June 20, 2008

#7 Mainstream Music

Essential to the Malaysian identity is his/her appreciation of mainstream or popular foreign music. What we will identify as the "standard" level Malaysian covets acts such as Kanye West, Justin Timberlake, Coldplay, Maroon 5 and Rihanna. These acts make up the musical landscape of the average music aficionado. The standard level Malaysian attends most foreign artist concerts in Malaysia and purchases or downloads the latest pop releases so he/she can tell their friends all about it ("OMG, OMG you guys SO have to hear Lil Wayne's dope new album!"). Mainstream radio stations have been known to repeat songs on rotation due to the insatiable Malaysian palate for mainstream pop. Foreign music acts now view Malaysia as a pliable market for concerts and merchandising.

If you wish to start a conversation with the standard level Malaysian, just mention how you thought Coldplay's latest album (Coldplay does not appeal only to White People) really resonates with what you're going through right now. This will immediately remind the Malaysian of his or her own situation and how they have their own soundtrack to their lives playing on their iPod while they stare wistfully out the window of their car during a traffic jam, imagining that they are acting out a scene from a movie about their lives.

Mainstream music can also be used to identify and manipulate another type of Malaysian, what we will call the "advanced" level Malaysian (urban teens and yuppies generally). The advanced level Malaysian rejects popular music ("I don't listen to mass manufactured music") and only listens to obscure or independent foreign acts ("I'm really into this French neo-classical outfit now, you wouldn't have heard of it") which have yet to permeate the local music stratosphere. This ties in with their need to feel "unique" and allows them to be "a true individual". Mentioning your adoration of any mainstream music act will cause them to respect you less.

Acceptable acts you can mention to gain "street cred" are Ingrid Michaelson, Sigur Ros, Patrick Park, Sufjan Stevens, etc. Death Cab used to be the default indie band you could reference to show your astute music knowledge but now are considered mainstream (hence not cool). Alternatively, you could pick an unknown band from MySpace which no one likes or has heard of yet, this earns you maximum points with the advanced level Malaysian. Take note that if you harbor mainstream music guilty pleasures, you must suppress all urge to reference them in public. Statements such as "I heart James Blunt!" or "I rock apple bottoms like Fergie, fo shizzle" will destroy all your hard work.

If you have no musical knowledge whatsoever but have entered a conversation with a Malaysian regarding such a topic, just say you have a soft spot for Michael Learns To Rock. No Malaysian can resist this Danish soft rock band, all Malaysians at one point in their lives have owned at least one MLTR album and sang their songs at karaoke night. Some still do.


KittyCat said...

Good post! I agree with you on the two groups of music fans but totally disagree with you about MLTR.

I don't have any of their albums and neither do I sing their songs on karaoke!

Hehe, time to refine your survey of Malaysians :)

synical said...

I'm an in-betweener: I've no major issues with mainstream music (but won't pay for it, haha), and I like Sigur Ros.

JenKin Yat said...

well..as a Malaysian, i listen to Dave Matthews Band, The Killers, The Strokes, Ben Folds, Matisyahu, Weezer, Switchfoot, and Third Eye Blind..

haha..how do u rate that =P

B.H. said...

Hi Jenkin,

I see you have listed the stereotypical musical influneces of a mainstream white person. Please see: http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/03/30/93-music-piracy/

Thanks for your comments!

Aisya S. said...


Although I have to disagree with you about starting a conversation with a standard level person... you wouldnt talk about Coldplay at all. Even though Coldplay are popular everywhere else around the world, they are surprisingly not so listened to in our country.

A friend of mine was at the record store the other day, asking when the album's coming out, and the staff there were like, 'hah? new album? X&Y eh?'

And Coldplay songs hardly get any airtime on local radio stations. All we hear these days are Soulja Boy, Usher, My Chemical Romance, those other emo bands... etc etc etc...


Anonymous said...

What we need is an entry about MLTR on its own.

Anonymous said...

Good post.Malaysians never listen to music for the music.There's a whole lot of other reasons behind why they should like or not like a song.

I think you need to do a post about KRU'S patriotic C'mon Lah

Bastards.Oh yeah I freakin hate coldplay.Apple Martin...my ass.

But the Killers and Switchfoot rock.

vertigoblack said...

Wow.. i guess i fall into the advanced group.. it's Shiina Ringo/ Tokyo Jihen for me. She's the Debussy of the 21st century!

Coldplay's music is dull as beige.

HoneyBee said...

Heh... I was hoping this post will touch on the typical sweet-pop-r&b Malaysian music that recycle old "jatuh cinta" and "indahnya cinta" themes and the likes of "cinta" every single time. Maybe next time? Or is it somewhere out there on your blog that I haven't find yet?