x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Muzak: a case of the bland leading the bland

The unvarying nature of muzak in public places suggests a great corporate conspiracy to rob us of all musical sensibility.

Maybe it was a secret decree. The way I imagine the scene is that a powerful group of executives converge in a hidden location to make decisions that slowly cause irreparable damage to our mental health.

This is the only way to explain that no matter where you are around the globe, the same muzak can be heard wafting from hotel lobbies, waiting rooms, lavatories and lifts.

Whether you are having a breakfast meeting at a Jakarta hotel or waiting for the dentist in a north Melbourne clinic you can always find the saccharine notes of Kenny G covering Celine Dion cooing from invisible speakers.

Trying to compose yourself on a lift on the way up for that job interview? Here is some Enya to increase your blood pressure.

Since my recent arrival in Abu Dhabi, I have been living short-term in a hotel. It took me only two weeks to memorise the CD collection played during breakfast.

At the start of the week, bleary-eyed guests are softened up with Kenny G's Greatest Hits. Midweek, they are assaulted with the Goo Goo Dolls. The pièce de résistance is the weekend treat of Celine Dion.

It was only when I started paying attention that I realised these artists have unwittingly soundtracked a sizeable chunk of my life, primarily all the parts involving a wait of some sort.

It also awoke the conspiracy theorist in me. Maybe this is some plan hatched by music executives who realised that, while these artists might have been consigned to ridicule in many quarters, they could still be foisted on the unsuspecting in public spaces.

Sadly, the damage looks increasingly irreparable. The public has now named this stuff "elevator music", and, once defined, it's accepted with a shrug.

More maddeningly, many people can recognise Kenny G's saxophone stylings yet remain ignorant of John Coltrane.

So here are a few musical suggestions for those who want their business to possess some sense of individuality.

Firstly, add Coltrane's Ballads to the mix. It is a beautifully stirring album yet not offensive to mild tastes.

Ditch Shania Twain and add a dash of Billie Holiday, particularly her reasonably happy period, circa early 1940s, for that touch of class.

And if people insist on some twang, then yes, even Dolly Parton will do.

Believe me, I could list more, but the addition of these artists alone would begin to make the world a better place.

Of course, maybe I have spent too many breakfasts alone and should revert to being oblivious to it all. But I suspect the minute I succumb, that secret meeting will erupt in loud cheers, happy to have finally anaesthetised another victim.