I'm not mourning Prince
Earlier today, I was asked which Prince song was on my mind and describing what I was doing. The question surprised me a bit. While I knew of his recent passing, he wasn’t exactly on my mind the same way David Bowie was a few months ago. It’s not a matter of heartlessness. I’ve never developed a taste for Prince. And there are a lot of assumptions made as to why I might like him in the first place. It bears repeating that I grew up in France and arrived in the US as a fully formed adult. It’s annoying but it informs formative experiences. I share very little with most Americans beyond language, a language which I am also purposely and willfully accenting. Being from a working-class household made it difficult to obtain American music. English music, not so much. And so my favorite song at the age of 9 was “Long-Lost Brother of Mine” by Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (basically, Yes minus the lead singer, I think). The few American records in my father’s possession were those his brother had sent him. And you can’t expect a recently arrived war refugee to be on the know about the day’s hottest hits. Hence Fine Young Cannibals, KLF being in my parents’ record collection. The rest of their records consisted of France Gall, Alain Souchon, Francis Cabrel, and other French singers you’ve never heard of. Vietnamese records. Chinese opera. Because my parents hadn’t heard of Cantopop yet. That would only come in the 90s. There were also laws limiting the amount of English-language music being broadcast on the radio and the television. Not that there was much music on the television in the first place (my parents did not own a radio), since we only had three national channels and one private one with encryption. Those channels showed movies, TV series, the news, and the weather forecast. Children programming. Literary shows. Cabu teaching you how to draw. Music might have had a weekly dedicated hour with a programme named Top 50, which might have been modeled after the British Top of the Pops, but that might have too late during the day for me to watch. American music in itself didn’t enter my consciousness until the mid-90s with the advent of the TV channel M6. And being poor meant that my musical tastes were dictated by whatever my friends were willing to loan me, and whether I had a blank cassette available. Lots of French hip-hop (MC Solaar, NTM, IAM), rock (Noir Désir, Indochine, Téléphone), lots of English music (Blur, Skunk Anaheim, New Model Army, trip hop), lots of metal (Sepultura). Later on, Japanese visual kei. What I liked in American music was either transparently political (Rage Against the Machine, Body Count) or the naïvely melodramatic (Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Nine Inch Nails, the Deftones). What I could listen to widened, but was still limited to those artists with the bigger marketing budget. This was around the time Prince did his symbol thing, followed by the Artist Formerly Known As Prince schtick, a move I didn’t quite understand at the time, but which struck me as inauthentic (I was young and the thought now strikes me as odd considering how visual kei is the spectacle on inauthenticity). At any rate, his breakup with his record label didn’t help. I have a better sense of what Lenny Kravitz was doing in the 90s. Which might or might not be tragic. I don’t know. I usually fail to understand most people’s enthusiasm for pop culture consumption. Such as the apparent release this weekend of Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Or the new season of Game of Thrones. Taylor Swift. Kanye West. Lost. Dark Souls III3>. This or that.
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