This is how we roll while chillin' it in our pick up trucks
January 8, 2015 8:57 PM   Subscribe

The formula works. A mashup of 6 top-40 country songs.
posted by jacquilynne (122 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Six really terrible country songs. This wouldn't work as well with good music.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:03 PM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is that so?
posted by genghis at 9:10 PM on January 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


This song(s) reminds me of middle-aged men in stonewashed jean shorts trying to get comfortable at a picnic table.
posted by downtohisturtles at 9:11 PM on January 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think that's kinda the point, DF--cf. Linkin Park.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:13 PM on January 8, 2015


This mashup makes me really appreciate the little things in life, like fried chicken, lazy summer nights in my dad's pickup truck, seeing you at the homecoming game, and my older brother who went off to Afghanistan.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:16 PM on January 8, 2015 [40 favorites]


- You'd be amazed at some of the crap that people will buy in Nashville
-- How do you write cheesy country songs if you don't like them in the first place?
- I usually just come up with a goofy title and then build from there. "Me an' You an' a Gun-Rack for Two", "Red Neck, White Truck, Blue Jeans", that sort of thing.


At least, that's what came to mind for me.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:39 PM on January 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Is that so?

Fair dinkum, but most songs on THAT list don't have voices that are autotuned to absolute homogeneity. But the mashup of 6 top-40 country songs is just a testament to Billy Bragg's dictum that capitalism is killing music. Any music.

But because we can, to one degree or another, seize control of the means of production all is not lost.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:53 PM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


The part where all 6 songs are going together sounds like I imagine Andrew W.K. would sound if he had come from Nashville.
posted by deadbilly at 10:35 PM on January 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Dip Flash: "This wouldn't work as well with good music."

I have mixed and layered multiple Merzbow tracks on top of each other, and it works just fine.
posted by Bugbread at 10:50 PM on January 8, 2015 [16 favorites]


Would somebody be able to explain why the songs sound so similar? Are they all using the same chord progression, kind of like the classic Pachelbel Rant?
posted by Georgina at 11:55 PM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Okay but that three-guitarist solo actually came out great.
posted by No-sword at 12:10 AM on January 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Would somebody be able to explain why the songs sound so similar? Are they all using the same chord progression, kind of like the classic Pachelbel Rant yt ?

Pop country is extremely formulaic and with enough work being based on the same formula it is inevitable that you'll get enough songs that are similar enough to do this.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:18 AM on January 9, 2015


All six songs would appear to have the same chord progression, yes, but there's much more going on than that in these six crimes against music.

It's fine to reuse chord progressions endlessly in pop/country, and people like Taylor Swift keep squeezing more from a limited palette.

But with these tracks, the similarities to my ears are:

- The songs are structurally identical (intro, verse, chorus, solo, chorus, etc);
- The phrase lengths of the sung lines is the same, strong and weak emphasis falls in exactly the same places;
- The contours of the melodies sung are very similar, building tension (cheaply) by alternating between two repeated notes in the verse, then usually throwing in a larger jump for shock effect as the verse sets the stage for the chorus (e.g. at 'Truck's jacked UP');
- The verse lines feature crowded, busy phrasing, backed by sparse and open instrumentation; this is precisely reversed (to give a release of tension) in the chorus, which has longer syllables and melismas in the singing, with more space between them, and a very full backing texture;
- Everything (and I mean everything) is so Auto-Tuned that the textures of the voices and the instruments seem to meld together into a kind of muffled battering ram of pure sound. Like a McDonald's cheeseburger kind of thing.
posted by colie at 12:22 AM on January 9, 2015 [67 favorites]


Speaking of music, did you listen to those CDs yet? No pressure!
posted by No-sword at 12:36 AM on January 9, 2015 [36 favorites]


the mashup songs are all IV-I-V-vi
posted by thelonius at 12:37 AM on January 9, 2015


Speaking of formula, when I first stumbled across that Florida Georgia Line "How We roll song" last week, I was astounded at how much it was basically a blingy pop-rap song with a country twang filter added.
posted by billyfleetwood at 12:44 AM on January 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Thanks, colie!
posted by Georgina at 12:47 AM on January 9, 2015


All these songs appear to be IV - I - V, absolutely all the way through without any variation.

This is quite appropriate because the 'home' I chord is actually used almost in passing rather than at the start or end of a phrase/harmonic unit. The progression feels like it can't ever end, won't ever end, or that time stands still, which is the theme of the songs.

This progression is also why they all fade out or end on decaying V chords (I think) - try to imagine the big, final, fat, cadential I chord that would end these songs conclusively, and your mind can't really conjure it up, it isn't there. Instead you want that endless deferral of the tonic chord, that just keeps you truckin' forever.
posted by colie at 12:52 AM on January 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


Who confuses Nashville dreck with "country music"?
posted by spitbull at 2:35 AM on January 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Besides Billboard and Nashville executives that is.
posted by spitbull at 2:36 AM on January 9, 2015


Also all country hits are written by the same 14 or so people. Usually with six cowrites on each song to maximize the chance of getting a song cut because of the number of revenue streams.

And when you see the "artist's" name as a writer that means they called him in to the writing session to ask him what brand of truck his 360 deal endorses.

Do not confuse Nashville with music.
posted by spitbull at 2:41 AM on January 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


Did the country music industry just forget about Kacey Musgraves?
posted by PenDevil at 3:08 AM on January 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Actually I have a lot of respect for the professional songwriters who churn this stuff out.

