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Miami: Muse Of The Mediocre?

Marc Averette via Wikimedia Commons

Recently, long time Miami resident and author Dave Barry joined us for Writers on a New England Stage and he spoke a lot, as he always does, about his wacky adopted home:

"I think of myself as sort of an ambassador for the city of Miami - which needs an ambassador because it doesn't have a good reputation.

Indeed. Miami has a reputation for violent crime, drug running, hard drinking, nightclubbing, and flimsy dress. Even still, Miami could claim the moniker of "muse," inspiring a number of artists to devote songs to the metropolis. When you consider some of the results, though, you have to wonder just where the muse went wrong. Results like Jan Hammer's Miami Vice theme song, a full-on assault of synthesizer firmly date-stamped 1980s; or "Miami," one of the few songs in which the Counting Crows curse - perhaps speaking to the city's degenerating influence?

Does Miami only inspire bad music? Let's take a look through her pantheon:

U2 - "Miami"


Painfully amelodic, this song doesn't make sense in any way - not musically, lyrically, or logically. Is it the worst song U2 has ever penned? Quite possibly. And these are the people who garnered a hit counting poorly in Spanish. Uno, dos, tres, fourteen, indeed.

Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine - "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You"


While no match for the video for "Bad Boy" in which Gloria shrugs off a boring date only to be cornered by what appears to be the cast of Cats wearing Beatle boots, Estefan's tribute to the propensity of Latin beats to elicit spontaneous dancing is one of the more insidious earworms in history. This song is gonna get you ... tonight.

Flo Rida - "We Already Won" (the Miami Heat anthem)


"We already won … ain't no need to play no more games"

There goes Flo Rida (it's Florida - get it?), flying in the face of the entire philosophy of sport, in which it is believed that no contest is a foregone conclusion and "that's why they play the game." At least that's what my father keeps telling me. Also, "you're talking' about a winner, no L in the bag" is a bold statement, considering that the Heat, who ultimately took home the 2011-2012 NBA championship, chalked up 20 Ls in the regular season.

Sander Kleinenberg - "This Is Miami"


Apparently, club-going denizens of Miami need to be continually reminded where they are and are not. But I'm sure when the song finally chants out "This ... Is ... Miami," a full five minutes in, it really brings the house down.

Will Smith - "Miami"


I have confirmed through the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles that you cannot legally get WILLYSTYLE license plates. This is unfortunate for all the "$100,000 cars" that "everybody's got." Well, everybody except the 18% of Miami-Dade County living below the poverty level, right? While amalgamating all the high-rolling, flashy stereotypes of the city into one big mess that shouts "I've never ventured past South Beach," Smith also manages to come off as culturally insensitive, endlessly leaning on easy Latina tropes. ¡Ay mami!

Even Miami's most famous retirees, The Golden Girls, initially had difficulty finding the right words to sing the praises of Miami - verbal prowess of English teacher Dorothy Sbornak aside:


Hmm. Not good.

Still, legendary actors Sidney Poitier and Ben Vereen, Jeff Lindsay's lovable serial killer Dexter Morgan, and more world-class athletes than I could possibly name all hail from Miami. Should you want to hear traditional sounds from across the globe without venturing off the continent, this uberdiverse city should be at the top of your list. It may be that pop music is this muse's major failing and her other cultural exports are decidedly up to par.

Well, on second thought ... she can keep David Caruso.

Sara has been a part of NHPR since 2011. Her work includes data visualizations, data journalism, original stories reported on the web, video, photos and illustrations. She is responsible for the station's visual style and print design, as well as the user experience of NHPR's digital platforms.

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