Pop music coexists with work and leisure almost everywhere in the Global World. It’s abundantly available through the radio, the Internet and new technologies and an almost inevitable presence in many taxicabs, stores, bars, hotels and restaurants. If one tries to avoid hearing pop music in any of today’s modern cities, it’s practically impossible without wearing earplugs. Lyrics are learned by heart somewhat effortlessly and favorite songs can be sung repeatedly for years –even decades–, so it seems reasonable to consider the subliminal influence of pop music on its listeners, many of whom might inadvertently shape their mentality and social interactions according to lyrics written by someone as unconventional as, say, Prince or Amy Winehouse.
Pop music fans usually take to their hobby at an early age, many indulging in it for a lifetime. Though outstanding contemporary poetry can be found in pop music, the highbrow attitude toward it is either of rejection or neglect. Intellectuals tend to complain about poetry being almost extinct, but while Bob Dylan has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature every year since 1996, the staunch eighteen members of the Swedish Academy seem to consider the pop-song format incompatible with poetry. Dylan himself has referred to Smokey Robinson as his preferred poet and in 1971 wrote half-jokingly: “I’m a poet and I know it”. All in all, today’s most commercially successful artform is rejected by academic minorities who appear to be cut off from a reality radiating poetry from every nook.
This summer Madrid has inaugurated the “Mad Cool Festival”, a giant pop-and-rock-music event at the Caja Mágica, with The Who, Neil Young, Editors and the local band Vetusta Morla performing at five indoor and outdoor stages. Voltaire would have said that poetry is the music of the soul.
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Ian Bremmer –politólogo estadounidense de origen alemán y armenio, columnista de “Time” y “Financial Times”, fundador de la consultoría multinacional Eurasia Group– es un personaje relevante en Twitter, donde opina con fundamento e ironía sobre la actualidad internacional. El 9 de agosto brindaba a sus casi 200.000 seguidores un polémico tuit con una foto de Ibtihaj Muhammad, esgrimista estadounidense que, tras ganar una modesta medalla de bronce, ha acaparado la atención de la prensa occidental. Bremmer aquilataba con el laconismo característico de Twitter: “Ibtijab Muhammad, primera estadounidense olímpica con hiyab” y apostillaba que “Estas cosas dan sentido a nuestros Juegos Olímpicos”.
When traveling around the world one is astonished to discover that football is –in the eyes of many– a country’s main defining component. In Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, hundreds of taxi-drivers are fans of Real Madrid or Barça and know the smallest details about Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, even though they will never travel the 12,000 kilometers from Southeast Asia to Southern Europe. Can the essence of a nation really be fathomed through its sports teams?