Completely Unrelated: The Problem with Country Music

What follows has absolutely nothing to do with college football, unless you suppose that Georgia’s upcoming game against Tennessee has me thinking about country music, but this thought occurred to me and simply had to find expression somewhere, so you’re the unlucky ones who get to hear me out on this one.

The problem with country music is that it’s getting too complicated. As what used to be a distinct musical genre in its own right increasingly becomes nothing more than pop music with a twang, country musicians are trying to sound clever and coming across as merely contrived.

I don’t need a country song with a chorus that tells me, "I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was." It’s a country song, not a logic problem; I have neither the time nor the inclination to think through a 17-word sentence in the middle of a song that is supposed to serve as an amusing distraction. I don’t need you to dumb it down, but I do need bullet points.

Even worse than that, though, is the false dichotomy regarding the usage of the word "gone." Although the song has a neat premise and a good line about it being a whiskey night or just a couple of beers, the chorus goes off the tracks when it starts to get down to cases. What, precisely, is supposed to be the difference between "gone for good" and "good and gone," and what differentiates either from "long gone"? For all the song’s effort to make those phrases sound distinguishable, I’m pretty sure that, if your woman says any of them to you in the driveway before getting in her car and leaving, it’s a whiskey night. The song is simply trying too hard.

I understand the irony of this statement coming from me, but brevity is the soul of wit. A good country song gives it to you straight . . . possibly even George Strait. All your rowdy friends are coming over tonight? O.K., I’m with you, Hank; I don’t even need you to explain to me why you drink. I’m pretty sure you’re just carrying on a family tradition. Earl had to die? The Dixie Chicks make out a plausible case for that premise. A left will take her to the interstate but a right will bring her right back here to you? It’s an evocative image, and I have no trouble visualizing the little country store with the old Coke sign way up yonder past the caution light, but the song delivers what it promises: good directions. You’re going to put that boot where? All right, no further details needed, thank you.

Why is Brad Paisley among the most consistent hit-makers in country music? Because he doesn’t get bogged down in complexity. The crux of every Brad Paisley song is a simple declarative statement. "I don’t mind waiting on a woman." "I’m so much cooler online." "I’m still a guy." "I’d like to check you for ticks."

Brad Paisley’s songs work for the same reason such Neil Diamond songs as "Solitary Man" and "Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show" work. They’re unvarnished. They’re forthright. Heck, you wouldn’t have any trouble diagramming the chorus of any of them and your middle school English teacher wouldn’t have quibbled too much with the grammar.

It’s a country song. There’s only so hard I’m willing to work while I’m listening to it. Establish the premise, cut to the chase, and don’t try to be deep or (worse) cute. Just tell me you were drunk the day your mama got out of prison and you went to go pick her up in the rain, and we’re good to go.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled sports weblog, which is already in progress.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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