Sunday, December 11, 2011

In another life

In another life, I wouldn't necessarily know the words to Katie Perry's hit song, from which I stole the title of this blog. The song is called "The one that got away" and the chorus starts,"In another life/I would be your girl... In another life, I would make you stay/So I wouldn't have to say/You were the one that got away." And scarily enough, I was able to write out the lyrics without having to consult any online sources. I have heard the song so many times -- at least five times between yesterday and today, as I have spent about 7-8 hours in my car during the last 48 hours.

Yes, dear readers, an unfortunate side effect of my stay in Guatemala is a mild addiction to the Guatemalan equivalent of top 40 radio.  In that other life, my life back in the U.S., I vaguely knew the names of entertainers like Lady Gaga and Britney Spears, but didn't really listen to much of their music. However, given the limited musical offerings on the radio stations that I can tune into here, I have latched onto top-40 radio.  So, as I make my way about Quiché or in my meanderings about the country, I listen to the radio a lot (I lost my Ipod on my trip to San Diego in early November; I hope whoever has it is enjoying it). The radio spectrum here is quite limited. There are evangelical stations. There are a few all-news (or "mostly news") stations but they often carry live sporting events (sorry, chapines, I can make myself follow fútbol -- i.e. soccer -- live or on television if I must, but I cannot deal with on the radio, and I am not interested enough to even try). The music stations often play marimba, rancheras, cumbia, merengue.. but they play very mainstream and largely uninteresting music. There are a few stations that play reggueton, but those stations seem to have more limited range and I cannot always find them on the dial.

Which leaves me with top-40 radio Some months back I was scanning the dial and came across someone singing in English. So I listened for a while And soon became sort of addicted. It doesn't require a lot of thought, since I don't have to translate the lyrics mentally. It's familiar idioms and formats. And so, I find myself alarmingly familiar with the likes of Maroon 5, LMFAO, Foster the People.  And not only am I familiar, I could probably sing several verses of "Last Friday Nigiht" (a recent hit song by Katie Perry) or "I'm Sexy and I Know It" (a totally banal, borderline idiotic song by LMFAO). Not that everything they play is commercial and awful, but still... it's mostly quite insipid, and music I would honestly rarely if ever listen to back home. Or if I still had my Ipod. But it's somehow soothing here, a brief moment of familiarity, of not having to translate, or even think.

And occasionally (but very occasionally) they do play some more interesting music. But in general it's a pretty sad commentary on the state of commercial radio. And also on the relative weight of Guatemalan and foreign culture -- at least among the sub-section of the population that listens to such stations.

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