Monday, April 02, 2007

Under the Radar

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear y'all. Today I have made a discovery that is infinitely shocking. It is this: I like Carrie Underwood.

I know. Right?! What! What is happening here! As if last Friday night hadn't sufficiently demonstrated some questionable music taste moments on my part! Here's how I came to this latest revelation.

The first step was a few weeks ago. There I stood with a magazine in hand, one of those trash-ola celeb rags, on whose cover were three or four celeb pictures identified by first names only, along with some headline, you know, like "Britney: Back in Rehab" or whatever. And while I recognized a couple of them and could mentally provide the left-out last names, one baffled me, and I actually had to ask two co-workers, "Who's 'Carrie'?" They informed me it was Carrie Underwood and upon closer examination of the picture I realized she looked familiar and that fell into place. Naturally enough, this prompted a conversation about American Idol, which I have watched exactly never, and I was pretty content to just wander off and leave it at that, that Carrie is a figure whose name I know but not any music, until one of the helpful co-workers (it was you, Brian, wasn't it??) volunteered the information that Carrie sings "Jesus Take the Wheel."

Oh, well, I know that song! That played in frequent rotation on AFN in Korea. For those who don't remember the good times that were my Korea radio listening, I spent a lot of time on the Armed Forces Network, mostly because it was one of my main contacts with the English-speaking world until I got a computer in my apartment, and the habit kind of stuck even after I could listen to other things online.

Because AFN has to cater to the tastes of everyone on the military bases, they play different genres at different times. What was particularly funny about this is WHEN they play them. Mornings, as I got ready for work, I was treated to hip-hop, Top 40, and the like. Friday and Saturday nights were hard rock or classic rock. I could just picture all the Army boys sitting around with some beers blasting the tunes in their barracks. Sundays, however, were given over to Christian and country. Isn't that hilarious? I mean, the Christian I understand, because after all there are a lot of God-fearin' folks in the Army so it makes some sense to play Preacher Whatsit's weekly broadcast (I often woke up after a late Saturday night out with the other expat English teachers and lay there for a while listening to his little ramblings about various scriptures and why the Bush Administration was better than Michael Moore or whatever. Ugh) but the Country? How hilarious is that? Sundays= the heartland! God and Country. Love it.

Anyway, that's when I first heard "Jesus Take the Wheel." Only, as I typically do with country and have done since childhood (growing up in Arizona, you unavoidably listen to country as well, it predated Korea for me) I don't really pay attention to the artists. I mostly just recognize songs here and there. And when I heard "Jesus Take the Wheel" I remember thinking, This has got to be one of the most ridiculous songs I've ever heard. So country-pop. Not to mention it's one of my favorite kinds of country guilty pleasure: when there's a later-verse twist on the first-verse's words that really packs an emotional punch, often about God. You know, like in George Strait's "Love Without End, Amen" or who was it, Colin Raye? who sang about "If you get there before I'm through" or the one about the boy who says "Please don't take the girl," at first talking about fishing and then in the end meaning don't take her from this earth. I love those. Pure sap. Brilliant.

Even so, I moved on from my recent magazine, co-workers, yes-I-know-who-she-is-but-no-I've-never-watched-American-Idol moment thinking nothing more of it. Until today. When I innocently decide to listen to the Napster Top 10 and as I'm multi-tasking in various windows I see that Carrie Underwood is in there and I idly think, "Hmm, wonder if I'll recognize this song, 'Before He Cheats.'" And lo and behold, it's THAT song! The one about the girl who scratched the holy hell out of her cheating rat bastard of an ex's car! I heard that while I was in Phoenix over winter break and loved it! It was so -- delightedly vengeful. And I, who experienced the motherlode of cheating rat bastard exness last year, was wholly amused. Even though I'm not the physical revenge-seeking sort, it's fun to sing about at the top of your lungs while driving around the Valley of the Sun in Mom's car.

In fact, my friend Marcia called me the other week to ask if I knew "the hilarious one about the woman singing 'I just keyed his car...'" and that I just HAD to hear it, and I enthusiastically told her I in fact knew it. (Marcia keeps up better with the country-listening than I do, as she is equal parts NPR and country radio, but she is no better at identifying artists than I am.) But what I didn't know was that "Before He Cheats" was Carrie Underwood, too! Suspicious after learning that today, I moved on to checking out the full album Some Hearts. Realizing, wait a minute, I think I know that title track, too. And, yes, I sure do. (And the title track is SO poppy and so totally NOT country, by the way.) Furthermore, I know yet another one on the album so far, another sapfest called "Don't Forget to Remember Me." I might also add I am particularly delighted by the countrified "I Ain't in Checotah Anymore" in which she sings about New York City and how you can get "anything you want here, except a Wal-Mart store." Indeed.

Well, folks, that's how it happened. You know, I'm not sure I can say objectively that Carrie's all that bad. Her voice strikes me as part Jessica Andrews, part I'd-be-Shania-ish if I could, with a hint of like a Wynonna or, no, a Martina. Nonetheless, Ms. Underwood is clearly getting filed under Guilty Pleasures. For myriad reasons. Guilty, guilty, guilty.


amy c said...

awww, why be guilty? just because she was on american idol and therefore you don't want anything to associate american idol with you? guess what chica, those idol folks have got some pipes - nothing to be ashamed of! it's not like you watched the show!


linda said...

Points of clarification, of course my post was written almost entirely with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Like, if I were really "guilty" would I be posting it on the blog for the world wide interweb to see? It's meant to be self-deprecating and all in good fun.

As for your post last year about Harry Potter, American Idols, and other mass consumption, there is a fine line in there somewhere. It's the line between a lot of people liking something because it's good and a lot of people liking something because a lot of their friends like it. The latter does happen. The danger lies in those who don't fall prey to "everyone else jumping off a bridge" unilterally deciding when others are jumping off a bridge and when they're just enjoying a really popular view.

The reason I make special fun of myself for liking Carrie Underwood is my deeper disregard for large portions of the commercial music industry--you know, that industry that stops marketing our beloved Girls of Indigo when they stop being the latest niche, always searching for the next cute/hot thing, but not possibly making room on the radio for Indigo Girls AND Melissa Etheridge AND kd lang all in one year? Oh, nooooo...

Would that it were all about the pipes!
And you'll notice, I concluded by saying that in all objective observation, I like Ms Underwood's voice.

Interesting to note in all this is how very many out there shun my larger "guilty pleasure" category, country music, without actually exploring how they might feel about it, basing instead their refusal to listen on rumor, innuendo, and what the marketing machine has shoved down their throats.

And by the way, I've often thought that if EVERYONE else jumped off a bridge, I might just consider it. I mean, EVERYONE? There might be something pretty good down there...

Brian said...

It could well have been me who volunteered the information that Carrie sings "Jesus Take the Wheel." That represents the extent of my knowledge about her.