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Davis, California

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Variations on a Theme

I like to consider myself a relatively easy-going and tolerant person, but if there’s one thing that I absolutely cannot stand, it’s when people take their anger/bad mood/general douchiness out on other people.

So when I find myself in one of those very rare but inescapable teeth gritting, fist clenching, overall headache-inducing moods, I choose to avoid social interaction altogether and try to appease my doldrums with some easy listening.

Literally.

I’ll share a secret with you: When I’m in a bad mood and my iTunes library just doesn’t cut it the hip-hop becomes too gritty, the pop-punk becomes too whiny and the indie chirpiness gets to be too ingratiatingI know I can count on the smooth radio hits that your parents and mine would approve of.

Honestly, I just don’t know what it is. The generic lyrics about love, the cheesy piano medleys, sweet guitar hooks and the occasional classic saxophone riffs never fail to lift my spirits when I’m being a Debbie Downer.

Lite rock, soft rock, EZ rockall labels aside, I call it an homage to my childhood.

My father, ever a fan of OPM collections (that’s Original Pilipino Music, FYI), instilled in me a strange and embarrassing love for cheesy love ballads and peppy melodies from Filipino pop classics like Jose Mari Chan, Lea Salonga and Gary Valenciano. One of my firstrealconcerts was headlined by Regine Velasquez and Kuh Ledesma. For non-Filipinos, these are singers who have been dubbed asAsia’s SongbirdandThe Pop Diva,respectively. The names alone should be indicative of what kind of music to expect.

Of course, this is America. Like any well-adjusted immigrant coming to the states, my father transitioned his admiration for such Filipino songstresses to more regional artists. He arrived in California during the70s, a poppy, disco-lovindecade. Bell-bottoms and big glasses were his uniform of choice, and artists such as The BeeGees, ABBA and Simon and Garfunkel were his jams.

Unfortunately, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. As much as I’d like to maintain some sort of semblance of cool music prowess and sophisticated taste, the fact that the first thing I searched for when I downloaded uTorrent yesterday was The Ballads by Mariah Carey is really telling of my musical integrity.

And despite years of downplaying my heritage and straightening the ethnicity out of my hair, the Filipino in me has deemed karaoke singing as the standard activity at family parties (second to eating, of course).

Nowadays, the cool thing to own when it comes to karaoke is Magic Mic, which offers a library of over 1000 songs to choose from. At the end of the song, it even gives you a score grading your vocal abilities.

However, these were the pre-Magic Mic days, when laser discs ruled the home karaoke scene and the only validation you had for good singing was the loud cheering of tipsy relatives. After getting the mic from a drunkle whose favorite songs to sing includedCrazy Little Thing Called LoveandLove Boat,my cousins and I would form our own karaoke group to perform renditions of hits such as Michael Jackson’sWe Are the World,” “A Whole New Worldand anything by Whitney Houston.

Besides embarrassing myself with this confession, my overall point is this: Whatever your outlet for the bluescorny pop tunes, twangy country, mid-90s hip-hop slow jamsas long as it makes you happy, that’s all that matters, right?

 

RACHEL FILIPINAS is currently bumpinMariah Carey’s The Ballads. Bring her back to her senses at rmfilipinas@ucdavis.edu.

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