Some of the nation’s top singers and musicians are losing out on royalties because airlines are playing their songs without coughing up adequate payment-that’s what Sony Music is claiming in its lawsuit against United Airlines. The record label says the carrier has been playing music by Michael Jackson, Carrie Underwood, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, among others, in breach of copyright.
While it’s standard practice for airlines to make music available to passengers through the inflight entertainment system, Sony is complaining that United is breaching copyright by duplicating sound recordings and music videos and then uploading these illegal copies to servers on its planes.But it’s not just newer music that’s causing a stir. Sony says it isn’t happy that airlines are playing older music by artists like Jimi Hendrix and Aretha Franklin. Copyright laws surrounding music created before the 1970s are a bit hazy, but the record label is going after the airline for that too. Sony wants to stop all the music and is seeking damages from United.
Has science or popular culture coined a term for the phenomenon of the random playing of a song that perfectly describes a travel situation or mood? Probably. But whatever it is or isn’t called, this scenario is something that, once in a great while, happens to all of us when we’re traveling.
I’m not talking about favorite road trip songs or music you queue up to fit the destination. Allow me to provide you with three key examples from my own experience. Note that sometimes it’s not so much the meaning of the song, but its title.
Exhibit A: My college boyfriend, and first love, had just dumped me, and I was despondent. A good friend had invited me to seek refuge at his family’s gorgeous homestead in Santa Cruz; as I tooled up Highway 101, I felt hopeful for the first time in weeks. Dusk fell, and I approached the wooded exit for my friend’s house, when Temple of the Dog’s “Say Hello to Heaven” came on. I literally had to pull over, I was so blown. As a side note, shortly before we broke up, my ex and I were driving to a concert, and Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell” played. Hmmm.
Exhibit B: One year later, I made the colossal decision to leave a stagnant life earning minimum wage in California, and go to culinary school in Vail, Colorado. No sooner had I crossed the LA County line when X’s “Los Angeles (She had to leave/Los Angeles)” blasted from my radio.
Exhibit C: Five days later, I descended the steep pass into Vail, gaping at the slender waterfalls cascading onto the valley floor. “Follow Your Bliss” by the B-52’s began to play. To this day, I’ve never felt so much certainty about a life choice. That year in Vail was incredible, and ultimately, led to a career in food and travel writing.
I asked my fellow Gadlingers what songs define travel moments for them, and their answers were all over the (ahem) map. For more on Pam Mandel’s exile in not-quite post-Soviet Leningrad and Robin Whitney’s quest for a fresh start, read on after the jump:Pam Mandel:“Hotel California.” Just click on the link; you’ll be glad you did.
Jessica Marati: “Under Pressure,” by David Bowie, while walking the streets of New York City.
Robin Whitney: I’d been eyeing a move to California for some time, but everyone in Chicago would tell me awful stories about the “fakeness” of LA, or some other negative opinion about how sick I’d get of the good weather [Laurel here. As a recent refugee of Seattle, I find it hard to believe these Chicagoans actually love their climate. Sun: Good. Gray, cold and wind: Bad.] and, in their words, “lack of culture.”
In late April, I was visiting my brother in North Hollywood, stuck in epic traffic, and feeling defeated. Then a preview of Best Coast’s new CD came on, featuring “The Only Place (Why would you live anywhere else/We’ve got the ocean, got the babes/Got the sun, we’ve got the waves).” It lifted my spirits instantly, and I decided I deserve a year of exploring a new city, so I’ll be looking at apartments soon.
Sean McLachlan: My first solo road trip was also my first cross-country trip. I was driving across the Sonora Desert, when Blue Oyster Cult’s “Last Days of May” came on (Parched land no desert sand/Sun was just a dot/And a little bit of water goes a long way, ’cause it’s hot/Three good buddies were laughing and smoking in the back/Of a rented ford/They couldn’t know they weren’t going far). If you read all the lyrics to the song, you’ll learn why it likely made an impression on young Sean.
