Ethnocentrism is Weird

Obligatory post-4th-of-July jingoism post!

Ok. Maybe not recall, but I am talking about ethnocentrism today. Specifically, I’m talking about ethnocentrism in music.

A lot of the music that I listen to caters to an American audience. It’s so prevalent, in fact, that it can be hard to notice. In a lot of cases, it makes sense. American musicians sing about issues that matter to them, which will also tend to matter to their American listeners. Songwriters tend to be pretty self-centered in their topics, so it’s to be expected.

Where it gets weird is when other countries get involved. I listen to a ton of European epic metal. Bands like Nightwish, Helloween, and Edguy.* The guys in these bands usually sing in English despite the fact that it’s not their native tongue. All these Norwegian, German, Spanish, etc. metal bands sing in English, and we don’t even bat an eye.

On top of that, bands tend to sing about topics that are relevant to American audiences. New York City, Aboriginal Americans, etc. non-American bands sing about these topics all the time.
In the meantime, you have to go out of your way to hear music about other cultures. Rammstein sings in German, and it’s exotic and new to us. Midnight Oil sings about the plight of the Australian Aboriginal people, and we assume they’re talking about American Indians.
We are weird, self-centered people, and it’s weird how our music reflects that.
Free market, you crazy!

* I’m not going to debate the distinctions between symphonic/power/epic/etc. metal here. Suffice to say, I’m talking about European musicians playing more-or-less metal songs about hobbits.

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