I guess I should start by saying that its my job to know about country music. I am the morning show DJ for a country station in north Louisiana. Keeping that in mind I pose this query: What do Jessica Simpson, Darius Rucker, Jewel, and Kid Rock have in common? They are all enjoying varied degrees of success on Billboard’s Hot Country Chart.
I don’t particularly enjoy the music I play at work. Over the years however, I have learned to like some of the slick, over-modulated pap more than the rest. The great danger in my profession is that occasionally I will realize that I am singing softly to myself the words of some thoroughly embarassing modern “country” song. Carrie Underwood’s “All American Girl” is especially infectious. Not to mention the vocal stylings of barely legal Nashville songstress Taylor Swift. Basically, after ten years of toiling away in the country format I have come to say things like, “That new Keith Urban single is great!” Now hold on, I don’t mean that I’m gonna be buying his latest album. In fact I get it for free and still won’t listen to it. (I feel kind of bad about saying that. I’ve met the man and he gave me my only bonafide, Australian “Good-on-ya!”) What I mean by “great” is that it fits a hole in our format that I’ve been looking to fill. You know, the cliche of the three minute, positive, not too country, up-tempo love song. (Thanks to Larry Cordle for that line.)
That being said, enough is enough! Jessica Simpson? Why? “Well she’s from Texas, why not?”, some would say. By that logic, we should play Pantera. Simpson’s country debut has come to us in the form of the unholy, ear-raping “Come on Over”. She sings “Leave the dishes in the sink/Leave the aahhs-cubes in your drink/Just Come on Over”. I feel dirty after introducing this song. Since when does she have a thick Texas drawl? And what moron told her to pick a song with the title “Come on Over” for her first single? That was the title to Shania Twain’s late nineties album that sold a bazillion copies. It had twelve oft-played radio singles on it for pete’s sake! That’s about the same as if Hoobastank decided to relase a single called “Kill Em’ All” that somehow wasn’t about the Metallica album of the same name.
Jessica is the worst offender of the four pop interlopers but only barely. There is a special place in hell for Kid Rock now that he has released “All Summer Long”. Hot damn thats bad! The song starts by ripping off Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” and ends by ripping off “Sweet Home Alabama.” Yes thats exactly what the world needed: a reworking of “Sweet Home Alabama”. Christ. I’m getting worked up just thinking about this abomination which, by the way, the listeners just love.
Jewel sucks too. The only good thing she ever did (besides wearing a tight tee-shirt) was covering the Steve Poltz song “You Were Meant For Me”. And she didn’t even do that right. Its “I break the yolks with my goddamn fork/I can’t believe you’re taking me to court”, not whatever the hell she yodels in her mega-hit version.
That brings us to Hootie. “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” is his country debut and compared to the other singles in this post, it’s phenomenal. Besides, its fun to say “Hootie”. Still he would have been better off releasing, as a single, the BK jingle he did.
To sum up, pop country sucks but should be left to the pros; people like Craig Morgan who at least seem authentic when they sing songs with titles like “International Harvester”. I’m just glad that we seem to be done with the jingoistic, willfully ignorant crap like “Have You Forgotten” from noted sadist Darryl Worley which excoriates pointy headed liberals for not realizing that the war in Iraq is somehow about 9-11. I often fantasize about putting Toby Keith, Charlie Daniels, and Darryl Worley into a rocket and shooting it into the blazing heart of the sun. Steve Earle could have the honor of pressing the button.
I would like to say, to those who ask how I can put up with my job: It’s damn easy. I talk for a living. It beats the hell out of real work. Also, once a week I host an alt-country show where I can play whatever I want. It’s Monday night from six to eight. Check it out here.