Yes it's formulaic, but success is also a moving target in terms of the little touches in the melody, texture and lyrics that combine alchemically to make the difference between a hit and a miss.

As the tune here that I've heard most, 'This is how we roll' exemplifies the use of these little touches, with its tactical name-check for Drake in the first line, syncopated verse, rap-derived lyrical 'dazzle' of internal rhymes and half-rhymes, and ridiculously steely Auto-Tuned vocal timbre throughout. It's very very bad, but it is also a strangely compelling work of supreme craft.
posted by colie at 3:16 AM on January 9, 2015 [19 favorites]


The local and satellite radio stations playing in all the BBQ joints, pizza parlors, auto shops and pho restaurants around here call themselves country music stations. The people requesting it claim to be country music fans. I haven't seen anybody yet complain about appropriateness to the genre, even though it all sounds to me like rock power ballads with acoustic instruments, pedal steels, and rigorously uniform verse-chorus structures. You could work on trying to convince the fans of the lie they're living, but that looks like it'll be a sisyphean task.
posted by ardgedee at 3:22 AM on January 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Like a McDonald's cheeseburger kind of thing.

That's the goal: x billion served.
posted by pracowity at 3:29 AM on January 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


These songs seem to be written for young guys who desperately want reinforcement of their manhood. Look! I have a pickup truck. AND there's a girl in it.
posted by thelonius at 4:08 AM on January 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


I mostly avoid hearing this crap but have a special hate for it due to the summertime invasions into my neighborhood of tens of thousands of suburban pop country fans who get epically wasted and trash the place every year.
posted by octothorpe at 4:24 AM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


But that's how they roll.
posted by colie at 4:27 AM on January 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


I was astounded at how much it was basically a blingy pop-rap song with a country twang filter added.

Lyrically, sure, but musically I tend to think of modern Nashville as Nickelback with a banjo. Who, I suppose, were fallout from the rap-metal end-of-grunge thing in the early 2000s, so it all sort of comes together.

Yes it's formulaic, but success is also a moving target in terms of the little touches in the melody, texture and lyrics that combine alchemically to make the difference between a hit and a miss.

Yep, this is the thing that always gets me about people who complain about this kind of music. It's stunningly difficult to do, and even if you don't think it's a worthwhile pursuit, it obviously gives joy to a lot of people. Doesn't that make it worthwhile? Nobody wants to listen to Leonard Cohen while they're drinking beers in a fishing boat on the lake.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:59 AM on January 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


- I usually just come up with a goofy title and then build from there. "Me an' You an' a Gun-Rack for Two", "Red Neck, White Truck, Blue Jeans", that sort of thing.

This just made me listen to "Rednecks, White Socks, and Blue Ribbon Beer" which is infinitely better than any of the songs in the FPP.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:16 AM on January 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm curious how much manipulation of the clips was done for this. Like matching up the tempos or auto tuning.
posted by smackfu at 5:17 AM on January 9, 2015


That's fucking genius!
posted by Thorzdad at 5:26 AM on January 9, 2015


I'm curious how much manipulation of the clips was done for this. Like matching up the tempos or auto tuning.

You can hear that a few of them are pretty badly degraded, so they've been manipulated pretty severely, but I'm not really sure that it matters. Of course they're in different keys and at different tempos. But the feel is identical. Which is actually really neat.

I realize that I find the boom-boom-chaaa-chicka chord-per-measure feel in the hooks really satisfying at these slow tempos. Until you get down really slow, it projects swagger, makes you bob your head, put your beer in the air.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:28 AM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


makes you bob your head, put your beer in the air.

YouTube comment: "I would buy the shit out of this."
posted by colie at 5:30 AM on January 9, 2015


This just made me listen to "Rednecks, White Socks, and Blue Ribbon Beer" which is infinitely better than any of the songs in the FPP.

May I direct your attention to a charming critique of Nashville's music industry? Robbie Fulks, "Fuck This Town."
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:34 AM on January 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


WSM
posted by ambient2 at 6:02 AM on January 9, 2015


Like a McDonald's cheeseburger kind of thing.

This is probably the most succinct definition of pop-country music I think I have ever come across.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:21 AM on January 9, 2015


Even more to the point, the great Dale Watson responds to Blake Shelton and all the other "New Country turds."
posted by spitbull at 6:57 AM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Watch for the live version of this at the next CMAs. They will embrace the hell out of this and then throw to Brad Paisley as he announces the winner for Song of the Year.
posted by Brodiggitty at 6:59 AM on January 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Dale also made the point a few years back with "Nashville Rash."

Key line: "I'm too country now for country/just like Johnny Cash."
posted by spitbull at 7:00 AM on January 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Remember none of these guys have ever been near a tractor or a factory. Half the pro songwriters in Nashville these days are Canadians with advanced degrees. They are more cynical about the ruse they perpetrate than any of us.

Also Merle Haggard is still making records.
posted by spitbull at 7:12 AM on January 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Luke Bryan (song #6 in the mashup) has another song, called "Play it Again" currently in semi-rotation on the local college station. It's a big slice off the same loaf o' music as the ones we're discussing. The first time I heard it, I instantly started mentally checking the boxes as the song hit item-after-item on the big list of nostalgic imagery.
• Pretty girl...check
• Pickup truck...check (+2 for Pretty girl sitting on tailgate)
• Mention of southern state...check*
• Listening to the radio...check
And on and on...

