Monday, March 19, 2012

I Was Country...and sometimes I still am

I consider it my duty when I spend time in Phoenix to catch up a little on my country music.  (I also consider it my duty when galavanting about the world to tell people from other places who are all "I-listen-to-every-kind-of-music-except-country" that they don't know what they're missing, but that's another story.) This is not solely about geography of course; it's also about transportation lifestyle. I have spent the last decade living in Boston, New York, Chicago, Daegu, etc., in crowded urban walking/subway/bus cities without a car, so I have necessarily done less car radio listening than I do when in Arizona, and car radio listening is something I very much enjoy. I am a seeker, a scanner, a button pusher...I like finding some tunes! (Or some talk. I'm flexible, but I definitely enjoy cruising through the dial.)

Actually, the reason I pretty much gave up on country music about a decade ago is that it turned into a giant pile of songs about "God told me to be a Republican and go fight a war in Iraq" and it was a truly atrocious few years. But, that has eased a bit, and I love visiting Phoenix and borrowing my mother's car and cruising around the Valley catching up on what I've missed while out there in the world living my non-Arizona life.

Of course, sometimes I am so far out of the loop that I entirely miss songs until several years after they come out, which is apparently the case with today's discovery, "American Saturday Night," which is apparently by Brad Paisley and apparently from 2009 or 2010. (Where have I been? Eeek!)  Anyway, in the upbeat song he sings about all these "foreign" things that are part of the U.S.A., a typical American Saturday night, including everything from a German car and Canadian bacon to French kissing and toga parties. It's mildly clever, in that cheeky country song way, and when it gets to the end with the obligatory last verse twist that Makes a Point (man, I love country music) he sings rather kindly about the immigrants who long ago came to our shores and could never have pictured this, and so forth.

What struck me about it was how it was light-hearted and positive and didn't have to veer off in some "Buy American or the terrorists win" direction. I certainly hope we have turned a corner and can get back to country music just being goofy fun and/or honky-tonk tear-in-my-beer depressing, as it should be.

However, I am a little worried: I heard a different song a few days ago in which a different man sings about driving in the car with his son, who is eating a Happy Meal and "knows he can't play with his toy 'til the nuggets are gone." I was pretty much horrified: this is how we relate to Middle America now, I suppose, by singing about feeding McDonald's to our children. In the car. Yikes! And, that song's later verse Makes a Point about the Lord, sure enough, as the son learns to pray by watching his dad and blah blah blah. Although the whole thing was pretty awful, and had reeeeeally cringe-inducing lyrics, I take it as a good sign that it's not a song about a boy who wants to be like dad by heading off to some violence and death in a country where there's a lot of oil.

I think we're making progress!

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