Ashley Kronebusch, Staff Writer
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said that “Music is the universal language of mankind.” Even if this is true, and I think it is, it is also true that people’s music tastes do not often go beyond their native tongue. It would not be a stretch to say that the biggest exposure to non-English music for most native English speakers is either through “Despacito” or “Alouette.” This is not an inherently biased behavior, since it is natural for one to want to understand the lyrics of a song so they can sing along to it or gain a deeper understanding. However, this also does not do anything to help the narrow minds of many Americans.
I will be the first to admit that I am not particularly proud of the music I listened to in high school. My YouTube playlist “Video Game Music” was almost 200 videos long, and occupied most of my listening time. It was simple and reminded me of things that made me happy. But in hindsight, it just kept me in my comfortable little bubble. This began to change with an assignment for my Spanish class.
My teacher told us to pick a song that was nominated for a Latin Grammy, research the artist, and then present it to the class. Not recognizing a single name or song on the list, my partner and I chose “Apocaliptico” by an artist called Residente because it sounded the coolest. I reluctantly listened to the song and found myself intrigued. Using the little knowledge of Spanish I had, I could tell that the song described a post-apocalyptic disaster caused by global warming. But the song was not just in Spanish– it also used Chinese in the chorus. Out of curiosity, I did more research and listened to the whole album, also called “Residente.” The project would turn out to be my favorite album of the decade, although I could only understand about half the lyrics at first.
Residente, or René Pérez Joglar, is a Puerto Rican artist who got his start with the reggaeton group Calle 13. In 2017, he went solo and created the album “Residente,” a collaboration with artists across the globe exploring his ancestral past and the planet’s future. I loved it. Since I could not understand all the lyrics, I looked up translations and watched music videos. The song “Guerra” sticks in my mind most, with the music video spending five painstaking minutes showing the horrors of war, which are recontextualized by a gut-wrenching twist ending.
Residente has almost always been an outspoken political advocate, which he continues to be to this day. He was a prominent figure in this year’s protests against Gov. Ricardo Rosselló of Puerto Rico, and he made sure that transgender models were used in the music video for his and Bad Bunny’s song “Bellacoso.” Since I started following Residente more closely, I think I have become more global-minded.
As we approach the New Year and the new decade, many of us will be making our resolutions. I have a simple suggestion for a resolution, and it is a lot easier than going to the gym. Try listening to a song or two in a language that you do not understand or that you are still learning. There is a whole world out there right at your fingertips thanks to the spread of streaming services, and it would be a pity to stay in your little comfortable corner. Pop that bubble, and maybe you will be surprised by what you find outside.