Kara SimonKara.Simon@franklincollege.edu Infusing other cultures into popular songs is not a new concept, whether the artist records multilingual lyrics or produces a swanky guitar riff. And multicultural music has noticeably made a mark on American pop culture. For example, “Despacito” took mainstream pop radio by storm in 2017. The song grew so much in popularity that it’s tied with the iconic “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston for most consecutive weeks at the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100 charts. Despite such achievements, some American listeners remain hesitant. K-pop is just one of the many genres that faces discrimination because of its stylistic differences and, of course, its foreign language. Listeners who wish to familiarize themselves with multicultural music might see the Korean lyrics as a barrier rather than a respectable art form, subjecting K-pop to aversion and ridicule. This is nothing new. Ritchie Valens, a 1950s rock-and-roll artist from California, experienced similar judgement in his career. But with tracks like “Donna” and “La Bamba” to his name, Valens proved multicultural music can succeed. Today, many could argue, our country molds listeners to follow an “America first” mentality. President Donald Trump underscores this mentality with his persistent demands for border wall funding. In his State of the Union address on Feb. 5, Trump repeatedly spoke of our country’s unity. While this ideal is worth discussing, it ignores the growing division in our country over matters such as nationality and language. While listening to music in a different language is a challenge, a quick Google search can quickly alleviate that obstacle. Even more important, listening to international music is an opportunity to expand beyond the familiar and achieve the unity envisioned by our nation’s leaders. Experiencing common melodies within cultures from around the globe makes for enjoyable music, but also a way to grow a once-limited perspective on reality.
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