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Facebook and the Brad Paisley Paradigm

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Every once in a while, I end up having these epiphanies about stuff everybody else knows about, but that I’ve never heard of.  I lead a sheltered life.

Anyway, the first of these has to do with country music, and it came to me because the people hired to work my television cable company’s customer service department are possibly the stupidest people on the fact of the planet.

Let’s just leave it, at the moment, that after about a year and a half of screwing me over on a matter that required things like sending registered letters, the company decided to calm me down by giving me a year’s worth of free cable service–and when they did that, they gave me what they called the “Gold Package.”

I think the idea is that, once you’ve had the  Gold Package, you’ll be so addicted to your television you won’t ever want to cancel service again.

They’re wrong, mostly, although I am going to miss the European news channels, not only the BBC World News  Service but another one that seems to be operating out of Paris. 

But the other thing I’m going to miss is, believe it or not, the country music channels. 

Sometime when I wasn’t paying attention–and I was never paying attention, so this could have happened eons ago–country music changed what it was.   There are still the kind of songs most non-country fans think of as “country,” like Dolly Parton’s “Backwoods  Barbie,” but they’re rare–there’s even a song, called “Johnny Cash is Dead and  His  House Burned  Down” about the lack of good old fashioned country music.

It wouldn’t be half as funny if it wasn’t for the fact that it is not, itself, good old fashioned country music.

What else is on there is, well, American popular culture, and it’s not just for Americans any more.   It’s not just for white guys, either.  There are now black guy s on the country circuit, including one of the moment’s biggest superstars, a guy named Darius Rucker.

There’s also this other guy, probably one of the two or three biggest names in the genre at the moment, called  Keith Urban–who’s from Australia. 

But here’s the thing.  If I ever worried about the state of America, what made me worry about it was MTV.  It’s not just that the stuff on the straight rock channels these days is largely rude, crude, and lewd–that can be a good thing if it’s done right–or that all the male artists seem determined to look as decadently grotesque as possible, or that all the women seem to be dancing on poles and talking about their vaginas.

(If you think I’m exaggerating, go see if you can find a video of Lady Gaga’s “Love Game.”)

No, my real problem is that everything on VH-1 and MTV feels artificial and manufactured, as artificial and manufactured as any old Bobby Darin ballad, but less pleasant.  

And it doesn’t shock anybody any more, or at least it doesn’t shock me, because it’s the same old same old.   Yes, you hate your parents and love your drugs, the world is a mess and it’s all somebody’s fault, and you over there are sixteen and really hot so you’re going to talk about screwing.  Big deal.

There’s certainly some stuff on the country stations that feels manufactured–what is it about record executives that makes them all so enamored of crooing?–but there’s incredible variety and what I think is an admirable concentration, by both the artists and the stationss, on real life.

As for the music, there’s the pretty straightforward (but not lewd) pop, as in Taylor  Swift and Kellie Pickler (she of the Pearl Harbor started Vietnam celebrity quiz show gaffe); the good-time party pop (see Kenny Chesney)l and a throwback not to old country music but to the very birth of rock and roll, in a song called “Firecracker” that could have been done by Jerry Lee Lewis. 

There’s also an incredible amount of political stuff, all of it realistically concentrated on blue collar troubles in the present crisis, none of it self-referential, self-satisfied, look-I’m-a-revolutionary crap. 

Which is interesting, because if there’s a really huge difference between  MTV and GAC, it’s definitely in the non-musical programming about the artists.   MTV gives you Cribs, which shows off the houses of very rich people and concetrates, as in my favorite Nickelback song, on “living in hilltop houses driving fifteen cars.”

GAC gives you little profiles of the artists at home, but only if they’re just starting out.  Here’s a band that has a hit this summer, but they’re still not making enough money to do it full time, so here are the tract houses they live in and here’s where the leads singer works in a body shop.

The relentless drumbeat is home, family, church and regular life, and it makes the political songs–my favorite is something called “Shutting Detroit Down”–a punch political songs don’t have when they’re done by, you know, Bono.

It also makes for different politics, which is something for a different entry on this blog, someday. 

Let’s just say that the Dixie Chicks do not know how to pick their spots.

 The kicker in all this, though, is the work of two men, Brad Paisley and Trace Adkins.  Adkins does a fair amount of what is standard for country these days (“You’re Gonna Miss This”), spiced up with some seriously funny stuff like the one about how he’s going to marry for money and the one I really like, called “Honky Tonk  Bedonkadonk” which–well, let’s just say that you can be a lot more entertaining about lewd sex if you’re not that lewd.

What Paisley does is to make fun not only of the usual subjects–he’s got one called “I’m So Much Cooler Online” that should be the anthem of a generation–but also of himself and of the stereotypes about country music prevalent in the culture at large.  There’s “I’m Gonna Miss Her,” which almost made me punch the remote when it started, because I was so sure it was going to be Paisley’s entry in the sad ballad sweepstakes, but which turned out instead to be the story of this guy who lovs his wife, but he really loves his fish, too, so when she threatens to leave him if he goes fishing this morning, well…he goes.