Melanie Renzulli: Just about every time I drive into New York, “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z starts to play. I’ll also always associate Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” with the first time I visited Germany, because it was playing in the shuttle on the way to ground transportation in Frankfurt. I was an exchange student, it was my first trip overseas, and Springsteen was on? It blew my mind.
Got any defining travel song moments? Share them with us!
[Photo credits: Paris With Love, Flickr user Epiclectic; Hotel California, Flickr user saguayo]
From the 15th century Portuguese explorers to the overconfident 18-year old who crosses the ocean with a loaded iPod, travelers are always in the business of exchanging things: ideas, food, fashion, genes and diseases. Music is right up there, and with the ease of the MP3, we freely unload playlists to one another like apples in a market.
When I look over some of the best music I own, I realize that I only discovered these bands/musicians from traveling away from home, well outside my own musical comfort zone. Certain bands are universal, others still quite local (or were, once upon a time), but despite iTunes attempts to drench us all in far-reaching world tastes, some music is still homegrown. Here’s a quick (and personal) top ten of my own discoveries accompanied by a slew of cheesy YouTube clips for your listening pleasure. Trentemøller (Denmark) Something about dark, electronic music and the Nordic countries go hand in hand. Trentemøller has become a legendary DJ who plays across the globe, but had I never gone to Denmark, I would have waited five years for his music to work its way across the Atlantic.
Zero Degree Atoll (Maldives) I met the lead singer of this band in his home country of The Maldives, right after he performed a chilling cover or R.E.M’s “Losing My Religion”. Though he masters Led Zeppelin and his favorite band is Jethro Tull, his own music is sung in the Dhivehi languages and combines the local blend of Arabic and Indian influences.
Cheb Hasni (Algeria) You can’t visit North Africa and not hear the signature sounds of Algerian Raï music blaring in the chaotic streets of the medina, day and night. Cheb Hasni is king of the genre–an Algerian man, who with his band, cultivated a global following before he was murdered by Islamic fundamentalists in 1994. I caught on to Cheb Hasni in Morocco and despite regular online research, have yet to listen to every one of his songs that make up his prolific discography. Lasairfhíona Ní Chonaola (Ireland) Sometimes when you’re traveling, you just have to take a chance and buy a random CD from the locals. I picked up Lasairfhiona in Ireland’s windswept Aran Islands some 7 years ago and have been listening to this Gaelic singer ever since. I don’t know any other music that captures the spirit of a place like she does.
Faye Wong/ 王菲 (Hong Kong) Anyone who’s been jetlagged in Asia knows the thrill of watching hour after hour of sappy karaoke-style MTV all night long. And yet, I actually discovered Faye in a discount bin in New York City’s Chinatown and had to wait until YouTube came around to take in her full repertoire, which is extremely vast. Somedays she the Chinese Celine Dion, other days the Asian Alanis Morissette–Faye is constantly reinventing herself and loves to do Cantonese covers of western indie classics. So don’t judge too quickly–Faye grows on everybody.
Architecture In Helsinki (Australia) Admittedly, big city Melbourne’s got a pretty crazy independent music scene but Architecture in Helsinki might just be the trippiest of them all. Going on a decade strong, the bizarre musical set-ups of AIH evokes a lot of “What?” reactions while still gaining global fans for their deliciously infectious, irresistibly toe-tapping and hip-shaking songs. As ambassadors from down under, AIH begs the question, is Australia an actual country or just a constant spaced-out party?
For a Minor Reflection (Iceland) Four 20 year-old dudes wailing thoughtfully on guitars. It’s a tried-and-true recipe but somehow, this post-rock band from Reykjavík adds something wonderfully new, delivering long, drawn-out ballads completely devoid of lyrics. Heard them first at Iceland Airwaves, which might be the greatest music festival in the world.
