By: Patricia Kusumaningtyas |
The very thing we noticed the first time when Indonesian rock band Reality Club’s first single in two years was released is its intriguing title. It’s a play on two words: “telenovela,” which is a television genre popular in Latin America that’s close to a soap opera, and “novia,” the Spanish word for “lover.” Although Latin America might seem so far away, the concept of telenovelas are close to the hearts of Indonesian listeners—some of us grew up watching Indonesian-dubbed telenovelas in our local television, and some even adapted to Indonesian sinetrons. These forms of entertainment are loud, sappy, exaggerated, and often melodramatic. In “Telenovia,” Reality Club takes this concept of melodrama and puts it into a hapless relationship.
The strange thing about “Telenovia” is that it presents itself very beautifully. The multilayered guitar riffs brings an intense bout of nostalgia—like a California road trip shot through film. On top of that, there were violins, which totally brings home the idea of a summer coastal getaway. But soon, as you pay attention to the lyrics, this nostalgia turns to confusion. “All along the west, we look to the east,” guitarist Faiz Novascotia sang over the instrumentation, telling the story of the wrong time and the wrong place through cardinal directions. Vocalist Fathia Izzati takes another metaphor in the equation: “Wrestling till the monochrome moonlight / It’s a shade that we will never be.” The song’s refrain takes us into the protagonist’s journey wrestling this confusion, while also making references to the song’s large influence of Latin American soap operas: “I crave to hear the fiction when you call.” The song’s lyrics doesn’t give us a clear resolution towards this confusion; the refrain itself ends with “Our alibi’s mistaken / But I’m so lost and taken / Don’t set me straight.” “Telenovia” is showing us that some things in life are not meant to be resolved and cracked open directly—much like soap operas and its dwindling strip programming that will not seem to end any time in the near future.
The very core of “Telenovia” lays in its spoken interlude—a conversation between Faiz and Fathia in Spanish, mirroring that of a telenovela, over a gradual buildup of violins and guitars. Reality Club is taking this reality of heartbreak and emptiness and putting it in parallel with a scene from a soap opera. Is real life just as absurd as primetime TV? They seem to agree on that. The song ends with the violins alone, contrasting the song’s beginning that starts with guitars alone. Has the drama taken away the rationale? The protagonist of the song is definitely lost; we are holding their hand and they are taking us into the show. In the five minutes and twenty seconds of “Telenovia,” we are living this telenovela as they are.