Paisley’s songs are well written and inventive lyrically, but his videos are good enough to knock you on your ass.   The one for “I’m So Much Cooler Online” stars  Jason  Alexander as the son of two quarreling old farts, with the father played by William  Shatner.  “I’m Gonna Miss Her” seems to feature some actual local television reporters doing updates on fishing competitions.  

Then there’s the one, which I’ve only seen as a performance video taken from a live act, called “I’m Still A Guy,” which is a comment not only the whole Metrosexual thing, but the Feminization of Everything thing I was talking about a few months back as it relates to boys in schools.

There’s a lot about love of God and love of country, but none of it is smarmy and none of it is stupid.  My guess is that Mr. Paisley has a very good mind indeed, with an attitude straight out of the Weasley brothers. 

The approach to religion is something I didn’t think I’d ever see in American Protestantism, and I don’t think most of these guys would take somebody like  Pat Robertson or the Reverend Falwell seriously for a minute.  There seems to be an easy acceptance of both religion and personal imperfection–a guy named Billy Crudington wrote a song whose tag line is “God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy.”

I don’t mean to be going on and on about something that isn’t really related to reading, which is where this blog started, but I’ve always thought that the two most significant modern art forms were film and jazz, with jazz defined to include everything that came out of it, from blues and country to pop and rock. 

And for a while, it seemed to me that the music had mostly just died.  What you see on MTV these days is largely forgettable, and the frighten-the-cows thing is so stale it puts me to sleep.   All that seemed to be left of popular music was adolescent posturing and lots of concentration on how much money you could spend, whether it made any sense to spend it or not. 

And I never got to Facebook.  But.  You know.  What the hell.

Written by janeh

July 7th, 2009 at 7:42 am

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses to 'Facebook and the Brad Paisley Paradigm'

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  1. I’ve clearly been away from country music too long – yes, I confess, I used to be an enormous fan of what my mother called ‘those fake cowboys’, that is, the local imitators of US country music, and of course listened to the real thing on the radio. It wasn’t quite all lily white back then, although I’d hate to tell you how long it took before I learned that Charlie Pride was black. We were late getting TV, and it was the sound, not the visuals, I experienced and remembered. Anyway, I always liked country and folk, but I dropped out of popular music before the Beatles. I haven’t knowingly listented to Nickelback, although I do know the name refers to a group of musicians.

    I don’t know anything about Facebook. I’m not on it, and don’t see the point of getting on it.

    Cheryl

    7 Jul 09 at 8:18 am

  2. Darius Rucker sings country? Isn’t he the guy who was in Hootie and the Blowfish? I haven’t listened to any of the new country, I admit. Johnny Cash and June Carter are on my mp3, but nothing newer. Sounds like maybe some of it’s OK.

    Cheryl – Facebook is wonderful for getting in touch with people you don’t see often. In the last couple of weeks I’ve been exchanging messages with a cousin who lives in Warsaw – he’s been there for fifteen years and I haven’t seen him in that time. I also found a friend who lives in Portland that I haven’t seen in years, another cousin who’s in Colorado (which I didn’t know) and one who’s in Charlotte, and my best friend from high school who’s now in Chicago.

    If everyone you know is right next door and you can see them daily – or even if they’re far away but you haven’t lost contact – then there’s probably no point to Facebook. But I’ve loved reconnecting with my faraway friends and relatives.

    MaryF

    7 Jul 09 at 12:07 pm

  3. There are a few people I knew years ago I wouldn’t mind getting in touch with again, but I haven’t the faintest idea whether they’re on Facebook. In any case, I don’t think I’m the reunion type – I’m more likely to wonder briefly what happened to so-and-so than actually make the effort to track them down.

    I depend on email a lot to keep in touch. I rarely even make long-distance phone calls any more, since the only relative who doesn’t use email moved to my city, and email is a far more reliable way of getting in touch with the others, especially considering their work and travel commitments.

    Cheryl

    8 Jul 09 at 6:40 am

  4. So country music is where the action is. I wondered where it had gone. Too late now. One of the many reasons I would rather die at home age 72 than in a nursing home age 77 is the popular music of c. 1970. “Get Together Now” alone would break me in a week. “Unchained Melody” might not take that long.

    In the current scene, what bothers me is the dearth of instrumental composers. Korngold, Herrman and Newman were replaced by Tiomkin Rozsa Mancini and Elmer Bernstein, and they in turn by Goldsmith, Poledouris, Williams and Silvestri–but where are THEIR replacements? With modern technology and commerce I can mostly get the good old stuff, and it will always sound as good. But the good new stuff is scarce.

    robert_piepenbrink

    8 Jul 09 at 4:35 pm

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