It's really an impressive bit of pre-fabrication.

* I've mentally tried replacing the state (Georgia) with almost any other state, and it seems that you can do this fairly easily (It's actually pretty easy to drop-in longer state names in the same line and still stay on-beat.) Which probably means the song was constructed so that Bryan can drop-in the name of whichever state he's playing that night.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:18 AM on January 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


/me starts frantically digging in his closet for his "In a perfect world Steve Earle would rule Nashville." t-shirt.

Fails to find it.

Sighs.

Goes back to drinking coffee and listening to Bobby Bare Jr.

All this too shall pass away. Best not to get too angry too soon.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:18 AM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nashville "country music" is and always has been derivative, ignorant white-folks identity movement music, finely attuned to projecting a dog-whistling air of Southern white working class victimhood even as it huffs and puffs and gratefully carries water for the very business interests that have been standing on its fans' necks for generations. It's the music of faux-defiance, faux-patriotism, faux-Christianity, "real American values" that somehow always manage to precisely line up with whatever message the military-industrial monolith that runs this nation seeks to project at any given moment. Why are we so shocked at the sameness of its sound? homogeneousness (in message, in tone, in sound) is pretty much its defining feature.
posted by Chrischris at 7:24 AM on January 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


tens of thousands of suburban pop country fans who get epically wasted and trash the place every year.

That's nasty. They should set up the stage facing on to the town dump and let those filthy fuckers drop their trash where it belongs.
posted by pracowity at 7:39 AM on January 9, 2015


Nashville "country music" is and always has been derivative, ignorant white-folks identity movement music

Wake up, sheeple!
posted by josher71 at 7:43 AM on January 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Nashville "country music" is and always has been derivative, ignorant white-folks identity movement music

Actually right now the relationship between Nashville Country and hip hop is fairly fascinating. Luke Bryan name checks T-Pain alongside Conway Twitty in "My Kind of Night," Florida Georgia Line had that remix of "Cruise" with Nelly. It's still very much white people music for white people, but it's 1) cognizant of the fact that a lot of white people like hip hop and 2) kind of positioning itself as the equivalent of pop hip hop for white people, hip hop club songs for people whose "club" is a field with a truck blaring music.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:54 AM on January 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


Moreso than the musical sameness, the real depressing take home here is that there seems to be an entire generation being trained to believe their greatest aspiration in life should be to own an expensive truck.
posted by sourwookie at 7:56 AM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's only fair to remember that most of the time this music is strictly functional: people have it on in the background as they work at boring jobs or negotiate traffic. In that context you don't want, I don't know, Frank Zappa challenging your opinions in 17/18 time. You just don't. When the job gets you down, you can blast away some cobwebs by celebrating your own democratically sanctioned idiocy just for the sake of it. I get this when I listen to Oasis sometimes.

Added to which you could probably write a thesis on all the significant differences between each of these songs that make each one work on its own terms, not to mention the resonance of the cultural references they contain.
posted by colie at 8:03 AM on January 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Moreso than the musical sameness, the real depressing take home here is that there seems to be an entire generation being trained to believe their greatest aspiration in life should be to own an expensive truck.

What? It's not like young people today are gonna aspire to owning a home. Go back to Fantasy Island.
posted by straight at 8:14 AM on January 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


there seems to be an entire generation being trained to believe their greatest aspiration in life should be to own an expensive truck.

"I got a job but it ain't nearly enough
A twenty thousand dollar pickup truck
Belongs to me and the bank and some funny talkin' man from Iran
I left the service and got a G.I. loan
I got married bought myself a home
Now I hang around this one horse town and do the best than I can
Gettin' tough
Just my luck
I was born in the land of plenty now there ain't enough
Gettin' cold
I've been told
Nowadays it just don't pay to be a good ol' boy"

-- Steve Earle, "Gettin' Tough"
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:22 AM on January 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Remember none of these guys have ever been near a tractor or a factory.

Neither has anyone in their audience. Just a small percentage of Americans are farmers of any sort. And factory workers? Does America manufacture anything?

Country music sounds like the theme music to some imaginary hood a lot of people wish they lived in. Not unlike, for example, a lot of hip hop? The imaginary hoods might be slightly different but the approach is the same. "We're so real here in this place where I belong. There's nothing like being here and just relaxing with a romantic partner or friends and a fun vehicle and some smokable or drinkable mind soothant."

Can't sell songs about getting fat eating cheese doodles all alone in front of the television every night and then wanking off with cheesy fingers before rolling over and falling asleep on the couch.
posted by pracowity at 8:29 AM on January 9, 2015 [16 favorites]


there seems to be an entire generation being trained to believe their greatest aspiration in life should be to own an expensive truck.

I grew up with those kids. They didn't have to be trained. It was already ingrained in the culture along with white supremacy, militarism (but not service), religion (but not morality), gun love (but not responsibility), etc. Never seen so many people so proud to be unschooled. They loved this kind of music.

Excuse me, I'm a bit scarred. This music needs a trigger warning.
posted by klanawa at 8:33 AM on January 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Remember none of these guys have ever been near a tractor or a factory.

// Neither has anyone in their audience. Just a small percentage of Americans are farmers of any sort. And factory workers? Does America manufacture anything?


