Dear Non-English Speakers Who Listen to English-Language Music

Dear Non-English Speakers Who Listen to English-Language Music,

Yesterday I was driving through Potsdam with my German father-in-law. It's still kind of cold this time of year, the windows were up, and my breath was fogging up the glass as we drove down a narrow cobblestone street. The radio was turned on, and like most Germans, my father-in-law prefers to listen to American music over German music, even though he speaks almost no English. In fact, it's just about impossible to find German music in Germany. Even German bands sing in English. So do bands everywhere else on earth. The problem is that most of you people don't really understand English.

As my father-in-law hummed along to a Nicki Minaj/LMFAO/Taio Cruz/Jason Derulo/Kelly Rowland/Jessie J/Bruno Mars/Ke$ha/Flo Rida/Rita Ora/Rihanna mash up, it suddenly hit me. You people are enabling this Shitpop. It's bad enough that half of the U.S. population is more than happy to take a steady drip of VH1's Top 20 Countdown straight to the vein every time they want to drown out the terrifying silence of their own troubled subconscious. You non-English speakers are creating an even larger international market for songs with brain-dead lyrics, and larger markets mean more bands like Kelly Rowland to satisfy the demand. But the demand isn't real- at least the demand for the lyrics isn't. If you don't speak English, then English-language songs are pretty much just instrumental music. Jason Derulo singing "I only miss you when I'm breathing," over and over and over again ad nauseam for four minutes might as well be a neat sound effect in the background.

Pop music has always been aimed at the lowest common denominator, but when lyrics are just background gibberish for six out of seven billion people in the potential audience, then that denominator suddenly sinks to the level of Black's Friday. Everybody had a good laugh watching this would-be-pop-star list off the days of the week in what appeared to be a serious run at musical fame and fortune. But what happens when songs of this lyrical caliber, only with better vocals and production values, get serious backing from taste makers like Universal Music Group? I'd argue it's already happening, but don't think it can't get worse. What's the difference between Friday and Imogen Heap's Hide and Seek or Gotye's Somebody that I Used to Know to a non-English speaker? And for that matter, what's the difference between Friday and Fryday to a non-English speaker?

If you think Fryday or a song like it couldn't someday make the Billboard Top 100 then you haven't been listening to the Billboard Top 100. People will pretty much listen and watch whatever is put in front of them.

I'm no enlightened hipster-god of culture hovering above the filthy, festering masses, spewing judgement from on high onto the brain-washed zombies below. I spent two hours yesterday morning watching a reality show that followed obese single mothers around while these land monsters wept and screamed at each other over who was and wasn't to be invited to a child's birthday party. At one point the show went all zoom-in/slow-mo while one of these fat fucks stuffed  a cheeseburger into her face. Grease dribbled down her chin and gooey melted cheese squirted out the sides, in-between her fingers, and the picture went black and white just so I'd be sure to understand that I was watching something tragic. And I was- I was witnessing the tragic waste of two hours of my own life. But it was there- and I was in the mood for TV, and that's how it happens. That's how the denominator drags down even on those of us who would gladly watch and listen to more intelligent, more enlightening things.

Here's what I need you to do, non-English speakers. Listen to music in the languages that you speak. Not only will it dry up some of this excess demand for Shitpop and generally improve the quality of popular music in the U.S., but it will also drive up demand for quality lyrics in languages that are right now experiencing a dearth of music, and dying out in general, because everybody's eating up the English shit that they can't even understand with a ladle. And I want to see the diversity of languages across the globe preserved. Especially German. Because I didn't invest countless years learning this language just so I'd be able to sing along to Rammstein and Xavier Naidoo.

And yes, I see the irony in addressing non-English speakers in English. I'll just have to hope the English-language music videos lure you in, and then Google Translate takes over from there.

Sebastian Braff


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