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Davis, California

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Variations on a Theme

The other day I logged onto Facebook and read:Susan Boyle: 3 of your friends are fans.

I squinted at the picture next to the notification: A middle-aged woman with bushy eyebrows, frizzy curly hair and a microphone in hand. Nothing to write home about, right?

Evidently not.

One Wikipedia search later, I found out that this mysterious woman was an amateur Scottish singer who appeared as a contestant on the latest season ofBritain’s Got Talent,the accented and therefore more charming British counterpart to FOX’sAmerican Idol.

Apparently it’s common knowledge that a lack of standard good looks also indicates a lack of talent, because people were blown away with Boyle’s rendition ofI Dreamed a Dreamfrom Les Miserables. Each of the judges, including the curmudgeon Simon Cowell, gave her a resounding yes, and she moved on to the next round.

Besides a faint recognition of Kelly Clarkson,American Idol is as foreign to me as, say, East German trance. However, despite my lack of pop-culture-fairy-tales-can-come-true-via-crappy-reality-shows prowess, I can appreciate a good underdog when I see one.

I’ve always had a soft spot for these so-called underdogs, the dark horses, the long shots, the Cinderella stories. (For those who find these clichéd terms useless, an underdog is defined asa competitor thought to have little chance of winning a fight or contest a person who has little status in society.)

For example, while all the girls in my sixth grade clique loved Justin Timberlake, I was a J.C. Chasez girl. (Not that that’s a difficult choice; if I were a nobler person, Chris Kirkpatrick would have been my man). Forget Heath Ledger10 Things I Hate About You had me swooning over the sweet but slightly awkward Joseph Gordon-Levitt. John Cusack, always a favorite of mine, made a name for himself playing lovable loser Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything My favorite author, Haruki Murakami, spins stories of unassuming and seemingly unimpressive protagonists.

I’ve also always felt a tinge of empathy for the bad guy. Alan Rickman falling to his death in Die Hard, Dennis Hopper in Speed? They both got my sympathy. And it isn’t just reserved for fallen adversaries in cheesy late80s/early90s action flicks: When I was little, I always felt genuinely bad for all the Disney villains, with the exception of Ursula in The Little Mermaid.

But have my underdog-loving tendencies also transferred to my musical preferences? Aren’t independent artists, labels and record stores the underdogs to established artists, major labels and big box stores?

Maybe that’s why I choose Atmosphere over Eminem for my white rapper fix, Neko Case over Taylor Swift for my country cravings and Robyn over Lady GaGa when I have my dance pop urges. Conversely, that’s probably why I feel guilty when I admit to things like religiously watchingThe Hillson MTV, being slightly intrigued at the Hannah Montana movie trailer or saying that my new favorite jam isKiss Me Thru the Phoneby Soulja Boy TellEm.

Then again, I could just be overestimating the value of the underestimated. Maybe I’m being too generous, or maybe my tastes are overrated. After all, some of my other favorite artists are mainstream, major label whores, and I probably don’t support the little guy as much as I should. Bummer.


RACHEL FILIPINAS is killing skeeter eaters left and right. Distract her at rmfilipinas@theaggie.org. 



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