Int’l hits are dominating the charts, Tommy Robinson isn’t happy

How, in an age of Brexit and Trump, are the UK music charts more culturally diverse than ever before?

It won’t surprise anyone to read that, historically, we Brits are notoriously stubborn when it comes to our listening habits. We claimed ignorance in the face of Nena’s ’99 Luftballons’ until we received a suitable translation. Pop juggernaut Shakira was denied airplay until she began releasing songs in English. Hits like ‘Macarena’ and ‘Gangnam Style’ were celebrated as novelties, but reserved for wedding receptions and primary school discos.

2017 marked a huge shift – a ‘Despa-sea change’ if you will. Seemingly from nowhere, a reggaeton track sung almost entirely in Spanish became the most streamed song in history. Two years on, K-pop bands are selling out UK venues and British artists are desperate to cash in on the newfound popularity of bilingual bops. The likes of Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber, who have long comprised the bread and butter of mainstream pop, have more recently found themselves either scrambling to source collaborators or desperately dusting off Spanish GCSEs. Why the sudden change?

The most obvious answer is streaming. Services like Spotify and Apple Music democratise the industry – new music is authentically ‘discovered’, as opposed to being spoon-fed to the listener by the powers that be. When British people have access to music from all over the world, the charts begin to reflect this level of genuine choice.

The second, most important factor, is that listeners tend to think with their feet – their dancing feet, that is. As we gradually become less squeamish about lyrics we don’t fully understand, we’re gravitating more and more towards music that makes us feel, rather than think. It doesn’t matter what they say, it’s how they say it at the end of the day which is not a bad thing in my book.

Without a doubt, this surge of cross-cultural music is not only pleasing to hear – it’s also important. In today’s political climate, I’m glad we’re at least keeping musical borders open. Music can cross anything and everyone, you can listen and learn how to live.

To celebrate the power of music from afar, here’s a curated playlist by yours truly.

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