Thursday, June 3, 2010

10 Days with Europe's Top 10 Pop Music Scenes. #4.

Are you beginning to see a pattern? I promise to reveal all in a future analysis of just how things wound up the way they did. For now, we continue our countdown.

Number 4: Slovakia. 9.93% GREEN (9.93% of that country's charting songs earned top marks on my spreadsheet)

Despite having been conjoined as "Czechoslovakia" for most of the 20th century, the now-separated Czech Republic and Slovakia cannot be culturally lumped together. A fair number of Czech and Slovak musicians surface on both country's pop charts, but most artists from those countries are more likely to appear on only one chart or the other. Last night I reviewed the last five weeks of both countries' top 100 charts and found that they had only 28% of their songs in common with one another during that period.

Both countries' local music scenes are characterized by a more laid-back, Central European sound, which is to say a greater emphasis on rock and jazz influences--very little in the way of ostentation or flash. One might say that the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia are more inclined to "play it safe" with their pop; I'd say they exhibit class, subtlety, and tasteful restraint. (Of course, as with all music scenes, rowdier exceptions pop up from time to time to liven up the proceedings.)

It's when you also consider the international artists appearing on their pop charts that Slovakia winds up with a definite edge, charts-wise, over its neighbors. I fiddled with music chart spreadsheets in an effort to determine the reasons for Slovakia's superiority over the Czech Republic, and I even examined both countries' demographics seeking clues (perhaps the higher level of "fun" on Slovakia's charts is a reflection of Slovakia's lower average age and higher birth rate?), but I couldn't make any convincing correlations. It seems the Slovakian pop chart is just more enjoyable for me on some subjective level that cannot be quantified. However, I did uncover one demerit for the Czech Republic.*

Some tracks from the last couple of years, plus a bonus 2006 number from Dara Rolins, since it's one of my favorite trash tunes:

Dara Rolins and Robo Papp - Chuť si ťa nájde
Knechtová Katka - Môj Bože
Kristína - Horehronie
PapaJaM - Nemusíš Sa Bá
Zdenka Predná - Kam Má Ísť?

* "In the summer of 2008, the Czech Radio Board terminated Radio Wave, which had catered to a younger audience. Council members’ arguments against the station—based partly on an incorrect translation of one supposedly corruptive song—indicated an overall lack of tolerance for alternative music and lifestyles." (from pages 191-192 of the 2009 edition of Nations in Transit, Freedom House's annual review of levels of freedom in Eastern European and Eurasian countries). The "supposedly corruptive song" was alleged by the Council to be fascist propaganda. It was Scottish rock band Primal Scream's "Swastika Eyes," which, despite the exciting title, is certainly not a fascist song. However, it may be dangerously groovy.

The rest of the countdown so far:

#5: Bulgaria
#6: Sweden
#7: Lithuania
#8: Ukraine
#9: Slovenia
#10: The Netherlands

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