Music is an expression of emotion, one that for me acts as a voice for my thoughts and feelings that I can’t put into words. Have you ever listened to a song thinking, ‘wow that explains how about feel about *situation* perfectly.’? Music delves deeper as it bridges a connection between us, the artist and others that are listening to the same tune. Music is the beat of popular culture consumed across all ages, and has been doing so for the ages. But our choice of music is dictated by cultural proximity and we haven’t even noticed.
Cultural proximity has created a bubble around the media we consume, as “the authors view cultural proximity as a dimension of individual media preference.” (Ksiazek and Webster, 2008) Which means that the artists we listen to write music about experiences that we would relate to. This in theory is building a personal connection between us and them but cuts out any connection that could be built across cultures. As an Australian I listen to Triple J regularly, a huge fan of the Hottest 100 and the culture that is built around Aussie gigs and music festivals. The music created by these bands are lyrics that relate to their lives, which also relate to my own because our Australian experiences seem to be all to similar. For example; The Chat’s iconic Pub Feed, or Illy’s, Parmas in June are all bogan anthems that aren’t really understood outside the culture of your local pub. But there are some cases in which the lines have crossed.
An example of this is when pop giant Justin Bieber released Despacito, a song that took over the world and was almost completely in Spanish. It is because the song was made by Bieber that it became such an anthem, but it throws out the explanation that was made about audience behaviors in correlation to cultural proximity.
Luis Fonsi the original artist behind Despacito is a popular Puerto Rican singer, but before collaborating with rapper Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber his music only topped the Latin Charts as his music was directed at Latin american culture. Audience behavioral studies have shown that when watching/listening to media for pleasure people tend to do so in there own language. Which is why, it wasn’t until the English version of Despacito that Fonsi became an international super star. Our society is one that has a short attention span, so if learning a different language is what you need to enjoy a song just know it probably won’t get listened too.
Music is the beat behind popular culture, but because of cultural proximity and the audience behavior we tend to only listen to the music that surrounds our culture and experiences. This isn’t a bad thing, its just an observation made by the people that study behavior. So continue to jam out to the tunes that are paving popular culture today!
Ksiazek, T. and Webster, J., 2008. Cultural Proximity and Audience Behavior: The Role of Language in Patterns of Polarization and Multicultural Fluency. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 52(3), pp.485-503.
Lu, J., Liu, X. and Cheng, Y., 2019. Cultural Proximity and Genre Proximity: How Do Chinese Viewers Enjoy American and Korean TV Dramas?. SAGE Open, 9(1), p.215824401882502.