Torsten, I don’t think American companies invest more money into British pop groups than into American ones. Do you have concrete numbers for this? If they’re doing it, it may be because we’ve entered a boring phase, which happens once a decade or so.
One thing that happens in the United States is that you get music running in cycles. You’ll have some appealing sort of music burst onto the scene, and it will get very popular, but then the industry starts to package it, or something else they want to push on us, and most of the pop music on the market gets fake and boring. Then suddenly something else comes out that the producers don’t have that much control over, and things get interesting again, only to get boring later for a few years.
Historical examples: The lively jazz and swing scene of the 1940s gave in to a very boring (I consider it almost morbid) phony pop style in the early 1950s. Kids got sick of this, and in the mid-1950s rock & roll got popular. The industry got more control of rock & roll, and then things got boring again (except for Motown music from my native city and some things from Philadelphia). When things got thoroughly boring, the British Invasion started, which was pretty much just an imitation of what Americans were doing in the late 1950s, combined with some bad imitations of Motown (the Beatles did the most outrageous job of massacring soul music, really awful!). At the same time, the country scene had also gotten boring, and Buck Owens and some other musicians from Bakersfield, California, performed almost he same function that the Beatles did, which was to make the music hillbilly and fun again. This mid-1960s stuff gave way to the psychedelic stuff (and in my city the forerunners of punk music), but around 1973 the industry got more control again, and things were boring again until Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and some punk groups appeared about five years later.
Spencer, the music you’re describing that you think makes the scene in Europe so cool is another aspect of the European music scene that is funny to Americans. To come up with a hit in Europe, you don’t even have to be able to write songs. All you need to do is get the right disco or techno beat, include one English phrase that even beginners can understand, and repeat and repeat that phrase again and again. American music that is that shallow will often go right down the toilet here, but it will get wildly popular in Europe. Hearing the same three idiotic phrases repeated over and over, pouring out of every radio and out the front door of every discotheque, everywhere you go, gives Americans a very goofy impression of the European music scene.
And if the US is such a backwater, then explain to me why once a year my city of Detroit holds a techno music festival that fills up with Europeans who claim that techno music STARTED in Detroit and think of the city as some kind of Mecca, which by any normal measure it wouldn’t be.
I don’t agree that Germans are bad at popular music. It depends on what you mean by the term. I’ve always thought that Herbert Gr?nemeyer is good, and there are current German groups that I think are really terrific.
It may seem strange that a 10-year-old European hit would get popular in Canada, but it’s not unprecedented for some American hit to get popular in Europe 15 or 20 years after it was originally released. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I think it’s healthy.