Likens: 9/11, Nashville destroyed country music
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 01:10
I’ve always wondered what it must feel like to have a loved one brutally murdered. Although I’ve never experienced such a thing, I imagine it would be infinitely worse to have their final, piercing screams broadcast over radio stations for years thereafter, catching you off-guard every now and then as you browse innocently through the channels. Of course, I need not just imagine that because I’ve seen it done before.
This brings us to today’s country music, specifically about how Sept. 11, 2001 killed it.
Maybe it wasn’t so foreseeable in the 90s. Jeff Foxworthy had only recently reclaimed the word “redneck” for positive use, Toby Keith was still making respectable music and Garth Brooks was rocking “The Thunder Rolls,” unaware of his impending thunder-thighs. With the 21stcentury came 9/11, and with that, an onslaught of ‘merica-themed country music.
At the head of the pack, the “Angry American” could be considered the poster child for this movement. Like most I enjoyed it but then again, I also enjoy bubble wrap and dirty words. Despite how fun it is, I acknowledge it is an incredibly stupid, comically nationalistic song. Despite a sudden and enormous decline in the quality of further albums, Keith’s career was bigger than ever, riding the wave into a new, untapped demographic.
The nincompoop. Whereas country had once been the music culturally relevant to rural areas, it quickly transformed into a flamboyant exaggeration of what it represented. As with all cultures, not every stereotype in the rural community is a flattering one--only a fool would swallow such uninspired trash. Unfortunately, people played along and came in numbers to enjoy the exploitation.
As it turns out, people actually really like to be categorized. It’s scientifically proven that people generally have an inherent desire to be sorted into cliques. There’s a reason virtually every modern country single starts with some variation of the words “where I come from…” By definition, an industry can only have a targeted audience by stereotyping their listeners into distinct groups. Today, all a country artist needs to have a chart-topping single is a proper checklist of stereotypically redneck trademarks.
Vague mention of ‘freedom’? Check. Clarifying what temperature you like your beer? Check. A “sweet/pretty thang” preferably in cutoff jeans? Check. Referencing a musician 30 years your senior? Check. Overemphasis on truck tires? Check. “My baby in the seat next to me?” Check.
Congratulations. You have singlehandedly created a song so densely patronizing that light cannot escape its surface. Expect your platinum record in the mail.
It’s a strictly followed formula. Artists go into Nashville with hope in their eyes and come out in the dozens looking like the body snatchers raided a Baskins store. The phenomenon is so overwhelmingly creepy that I find myself waiting for Rod Serling to step out from behind a tree soon and provide an elaborate monologue about aliens or brainwashing (an encounter I can only hope would be punctuated with a firm, un-awkward handshake).
But maybe I’m being too harsh on modern country. The lyrics have certainly evolved. How could one forget such gems as Luke Bryan’s observation that “Rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey/Whiskey makes my baby feel a little frisky?”
Rhymes are hard to come by and sometimes you just absolutely have to finish that song so you can get back to inbreeding. It is quite possible that modern country is simply the most misunderstood poetry of our time. Out with the old, in with the mediocrity.
With the end of George Strait’s touring career on the horizon, I can’t help but feel that this is the beginning of the end for what was once country music. With increasingly less differences from pop and rock and overwhelmed by the untalented fan boys of previous talents, the few newer, redeeming artists that call back to better times can’t compete with the flood of fad pleasing clones.
Country music was once the embodiment of what music aspires to be--at the forefront of touching the human soul. What it lacked in dapperness it made up for in sincerity and individuality. They were songs about love and loss, pride and failure. Joyful decrees of time well spent and gentle reassurances that you’re not the only one out there that’s suffering.
Now it has deteriorated into a sad, child’s idea of the genre it once was. Abandonment of what is good for what is obvious. Laughably poor imitation, under the guise of homage. Country music has gone the way of rap; it is a once culturally distinctive and bold genre that has been betrayed by its own marketability. Stereotyped, tweaked to fit the times, and injected into a hundred identical avatars to spread the virus further.
I can now say without the slightest hint of irony or self-awareness: Damn you, Al Qaeda! Damn your eyes!