"When the real is no longer what it used to be, nostalgia assumes its full meaning. There is a proliferation of myths of origin and signs of reality; of second-hand truth, objectivity and authenticity. There is an escalation of the true, of the lived experience; a resurrection of the figurative where the object and substance have disappeared." -- Baudrillard
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:37 AM on January 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


We're so real here in this place where I belong

I think this has been growing as a dominant theme in pop music in the last 20 years or so, perhaps overtaking the familiar duality of 'desire' or 'loss' that shaped pop consciousness since the 60s. To be an authentic version of you, in a real experience, is the ultimate fantasy.

This might also be partly why every discussion of pop/rock/rap music will end up circling the issue of 'authenticity' sooner or later, making use of varying vocabularies depending on the level of education/cultural sophistication of the participants (Iggy Azalea was the most recent chapter of this story).

There is no such thing as authenticity in pop but as MonkeyToes' Baudrillard quote suggests, that doesn't stop us yearning for it or bitterly lurching at shadows of the 'not-authentic' wherever we forlornly identify it.
posted by colie at 8:42 AM on January 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


> Nobody wants to listen to Leonard Cohen while they're drinking beers in a fishing boat on the lake.

I don't want to listen to *anything* while fishing out on a lake.

Modern country on fishing.

And some ear bleach.


Sturgeon's Law seems to hold for just about everything. There's a corollary though, and it's that the crap eventually sinks to the bottom and is forgotten.
posted by scelerat at 8:43 AM on January 9, 2015


Remember none of these guys have ever been near a tractor or a factory.

Nor, a cow, save for the occasional burger. And, yet, they all sport the requisite cowboy hat.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:47 AM on January 9, 2015


fishing [...] Sturgeon's Law [...] sinks to the bottom

Come on.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:47 AM on January 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


Millions of Americans still work in factories and in agriculture.
posted by spitbull at 8:48 AM on January 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think criticizing people for wearing a cowboy hat when they're not cowboys is a little silly. It's fashion, like any other. Most of the nostalgia in modern country music also isn't really for farming or factories; it's nostalgia for being drunk and 17 in a small town. Farming isn't really part of it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:53 AM on January 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah, anyone wearing denim jeans has no ground from which to deride cowboy hat wearers as inauthentic.
posted by straight at 9:02 AM on January 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


uncleozzy: " I tend to think of modern Nashville as Nickelback with a banjo"

Did somebody say Nickelback?
posted by mhum at 9:05 AM on January 9, 2015


Nobody wants to listen to Leonard Cohen while they're drinking beers in a fishing boat on the lake.

I do. (well, I would if I went fishing)

people have it on in the background as they work at boring jobs or negotiate traffic. In that context you don't want, I don't know, Frank Zappa challenging your opinions in 17/18 time.

I do.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:15 AM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Your favorite pop music sucks, unless it's playing on the radio in my daddy's Ford, with its gunrack and that old blanket me and Cindy Sue used to lay down on in the back when we'd drink cheap beer and think about America, while all of our buddies cut loose at the fishing hole before assuming workaday jobs and realizing how swiftly life passes us all by.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:20 AM on January 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm as big a proponent and fan of rootsy, dirty, rough, unpolished singer-songwriter country as anyone, and I still take my hat off to the songwriters and producers who make this music. Yes, it's unimaginatively recycled content - most storylines boil down to either 'I embrace an idea of myself as a non-citified badass and like to imagine that my life is made of down-home recreation and sex' or 'I derive a sense of status and virtue from publicly thanking God for my job, country and family' - but the stuff is ably written and, what's more, likable. A few years ago I attended a professional conference in Oklahoma and tuned into various local radio stations throughout my time time there,as is my wont when traveling. Almost all of them played this variety of pop country. By the end of the week, I had to admit I'd developed several 'favorites' and was singing along to them. Admittedly, I've forgotten them all now - I think one was about a high school reunion - but as music to pass the time by, it's toe-tapping, non-harsh, and generally positive and upbeat. It's no mystery that it's so popular.

What I think is the greatest indication of its success is the very fact that most people who listen to it have never been near a tractor. There's no major city in the US that doesn't have a large, profit-making country radio station, and there's no place you can't find pop-country music listeners.

The blend of this music with hip-hop and dance music has been interesting to watch and I agree that it reflects the sense among younger listeners that these are boundaries that, thanks to their own lives and their pop culture milieu, are already blurred in their minds and identities.
posted by Miko at 9:21 AM on January 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


Also, hey, I can't believe we got this far in before anyone mentioned that the perfect country and western song has already been written.
posted by Miko at 9:25 AM on January 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


I almost favorited that on blind faith before I checked to make sure you had in fact linked to the perfect country and western song.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:28 AM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]




I think criticizing people for wearing a cowboy hat when they're not cowboys is a little silly. It's fashion, like any other.

Isn't it more a costume than most common items of clothing? Closer to a stage pirate hat and hook than to a t-shirt and sneakers and jeans? You don't put on a cowboy hat without thinking (hoping or worrying?) that it makes you out to be a certain type of person.

But I'm speaking from familiarity with the north-eastern US. I guess it's so common in certain other parts of the good ol' US of A that it loses a bit of that edge there. When every damned banker and used car salesman is wearing a cowboy hat, it just hides your bald spot.
posted by pracowity at 9:38 AM on January 9, 2015


Yeah, anyone wearing denim jeans has no ground from which to deride cowboy hat wearers as inauthentic.
straight

But I'm a California gold prospector posting from 1886.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:43 AM on January 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


the perfect country and western song

Perfect MeFi meet-up sing-along song.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:47 AM on January 9, 2015


Billy
posted by flabdablet at 9:49 AM on January 9, 2015


> Isn't it [a cowboy hat] more a costume than most common items of clothing?