Marisa Monte (Brazil) Fairly popular in Brazil and France, I only came upon Marisa myself while passing through South America earlier this year. Her voice, songwriting, rhythms and melodies fall slightly outside the typical Latin American canon, which is why she’s succeeded in crossing over to an international following.
Springbok Nude Girls (South Africa) Compelling band name and even more compelling music, there’s not a South African out there who doesn’t have a strong opinion about these guys, thumbs up or down. That’s why I started listening to them in London, where there are more South Africans than Brits, I think. Springbok’s broke up a few years back but are apparently back together and playing sold-out gigs in South Africa right now.
Iryna Bilyk (Ukraine) Countries with dysfunctional governments always promise a steady flow of talented artists, and after living there for several years, I can say without irony that Ukraine is no exception. Of the many divas that rock Ukraine’s airwaves, Iryna Bilyk is the most classic–a kind of bottle-blond Slavic Madonna that plays in every cab in Kiev. Like the actual Amereican Madonna, Iryna caused no small scandal when the 40-year old singer married her 22-year old backup dancer. This song is called, “I’m not sorry.”
Feel free to add your own great musical finds in the comments below–Just make sure it’s music you discovered while traveling abroad.(If you spam me with your favorite Beyoncé or Coldplay clip, the world will know that you don’t even own a passport.) Thanks!
I’ve recently found myself in the midst of quite a few road trips, and nothing helps the miles go by like fantastic tunes. And beautiful scenery, of course. This week, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite jams to keep humming in the background while cruising around America’s finest scenic byways, and it just so happens that every single one of them relates directly to travel. Some might say a travel writer gravitates towards tunes such as these, but we’re chalking it up to a beautiful run-in with Ms. Serendipity.
Fire this up on your Android smartphone the next time you’re out and about on the open road, and see if any of these lyrics stir your soul, strike your fancy or just take you back. Wherever back may be. Just about everywhere is covered here, to multiple boroughs of New York City, to the fine lines of North Carolina, to the wild freeways of Germany, to the sweet tea-servin’ shacks of Georgia, to the ever-changing landscapes of California. And with that, we’ll see you on the pavement!
What’s the one thing that connects all people in every country on Earth? If you said “a dislike for Crocs footwear,” that’s a good guess but you’re wrong. It’s music.
Yes, before television or the internet or even the written word, there has always been music. A country’s music is an extremely important component of its culture, but it’s often neglected by travelers, even those who wish to truly experience the place they’re visiting.
Now, I’m not saying you should load up your iPod with two-hundred-year-old polkas and mazurkas and Gregorian chants. Those are neglected for good reason, in my opinion. (Sorry Mrs. Peters, my eighth-grade Music Appreciation teacher.) No, I’m referring to a country’s popular music– its rock bands, folk singers, indie artists, and even its bubblegum pop.
Sure, you’ll probably hear more Bob Marley or Guns ‘n Roses than anything else on your trip, depending on where you go, but most countries have scores of talented local artists. The trick is knowing where to find them. For my money, the folks over at Perceptive Travel have the best reviews and recommendations of world music that you’ll ever come across. Head on over there to check out what they have to say about your next destination.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer a few of my own recommendations on international songs. Here are a couple of my favorites, with their country of origin in parentheses:
Cambodia meets Los Angeles, literally, in the band Dengue Fever. Lead singer Chhom Nimol, straight out of the musical mecca that is Cambodia, combines her unique voice with LA’s Zac Holtzman’s on this song about love separated by a world but connected– barely– by a phone card.
Slate’s Stephen Metcalf calls Swedish singer-songwriter Jens Lekman a “fully realized pop genius.” His song “A Postcard to Nina” illustrates the typically quirky, funny, and often poignant Jens Lekman tune.
For musical chart-toppers from all over the world, go here. For streaming audio from everywhere, try this.
And be sure to check out Gadling’s series Sounds of Travel for more great songs.