Americans Just Won't Take That
It's not just the difference between "burgers and fries" and "bangers and mash." Americans and Brits may speak a similar language, but we are very different beasts.
Nowhere is this more obvious than our national tastes in music. (Well, except for Wham! in the 80s. Everybody loved Wham! And if you didn't, you must not have seen George Michael's short- shorts and "Choose Life" t-shirt. And his frosted hair. I mean, all of us were having pre-adolescent fantasies about running our fingers through it. Right?)
Anyway... consider this week's album charts from either side of the pond. Both lists are topped by artists making a comeback, but... how can I say this? The babies aren't twins.
In America, our number one album is "Kingdom Come" by Jay-Z, who is returning from his faux-retirement to reassert his claim on hip-hop. (We all know how I feel about artists pretending to retire, but let's table that for now.)
In Britain, both top album and top single are claimed by Take That. Remember them? Robbie Williams used to be a member when they were a boy band. In America, they had that one hit, "Back for Good," but in England there were help-lines created to console grieving teenagers after the group broke up. Literally.
I'm not saying that I like Take That. Frankly, I don't know if I do, since "Back for Good" is the only song of theirs I've ever heard. They probably wouldn't be my scene, since I only had a vague tolerance for Backstreet Boys and N*Sync.
But what I can relate to is the sentiment of a nation that sends Take That back to the top. There's just something so sweet about letting them have another crack at fame, especially since their revival is all about being grown up versions of their old cute selves.
To me, I think a people that can still love Take That must have a softer heart than we do. Or maybe they just have a more deeply ironic purchasing pattern. Either way, I'm in.
Because in America, our most popular music rarely allows the kind of friendliness that Take That exudes. When New Kids on the Block tried to get back together, we laughed. When Jordan Knight and Joey McIntyre had comeback hits, it was because they became dirty sex fiends. (Especially Jordan. Remember that song? It was gross.)
I know it sounds like I'm saying I want America to embrace cheesy sentimentalism, but that's not what I mean. I just wish that Americans (and the corporate-owned radio stations that seek them out) could make more room for unironic fun. It wouldn't have to mean the end of our street cred. Brits like hip-hop, too, but that doesn't mean they don't giggle once in a while.
I think that's why I find so much refuge in "Ain't No Other Man." That's a song that just oozes with joy. Not lust or attitude or self-aware smugness or masculine aggression or greed-centered boasting. Just joy. Even if I don't want to hear that song all the time, the escape it provides is valuable and rare.
p.s. -- Please go look at this and tell me you don't want to hear what these people sound like. Make sure you scroll down to the "breakfast picture." I grew up less than two hours away from this bizarre little town, and I can't tell you how much this website makes me want to visit again.