Thursday, November 9, 2006

Now you'll know

The other day someone who likes me a lot suggested that perhaps I wasn't sufficiently open-minded about country music. If you know me even a little bit you know for sure that I dismiss almost every bit of mainstream contemporary "country" music. From this position I will not retreat; I don't care how much you make my boots want to scoot. And this is why:

1. I grew up listening to country music involuntarily. I've heard a LOT of country music, much more than most people. I know the "classic country" catalog fairly well and hearing it makes me nostalgic for my childhood, my father and his beer-drinkin' buddies. Especially Merle Haggard and Charlie Rich (never liked George Jones). In the 80's, I thought Randy Travis and Dwight Yoakum were on the right track and sometimes I voluntarily listened to the Judd's first album.
2. In my experience with country music there are about four themes you'll be able to identify in about 99% of all new releases:
a. I'm such a miserable person but you love me anyway, lucky me
b. I'm down on my luck (lost my job, wife, dog, truck...)
c. If it weren't for God/the USA the world (and the singer) would be in terrible shape.
d. Screw a - c, let's get drunk and tell 'em to go to hell

3. Contemporary country music is overproduced, excessively twangy, appeal to the least-common-denominator crap. It is style over substance to the nth degree.
4. There are notable exceptions to 1 - 3. In my mind, I would not like to carry an iPod that didn't have some Lyle Lovett, k.d. lang's "Absolute Torch and Twang", or The Mavericks. There may well be others that are equally interesting.
5. I'm not talking about Bluegrass. In the right-sized doses, Bluegrass is wonderful stuff and every bit a legitimate American art form as jazz.
5. When I begin shopping for new music to listen to, I reduce the probability of making a poor selection by pursuing music by people who I know I like, who play with people I know I like or who challenge my musical sensibilities. I avoid music that offends my politics, is dull or repetitive or which offers no aesthetic or intellectual appeal. To wit, when/if I need to find something new and exciting for my ears, I don't ever turn the dial to a country station.

Don't get me wrong: pop music has its purpose and appeal and I can enjoy it. I think that much of what is marketed as country music, is nothing more than slickly produced, pop music with twangy guitars and faux accents and themes a - d, above. I don't need it, don't want it. If you know a song I really should hear, I will listen politely if you are standing in my presence playing it for me. But really---I don't want to hear any more country music.

If that makes me narrow-minded----umm, I can live with that.


Lyman said...

HERE HERE!!!!!!!!!!

Donna said...

Who's been giving you the business about country music? I'm with you. I like a song or two by most of the artists and don't mind hearing them occaisionally but I just can't enjoy anymore than that. I like that old time rock and roll, me and Bob. LYFE

Melissa said...

Well, as you know I like country music, mostly the slickly produced pop music with twangy guitars rather then the older stuff. I get where you are coming from, but I heard one song recently tht I think you will like the lyrics to if nothing else. No losing the house, losing the wife or getting drunk, I promise.

I hope the days come easy and moments pass slow,
and each road leads you where you want to go,
and if you're faced with a choice, and you have to choose,
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you.
And if one door opens to another door closed,
I hope you keep on walkin' till you find the window,
if it's cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile,

But more than anything, more than anything,
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
your dreams stay big, your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
and while you're out there getting where you're getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.

Kathy said...

Sorry, Mel; I know you genuinely like this stuff and I don't mean to insult fans of the music. Its just precisely this hyper-sentimentality that is meant to manipulate and woo the dollars out of your pocket.

I have two analogies: you can think of it as a Hallmark card set to music (why?) or as a piece of hard candy---a moment of sweetness and then its gone. It has no more value or impact than that. Not that hard candy isn't great, but how much of it do we need? I will concede that many listeners want something other than I do from music. I want creativity,I want personal expression, I want excitement, I want fresh perspective to illuminate my thinking. And I also want a groove most of the time...

The bottom line is that the country music producers, for the most part, just like the pop guys who give us albums by K-Fed and Nick Lachey, they're selling you the idea or image of an artist and an attitude---but by and large there's no art, no creativity. Of course the sentiments have appeal and resonate, that's the manipulation. The performer is part of the package you're being sold. Bleh.

Melissa said...

no worries. not insulted. just like the thoughts in some (not all) of the music.