered *knocks on wood.* Perhaps it's because they're Canadian, and Italians solely important shitty American music. Who knows? I'm not complaining.