Why Does American Music Rock Elsewhere?

Other cultural mores contribute to the success of American acts as well, critics said. American audiences aren't used to seeing stars operate across media, while in Japan, even filmmakers like Woody Allen do commercials, Hyson said.

Sarah McGarr, who runs Dhasselhoff.net, a Web site for fans of the Knight Rider star, said she thought this was the case for Hasselhoff. "Coming from a show about a talking car, and Baywatch, it's really hard to move into a singing career," she said.

But if American mores have prevented Hasselhoff from succeeding at home, it has also helped him win fans abroad. Hasselhoff falls easily into the uniquely German genre of Schlager music, a "mannered form" that combines rock 'n' roll arrangements with lounge singing, said Robert Fisher, lead singer of the alt-country band, Willard Grant Conspiracy.

Fisher, whose band has also found more popularity in Europe than at home, said Hasselhoff is not the only American act to fill a niche in a foreign market.

A number of heavy metal bands have found increased success in Scandinavia, because of the sort of pagan imagery that's more familiar there, said Fisher. "They can get away with the sort of heavy mythology that would scare the hell out of parents here," he said.

Similarly, few Americans have heard of the New York-born and -based singer Anastacia, or her brand of soulful dance music. But she is a star in Europe, having sold some 10 million albums.

"A lot of times that Europop sound is too cool for the room in America," Rice, the music director said. "You've got a whole country out there. These people would rather listen to the Goo Goo Dolls," he said.

Fisher also cited another reason why U.S. acts might take to Europe better than home — the quality of the audiences. He said he's found European audiences to be more faithful. "In the United States, more than anywhere else, music is a disposable thing," he said.

Experts say that such cultural exchanges have been taking place for a long time — especially in the world of jazz, which is an American art form, but has a much wider following in Europe. "Historically, it's not an unusual thing," Fisher said.

A Fairer Model of Globalization

The principles of cultural exchange also work the other way around — that Americans have eschewed many acts that the rest of the world find popular, or adopted some of their less-popular ones.

Stars like Jimi Hendrix, Macy Gray, Kylie Minogue — and mega-star boy band *NSYNC only became popular in the United States after making it abroad, critics said.

Even entire genres — like techno and house music — needed to be adopted abroad before they were adopted at home, said Schuyler Brown, of marketing firm Euro RSCG Worldwide.

Most people identify the thudding beats with British dance clubs but the forms were actually invented in the American Midwest, she said. "We love what's exotic and foreign," she said. "Entire genres look better reflected through another culture."

Similarly, American jazz musicians may go abroad to find fans, but Japanese jazz musicians come to New York to get credibility, said Singer, who manages the career of his Japanese-born jazz singer wife, Chika.

And while millions of Americans count themselves fans of the bands Def Leppard, Bush, and Depeche Mode — the British acts have only been modestly successful at home. "Everybody has their sweet spot," Rice said.

Hyson, the pop-culture expert, noted "it would be nice if there was some clean formula." But he and others agreed that the only formula to be learned is that the whole world counts when it comes to music.

"You have to think globally when you're [music industry bigwig and Sony Records President] Tommy Mottola," Rice said.

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 79889.
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...