Viva la Vida

 Did you read this article when it came out? I think you probably did. I read it here in Buenos Aires, on a friend’s computer I borrowed while she went to tango class. It’s what I was trying to say about Death Cab and Foer only regarding Coldplay, which as far as examples go is a good example.

They’ve become the sonic security-blanket for millions of fans, their tracks sweeping by with the epic solemnity of state funerals, their huge, heartbreaking chord changes sucker-punching you with emotional logic while sapping any anger or political engagement – in the existential sense – that you might otherwise experience.

Something I was not expecting about Buenos Aires is that it sounds like American music: in clubs, in taxis, in internet cafes, on the colectivos. You hear the cumbia and the tango music and the deafing techno, of course, but our music is really the strongest American presence here.
Sidenotes are for when you realize how annoying you are without deleting things
I have, then, heard an alarming amount of Coldplay in the last month (blahblahBritishblahblah). Musically I don’t feel about Coldplay; it is usually the whitest of white noise, sounding the way communion wafers taste. Here, though, it makes me feel things – things like the kind of phantom nostalgia that can’t actually be nostalgia as there are no orginal memories for it to be tied to, magnetizing emotions in the way only the best kind of music does. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t find it intensely irritating, as there is obviously an elitism tied to my indifference to Coldplay: I don’t want to feel about Coldplay because it doesn’t mean anything. To me, or in general. And like the article says, the most dangerous thing about Coldplay is that it pretends to mean something to create the illusion of engagement, which, for me, is the worst kind of art.

I think, though, this explains my current Coldplay reaction. Immediately after reading the Coldplay article, I read this, an expat’s account of the smoke from the campo strikes in Buenos Aires. The last sentence:

We, bleary-eyed tourists stumbling about in Neverland, could only imagine what it feels like to be an unconscious part of something like that.

This is what being here now has been for me. Do you hear in the news about Argentina? I think probably not, and if I weren’t here now I would never have known about the strikes and what this country is going through and has been through, the way we heard nothing about what happened in December 2001 here as we were slightly distracted. Being a tourist in Buenos Aires makes you moderately aware, but it is very distant and easily ignored, if that is what you want. But even if you wanted to know everything – if you read every article on the export taxes and about the different sides, if you brought your pots and pans and marched in the strikes – you could still never, ever know what it is to be a part of something like this. It is not my history.

I think this is what hearing Coldplay reminds me of, though that’s pretty cerebral and very likely more of a way to explain away my embarrassment of having Coldplay make me feel something. But for me their music has always meant disengagement, and hearing it here makes it doubly so, like losing something I never could have had in the first place. This beautiful city has a history I can never be a part of, and that is a sad thing to feel.

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