What’s Hot in Australian Pop: Pink, Robyn and Something About a Bumblebee
Being a good tourist has never been my forte. In general, I don’t do sightseeing. Day trips? The very idea of going on one makes me want to roll over and go back to sleep. As for tour groups, well, they put the fear of God in me. When I travel, I like to discover the fascinating nooks and crannies of a new place the way many locals do — by accident. Ah, the locals. They’re the secret to really getting to know — and love — a city. And one of the best ways to get to know the locals and what makes them tik tok is by paying attention to what they’re listening to.
Since my arrival in Australia three weeks ago, I’ve been intrigued and occasionally surprised by what I’ve heard. Last night a DJ saved my night. It wasn’t because of what he played but because of what he didn’t play: Lady Gaga. Yes, there’s been a steady diet of Katy Perry, the Black Eyed Peas and Pussycat Dolls to remind me of where I came from (Buenos Aires), but interestingly, there’s also been a shortage of Gaga. I’ve seen the “Telephone” video once on a bar TV screen, but the most play Gaga has received down under so far was from the 20-year-old guy who was pleading with the bartender the other night to make the DJ play something “less middle-aged, like Gaga or ‘Bumblebee.’” (Um, would that be “Imma Be” by the Black Eyed Peas?)
Aside from this one detour into predictability, and an obvious love for all things Kylie Minogue (who knew there’d be so many girls of a certain age named Kylie?), there’s been a lot of rhyme but very little reason when it comes to the Aussie music playlist — and I mean that as a compliment. The best of Madonna has been a no show in every public space where music is played, but I don’t think I’ve gone into one bar where I didn’t hear at least one song by Robyn, a superb artist who is all but ignored in the U.S., and will be playing in Melbourne soon. Tonight I passed a poster advertising another upcoming concert: Three Dog Night and the Turtles. It’s pretty safe to bet that the “Bumblebee” guy will be skipping that one.
I received my most welcome shock one night when I suddenly found myself in the mood to hear something by the Stone Roses. Not only had the DJ heard of “Fools Gold” when I requested it, but it was the very next song he played. Saved by the DJ — again. Continuing on the rock ‘n’ roll theme, thanks to my friend Marcus and triple j (yes, all lower case), an alternative-leaning radio station that Marcus turned me on to, I’ve discovered two new favorite songs by Aussie acts that I no doubt otherwise never would have heard: “Summer” by the now-defunct Machine Gun Fellatio (how controversial would that name be in the U.S.?) and “Big Jet Plane” by Lady of the Sunshine. Both songs — along with something called “Release Me” by someone named Agnes, both of which seem to be unavoidable facts of nightlife in Australia — will go down in history as part of the soundtrack to my adventure in Melbourne.
Interestingly, one of the biggest music stars in Australia at the moment is one I recently worried had been overshadowed by the Lady Gagas and the Katy Perrys of pop: Pink. I read somewhere that the Australian leg of her Funhouse tour, during which she performed for more than 660,000 people, was the highest-grossing road show of 2009 in Oz, with a more than AUS $80 million haul. Who knew she had such a massive following here? She’s had her own theme week on “Australian Idol,” and currently there is a Pink tribute show being staged in Melbourne. I asked a local what it is about Pink that so captivates Australians. As he bobbed his head to “So What,” he said he hadn’t a clue. I still haven’t figured it out either, but right now I’ve got more pressing mysteries to solve.
Like was that me or an impostor dancing to “Take It Off” by Ke$ha the other night, and — gulp! — did I/he actually enjoy it?
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