Not at all. As a Californian with friends and family throughout the southwest and pac northwest, they're pretty common, and practical in sun and rain. A good lightweight hardened straw hat is great for hiking, most outdoor activity actually. Heavier material is good for cold weather and precipitation. And yes if you're mounted on a horse anywhere west of the Mississippi, they're somewhat essential.
posted by scelerat at 9:52 AM on January 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


You don't put on a cowboy hat without thinking (hoping or worrying?) that it makes you out to be a certain type of person.

Perhaps, but this is true of the vast majority of clothes, at least as worn outside some specific job contexts. I think it's just easier to see when it's not your type of clothes; the button down shirt, sweater, and jeans I'm wearing right now are definitely calculated to make me out to be a specific type of person. For the purposes of a country music singer in 2014, I'd expect that the image they're trying to project is "country music singer," tapping into the decades and decades of country music singers wearing them. They're not trying to look like cowboys, they're trying to look like Hank (probably the second, lesser, Hank in these cases, to be fair).
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:54 AM on January 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Can't sell songs about getting fat eating cheese doodles all alone in front of the television every night ...

There's an overweight man with an overweight woman
on a sofa just watching tv
He's yelling his opinion at the television
she looks up from her food and agrees
They got two bumper stickers on their pickup truck
They keep the pickup parked outside
One sticker says "what would Jesus do?"
The other bumper sticker says "power of pride"

- Happy New Year by Todd Snider
posted by Brodiggitty at 9:57 AM on January 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am in a cover band and play this stuff all of the time. I hate it, but the people love it. I mean they LOVE it. One of my bandmates loves it and really has his pulse on what people are liking. When he suggests a song my only comment now is "do the people like this one?"

I have to admit to really appreciating the absolute mercenary precision in songwriting. When I write songs now, I try to apply little bits of that. It's been like attending a songwriting clinic.

These are catchy songs, but that doesn't mean they are "good" songs. Additionally, I don't think they are "bad" songs. The formula is pretty similar to most pop. I love the new Tove Lo album, but I get that it is pretty much just pop formula song and pop formula song. Sometimes you need a break from trying to make sense out of that new Foxygen album (oh my gods....am I right!?)
posted by prozak at 10:30 AM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


that doesn't mean they are "good" songs. Additionally, I don't think they are "bad" songs

I agree. They're pop songs.
posted by Miko at 11:01 AM on January 9, 2015


Yeah I don't have any problem at all with enjoying music I don't necessarily respect. I also don't enjoy a lot of music that I do respect. I think the same is true of movies (and presumably a lot of other art forms) - movies can be fun to watch without me thinking they're amazing pieces of film, and there are certainly cinematic masterpieces that I don't really want to spend 2 hours watching. It seems like some people are much more tied up in only enjoying things that are Examples of the Craft, as opposed to sometimes enjoying things because they're fun to enjoy. Shrug.
posted by brainmouse at 11:08 AM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


mandolin conspiracy: But the mashup of 6 top-40 country songs is just a testament to Billy Bragg's dictum that capitalism is killing music. Any music.
Capitalism? That economic system that's been around for 200+ years in this country?

Sorry, but that's just another "things were better in the Good Old Days(tm)". Pop music in any genre has always been mostly formulaic crap.

For every Shakesperian sonnet, there were 999 "My love is a red red rose / I hope I find a rhyme for rose / Maidens like poems about rose / s Is that 14 lines yet?"
posted by IAmBroom at 1:07 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bulgaroktonos: "I think criticizing people for wearing a cowboy hat when they're not cowboys is a little silly."

Maybe it's because I'm from Houston, but it also seems really weird, because 90% of the time "wearing a cowboy hat" = "being Mexican". Sure, you see a few white guys in cowboy hats. They exist. But if you kept a count of all the people you see in a cowboy hat each day, the overwhelming majority would be Mexican.
posted by Bugbread at 1:20 PM on January 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Now, "big belt buckles", that's more of an even split...
posted by Bugbread at 1:23 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bugbread: Maybe it's because I'm from Houston, but it also seems really weird, because 90% of the time "wearing a cowboy hat" = "being Mexican".
Yeah, that's because you're from Houston. In the Midwest, cowboy hat = go to country bars instead of pop music bars.

And I used to laugh at city boys wearing expensive white or black THERE ARE NO OTHER COLORS!!! cowboy hats and boots who have never been closer to a cow than the butcher counter, but then I realized: I wear a fedora, but I've never even gunned down a man named "Squinty" with a tommygun.

So, eh; authenticity isn't the point.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:32 PM on January 9, 2015


spitbull: "Remember none of these guys have ever been near a tractor or a factory."

