Mi Vida Latina
I first caught wind of the bachata craze in the two or three years before I graduated high school. Most of my friends were Mexican; the only people I knew who danced bachata were Mexican; so naturally I thought it was a Mexican dance. My initial acquaintance with it came from seeing a few eyes light up whenever a certain song was played at the surreptitious pachangas I attended. I liked bachata. It was racy and provocative.
Ten years later, bachata has lost most of its appeal for me. To my ear, the new hot song tends to sound just like the last hot song. The singer – any number of people mimicking prepubescence – whispers how he really likes some cute girl and how everything’s perfect. That’s when I genuinely consider pouring fire ants into each ear.
The problem’s not just with bachata. The same thing’s happening in most genres of contemporary music, especially hip hop and R&B. Most hip-hop artists rhyme (in a way that makes Dr. Seuss look like Royce da 5’9”) about how baller they are. R&B singers squeal about how they’re going to have sex with every girl in the club between the ages of 18 and 23. And both groups of “artists” seem to draw material from each other.
The music I enjoy most was made before my parents got the urge. My iPod’s filled with music older than 1979 (which according to my friends was the same year dirt was invented). A lot of the music I like is even older than my parents; some of its older than their parents. Like a recent Woody Allen character, I gaze back to what I judge to be the golden age of music, when music was inventive and truly moving. The artists and the works they produced don’t come within a mile of the stuff bombarding our ears today, and regularly listening to classic songs reminds me of the ingredients that go into making good music.
“Without old school music,” Being Latino Engagement Manager Nelson Figueroa explains, “there would be no foundation on which to base new stuff on. Without La Fania, Marc Anthony would just be an old freestyle singer. Without the Soul era, Adele would probably be a brokenhearted spoken-word artist.”
Nowadays it seems as though everybody in the biz (I thought it was art) is only looking to discover what works so they can ride it till exhaustion.
“It’s very shallow and generic,” Figueroa adds. “When money is the number one goal, catchy phrases and trends are fed to the consumer in favor of deep content.”
I feel like a Roman circa 5th century, arriving to the party just after the barbarians sacked the place and carried away all the good stuff.
But maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m already over the hill at the tender age of 27. Maybe I have what little Stan Marsh was diagnosed with in the South Park episode appropriately titled “You’re Getting Old”: “cynical asshole” syndrome.
I hope there’s a pill for that.
(An early crossover classic. Enjoy.)