If you ever pick up my iPod it probably won’t take you long to find that my music can be summed up thus: Showtunes – Music in languages other than English – Favourite artists – Random songs.
As an illustration, of my top 25 most played songs, 17 are not English (8 German, 5 Italian, 3 Dutch, 1 Elvish – don’t ask, it’s Enya), and of the total number 11 are showtunes (6 of the 17 non-English tracks).
What started out as a spur of the moment decision to buy a CD of Italian music with my leftover Euros in Venice Treviso airport in 2010 has become a long-lasting passion.
I follow the careers of my favourite foreign artists (Helene Fischer, Eisblume, Leonie Meijer, Laura Pausini) more closely than any performer singing in English – except Within Temptation, who are my major English-singing love, but even then the band members are Dutch!
One of the reasons I love listening to music which isn’t in English is that it’s much less of a distraction. I was a teenager when I started listening to Enya, and when I was revising or doing homework or just couldn’t face the local dance and R&B radio station, I’d find an Enya CD and just lose myself in beautiful background noise, and that sense of needing something unobtrusive has continued through into my love of music I can’t sing to or follow.
I find that once I know the words to a song in English, it’s almost impossible not to sing to it, and stopping myself uses up focus which then can’t be put into whatever I’m doing. Listening to music in another language completely eliminates that problem (except German, which I have a good enough grasp of to sing along to most things once I know them). And, in the same way as I love black and white photography because it gets rid of all the distractions and makes you focus only on what’s in front of you, when you have a moment to just sit and listen properly, songs you don’t understand let you focus entirely on the music and the artist’s voice.
But by far and away my favourite thing about the music I listen to is the beautiful lyrics. Perhaps I’m just not listening to the right English music, but I never find anything as descriptive and stunning in anything I listen to.