Country Music and how I’m a Recovering Musical Elitist
“Country music is three chords and the truth.” ~Harlan Howard
I was driving recently when I thought to myself, “there ain’t nothin’ like a good country song”
(I know what you’re thinking and yes, I am an English major.) I’ve spent the great majority of my life living in the South and for the longest time I hated country music with every fiber of my being. I was too into the “intellectual” and “sophisticated” indie-rock to listen to any hillbilly drinking music, or something like that. I thought that the people who listened to country music simply lacked the ability to understand the vast complexity of “educated” rock and roll. I hope you haven’t written me off as a musical narcissist just yet because I’m about to tell you how very wrong I was.
I can’t exactly pinpoint my epiphany, but I do know that it can be directly attributed to a very simple question. “Why?” I don’t know who said it or when they said it, but I distinctly remember being asked why I didn’t like country music and I was completely unable to formulate a response. This is so interesting because in the past I had been so very vocal about my dislike for country that I was positive I had an answer. However, like most of my adolescent habits, my opinions were ungrounded and extremely biased. (That said, I’m sure one day I’ll look back at this blog and say the exact same thing of my current opinions)
The first country song I ever loved belongs to Kenny Chesney. I was driving one night listening to the radio when he snuck into my late night guilty pleasure (mix 92.9). “The Good Stuff” came on and I melted. His words were so simple and his message so pure. Which is what I’ve come to discover as the most beautiful thing about country music. Country music is not about complex lyrics with hidden messages or musical extremism. It’s quite simply about the beautiful act of story telling, it’s about simplicity. As a pseudo (new favorite word) songwriter, I can tell you that trying to write lyrics that people will connect to is more than a little challenging. I’ve had my fair share of long nights where I just stare at the piano or guitar wondering how in the world I’m going to affectively communicate a feeling. As a slam poet, I’ve always used crazy sentence structures and ridiculous rhyming patterns to my advantage because In the world of slam, elaborate is almost always best. But often times, elaborate is much easier than simple. Simple can be very difficult.
So here’s my message to all of you musical elitists out there.
Get over yourself. I really don’t care that you know about more bands than I do. I also don’t care that the music I listen to is what you consider to be “mainstream” which makes me a “conformist.” I think that it’s hilarious that you are all too involved with your own image to take your head out of your ass for long enough to realize that maybe, just maybe you might like coldplay. Let me guess, you like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Modest Mouse, the Flaming Lips, Bob Dylan (btw, I’d really like it if someone would take the time to explain to me exactly what he’s talking about in half his songs) Of Montreal, Wilco, but you HATE their new stuff. That new “commercial shit” is just completely contradictory to the beautiful sounds they once formulated. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of those bands a lot, but I also think that John Mayer is one of the best song writers of our generation and that coldplay is more than just a shallow power pop boy band remake.
The thing that I find so frustrating about elitists is that it’s not really about the music at all, it’s about the image. You can’t listen to the itunes top 100 because your identity is intrinsically tied to being original, therefore not listening to the music that is popular with the masses. My personal opinion is that most of these people choose to listen to crappy music because they like to be seen as unique and trendy. If I had a PhD in psychology I would probably assume then that the reason that their identitites are so tied up in music is because they’re unable to feel confident in themselves without having some sort of scene to define themselves by. But then again, we all define ourselves by what we do on a daily basis. In a perfect world, we’d all embrace the words of the mid 90’s Disney movie “Brink” in which the father figure tells the main character that, “skating is what you do, not who you are.”
But hold on to your fixed gear bikes and cheap cigarettes because I’m not done!
Some of the best music in existence today is not on the billboard top 100 and I fully recognize that. I also believe that the culture of the independent scene is vital in the process of musical progression. I also like wearing girl jeans and plaid shirts, But that doesn’t make me unique. I am unique because there is not another person on this earth who lives like I do. The same is true for you. Don’t stop being who you are listening to the music you like, but make sure that you really like it, because “Clap Your Hands Say Yeah” really really sucks in my personal opinion. Also, give John Mayer a try because you might just like it.
This is the part where you tell me how wrong I am. If you don’t I’m just going to continue being an arrogant a-hole with a blog. Please help me out and tell me what you think.
“Show me an elitist, and I’ll show you a loser.” –Tom Clancy