So I played some of my songs in my work place. Night shift. It would’ve been a lot boring without some music in the background. The first songs that played were my selected favorites from my Japanese music collection. People complained that it wasn’t their sort of music. That I should have chosen songs they could understand. Literally, perhaps.
I kind of hoped they would, at least, learn to appreciate the music even if they can’t really understand the lyrics. I wanted them to notice how the melodies just blend together in very pleasant ways.
Apparently, words or lyrics really matter to them. The tunes weren’t enough. They wanted the phrases. To think about? To reflect upon? And, maybe more importantly, to sing along. That, I can understand. But what I cannot understand is they have to complain about my song choices just because they can’t understand them—they’re not in the languages we speak.
Then, it hit me.
What if someone else played Thai or Viet songs, both I still haven’t listened to much? Would I learn to appreciate them too? Or would I end up complaining like the workers here did?
Then, it hit me again.
The people here don’t have any emotional or personal attachment to the songs I played, which are already very dear to me. Moreover, I can already understand the lyrics of these songs as I had already read them, and their translations, over and over again. Aside from the fact that these are foreign songs, this sort of music, to these people, is also very alien. Maybe, to some degree, invasive. It could’ve subconsciously caused them certain levels of discomfort, for they don’t, and can’t, decipher what phrases and words enter their ears and mind the moment I played these songs through. They have no idea what meanings these alien tunes may bring upon them.
Meanings. A number of songs become international hits because people know how to read the lyrics, literally and figuratively, for all their intent. The tunes are a big factor, but for many people, the words can either make or break these compositions.
But why is it that some senseless, shallow songs make it to the international scene? Do people go for the mindless fun sometimes, maybe to relieve stress? Or they want to tune in with the trends to have a sense of belonging to the community, offline or online? Or, perhaps, the tune alone is fun enough that the lyrics—whatever they might mean—don’t really matter at this point?
I don’t get it. People are complex and unpredictable, I can only question these things. But, I believe, the songs we go back to for months and years to come, in whatever languages, are the ones that we’ve welcomed in our personal spaces, and have invaded and eventually become a part of our comfort zone—evoking the sense of being home, within.