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One of the things that I find fascinating just about every time I travel around Europe is the music playing in the background in restaurants, bars, hotels, stores, and so forth. It’s not terribly surprising that a bunch of it is American pop music, of course, but I’m frequently caught off-guard by what American pop music is playing.

I wouldn’t pay it much attention at all, I think, if it were relentlessly current — the stuff that’s being pressed on all of us, all the time — but what I hear here is often oddly dated, and yet not anything that would fall into the category of obvious “classics” that could simply fade into the background. There was one summer in Paris, for instance, when we heard George Benson’s Give Me the Night everywhere we went. And not just one song off of the album, which might have rotated onto some weird retro playlist, but the entire album.

Here in Prague, it’s Tracy Chapman’s 1988 eponymous album. In one bar, it played start to finish, but I’ve also heard selections from it in at least three other places here, including our hotel’s lounge — and not just “Fast Car,” but several other singles as well.

What’s that all about? How is it that a 22 year old album rotates back into currency this far from its origins?

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