Published on May 22nd, 2013 | by Alan Cross


Why Do Some Technologically Advanced Countries Have Such Bad Taste in Popular Music?

This email arrive from Stefano today:

I just returned from a two week vacation in Israel where we traveled to the north then to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and south of Tel Aviv and throughout our travels I noticed a musical theme and that is that the popular music in Israel is the stuff from the 60’s and 70’s.  

I heard a lot of Beatles being played, the old stuff like “Can’t Buy Me Love.”  I also heard a bit of the Beach Boys and stuff like “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree.” I don’t even know who sings that one but we heard a lot of that genre of music.  

My question for you to ponder if you like, is why, in a country that is so technologically advanced, are they listening to music that is 40 or 50 years old?  

Great question.  Here’s what I wrote back.

Great question about the bad taste in old music in Israel (well, as far as someone from Canada may be concerned.)  I’m in Singapore right now and their taste is even worse.  They seem completely frozen in the 80s–and the BAD 80s.  Rick Astley.  Tiffany.  Billy Ocean. Whitney Houston.  If they wanna rock, it’s Huey Lewis and the News–and even that’s pushing it. 

The best I can figure is that it’s a matter of cultural, social, religious and political differences.  There are many parts of the world that have almost zero experience with what we’d call “classic rock heritage.”  If the society didn’t grow up with the Stones, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, etc., their development vis a vis the rest of the world becomes…well, stunted–at least compared to what we’re familiar with in Canada, the US, the UK and other territories.

Here in Singapore and other areas of SE Asia, rock never had much of a change to penetrate society because of the aforementioned cultural, social, religious and political conditions.  They’re trying to catch up but unless you have millions of people who actually LIVED through the Elvis/Buddy Holly/Beatles/Stones/Zeppelin/Etc eras, you’re going to end up with something different.

Technological progress has nothing to do with it.  There’s a lot more than that when it comes to divining a particular society’s musical preferences.

Anyone want to weigh in on this theory?

About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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5 Responses to Why Do Some Technologically Advanced Countries Have Such Bad Taste in Popular Music?

  1. dheadspaceb says:

    How about this: societies wherein there are continuing day-to-day survival struggles want music to be to a very pleasant escape. Pop music. Non-threatening to the status quo pop music.

    We have also seen the rise of the antidote to pop music… Global Metal.

  2. CQ says:

    'Bad music' is your opinion.
    Right here in Toronto, Canada, Boom (97.3 fm) just ran another all-1980s long weekend – with almost no hard rock, R 'n' B, metal, one-hit wonders (particularly if it was Canadian made), goth rock, nor 'progressive' new wave. This was while I occasionally tuned-in. Lots of Duran Duran, some daringly 'tough' Billy Idol, and Bryan Adams songs. Everything fitted into a generalized pop music for, guessing, a suburban moms' category.

    Over on the local AM dial, Zoomer Radio is about the only music station – they play lite oldies of the 50s 60s and 70s. It must be doing something right.
    You can assume our hot dance playlists of a bunch of other radio stations, simply by watching a few U.S. daily celebrity gossip TV shows.

  3. @oldsouthkyle says:

    I agree with your theory Alan. Not being exposed to something allows you to plead ignorance. As someone who grew up in a small isolated town in NW Ontario, i was ridiculed for my alt rock music tastes in grade school, and lord help anyone who dressed differently than baggy jeans and a No Fear tshirt. It took years of living here and hours of shows like your own to get me up to speed on all the stuff i missed. I didn't really come into my musical tastes until i was at least 27, 8 years removed from my "isolation". I can imagine being a world away would amplify this.

  4. hideaway says:

    From Israel,


    Good music is everywhere, you just have to look for it. I never hear of any of the music I like on the radio. I'm in Niagara, so I've got access to all kinds of radio. I have to find what I like myself.

  5. Chris says:

    Well, I'd take the pop tunes from the 60's and 70's over today's pop crap. Zeppelin vs Black Eyed Peas, Pink Floyd vs Nikki Manaj; heck I'd even take Simon and Garfunkel over Lady Gaga any day. I don't really see where the whole 'bad music thing' is happening. If you ask me, they have better taste then us when it comes to popular music.

    That aside, I agree with your theory Alan.

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