So I've just gone and listened to an hour (ok, an hour and a quarter) of The Best of Luke Bryan, and, I dunno, maybe he's an outlier, but "tractors" and "factories" don't even come up in the lyrics. The genre name is "country" music, not "agriculture and factory" music, and the genre lyrics are fairly universal (love, drinking, music, partying), with occasional nods to living in two-lane towns or the like, but nothing about agriculture or factory work. So where does the whole "tractor and factory" thing come from? Are those just occupations that people in the country are "supposed" to have? (Agriculture I can at least understand, but factories? All the factories I know of are in the cities.)
posted by Bugbread at 2:47 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yuck. Here's a joyless Nashville ripoff of the Rubberbandits' "Horse Outside." Raunchier, but at the same time, more sanitised.
posted by sleepy psychonaut at 2:48 PM on January 9, 2015


Miko, you said the "perfect country song" but you didn't link to either of these perfect country songs!
posted by Seamus at 2:57 PM on January 9, 2015


On the cowboy hat topic, I have to say, that as the guy who tracked down a hat seen in the Mexican pointy boots video, cowboy hats are highly functional if you get one that fits the function you need.
I am not a cowboy, do not own any land besides my little urban plot but I own plenty of hats because they are useful, including a beat-the-hell-up beaver fur, former state trooper cowboy Stetson and the previously mentioned, neatly maintained straw Stetson Open Road. One keeps my head warm in the winter and precipitation from falling down my collar and the other keeps sun off my face and neck without having a too-large brim that conflicts with the headrest in my tiny car or with the top pocket of my backpack. Maybe the disagreement comes from the same place as the admonishment that no man should wear a baseball cap unless he is playing baseball.
I'll wear a baseball cap anytime I need to keep the sun out of my eyes but not off my neck and a brimmed hat whenever I need to do both (and a fucking keffiyah when I need to just keep the sun off my neck but that's just because I am a total jackass!).
Function and fashion are both legitimate reasons to wear whatever the hell you want!
posted by Seamus at 3:10 PM on January 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


As for the music, I found the video entertaining but I imagine there are more than a few songs that I like to which something similar could be done.
I spent a lot more of my life than was good for me convinced that there was such a thing as "good music." Nowadays, I try to live by the old saw: De gustibus non est disputandum.
You might like one thing. I might like another. If we have to listen to something, lets find something mutually agreeable.
And that is why the old NPR radio-plays of Star Wars, the BBC radio-plays of the Hitchhikers Guide and Ed Abbey books on tape have become the go to road trip listening with *some* of my friends.

I have heard these songs (most of them at least, I tend to tune it out) played by relatives; some who work cattle and oilfields, others who are semi-rural professionals and others that work in high tech urban industries. It's all about the nostalgia, even if it is a nostalgia for something they have never experienced.

And colie, holy crap did your answer make that whole thing clear!
posted by Seamus at 3:24 PM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wear a fedora, but I've never even gunned down a man named "Squinty" with a tommygun.

Life's too short not to be a Mafioso from the 50's.

posted by Pope Guilty at 3:41 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here is a nice counterpoint to this kind of homogeneity.
posted by Ipsifendus at 4:21 PM on January 9, 2015


The working hat of a farmer/rancher is the free ball cap they got 13 years ago from the local seed and feed. It's stained with black grease, sweat and calf shit that refuses to wash out. Cowboy hats are for weddings, funerals, auctions and high school kids in rodeo. Wearing one as a working hat would be like wearing a full suit to wash your car.
posted by nathan_teske at 5:02 PM on January 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was actually a girl riding in a truck* while listening to You Know Exactly What These 6 Country Songs Have In Common on NPR this afternoon.

* With fresh manure on my boots! I had just been to set-up day for the Pennsylvania Farm Show. nathan_teske, almost every man there had a ball cap on, most from their own farms and the rest from ag businesses. Carhartt tan overalls were the clothing of choice, often topped by a camo zip-hoodie. The only people dressed up were some of the younger kids in the show ring (cowboy boots, jeans, and colorful shirts). Even that was utilitarian, as part of impressing the judge. I found it interesting that the farm kids and their parents were totally ignoring the vendor stands, which were full of rhinestone belts, cowboy hats, fancy boots, and made-in-China shabby chic country-themed wall hangings. The idea of the agrarian life sometimes bears precious little resemblance to its day-to-day practices.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:56 PM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


To be fair, the cowboy hat is also falling out favor for country singers. I went and watched some of the videos for songs in this mix and Florida Georgia Line is hatless and Luke Bryan mostly wears a baseball cap for Adam LaRoche's ranch.* The reign of the cowboy hat may soon be over.

Also, to my earlier point about country and hip hop, go listen to "This is How We Roll," those guys are just rapping badly with a twang. It's funny how the genres have converged.

*As a Nationals fan, I miss you Adam. Good luck in Chicago!
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:02 PM on January 9, 2015


I've been reading this book Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity, which I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone interested in the history of country music. It covers the 1920s at the start of recorded proto-country music into the 1950s with the death of Hank Williams, and makes a pretty good case for country music always having been, since before it was even called "country", a component of a wholly constructed identity more than a reflection of any particular lived reality. There's good stuff about live music like Grand Old Opry, too.
posted by hades at 7:11 PM on January 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


That sounds really good, hades, and you give me an excuse to call out this book as well - Real Country: Music and Language in Working-Class Culture. Through the eyes of one community, it talks about the nature of country music and also how many different cultures have evolved something very similar, around a nostalgia for ways of life pre-urbanization.
posted by Miko at 7:27 PM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


People have it on in the background as they work at boring jobs or negotiate traffic. In that context you don't want, I don't know, Frank Zappa challenging your opinions in 17/18 time. You just don't. When the job gets you down, you can blast away some cobwebs by celebrating your own democratically sanctioned idiocy just for the sake of it.

