Thursday, 18 February 2010

"But now I know
She's got a built in ability
To take everything she sees
And now it seems I'm falling, falling for her"

Every day at around 8 am, I listen to 'Invisible Touch' by Genesis. Not once, not twice, but three, four, maybe five times. That is my morning routine.

Please note: this is not a quote from American Psycho.

As you'll see from the photo, this catchy number from the eighties is used as background music by a Japanese (late) breakfast show. I don't watch the weekday TV here, but I do listen to it, and I know it's 8 o'clock when I hear Genesis.

The song accompanies the presenters' lengthy and rather wooden introductions, the latest footage from the Winter Olympics, news clips and guest discussions. It's 8.10 and I'm still hearing it. Now, imagine enduring this for a month. (Before you suggest I change channels: no masochism, no blog.)

It seems strange that in a country where there is a commendable consensus in favour of silence in public transport - no loud ring tones or impossible-not-to-eavesdrop mobile conversations, here - shops and broadcasters source their background music from a rather limited range and then place them on heavy rotation.

Can the presenters actually hear Phil Collins through their microphones? And, if so, is this normal to them? Do they recognise that their lead-in to the latest Japanese figure-skating medal award is being accompanied by a cheesily worded tale of obsession? At any of the last four weeks' editorial meetings, have the programme's chiefs thought of shaking up their BGM armoury? (I was thinking of "you oughtta know" by Alanis Morrisette, for continuity's sake. Come on, the royalty payments can't be too bad, and noone will pick out that line about the cinema.)

I suppose that the advantage of not understanding English in Japan is that anything can become background music. You can play it on a loop, and it won't seem repetitive, because you won't notice the words coming around again. It's like the goldfish-swimming-around-bowl myth. Invisible Touch becomes a 10-minute tour-de-force, an indecipherable Homerian epic in 3, 4, maybe 5 movements.

Furthermore, the Japanese don't have to worry about the semantics of the invisible touch. Does it really matter to Phil Collins whether or not her ability is "built in" or accessorised? And if she's reaching inside, why should we care that her touch is invisible anyway?
Just some of the questions the Japanese are not asking over their natto and miso soup this morning...

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