Saturday, June 09, 2007

What Country Music Means To Me (Or, Blogging the Relationship #17)

I am sitting downstairs in the LT's house, reading some email and enjoying my Saturday; he is upstairs at his desktop computer, filling out some paperwork for the upcoming hiring conference (!) and blasting the new CD from Sugarland.

Sugarland, for those who don't know, is a relatively new country group built out of a lot of old-time country stars; I think every member is at least 30. But that's not the point, although it's an interesting side note. I know this fact because the LT, being from Texas, really likes country music, although that's not ALL he likes, Thank BLOG. I have been in places where they played nothing but country--see my recent trip to Texas--and in places where the old joke, "We play both kinds here--country AND western!" would apply--seriously. And I can tell you that if all he liked was country music, I'd spasm up, shrivel up, and possibly die.

I'm trying to think of a good way to say "But that's not because I don't LIKE country music" without actually saying it, because saying that--after saying I'd die if all I could listen to was country--seems contrary. It's not that country music is bad music--as a matter of fact, I'd venture to say that they have some of the best voices in the music business. It's more that country music is such a...a...whole self-contained universe that doesn't mix well with other genres. There's mashups of rock and pop, rock and rap, pop and rap, hip-hop and anything, classical and world music, heavy metal and classical, even. Country--with the County Music Awards, Country Music Television, and special Country Shows--doesn't mix well with anything else, and more importantly, it seems like it doesn't WANT to mix with anything else, if indeed a genre can even be considered to have wants. Country music is stand-alone. Where all other music genres are advertising, indeed flaunting, their crossover appeal, country music is not doing any such thing. It is proud to sound the same, look the same, and act the same as it did forty years before. Very little has changed.

*Note: There is certainly pop-country crossover, Shania Twain, the Dixie Chicks, and most recently Carrie Underwood being examples. But they all sounded country, even on their pop songs--it's more that pop stations played a few easy-listening country hits than country stations suddenly started playing pop songs.

*Note: I'll probably never forgive the country music world for what they did to the Dixie Chicks.

And because of that--the fact that even when a country artist can be considered "pop", she's still first and foremost country, I feel that country music can be a cold and ungenerous place, and what's more, it seems to speak to a whole area of the country that is cut off, geographically and mentally, from the rest of the world. The very name, "country"--whose country? Down-home country? Backwoods country? To me, that would imply easy-going and nice people, but the kind of people who turned on the Dixie Chicks because they publicly said they didn't like our president are NOT easy-going and nice!

Also, I have to admit that I have a personal bias. I loved the Dixie Chicks and I'm not a big fan of country music in general, so when country music obliterated the Dixie Chicks, it just looked to me like country music was a whiny, rigid, and closed-minded genre that wouldn't tolerate any differences of opinion.

And then there's country music and the LT. He grew up with it, not only in his family but overhead at the mall, at gas stations, at Sonic, and on friends' radios. To me, hearing him sing along with it is just a reminder that there's a whole part of his life that happened before I met him, before he moved to Seattle and learned how to ski and met a girl with a Jeep.

But really, that's okay. I spent most of my formative years immersed in classical music and church music, often the same thing, and me playing King FM, our local classical station, and reminiscing, hasn't seemed to bother him any. After all, the LT knows a lot more than country, and so do his old friends that I have met--they listened to hard rock, and rap, and pop, and fell in love with alternative the same time I did, even though I lived roughly 2000 miles closer to the scene itself. Just because the LT has country CDs doesn't mean he doesn't have a lot of other CDs, too, and it's the same way with me--I have some Maria Callas, some Vivaldi, and some Dvorak, but of course I also have Luscious Jackson, Nirvana, Lily Allen, and all the popular and less popular bands I've liked throughout the years. As with all couples that meet (or re-meet, in our case) after 25, there's automatically huge parts of our lives that don't involve each other. And that is as it should be, and what's more, it makes us more interesting and (dare I say) better people.


l-t said...

Of note, I bought two CDs this weekend: the new upcoming young country starlet, Taylor Swift, and the Avril Lavigne x punk x hard rock Flyleaf.

And I bought them BOTH at Wal-Mart.

Take that. :)

alex said...

Discounting pop-country crossovers because they still "sound country" is silly. I'm sure if you ask hip hop fans about some pop/hip hop mashups, they'll probably discount them as sounding too much like pop.

Also, I think everyone should make at least some effort to appreciate country music, especially some of the classic stuff, because it's truly a unique American sound. You won't find it anywhere else in the world. Whenever my parents have visitors from abroad, they always take them to the Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, and it's always a hit.

Aarwenn said...

Hi alex,

In no way am I discounting the importance of country music!

Also, although you have a point--perhaps the Dixie Chicks' hit songs don't sound really "country" to a country music fanatic, I think my overall point, that other stations play country artists but country stations don't play pop or modern rock artists--is still valid.

Aarwenn said...

Holy hell, LT, I just realized you knew about Taylor Swift way back in June of 2007, six years ago, and approximately 4 years before ANYONE ELSE HAD EVER HEARD OF HER. Props to you, my friend. (Aarwenn, 8/13/2013, 19:39.)