Oh god, I have a coworker who's been allowed to blast KNCI country music allllllll day long, 9 hours a day, whether she's here or not. That station literally plays the same songs 4 goddamned times a day, sometimes I've gone so far as to make up a damn bingo game. Every day I think "If I have to hear HEY BARTENDER" or "I'M GETTING DRUNK ON A PLANE" or "SISTER'S GOT A BOYFRIEND, DADDY DOESN'T LIKE" or whatever other horrible song with an godawful hook that blares its way through my rival headphones whether I want it to or not, "I'll explode." Except I don't explode out of my misery, and that shitty station keeps on playing the exact same crap daily, 4 times a day per song. Dear lord, I wish that station would die, or kill its net connection, or she'd at least play some other shitty country station that might not literally play the same things constantly. I'm okay with country music, but not that damn station. Did I mention she sings along?

Anyway, this post reminded me of that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:46 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Cowboy hat = I have curly hair and don't want hathead, and I sunburn easily. In my case, anyway; I wear one all summer, and I'm terrified of horses.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:53 AM on January 10, 2015


Bulgaroktonos: "(probably the second, lesser, Hank in these cases, to be fair)."

The least. Bocephus has a son.
posted by notsnot at 8:01 AM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


The IV-I-V-V two-bar progression seems to have taken over in dominance from its close relative, ii-IV-I-V. Both give you a sense of never ending mainly because they don't start on I.

The latter was everywhere for years, and can be heard in songs like 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams' and 'Wonderwall' and of course the indestructible 'How You Remind Me.'

I really hope the guys in the mashup do actually get together to perform this at the awards. The audience would absolutely love it, because appreciating a little of the structure underneath the 'magic' of catchy tunes actually makes us feel smarter and more included.
posted by colie at 9:51 AM on January 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


colie I've been flagging many of your comments in this thread as fantastic. This thread has been super interesting to me.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:04 AM on January 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


IAmBroom:
Sorry, but that's just another "things were better in the Good Old Days(tm)". Pop music in any genre has always been mostly formulaic crap.

For every Shakesperian sonnet, there were 999 "My love is a red red rose / I hope I find a rhyme for rose / Maidens like poems about rose / s Is that 14 lines yet?"


Good point. I can't stand the "better in the good old days argument," and I'm kind of horrified I implied that. How about: "the dictates of commerce will always create bland, homogeneous art that will be widely distributed and will be hard to escape, because like McDonalds, it'll be around every corner."

That doesn't mean people can't or shouldn't like it, but it does mean that there's gonna be a preponderance of crap out there. It was always thus.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:25 AM on January 10, 2015


musically I tend to think of modern Nashville as Nickelback with a banjo

AS IF there's a banjo anywhere near a Nashville track in 2015.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:23 PM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would love to hear this without the songs being messed with so much. It sounds to my fairly untrained ear that they have been sped up for some and changed the pitch of others.

The recommended next video is an a capella mashup. Isn't that the same thing his fellow did, but with a computer?

Full disclosure : I like pop country. I have never worked on a farm, or a factory. I did live in the country and in a small town.
posted by right_then at 2:14 PM on January 10, 2015


So where does the whole "tractor and factory" thing come from?

Had to duck out for other things, but the authenticity issue has been binarized and oversimplified in this thread. Country has told stories about the lives of working-class people (whose narrativized occupational niche has varied over the decades as the site of canonical forms of working-class experience has shifted) since its origins, but very much and very often for audiences of more elite character (as is broadly the case in us even having this debate and taking boldly postmodern vs. modernist positions on the matter of authenticity).

So where does it come from? Numerous scholars have described the history of country as a commercial genre (then called "hillbilly" and various other names, and amalgamated out of a very diverse and already quite commercialized field of vernacular practices centered in the southeast but inclusive of the entire turn of the century nation), most famously (and still most importantly) Bill C. Malone, and more recently (and wonderfully), historian Diane Pecknold (*That Selling Sound,* and the recent important edited volume *Hidden in the Mix*), historian Patrick Huber (*Linthead Stomp*), music historian Karl Hagstrom Miller (*Segregating Sound*), ethnomusicologist Cliff Murphy (*Yankee Twang,* just out and superb), among others (with Richard Peterson's *Creating Country Music* and Barbara Ching's *Wrong's What I Do Best* as important markers along the way in the 90s).

This literature will give you a lot of insight into where tractors and factories come from as points of rhetorical invocation when discussing the authenticity issues in country music, which is in short form, from both the real experience of working-class Americans and from the literary and cultural imagination of American elites, canny Georgia fiddlers and canny New York producers, and everything in between. It's so deliciously messy and complicated that it is clearly related to the ironically obvious signification of the genre in class, racial, regional, and gendered terms (or in other words, "three chords and the truth, my ass!").

The balance between representing the experience, interest, or values of working-class people and stereotyping it (or them) is a political issue for some of us who love this music for political reasons as well as aesthetic ones. I've taken a wide variety of stances on these issues myself over the years.

It's a well known chess move in the standard country authenticity debate to point out the lack of shared cultural experience of contemporary stars with country's historical constituency (all of which shift over time of course), and I made the move. Pawn to King's four. Country music is - as this and the prior post to which it refers affirm -- in a period of deep malaise these days. It is dying commercially and artistically and culturally. It has always come back from such periods of malaise; there has always been an authenticity debate framed in these terms. But there has also always been innovation at its margins driving such resurgence.

