We See The Differences First

So, I’ve been unwittingly exposed to the back catalog of Shakira over the last few weeks, thanks to her wonderful Try Everything and my sons’ subsequent obsession.

What has amazed me has been hearing her earliest music. What I remember from her first big hits around 15 years ago was a mixture pop with Latin music (and bilingual) and her unusual voice (especially the yodels and throaty sound).

Listening 15 years later, I’m struck by just how much her early music is in the model of Britney Spears, the 800-pound gorilla of late-’90s pop.

I don’t remember that being clear to me at the time, and that led me to this thought: we see the differences first. (Hear, too.)

It’s easy to notice how things are different, and we actually practice that from an early age (Spot The Differences puzzles, anyone?). It can be far more difficult to spot the similarities.

But for our culture to heal itself, it’s essential that we move past seeing how we’re different to seeing how we’re the same.

It wouldn’t hurt to do the same for listening, too: just because music is divided by genres doesn’t mean we need to define music by their differences. James Taylor has much more in common with Frank Sinatra than their listings would have us believe.