One of the presets on my car radio abruptly changed format a few weeks ago. To country. Because it’s too depressing to see what’s become of commercial radio in search of another, I left it there and commenced one of my every-few-years anthropological examinations of the strange world of country music.
It lasted about two days, and alas, wasn’t very surprising. Like so much pop music, it sounds like it’s written by a robot and recorded by an ad agency, the better to shorten the trip between the radio and the beer and/or truck commercials they all seem to be written for.
I do find country music refreshing, for about 15 minutes. I’ve always enjoyed it as a form of pop music that deals with adult problems and concerns, from the Pill to D-I-V-O-R-C-E. But of course, those songs are 40 years old now. The stuff I heard this week was mostly, as I said, good-time ditties about drinkin’ beer and drivin’ trucks, and sometimes self-reflective self-pity about farmin’ and America. Nashville lyricists do have a way with words, though — rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey, a little bit of whiskey makes my baby frisky, etc. But otherwise, it was a little like visiting Real America. I may be a citizen, but I don’t feel at home there.
A colleague of mine used to do this comedy routine at lunch sometimes: Stevie Wonder struggles to write “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” the treacle that announced to the world that “Innervisions” and “Songs in the Key of Life” were well in the past. He’d do Stevie at the piano, tearing his hair out: “I just called to say…what? Let’s have lunch? What’s happening? I know! I love you!”
That’s country music these days, alas. Obvious, dumb, beer, trucks.
Or maybe I’m just not tuned into the right station.
I’d have more, but in my scans tonight, I can’t find a headline that doesn’t start with “5 Ways,” “8 Ways” or “How X Happened, And Why You Should Care.” God, sometimes I hate the internet.