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-Maddie & Tae’s “Girl In A Country Song” has grown on me of late, but one aspect of the song has always driven me nuts. The song is essentially a critique on the way women are depicted in modern country music:

“Being a the girl in a country song/how in the world did it go so wrong?/Like all we’re good for is looking good for you and your friends/on the weekend, nothing more/we used to get a little respect/now we’re lucky if we even get/to climb up in your truck, keep our mouth shut and ride along/and be the girl in a country song.” 

I couldn’t agree with this more, except that it presupposes women were once well-regarded in country music. Today I was listening to the classic, “Stand By Your Man,” by Tammy Wynette — do I need to go further with this train of thought? Recorded in 1968, the song seems downright satirical in the way that it suggests a woman should look the other way when her man fucks shit up and give him something “warm to come to.” That’s right, not just something “warm to come home to,” something “warm to come to.”

Anyway, the point is, the answer to Maddie & Tae’s question — “how in the world did it go so wrong?” — is that it didn’t go wrong so much as it wasn’t ever right.

-Toby Keith’s “American Soldier” is an incredibly frustrating experience.

“And I will always do my duty, no matter what the price/I’ve counted up the cost, I know the sacrifice/Oh, and I don’t want to die for you/But if dying’s asked of me/I’ll bear that cross with honor/‘Cause freedom don’t come free.”

Look, I don’t know what it’s like to be an American Soldier, but neither does Toby Keith. And having read books like “The Yellow Birds,” by Kevin Powers, and “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” by Ben Fountain — books that offer a dark, humanizing perspective of being a soldier in Iraq — Keith’s cliche characterizations of being a soldier seem completely out of touch. They are a shameful device employed by Americans seeking to justify a shameful war: let’s all close our eyes, pretend our soldiers are democracy-inducing, inanimate robots that are programmed to sacrifice their lives in the name of free-duhm. A war won’t seem so senseless if the people getting killed are totally down to get killed if it means guys like me and Toby Keith can parade around sporting American flag tattoos. Because Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat to said parades and tattoos.

Also, this song was released in 2003, and country stations still play it with some frequency. Has the conservative perspective of the war in Iraq evolved since then? Why are we still listening to this song that should have fallen out of favor years ago?

-Perhaps my biggest fascination regarding country music has to do with its relationship to hip-hop: the genres are hardly different — their content just happens to transpire in settings that are polar opposites. The industry looks much the same: typically the emphasis is on an individual, cultivated persona that does not stray far from the status quo. Radio stations emphasize a small group of proven mainstream artists rather than exploring new, risky material. Themes and tropes in both genres stick to similar, time-honored formula: hard work (though it is typically “grinding or “hustling” versus “blue collar, good ol’ boy laboring”), drinkin’, religion, and women. This concept — that country and rap are more similar than different — is by no means a revelation, and seems to be generally accepted by most neutral parties.

Anyway, this week I rediscovered a classic ’90s country song that attempts to explain the dichotomy between country and rap (the dichotomy I just rejected). Without further ado, the Confederate Railroad’s, “I Hate Rap.”

Just to recap: “I hate the beat, I hate the rhythm, but I love that melody they put with ’em…”

Glad we cleared that up.

Happy Country Friday.