Tuesday, August 30, 2005

From Mias blogg
Nostalgia for ’80s pop
Guilty. I like things like a-ha’s (of Norway) ‘Take on Me’ (marvellous video, both for its story and its artistry) even though, as Chris Kattan made fun of in an American movie recently, ‘in a day or twooooo’ is one of the worst climactic endings for a line or song (makes no sense in English). I’m not a Peter Cetera fan (he was the weakest link of Chicago, a band I like).

I lived in England at the end of the period Mia describes and I wonder: why do so many Europeans, like the reserved Swedes and the usually snarky, irony-laden English, go absolutely mad over pop music that Americans (sometimes unfairly) think saccharine and juvenile? Think of David Hasselhoff, an American actor who’s a pop star in Germany. Or the biggest example, Abba, who never really made it in the States (people think of them as camp: disco and outrageous costumes) but with Frida Lyngstad’s* fine voice and Benny Andersson’s melodies (with Swedish-folk and classical allusions few Americans would have thought of) made catchy, proudly non-American pop loved in most of the rest of the world. The Clash were considered hip and Abba a bit naff (perhaps even back then) yet today in too-cool Britain as I write there are probably about three Abba tribute bands simultaneously touring the country (and there’s the musical Mamma Mia, AFAIK a crap plot that’s only an excuse to sing Abba songs) and AFAIK no Clash ones (RIP Joe Strummer).

My theory is that Americans perhaps don’t need an outlet for all those soft emotions but the English, Germans and Swedes culturally do, hence a lot of the sugar in the pop music.

(Then again Australians express their emotions openly yet love Abba, perhaps more than any other people do, so guess again!)

*She sang solo on one of the most beautiful recordings I have, performing in a moody, wonderful arrangement of the 1890s Swedish Christmas carol Gläns över sjö och strand (‘The Umlaut Song’ ‘Shine Over Sea and Shore’, or ‘Star of Bethlehem’), recorded in 1972. Apparently this song is very well-known in Sweden. The tune sounds like a centuries-old hymn and as you can read the words, without being preachy, are about what Christmas really means. (If you’re really curious, to the ear of an English-speaker those first words are pronounced roughly like this: ‘Glenss oover hoo oh strahnd’.)

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