I'm with Dale Watson. The current community of practice in Nashville is simply too disconnected from any sort of working-class experience, whether on a farm or in a factory or a mine or a hospital or a cafeteria or a call center or an Amazon warehouse. The tropes have become so stylized that their references are brittle -- for me, working-class identity is projected so bluntly onto archaic gender archetypes (which has a history going back to the Bristol Sessions at least) -- have lost much power. There's so much innovative stuff being produced outside the Nashville machine that country's artistic and economic malaise of the moment looks a lot, in fact, like McDonald's. It is everywhere, it is nowhere, it stands for nothing, it has no edge, it's formulaic in the dullest sense, and new markets and economies of musical consumption have made alternatives more available than ever. Country has been there before, but it's never been quite like this. Musical culture and markets have become more polarized between the mass market dreck and artisanal modes of production and consumption.

The country business knows this, by the way. All the hip hop-light and feminist-light and world-music-light and EDM-light stuff is them desperately trying to find a youth market and cultural relevance. There's anxiety on Music Row. The process is more closed to innovation than it ever was before, and innovators bypass the process anyway.
posted by spitbull at 5:47 PM on January 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I forgot to mention another good book about contemporary Nashville (and the race politics of innovation and commercial success) -- David Pruett's *MuzikMafia.*

Also Pecknold's superb history of early country and the advertising industry is called *The Selling Sound,* not "That Selling Sound."
posted by spitbull at 4:38 AM on January 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ugh I hate all this formulaic fake modern country why cant people listen to authentic folk music like Mumford or Ween
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:39 AM on January 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Flagged as fantastic, spitbull.
posted by Miko at 8:41 AM on January 11, 2015


Thanks Miko.

In case it wasn't entirely clear, I don't believe music as such can be authentic or not. It's the wrong question. The question is what particular sounds and genres and symbols and images mean and to whom and when and in what historical context.
posted by spitbull at 9:00 AM on January 11, 2015 [2 favorites]




To add a few I forgot:

Joli Jensen - The Nashville Sound: Authenticity, Commercialization, and Country Music (hardcover only, alas)
___
Kristine M. McKusker and Diane Pecknold, eds. A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music (edited volume with essays by most of the major feminist scholars working on country, a new edition with new essays is expected any day though)
posted by spitbull at 9:21 AM on January 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's very good at being music, it's very bad at being art.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:55 AM on January 11, 2015


AS IF there's a banjo anywhere near a Nashville track in 2015.

And thank goodness for that. /bluegrassjoke

I'll, uh, show myself out.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:04 PM on January 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


AS IF there's a banjo anywhere near a Nashville track in 2015.

They're all over the Florida Georgia Line tracks. What's nice about a banjo stuck into the background of a MOR rock track is that it's really a percussive instrument (hard attack, almost no sustain) so it doesn't take room in the mix away from the wall of guitars / vocals, that can either carry (or echo) a hook melody or arpeggiate chords while giving the flavor of Country Music.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:35 PM on January 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Surely the eternal signifier of Country will always be the Pedal Steel Guitar.
posted by colie at 2:51 AM on January 12, 2015


Which is primarily of Hawaiian origin in terms of musical style! Look up Walter Kolomoku....

Anyway yes banjos (African, country has always been world music)) and synthesized banjos are all over modern country as a percussive effect and a vague signifier of rusticity.
posted by spitbull at 4:17 AM on January 12, 2015


I'll take your guys' word for it. Every time I accidentally hear the crap Nashville calls country these days it sounds like a 38 Special song.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:50 AM on January 12, 2015


Every time I accidentally hear the crap Nashville calls country these days it sounds like a 38 Special song.

I'm willing to defend Luke Bryan, Florida-Georgia Line, et al. on some fronts, but let's never imply that they're as good as .38 Special.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:36 AM on January 12, 2015


nathan_teske: The working hat of a farmer/rancher is the free ball cap they got 13 years ago from the local seed and feed. It's stained with black grease, sweat and calf shit that refuses to wash out. Cowboy hats are for weddings, funerals, auctions and high school kids in rodeo. Wearing one as a working hat would be like wearing a full suit to wash your car.
That's from the post-tractor era of country, which, as everyone knows, is the uppity, high-falutin' "poser" of cowboys.

Cowboy hats are perfect for horseback activities, since horses don't have cabs to keep the sun and rain off the back of your neck.

All real cowboys blah blah blah Hank Williams Senior blah lonesome prairie blah hipster.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:09 PM on January 12, 2015


"Cowboys" and "Farmers" are also different things. What few actual cowboys/ranchers there still are often do still wear cowboy hats.
posted by Miko at 1:19 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


> "Cowboys" and "Farmers" are also different things

Yet they should be friends.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:41 PM on January 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


I was going to say this in my comment above, but actually they're kind of not - because there is a lot of cultural and professional distinction between the two, along with totally different geographical environments, and their treatment of land and the way they produce value is really pretty different. But that's a whole other conversation. A quick version might be that cowboys/livestock ranchers tend to feel insulted if called farmers. Though they can find common cause on certain ag-policy issues and probably when contrasted with urbanized lifestyles and values.
posted by Miko at 8:58 PM on January 12, 2015


Miko/IAmBroom -- not in my experience at least. I grew up in a farming/ranching family in the Dakotas and there were few cowboy hats warn while actually working cattle on a horse. I think the closest my grandfather ever got to wearing a cowboy hat while working was a straw hat when swathing with an open-cab swather.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:20 AM on January 13, 2015


I don't have that kind of direct experience, just have seen it a lot, as a kid in Texas. Maybe even that's changed.
posted by Miko at 6:11 PM on January 13, 2015


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